I could write for hours on the topic this evening. But it all started with a post that was put up on Facebook by a good friend of mine; in fact, he is a gifted musician in his own right. So it really didn’t come as a surprise when I saw that Dave had posted a link to a video and related story about Richard Carpenter, the brother of Karen Carpenter, who together formed one of the greatest groups of the 1970’s. If you were alive back then, I hope that you remember them. They wrote love songs and great easy listening arrangements that were unforgettable. And, you may even remember that they hated being called “The Carpenters” – preferring to just being referred to as “Carpenters” – something that plagued them much of their career together.
Both Janet and I consider them one of our favorite groups and their song, “We’ve Only Just Begun”, was the first song that we danced to at our wedding reception on August 24, 1973 at Beverly Country Club. I still listen to their albums and am often transported back to that time period, so many years ago, when Janet and I got our start together as a married couple. We loved Karen and Richard Carpenter then; and still love them now…
Unfortunately, Karen Carpenter passed away on February 4, 1983 from anorexia, an eating disorder that very little was known about at the time. Her death, brought about from heart failure as a result of her illness, shocked the world and clearly ended the run of the Carpenters. Both Richard and Karen had suffered set-backs during their careers (Richard had a drug addiction for a time) but they always supported one another and usually overcame their obstacles. I admit, however, that I have not really closely followed the career of Richard after the death of his sister. He was a child piano prodigy at an early age, and while his parents were always hopeful that he would have a career in the music field, they were shocked when Karen also became a star – in fact, she was the face of the Carpenters during their public performances.
Since Karen’s death, Richard has had a solo career but the days with his sister have never been far from his mind. His latest work is a re-issue of some of their hits together decades ago. With the help of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Richard re-arranged some of his earlier material and overlaid Karen’s vocals to re-create some of their best masterpieces. When asked about the reason for the new work, Richard indicated that during the original recordings there were several instruments that were slightly out of tune during the sessions. He wanted to perfect those things that had apparently bothered him for so many years.
That got me thinking about all the imperfect things that I have done throughout the years. Admittedly, there are occasions that I wish I could do things over, but I don’t live in the past and I realize that, being human, nothing in this life is going to be perfect. Likewise, God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Yes, He wants us to become more Christlike in our lives, but we don’t need a do-over to please God. He loves us just the way we are.
So while I appreciate Richard’s new album with the Royal Philharmonic, released in November, 2018 (and it is a wonderful album), there is a part of me that wishes he didn’t feel that it was necessary to try and improve on their past work together almost 45 years ago. Our verse for this evening highlights the fact that we aren’t perfect and through God’s grace, we are fine just the way we are. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian church, tells us the words of Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul reveals “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
So Paul accepted the grace of God and realized that his own weaknesses were a vehicle through which the power of Christ could be manifest. My encouragement this evening is that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect and the things we have done in our lives are what they are. My prayer is that we will all realize that as we age, and grow in our faith, we should aspire to become more aligned to the image of Christ and our work as Christians is sufficient, imperfect as it may be. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…