Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dad and the Sawmill

He eased the old pickup into the driveway, the tires scrunching to a halt on the gravel. Switching off the ignition he just sat for a moment, his body still feeling the vibration of the rutted road that led from the lumberyard in town seven miles up the hill to his farm.

He rolled up the window, pulled the door handle and swung his legs out to the driveway. The summer breeze felt almost cold against his back where he had sweated through his shirt. He shoved the door shut and leaned against the truck. Removing his battered straw hat, he mopped his brow with his sleeve. His thinning hair, damp from the day's work, was molded to his head, and his gold-rimmed glasses were flecked with sawdust and dried sweat.

Working at the sawmill hadn’t been his first choice. A lot about the last few years hadn’t turned out the way he had hoped.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Dad and the Murdered Calf

Our culture has changed dramatically since I was a boy. One place I notice change is in parenting. Our culture challenges fathers in ways it never challenged me when I was a young dad. Young men today hear strident voices telling them they are responsible for all of society’s ills. Toxic masculinity, inherent male chauvinism, clueless gender roles, are a few of the grenades lobbed their way. I know the young dads today are up to the challenge. But as I remember my own father, I can't help but think that the current generation might learn a bit from him. So I’ve decided to do a few blog posts about him. This first one I posted in slightly different form some years ago

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Three Habits to Prevent "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"

You’re familiar with the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind,” right? It summarizes a danger we all face - if friends moves away, will we just forget them? That does happen.

Or what about the challenges military families experience during deployments?  If a spouse is going to be gone for three months, or six months, or longer, how do the families at home keep those deployed close to their hearts when they’re not present physically? Marriages  have been wrecked when out of sight led to out of mind.

But the statement “out of sight, out of mind,” is not an inevitability, but only a danger. I have a dear friend I’ve known for over 40 years. In the last 20 years, he’s been “in sight” exactly three times, for only a week at a time. But we work hard to stay “in mind” through weekly phone calls and even more frequent emails and texts.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Impatience and a 40 MPH Speed Limit

I guess you’d say I’m an impatient person. Sometimes I yell at the microwave: Come on! One minute – are you KIDDING me!

I realize this is not one of my finer qualities. I like to excuse myself by saying, well, I just want to get things done. I don’t have time to dawdle. (How annoying is that, with the undercurrent of ugly pride? Okay, you got me.)

Anyhow I’m trying. I know patience is not only a virtue but a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in me. Although some of the spiritual fruit seem to be developing awfully slowly. (Come ON! Oh, oops…)

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A New Book

I'm happy to announce I have a new book out - Leaning into the Wind - a collection of stories about Jesus and about family, with some humor and a little fiction mixed in.

From the back of the book

From a birthday paragliding adventure to a meditation on the death of a beloved pet, Leaning into the Wind reflects on the grace of God through all the seasons of life. Steeped in the love of family and a deep reverence for the sovereignty of God, Jim Carpenter tells stories about God's grace shining through our brokenness and pain.

You will find a laugh or two (Exploding Dog Food, My First Colonoscopy), some inspiring stories about the greatness of Jesus (Miracles Before Time Began, How God Healed My Son), and some overall encouragement for your own journey of faith (Don't Pull the Wagon Over Yet, Thanking Yourself Out of a Bad Mood).

Hope you like it. You can find it on Amazon. (Just paperback for now, but Kindle's coming.)

Monday, July 30, 2018

Don’t Spike the Ball before You Reach the End Zone: A Reflection on Finishing Well

Winning early is not the same as finishing well. Everyone has a story about some hotshot who wowed his company/school/coach and then flamed out before ever reaching the finishing line. The Bible has stories about such people, too.

I want to learn from those whose early success was marred (or erased) by a later implosion of professional or personal failure.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Another Reason to Look Forward to Heaven

The main reason to look forward to heaven is the presence of Christ. When Jesus prayed for "His sheep," He emphasized that the highest blessing the Father could bestow on them is to bring them into His glorious presence forever: Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

Anyone who truly loves Christ needs no other motivation to long for heaven. Like the Psalmist said, “Whom have I in heaven but you?” (Psalm 73:25a)

Yet there are other reasons to look forward to heaven.

Friday, July 13, 2018

No Bias in Agent Smirk. His Heart is Pure!

This week I listened to the testimony of an FBI agent before a Senate Committee. I bet you know who I’m talking about. Rather than use his actual name (which temptingly rhymes with words I shouldn’t use), I’ll call him Peter Smirk.

Mr. Smirk’s bias for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump was on clear display in text messages he shared with his mistress, another FBI agent. When faced with the evidence, he -  unbelievably - defended himself by proclaiming that he is an incredible patriot and would never, ever act out of bias.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Is Extravagant Worship Simply Wasteful?

Many years ago I saw a documentary about volcanoes. There were plenty of shots of glowing lava moving moltenly and inexorably down the face of the mountain. But the image that has stayed with me was of a very wealthy businessman (I know he was very wealthy because that’s what the narrator said) hurling his super-expensive wrist watch into the lava. The watch thrower, the narrator further explained, did it as an act of worship to honor the god of the volcano.

(By the way, remember the “Deep Thoughts” of Jack Handey from early SNL: If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, let 'em go, because man, they're gone. So don’t have second thoughts about your Rolex.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Why God is Happy

God is happy.

The Bible gives us ample reason to rejoice that our God is happy. For example, when Nehemiah encouraged the people of Israel, he reminded them that “the joy of the Lord” was their strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

When Jesus told the Parable of the Talents, the faithful servant heard this judgment from the master: Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master (Matthew 25:23, my emphasis). The master's joy!

Monday, April 23, 2018


One of the best questions I’ve ever heard was asked by a father ashamed of his sons.

The father was the Old Testament judge Eli, and he was ashamed because his two grown sons were corrupt and ungodly men who misused their privilege as priests for their own gain and carnal pleasure. So Eli asked them this question:

“If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” (1 Samuel 2:25a, my emphasis)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Where are You?

My wife is a weaver, and some of her woven wall hangings tell a story. One of my favorites is called “Where are You?” A lonely girl sits at the darkened mouth of a cave. The rough rock around her seems harsh and foreboding. Miserable and hopeless, she cries out: “Where are You?”

Only when you step back do you see that the rock of the cave is formed by two gigantic hands cradling her. The hands have nail marks in them.
We don’t always see things the way they are. Jesus is nearer to us than we realize. There are times when He cradles us and carries us without our ever knowing.

The first verses of Hebrews 1 describe Christ in ways we would not know apart from God’s own revelation. So far we have looked at four of seven wonderful descriptions: Christ is Heir of All Things, the Creator, the Radiance of God’sglory, and fully God.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Just a Janitor?

In the late 1970’s Bill Crawford was a janitor at the U.S. Air Force Academy.* While the cadets’ days were filled with academics and athletics, morning parades, room inspections, and leadership classes, Bill Crawford was cleaning toilets, buffing floors, and emptying trash cans.

He was  shy and unassuming , a gray-haired older man who looked like somebody’s grandfather. No wonder the cadets didn't take much notice.

But then one afternoon one of the cadets was reading a book about World War II, and the Allied ground campaign in Italy. It told the story of a Private William Crawford, assigned to the 36th Infantry Division, who had been involved in some bloody fighting in Italy. Private Crawford had, on his own, taken out three machine gun nests to prepare the way for the advance of his unit.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Staring Directly at the Sun

On August 21, 2017, the moon passed between the earth and the sun – and so blocked it from view in the United States. This is called a total solar eclipse, and it was a pretty big deal last year. We were warned over and over again not to look directly at the sun. Though it was darkened, it could still seriously harm unprotected eyes. Use special glasses or look via reflection.

Looking directly at the sun (darkened or not) is dangerous. That seems an apt picture of the danger sinful people face in the presence of holy God. When the Lord appeared to Israel on Mt. Sinai, His presence was so terrifying that they did not want to hear His voice, did not want to have Him come any closer. They begged Moses to represent them while they stayed safely at the foot of the mountain (see Exodus 19:18-19). Here’s one description of God’s presence: the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain (Exodus 24:17).

Monday, February 12, 2018

Maker of the Redwoods

When my sons were growing up our family camped every summer in the coastal redwoods of California. We loved the state parks – Big Basin, Patrick’s Point, Prairie Creek, Portola, Butano, Grizzly Creek, Henry Cowell. 

Being in an old growth redwood forest is like being in a cathedral. You are humbled by the scale of these trees – both their height and their age. They tower 200 feet above you, and some of them are over 2000 years old.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Heir of All Things!

If we say, Frank owned him in that debate, we mean not only that Frank won and the other guy lost, but we imply that Frank dominated and the other guy was humiliated. Same with “she owned the former champion on the tennis court today.” The former champion didn’t just lose a close match. She was beaten like a drum.

So to start off this reflection by saying, Christ owns us may provoke unpleasant feelings. And of course saying you own someone could remind people of the ugliness of human slavery.With those disclaimers aside, it is still true: you and I belong to Jesus even if we don’t follow Him. He owns us. And for that matter He owns all of creation.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What Would God Like to Talk About?

My wife and I have a regular route we walk in the evenings through our 
neighborhood. We often use the time to debrief about our day. She’ll say, what do you want to talk about? So I’ll tell her  about my day, a book I’m reading, questions I’m mulling over, or whatever. Then it will be her turn: now what would you like to talk about? And she’ll use the return trip to tell me about her day, a visit we’re planning to see grandkids, her upcoming Bible study, or whatever.

Imagine if you could take a walk with God, and He said, what would you like to talk about? You might bring up personal issues, questions you’ve always wanted to ask Him, and requests for His help. Then it would be His turn. You would say, Lord, what would You like to talk about? I wonder what He would say.