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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.

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 ©

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Estate Sale

Many things lately, including a recent minor flood in our home, have been reminding me how caught up we seem to be with our stuff. The acquisition and maintenance of our possessions tends to drive so much of our lives. We spend substantial time shopping. We redecorate and rearrange. We buy larger items on credit. Perhaps I’m even more aware of this force upon us here in Orange County. And then here comes our little flood week before last and we find ourselves having to clean out bedrooms and closets and cupboards and “that corner” in the garage. Suddenly, we come up with a car load of stuff to donate that we didn’t even need. And that’s only the first car load, but it serves as a reminder of how we fill our lives with stuff. We’re always so excited about our purchases. Then, as the individual items age they move from the living room to the back bedroom to a closet, then the garage. And a few years later we find ourselves out in the garage wondering why we ever bought that junk in the first place, let alone stored it for an extra decade.

So as I ponder my recent experiences I have to ask the age old question, “What do we really need?” That’s an awkward question because people usually assume that you are about to judge them based upon their possessions. But it’s still a viable question because it helps to serve as a foundation for more questions like, “How much do we have to earn?” or “Which things truly have value in our lives?” Not to mention, “What kind of legacy does our stuff represent?” And it goes on from there. However, rather than continuing to ramble on this subject I’ll just share the following poem that I actually wrote at an estate sale we visited last fall. I’m not against estate sales, or sales of any other kind for that matter, but I challenge you to consider the above questions in light of the wisdom of hindsight which this experience provided me with.  Remember, it’s only stuff … and it can’t actually make you happy

Estate Sale
We turned off when we saw the sign
As we were passing through
And drove to the estate sale
As we are wont to do
In search of deals and treasures
If some were to be had
Which we usually find enjoyable
But today it made me sad
As I wandered through the house
The thought that weighed on me
Is that we somehow were intruding
On someone else's memories
Their possessions told the story
Of the lifetime they had shared
That strangers now picked over
And it seemed somehow unfair
To be rummaging through their home
Without a second thought
Like so many human vultures
Who had descended on the spot
So I resolved right then and there
Not to fill my life with stuff
That my children wouldn't even want
That I will learn to say, "enough"
That as my life progresses
And long before my final day
I'll purge all the worthless things
And give the rest away
I don't want a bunch of junk
To define my legacy
I want the people whom I love
To just remember me
         By Frank Carpenter ©

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sharing the Road of Life

Out on the road enjoying some long overdue time away with my bride of 31 years. I write about a lot of other people and subjects, but today I wanted to take a little time out to post of couple of poems to honor the person I’m so happy to share my life with. I’ll let the poems and photos speak for themselves this time. Stay tuned for more updates.

Indian Summer
The wind is growing colder
But only very recerntly
The warmth of summer stayed with us
This year, unseasonably
We have clung to it as well
Though autumn's getting on a ways
Enamored of its winsome spell
In these bright and sunny days
We know that winter looms ahead
Yet we ignore it blissfully
In this Indian summer of the heart
Which warms both you and me
By Frank Carpenter ©

How many beaches have we wandered
In our thirty-something years
How many sunsets have we watched
In the life that’s brought us here
How much laughter, how much joy
Have we been fortunate to know
Since that first beach we tarried on
So very many years ago
How much happiness has been our lot
How many blessings has God sent
As walked those countless beaches
While the decades came and went
How many happy memories
Do we still have in store
I can’t wait to make them with you
As we wander future shores
                By Frank Carpenter©

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hilltop Dawn

I'm always looking for those little corners of beauty in life. This morning I was out on a hilltop when it was still dark up in San Luis Obispo. The below poem describes that experience. Like so many others, I am drawn to sunrises and sunsets because there is just something amazing about what God does to the world at that time of day. For me, those are the bookends of creation. Sunsets are like the final perfect scene in a movie that provides meaningful closure to any day. Sunrises represent the promise of a new beginning. Every day is an opportunity to make things right and make a fresh start. Sunrises always remind me of that, and even after all these years they still take my breath away

I would encourage you to look for those moments of beauty and wonder in your own life. They are everywhere around us if only we will look for them. And when we do we always seem to rediscover that they connect with a part of us that seems to make everything make sense ... like we were born for those moments. My hope for you today is that you may know this feeling every day. Happy trails!

Hilltop Dawn
I awake to a pale crescent moon
In the vestiges of dawn
As the final star begins to fade
With morning coming on
The world is bathed in quiet
Hints of frost cling here and there
A pair of deer meander by
Autumn is in the air
I follow the fence around the hill
Past pines and eucalypts
Past cows and fallow fields and vines
Frosty breath drifts from my lips
The songs of countless birds abound
From every field and tree
The sun's first rays slip down the hills
And, at last, envelope me
Then frosty meadows blaze in glory
Their veils of shadow swept away
In that shining moment
When the dawn becomes the day
  By Frank Carpenter

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How to Change the World

As hurricane Sandy, the Frankenstorm, has pelted the eastern seaboard in recent days we’ve been inundated with statistics about how many people have lost their homes, their lives, their electricity, etc. The list goes on and on. But even before that recent and pretty epic tragedy there were already plenty of statistics for us to deal with. Many of us can quote the numbers of children who die each day or year from malaria, malnutrition, AIDS and so on. We have statistics on virtually every subject imaginable. In fact, we have a whole world of statistics. The western world seems to like them because they are easy to quote on the nightly news or in government reports. They impress us in documentaries and fund raising literature. We love our statistics because they’re informative and concise and they boil down enormous issues and problems into digestible morsels of data, the way scientific notation condenses nearly incomprehensible numbers into representations that we can at least pretend to understand. But we also like statistics because they are safe. They can impress and influence us without our having to deal emotionally with actual starving children or sick people or combat casualties or rape victims. Nice round numbers insulate us from the pain and suffering of strangers, the atrocities of conflict, and the devastation of disasters. Statistics move us just enough to encourage our donations or votes, without forcing us to get our hands dirty. They tie desperate needs and overwhelming social issues into nice, tidy packages that we can respond to without getting too flustered.

However, it’s extremely difficult to love a number. We can feign passion, but true compassion requires action. The fact is that we can never actually change the world by simply throwing money at statistics, for they are but the shadowy reflections of much deeper issues. Laurie Beshore, the author of the book “Love Without Walls” recently put this in perspective for me when she said, “Behind every number is a name. Behind every name is a face, Behind every face is a person. And behind every person there is a story.” In the end, we can never change the numbers unless we change people’s individual stories. Writing a check helps. But the only way to actually change the world is to step into people’s lives and care about them individually. We have to learn their names, hear their stories and intervene in those stories. It makes us feel good to write a little check and send it to some organization, and we absolutely should do that. But if that is all we do then we are, in a very real sense, simply subcontracting our compassion. If you actually want to change the world you have to love people individually and make a difference in their lives individually. Programs can never change the world. Politics can never change the world. Only love actually changes the world. And it happens on the front lines … one person at a time.

So the question is are you going to change the world, or is someone else just doing all the work on your behalf? If there’s a tug of some kind on your heart right now I beg you to respond to it. Don’t just read the statistics. Do something about it. Actually, personally, inconveniently, selflessly do something about it. This is your call to get involved in the solution. I’m sharing two poems below which I hope may provide some inspiration to take action. The first recaps what I’ve written above, perhaps in a form you can share with others. The second explains why I care so much. Perhaps it’s also one to share with others. Now, let’s go change the world. Because together, we can make a difference.

The Face Behind the Number
We read all of the statistics
Or we hear them on T.V.
And they move us for a moment
But that fades so rapidly
Because we cannot love statistics
Or connect with what they mean
When we are isolated from them
And their objects are unseen
But behind every statistic
Is a name, a face, a life
Every number is a person
Who knows pain and fear and strife
And every person has a story
As unique as fingerprints
Which no statistic could do justice
Being but the merest hint
So if we want to change the numbers
We have to know the names
See the faces, touch the lives
From which each statistic came
We must befriend the people
Embrace them individually
Bind our lives to theirs and intervene
In their stories lovingly
That is how we change the world
For no statistic can be changed
Until we change each person’s story
Because each number has a name
                By Frank Carpenter ©

The Least of These
I know that look, the look of pain
I've seen it time and time again
In the eyes of children on the street
And people who just need to eat
I've seen it on the tired and old
Whose lives were spent on fool's gold
And lonely people everywhere
Who simply want someone to care
It's the face of poverty and need
Of famine, flood and tyrant's greed
The face that haunts me in the night
And even in the broad daylight
Imploring me to stop and care
Instead, I pass and blindly stare
Ahead, to comfort and security
And away from those who so need me
My pristine little world is safe
From homeless beggar and starving waif
But not from God, whom I asked in
Whose voice I hear above the din
Who pierces hardened hearts like mine
And melts the ice of stubborn minds
And calls me to reach out and care
For those in need and in despair
For Jesus feels every tear
He knows each pain and every fear
Those with hunger, heart ache and disease
Jesus knows the least of these
So if I turn my back on them
I have, in fact, done so to him
For only by the way I care
Will people know that God is there
Lord, break my heart and bend my knees
That I may love the least of these
                 By Frank Carpenter ©

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