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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Agree to Disagree


Let’s face it, we don’t all see eye to eye. But that’s OK. I wouldn’t want to live in a vanilla world where each of us thought exactly the same thing. And, in truth, we need each other’s opinions in order to evaluate and sharpen our own. Sometimes I’m dead wrong and can’t even see it. That’s when the insight of others is so helpful. It’s also true that we formulate many of our opinions and arguments based upon our own world views. I believe in a God. You might not. You come from a certain type of family or educational background. I have had different life experiences. Each of these things shapes our perspectives. And often we draw lines in the sand that divide relationships, cultures, and even nations. So there are many times, especially among people we care about, where we have to agree to disagree. When that happens, we can continue to have productive and provocative discussions across a broad range of subjects. I have strong opinions, but I also want to honor relationships. So this goes out to those whom I might not agree with, but whom I still love and respect. Let’s keep talking.

Agree to Disagree
Although we love each other
There are areas, it’s true
Where we don’t see quite eye to eye
And I must disagree with you
We’re entitled to opinions
So at least philosophically
We diverge on several issues
And so you disagree with me
But I like that we can talk about
Whatever’s on our hearts
And discuss a host of issues
That seem to tear some folks apart
I respect how you feel and
Think you do the same for me
We live somewhere in the middle
As we agree to disagree
So I say let’s keep talking
Let’s keep wrestling with things
So we can challenge one another
Embracing what perspective brings
Wisdom never flourishes
Within a vacuum, it is true
And I relish the exchanges
That I have with each of you
              By Frank Carpenter

Sunday, March 04, 2018

A Marriage Blessing


It’s another wedding season and as I prepare for Austin and Jenice’s  ceremony I spend a lot of time thinking about them and praying for them. With my heart leaning in that direction, I paused to write the below wedding blessing to recite over them while we are together this weekend. These words are kind of the culmination of what I’ve been praying over them in recent weeks, and when my heart is focused in that way, it often ends up as a poem. So, Austin and Jenice, this is for you. Be happy forever!
Frank

A Marriage Blessing
May God bless and keep you
Through the passing of the years
May you feel His arms about you
In the triumph and the tears
May you celebrate together
The joy of simple things
And learn to find the beauty
In whatever this life brings
May God grant you wisdom
When you need it on your way
Love and patience in full measure
Along with countless happy days
Filled with faith enough to trust Him
And trust one another too
Even when you may not want to
Then, most of all, may you be true
May your home be a haven
Of encouragement and rest
So that you, and all who visit
Feel welcome there, and blessed
May God bless your union
And may you strive to understand
The mystery of faith together
As you face life hand in hand
May God gently guide you
And draw you ever near
May He bless your life together
From day to day, and year to year
                  By Frank Carpenter ©

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Story

Most of us don't consider ourselves to be writers.  However, each of us is actually writing his or her life story every day. Perhaps not with pen and ink, or even with a keyboard, but we are still writing all the time ... with our lives. We don't have to write it down. We don't even have to open our mouths. But we are still communicating constantly.  Whether we are making big choices about careers or relationships or causes, or seemingly small choices like changing lanes on the freeway, calculating the tip at a restaurant or when an how we'll return a phone call, every choice tells something about who we are, and often affects other people. Are you cheap person, the late person, the thoughtful person? Do you take time to listen and make other people feel valued? Are you the one who drives fast and cuts everyone off because your time and schedule are more important, or because you made poor time management choices earlier that caused you to be late? Are you the spouse, parent, sibling, child or friend who blesses others or who makes their lives more complicated? Are you the nice boss or the mean boss, the gossiper or the encourager, the mom or dad who could never get to family commitments? Do you have a temper or a knack for making hurtful remarks? Think of the last thing you said to each of the important people in your lives. Would you want that to be your final words to them, the words they would be left with if you were suddenly gone? Have we succeeded in work or earned other accolades at the expense of letting down our families or friends or coworkers? And what about our faith? Have we truly lived out what we believe? Or is there a gap between our professions and our actions that causes others to stumble or question what we actually believe. The list goes on and on.

You see, our story isn't just what we might put in our resumes or our memoirs. How would other people write our stories? What about the people at home and at work and at church, and at clubs or parties? And would all their stories match up, or would some of them be asking, "Hey, are we talking about the same person?"  The point is that each of us is writing a story with their lives, a story as distinctive as a fingerprint. What's your story? Did you leave a tangible trail of joy and kindness and generosity, or something else. What choices are you going to make to change your story for the better today? It’s never too late to change your story. And the most amazing, exciting, encouraging thing in all the world is the blank page of life that God give us each day to write our stories upon.  

The Story
Every life tells a story
Regardless of what we intend
The kind of life we choose to live
Will be our testament in the end
Whatever may be our intentions
Whatever our lofty words
Our choices will be set in stone
And their story will be heard
Our triumphs and our failures
And our apparent priorities
The way we treated other people
This are our legacy
So each day we write the story
That others will read someday
Each day shows who we really are
So we must guard what our lives say
Yes, each life tells a story
Will we live poorly, or well
For each of us must choose each day
The story we want our lives to tell

            By Frank Carpenter ©

Friday, November 03, 2017

Gone But Not Forgotten

Some thoughts today on the cherished memories of some men who have departed my life during years past. We all deal with loss and pain in different ways and my system for processing complicated emotions is to write about them. This works for me because I am a slow thinker of sorts and use the retrospective tool of creative writing to wander through my memories and thoughts and make sense of them at my own speed and in my own time. Part of that process is the revisiting of specific themes and events to repaint them through the dearly bought wisdom of hindsight. Since my thoughts eventually congeal into the written word it has also been rewarding to discover that many others have used my writings to help sort out and communicate their own experiences as well. In a sense, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

To that end, I offer today’s poem which I wrote some years ago on the anniversary of the passing of a dear friend’s father whom I was close to as well. Incidentally, he passed away during his stay at a convalescent home where my own father had lived for some time as well. Yes, it’s a true story and I really did write the poem while sitting in the little patio at that facility. I hope some of you may find some relevant solace or wisdom in my words or pass this on to others who may have need of it. I also encourage readers to call, write or visit those in their own lives who may be in just such a situation. Folk in convalescent homes live for your calls and visits. And remember that you are the owner, caretaker, and defender of your memories ... and sometimes they need a little maintenance as well.

Gone, But Not Forgotten
I stopped by the convalescent home for a little while today
Where I paused to sit and think a spell, since it was on my way
I’ve had no one to visit here, these past twelve months or so
But that doesn’t seem to matter like it did a year ago
Because I still cherish memories of those who once dwelt here
Which I intend to honor with the passing of the years
I must confess their tenure here was bittersweet at best
As a final, unforgiving stop before they were laid to rest
Restless they, and sick those men who once resided here
When I came to visit them in hopes of offering some cheer
And while the passing time diminishes the acuteness of their loss
Each week brings some small memory to remind me of the cost
Associated with their passing, in wisdom or camaraderie
Or wealth of anecdotal wisdom, wrapped up in my own history
For when we lose a friend or father or some special relative
We lose a puzzle piece of life which only they could give
Time tends to heal the pain of loss and sweeten cherished memories
Yet sometimes we need to ponder them as I have through this reverie
Which brings me back to this place, where old friends have passed away
Gone, but not forgotten … as I’m reminded here today
By Frank Carpenter ©

Friday, October 20, 2017

Hope

The concept of hope is an interesting one. In its simplest form it represents the fulfillment of our desires. I could say, for instance, “Gosh, I hope I win the lottery” or “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” However, real hope can also have a deeper meaning, one which speaks of a future or of things that we hope in. That is my context for today.  So I want to ask us all the question, “what do we hope in?” That may actually be the biggest question of all. And the second thing to consider is whether the object of our is truly worthy of our hope. It’s one thing to hope our team will win or hope there won’t be much traffic this morning, but what about the big hopes? What are we betting our lives on? Is it the hope that if I have enough money I’ll be comfortable. Or the hope that if I’m a good person I’ll go to heaven? Or, as a last resort, the default hope that everything will just be OK if I don’t think about it. But can we really afford to roll the eternal dice on outcomes that we can be sure of?

I’m betting my life on Jesus. When I hope for the future, my hope is in the future that He promised in the bible of eternal life with him in heaven. I’ve looked around, and it’s clear to me that trusting in Jesus is our best and only hope. It requires a step of faith, but anything that we hope in or trust in requires a step of faith. Again, the question is always, “Is the object of our hope worthy of that hope?” When it comes to Jesus, I answer yes. If you’re not sure what you hope in, let’s talk about it. Most importantly, don’t just hope that everything will be OK. Your forever is too important.

The Hope
“Of course my hope is in Jesus”
I’m always so quick to say
That’s the right Sunday school answer
But do we really live that way?
What do I really hope in?
Sadly, my life betrays
I hope in savings, work and approval
And that’s how I live each day
For far too often I place my trust
In the things that can never last
Investing time and my talents in chaff 
That fades when this life has passed
Yet I dare not hope in the temporal
And the false security
This world continues to proffer
For those things shall fail me
Only a hope in Jesus
Will stand the test of time
Far beyond all the other things
I’ve clung to and called mine
This world will surely disappoint
No matter what we may do
Oh Lord, You are my only hope
May I place my trust in You

            By Frank Carpenter ©

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Change the World

We all long for lives of significance. Most of us want to change the world, in one way or another. And as a Christian that desire goes far beyond merely making my mark in business or leaving some meaningful body of art behind for posterity. It’s actually about affecting the eternal destiny of my fellow men …. quite literally, for heaven’s sake. My particular calling and giftedness tends lie along the lines of encouraging and inspiring others. However, as in any movement, I can hardly ask more of others than I expect of myself. For what do my words of encouragement mean if they are not supported by the life I lead and the condition of my own heart. So, in a very real sense, I must embrace the change that I desire in others. I must be the change. This truly raises the bar in my personal journey. And while I talk about myself here I also shout out to my fellow believers. The revolution begins right here, within our own hearts and minds and souls. And if we aren’t changing the world then the first place to look is in the mirror. Who are we? What do we believe? Do our lives actually support our lofty words? These are the fundamental questions to ask in any movement. And once we answer them it’s time to start having a greater impact. It’s time to unleash the full power of God through us. Are you ready? Then let’s change the world! And let it not just begin, let it begin with me.

To Change the World
Lord, I want to change the world
To lead a revolution
And such rhetoric comes easily
But when it comes to execution
I have a nagging feeling
That in order to succeed
The change I long to bring about
Must be brought about in me
For I cannot ask of others
What I will not take to heart
So if I pray for transformation
My life is where it starts
If I would place a yoke or burden
Or some other expectation
On another I must make myself
The root of the equation
Lord, I want to change the world
But now I clearly see
That if the world is to be changed
It must begin with me
                  By Frank Carpenter ©

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Well, if you’re into religious holidays, this is certainly a red letter week. We have Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Passover, Good Friday, Easter ... not to mention International Tatting Day, Bunsen Burner Day, National Clam on the Half Shell Day and, of course, today is April Fools Day. Religious holidays, while good reminders of the truth, can often cloud it as well. We are so easily distracted by the food, the fun, the ritual and social aspects of any holiday that it is easy to leave God out of such a day - even if it's a religious event. All celebrating, church services, egg dying and palm waving aside, I would like to redirect our focus to the person of Jesus Christ, whom we truly celebrate this week. This is the week that dozens of prophetic scriptures were fulfilled through His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), his eating of the Passover, His betrayal, His mock trial, His death on the cross, and finally His resurrection. We must remember, amidst all the other hoopla, that Jesus is the Son of God, that He actually lived, actually died for our sins, and actually rose from the dead. If any of those facts are untrue, then everything else we celebrate this week is pointless and we might as well sing our hymns to the Easter Bunny. If we do not accept Jesus as our Savior and Messiah, then we are all April Fools and that is the only relevant holiday. So let us come back to the person of Jesus Christ. A lot of dramatic and public things happened during this, the last week of His life. However, I am most deeply moved by that quiet moment after the Last Supper when He knelt in the garden of Gethsemane and prayed. In that scene of anguish and compassion I most clearly see the Son of God choosing to suffer and die for me personally. Easter is a time to celebrate God’s victory over death, but the foundation of that victory is His great mercy and the sacrifice of His only Son on behalf of an undeserving world. Have a Good Friday and a happy Easter, but don’t be an April Fool.

Gethsemane 
Jesus knew his time was drawing near
On the eve of that final day
With the weight of the world upon his heart
He came to the garden to pray
He alone knew His Father’s will
And understood His redemption plan
And though He was truly God incarnate
Still, He was fully a man
He knew that pain and suffering
And betrayal were moments away
As He pleaded with God and wept He knew
There simply was no other way
There, in the garden, that fateful night
With the lights of the city in view
Jesus, the Son of God, considered
All that He must go through
The tears of His sorrow freely flowed
That night in Gethsemane
For He understood his path must lead
To the cross at Calvary
He was Christ, the Lord, the King of Kings
Yet, He knelt upon human knees
And willingly chose that night to die
Because of His love for you and me.
                 By Frank Carpenter ©