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Saturday, July 09, 2022

Countless, Worthless, Priceless Treasures

I have the good fortune to be married to a woman who understand the intrinsic value of things. She sees the beauty and wonder that God scatters upon the path in front of her, and takes the time to stop and enjoy it, living so much more in the moment than me. One of her favorite pastimes is looking for sea glass and shells when we’re walking on the beach. To her, a piece of polished sea glass is a precious stone. Precious is, after all, in the eye of the beholder. Consequently, we have quite a collection of various detritus from a host of favorite shorelines. That’s just fine with me, because she gets more joy from a rare and perfect piece of sea glass than many other people seem to derive from diamonds or emeralds. I’m not saying that she doesn’t deserve those as well, yet her perspective provides a commentary on how we assign value to the other things in our lives. The richest people aren’t necessarily the ones with the biggest jewels. Rather, they are the ones with beautiful memories and various keepsakes that remind them of those memories. That’s what sea glass is to us. Not so much precious stones as touch stones. This also begs the question of what we fill our lives with … and why? In the meantime, I’ll keep hauling home the pockets full of sandy treasure that my beloved finds joy in collecting. After all, it’s not just about the glass. I think she’s actually collecting joy … and that is a treasure indeed.   

 Countless, Worthless, Priceless Treasures

Wherever the water kisses

The sand, you’ll find her there

Wandering happily down the shore

Wet feet and windblown hair

Oblivious to tide and time

As the lazy hours pass

She scours the shore for shiny stones

And odd pieces of sea glass

Tucking the treasures in her pocket

Whenever they appear

And wandering down the sunlit shore

As she has throughout the years

So we have a vast collection

Of such trinkets from the shore

Countless, worthless, priceless treasures

That she collects and she adores

And why not, we know so many folks

Who pay a fortune for the things

That they think will make them happy

Yet no greater pleasure bring

Perhaps the wisest of us all

Is she who wanders happily

And finds her joy in simple treasures

From the Great Lakes and the sea

          By Frank Carpenter ©

Sunday, May 29, 2022

A Rock and a Hard Place

Last week I was just walking from my car to my office when

a small yellow flower caught my eye. It was really just a little weed which had contrived sprout between the asphalt of the parking lot and the cement of the curb. Yet, the instant I saw it and a common phrase leapt into my mind: “Stuck between a rock and a hard place.” How many times have we heard that in reference to people who find themselves in difficult situations? Here was the personification of that phrase blooming just underfoot. I took the attached photo of that brave little plant with the idea that I’d return to the subject and explore it later. I eventually wrote this poem to accompany the photo and I take the liberty to share it with you today. You might ask why I even care about such an undignified little weed, clinging to such and unlikely spot. Well, truth be told, I have several people in my life right now who resemble that flower. The circumstances of life have left them felling like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and they are just trying to find a way to bloom in the midst of difficult situations. Have you ever felt that way, or are you feeling that way even now? Sometimes it seems like life is literally squeezing the life out of us. It could be health or financial issues, family or marriage problems or a host of other things. If you’re there, or know someone who is, I know things can feel pretty overwhelming. I’ve certainly been there myself and I clearly don’t have all the answers, but I do have one answer. Jesus. By all means listen to the doctors, see a financial advisor, confide in wise friends and be willing to seek professional counseling if it’s warranted … and maybe think about praying. It sounds so cliché, but Jesus really does love you. Whoever we are and wherever we gotten ourselves, He’s ready to meet us right where we are and help us through life. Are you stuck between a rock and a hard place? Good news … Jesus knows just what that feels like, and he’s no stranger to that address. So, once again, maybe think about praying. Those first words can be a little awkward, but they open up your heart to the comfort and strength of a loving God. Feel free to reach out to me as well. My email is . Don’t give up hope, and remember that little flower in the desolation of the parking lot by my office. Even if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, you can still find a way to bloom.

A Rock and a Hard Place

Sometimes it seems we’re out of options

Like the tide is rising over us

When we’re overwhelmed and feeling hopeless

It shakes our faith and makes it hard to trust

When we find our backs are up against a wall

Drained of joy and peace and even grace

And we can’t see a path to a solution

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

In that moment when we’re lost and desperate

And we can’t imagine there is a way out

Jesus meets us right where we are stranded

To melt away our brokenness and doubt

He bears the burden of the broken hearted

Forgives what seemed so unforgivable

Loves us with a love beyond conception

And pours himself into us till we’re full

If you feel between a rock and hard place

Take heart, friend, and take the time to pray

God will meet you right where you are standing

And walk with you each step along the way

                               By Frank Carpenter ©

Friday, April 08, 2022

Into the Night

Earlier this week I had a night to myself and ended up taking a long walk on one of my favorite beaches. The tide was low so there was lots of beach to enjoy. And it happened to time so that I got to experience the whole transition from the bright of day to the dark of night. It turned out to be one of those perfect moments when everything aligns and you’re just glad to be alive, and be there to enjoy it. Just beautiful. Part way up the trail back to the car I paused to record the moment in the below poem, which I feel speaks for itself. While driving home I reflected upon the experience and was stuck by
the fact that I could have sat in front of a computer screen, or worked in the garage or watched TV for the evening. Instead, I got out and did what I love … and was rewarded with, literally, perfection. In truth, the rest of this week has been a whirlwind of work and meetings and obligations. Yet, because I paused for a few hours on Monday night, everything has been different. I have been different. It’s a reminder that sometimes we get too busy with life to actually stop and live. So this is my reminder to take a little time out and do what you enjoy.
You won’t regret it.

Into the Night
The sun is slipping below the sea

As I wander along the shore

Traversing familiar beaches

As I have so often before

The light fades on the horizon

As nighttime smothers the day

But my steps are sure upon the path

For my heart knows the way

I pause a while upon the trail

Which climbs from the beach below

To etch this moment in my mind

These touchstones I love and know

Just enough orange left in the west

To silhouette the island I love

Just enough thumbnail moon to light

The pale ocean from above

A couple of sailboats creep along

Gliding back to the harbor tonight

Where the bell buoy beckons

With its gong and flashing light

The darkness comes, enveloping me

A chill seeps into the air

The waves roll in contentedly

Washing away all my cares

At last I turn and make my way

Up the path, away from the sea

As the song of the waves begins to fade

A peace descends upon me

       By Frank Carpenter ©


Saturday, December 04, 2021

Dads, Grandads and Crawdads

During the summer I went on a little field trip with my son and grandson. It was to a familiar little ravine near my childhood home that I hadn’t visited for 50 years. Just a trickle of a waterfall into a muddy pool that time had forgotten, but when I viewed it once again, through my grandson’s eyes, the wonder of my own youthful memories came flooding back. My adult son had been visiting this spot with his kids for a couple of years, coming to catch crawdads with bits of bacon tied to fishing line, and that’s what we did as well. It was pretty darn fun. We filled a bucket with the fascinating creatures, played with them for a while, and then let the whole lot go again before we left. It was strictly catch and release, since it wasn’t the kind of water you would want to dine from. Nonetheless, it was the good old fashioned Tom Sawyer kind of fun that I’m not sure people get enough of these days … the kind of fun that grandpas should have. My son is the master of planning this kind of little adventure that creates fun times, don’t cost a dime and makes awesome memories. I was reminded of how often I’m too busy or distracted to pursue such simple pleasures in life.

And there’s another whole essay to write about how the stubborn crawdads latch onto the bait and let themselves be captured and destined for ruin because they’re too greedy to let go. That has all kinds of application to our modern lives of comfort and distraction. But that can wait for another day. 

In the meantime, let me encourage all of us to step out of our routines and seek out the simple activities that can bring so much joy with so little cost or trouble. We’re always striving for the big, shiny experience that seems to promise the greatest reward. However it’s the little things, the simple things, which often matter so much more in the big picture of life. When I think about such experiences, it’s pretty hard to do better than the classic mix of dads, granddads and crawdads. Besides the fact that it’s just fun to say, there’s pure magic in such a recipe for fun.  

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

The Coral Street Pier - Revisited

My first date with the love of my life was in June of 1980, an evening that ended with our dancing on a pier in Newport Harbor. Somewhere along the way I wrote a poem about that evening and eventually posted it here in 2004. More recently, I revisited the focal point of that first date once again and took a few moments to reflect on the past 40 years since then. The following poem is what happened while I was there. It’s a reminder that my poetry not only tells the story of my life, but also serves as a touchstone to important memories which have helped to defined me. This gift also helps me to celebrate those moments while preserving them for posterity.

Some moments are truly worth remembering, and that evening all those years ago is one of them. It was my last first date, and that is something worth celebrating … and remembering.  

The Coral Street Pier, Revisited

I don’t speak of it very often, but

I wander back here time and again

To this touch stone of all our blessings

Or, perhaps, to remember when

Since what happened on that night

By this ancient, familiar shore

Changed the trajectory of my life

And is etched in my heart evermore

I couldn’t say it was love at first sight

For we were only friends, after all

But something took root that evening

Even though it may have been small

A movie, a dance, a little starlight

Some providence, or destiny

And that tiny seed we planted

Has grown into a beautiful tree

I have never forgotten that moment

Nor has it faded with passing years

That first date, when long ago

We danced on the Coral Street Pier

                By Frank Carpenter ©

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Let Me Hear Your Voice

Earlier this week, I took a night off to step away from my usual routine and spend a few quiet hours alone. Even though that was in character for me, it was actually a homework assignment from the Convene business group that I am a part of. A month ago, we had reviewed some content together

regarding self-care, and one of the takeaways was that folks need to occasionally step away from their normal distractions and take time to reflect. That was our challenge, but it was loosely framed, allowing the group to explore what worked for each of us. Often, when I think about being alone for a few hours, I gravitate towards the beach or some other scenic place to walk because nature and the outdoors have a calming influence on me. Yet, for a variety of reasons, I wanted to be indoors that night and I ended up at a nearby mall. That may sound strange, but I truly enjoy the comfortable anonymity of public spaces so long as they offer a comfortable place to sit. And other than just showing up to reflect I didn’t really have an agenda.

For how empty the mall was on a Monday night, there turned out to be a surprising amount of ambient noise; people talking, music playing, pots and pans banging somewhere in a nearby restaurant. All of that got me thinking about how many distractions we are bombarded by in the course of our daily lives. I also reflected on how the quiet voice of God is so easily drowned out by all the other things clamoring for our attention. It occurred to me that perhaps the secret to connecting with God might not be hiking to a mountain top or cloistering ourselves in a monastery. Maybe we just need to be better at filtering the distractions in order to concentrate on listening to Him … wherever we are. Why force the God of the universe to meet us only in the rare quiet corners of our lives which are so difficult to carve out. Sometimes I feel like we relegate our time with Jesus to the equivalent of Maxwell Smart’s proverbial cone of silence. No, God is everywhere, so we need to develop ways to focus on Him wherever we are. I actually like the white noise of life, and sometimes find myself more distracted by a single soft sound that can barely be heard. Either way, my experiment in public solitude was a success and I was able to reflect, pray and even write a little poetry, which is how I often respond to emotional and spiritual moments.

So I offer the follow poem, which I wrote during the aforementioned evening. Poetry is how I work things out. Rhyme and meter help me to make sense of complicated issues and then capture how I really feel. Others will respond in different ways. When we want to be alone, we all gravitate to various sorts of places and respond to different stimuli, or the lack thereof. Your experience would likely look completely different than mine. Yet, I would challenge you to block out a few hours and go someplace, anyplace, to be alone for a while. It can be anyplace that allows you to disconnect and give your mind the opportunity to wander. There is something in us that responds to moments of peace, and I believe there is great value in just pausing to listen. We can listen to ourselves, to the wind in the trees or the surf upon the shore, to city noises or the soft whispering of a garden. In those moments I also listen for God to whisper something as well. He rarely speaks audibly, but His quiet voice can still be heard throughout creation. One thing is for sure. If you want to hear something, anything, the first step is to listen. And sometimes that requires a little effort. You’ve heard about my experiment. I encourage you to try one of your own. At the very least you can relax a little … but you never know what might happen.

Let Me Hear Your Voice

Oh Lord, let me hear your voice

In the midst of everything

Part the seas of distraction

Which are always clamoring

Let your peace descend on me

When it seems that there is none

May my eyes pierce through the haze

To alight upon your Son

Show me how to walk the path

When so many others call

To filter the cacophony

To hear your voice, still and small

Lord, show me how to trust you

When doubt and fear are sown

Even where I least expect it

May I be yours and yours alone

When this world would woo me

May my heart and mind be true

For I know you are a jealous God

And I would serve none but You

A thousand other voices beckon

They whisper, laugh and tease and sing

But let me hear your voice, oh Lord

In the midst of everything

By Frank Carpenter ©

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The Journey to Hope

I’m going to try something a little different today. It’s not uncommon, especially in the more difficult seasons, for me to write a group of poems that document the journey through a season. I often use poetry to work things out in my heart and mind, to deal with issues. This sometimes leaves me with a suite of poems which belong together, because they journal a spectrum of emotions through the passing of time. So I take the liberty of sharing the following suite of ten poems which were written over roughly that many days. They detail my emotional journey last year from the confirmation that out new grandson would be born with Down Syndrome through my reconciliation of that fact with God. When we get many kinds of news it can seem like the worst news in the world until you become accustomed to it. Those seasons are like experiencing the different stages of grief. And because I’m a person of faith, part of that process involves working out the details with Jesus and trusting Him with them completely.

I’d like to brag that I always see things with an eternal perspective. Yet life is rarely that simple. Sometimes all we have to begin with is a cry for help, or what soldiers refer to as a foxhole prayer. Then, at least in my case, I often have to ease into a total trust that God is actually in control and He’s somehow going to work things out … and maybe even turn them into something beautiful. In this particular instance I’m choosing to call my process “the journey to hope.” Either way, I’m laying my emotions bare here so you can see how Jesus works in my life and heart at least. The difference with me is that sometimes we end up with a written record of the process like this batch of poetry.

The most important thing is that there is hope, that Jesus does love us and care for us, that we are never truly alone. Whether you’re facing good news or bad news, or walking through those things with others, there is hope beyond the emotions and situations that threaten to overwhelm us. That hope is there, like a life ring, waiting for us to take hold of it. Some of us may do that slowly. So to all of you I offer my personal journey to hope.

Help Me, Jesus

Help me Jesus, help me Jesus

I’m not sure how to feel

We have to wait upon the tests

Before we know what’s real

It’s like I’ve walked into quicksand

And I’m slowly sinking down

Sliding, imperceptibly

Until I feel as if I’ll drown

I was confident and in control

And fine, then suddenly

I stepped from solid ground into

This mire of uncertainty

There is a shadow closing in

Which I’m unaccustomed to

Help me Jesus, help me Jesus

My only hope is you

        By Frank Carpenter ©


Yesterday my life was perfect

Everything was going fine

Work, faith, friends and family

Counting my blessings all the time

Suddenly, joy has eroded

And toppled from my pedestal

I’m spiraling into darkness

The weight of fear upon my soul

Help me, Lord, have mercy

Your servant, whom you have blessed

Is now awash in waves of grief

Lost in an ocean of distress

Maybe this will be alright

Maybe the medical tests

Will show we needn’t worry

And things will work out for the best

But for now I’m lost in limbo

Mired in despair and pain

Hoping for miraculous test results

Praying that joy may come again

Help me, Lord, have mercy

Shine your light through darkness here

Draw me into your arms of comfort

And help me to know you are here

           By Frank Carpenter ©

Your Will

I don’t pretend to know your will

Nor the fullness of your mind

I know that I should trust you

Yet in this season now I find

I’m struggling with where we are

Along this path of sovereignty

Because the weight of this week

Feels as if it’s crushing me

Lord, I want to trust You

Trust the wisdom of your plan

But it’s too much, Lord, it’s too much

And I’m not sure how I can

My heart is filled to bursting

With the weight of what we face

In the coming weeks and months

In this new and grief-filled place

Lord, forgive my faithlessness

In this season of despair

Have mercy on your servant

And hear this unworthy prayer

Reach down into the darkness

Where we find ourselves today

Pierce this veil of helplessness

And help us find our way

I beg you, Jesus, intervene

Amidst our brokenness and pain

Give me faith and wisdom

To fully trust in You again

I can’t understand your purposes

For all we’re going through

Have mercy on us in this hour

And help us to trust in You

      By Frank Carpenter ©

I Need Someone to Tell Me

I need someone to tell me

That everything will be alright

So I can look my family in the eye

And say that to them tonight

I need to know there is a light

Still shining somewhere up ahead

That hope and joy exist somewhere

Beyond this pain and dread

I need a vision of the future

I can still look forward to

Some way to quench the helplessness

Where there is nothing I can do

Another wave of pain has broken

And washed over me tonight

And I need someone to tell me

That everything will be alright

          By Frank Carpenter ©


God, today more than ever

I need to believe the bible is true

I need to believe in everything

I’ve come to know about you

I’m clinging to You desperately

Nowhere else to turn today

Need your strength and steadfastness

To hold me on the narrow way

I need to know you will be there

Whenever, wherever I go

I need to trust in You and your word

Because he bible tells me so

Lord, at this moment I’m shaken

To the very depths of my soul

So I cling to your power and mercy

Because only you are unshakeable

        By Frank Carpenter ©

Every Step Along the Way

There is nothing you could do

No choice that you could make

Which could diminish my approval

Or I would label a mistake

I am always for you

I am always on your side

I have only love for you

Nor could you wound my pride

I am praying for you

Through ever hour of the day

Asking God for peace and wisdom

And His light upon your way

I believe in both of you

And I trust you implicitly

I will encourage and support you

Wherever you may be

Wherever you may find yourselves

Along this journey you are in

Though you feel lost in darkness

Though your faith is wearing thin

If your heart if broken

Then my heart is broken too

Your joy and pain are mine as well

And I will be there for you

I am walking with you

Every step along the way

Yours are my love and my blessing

Both now, and every day

        By Frank Carpenter ©

He Will Find a Way

In this moment of your life

It’s difficult to understand

How God allows such things to happen

Or where is His mighty hand

We know we have a loving God

Who deeply cares for us

A God all-knowing and all-powerful

In whom we should place our trust

But where oh where, in all of this

Could our loving Savior be?

When we’re crying out in our distress

It can be difficult to see

His hand in what befalls us

In this broken world we share

We have only faith to cling to

And the promise that He cares

But God knows things that we don’t

He sees what we can’t see

His plan is bigger than our pain

And He still holds eternity

Whatever we are going through

Though it shakes us to the core

God can use it for His glory

In ways we’d never guess before

God can use the deepest pain

He can redeem the darkest hours

Spin the chaff of sorrow into gold

Through His creative power

We may feel as if the sun

May never shine again today

But God is with us, God is working

And He will find a way

         By Frank Carpenter ©


However the medical tests turn out

At the end of the wretched day

Whatever the future has in store

I shall not turn away

However You deal with my prayers

Whatever may yet befall

Though it shakes me to the core

I shall call you Lord of all

Whatever sorrow or sacrifice

Though the darkness is complete

I shall worship with my dying breath

Praise You with my last heartbeat

Crush me, I shall serve You still

Blear the narrow way with tears

I shall choose it nonetheless

To tread for all my years

Lord, I’m begging for a miracle

That may turn darkness into light

But if your will is otherwise

Give me strength to fight the fight

        By Frank Carpenter ©

This Day

Not sure if we’ll find out anything new

We heard what the doctors had to say

But we’re waiting for that final test

To come back to us today

The path ahead is shrouded

In a fog of uncertainty

But give us ears to listen, Lord

Give us eyes to see

Whatever you are saying

In this season of distress

And show us how you’ll use it

To encourage and to bless

We still beg for grace, Lord

In all we’re going through

So we lay this day before your feet

And trust our hearts to you

        By Frank Carpenter ©


I was walking in a darkness

For a week, or maybe two

As we processed all the news

And heard all you were going through

We were overwhelmed with sorrow

And disappointed to the core

Shattered pieces of our broken dreams

Strewn underfoot upon the floor

But Jesus wrapped His arms around us

As we came to Him in prayer

Enfolded us with tender mercies

In His arms of love and care

And as our tears began to dry

Through the course of weary days

Jesus cultivated joy

And shone light upon a way

Which we never would have chosen

Or imagined as our own

A path of blessings to be gathered

Where the seeds of pain were sown

We must never underestimate

What God may choose to do

In the midst of all the trials

We find ourselves going through

Even when the tide of hopelessness

Seems to well up all around

Jesus whispers quiet words of hope

Which could not otherwise be found

He showed us how our brokenness

Becomes the fertile soil that He

May use to lift us up

And guide us to eternity

For those who wait upon the Lord

Who lay their burdens on His Son

Know peace that passes understanding

And find hope where there seemed none

        By Frank Carpenter ©