Sharing Others' Stories
Me (kneeling) to interview Stan Freitas, Lead Minister of Hope Christian Church in Paradise, California after the November 2018 fire

Me (kneeling) to interview Stan Freitas, Lead Minister of Hope Christian Church in Paradise, California after the November 2018 fire

I tend to write less for myself lately. Lest you think I’ve simply run out of ideas, please note this to the contrary—my brain and heart are simply tired after holding tightly to the stories entrusted to me.

Much of my writing this year has been about communicating other people’s stories. While I get energized and inspired as I interview them, when it comes time to drafting the words that will go out into the world, I suddenly feel the pressure.

(Self-created pressure, that is.)

How can I create intriguing copy that will draw readers in? How can I present this piece in just the right way? I want everyone in the world to learn about the wonderful people I meet; I want to honor these amazing journeys. So I agonize.

In the end, when the star of the feature says they enjoyed the outcome, I breathe a sigh of relief and know that it was worth it.

Then it’s on to the next.

Please read some of my most recent interviews of people who have faced fire, cancer, and poverty as they care for others and serve the Lord:

Hope in the Ashes [feature profile from the November 2018 Paradise, California fire] (CDF Capital)
Additional pieces: Stories from Hope, Updates from Paradise, Escaping the Flames
In memory of Tyler Trent: Purdue football, family, faith (CDF Capital)
Kendi’s Cows of Grace
The Silent Struggle of Suburban Poverty

Kelly CarrComment
Displaced from Sacred Spaces

When I saw the spire ablaze begin to crumble, I had a visceral reaction.

Why did a cathedral in a foreign country, housing Catholic worship services so different from my own nondenominational Protestantism, mean so much to me? I had studied it many times in French classes from junior high through high school, memorizing its history. Then I was blessed to set foot inside three times. I sat in its pews. I prayed there. I watched my husband admire the centuries-old architecture, watched my daughter sketch the stained glass in her journal. I spent an hour with my family outside in its gardens in spring of 2017, just sitting contentedly under the blossoms of a tree, and we had one of the most peaceful afternoons of my recent memory.

Photo  @Steve Carr  2017

Photo @Steve Carr 2017

The Notre Dame Cathedral fire had reached my attention mere minutes after it began. I happened to be on social media for a client, and the news popped up.

Just that morning another tab on my browser had been opened to updates about blazes begun many days ago in my own country. Three houses of worship in Louisiana were burned with malicious intent, targeted because of the skin tone of their church members. While their structures were not world renown, the losses burned just as intensely for three bodies of believers without a home.

In both instances, I ache for the people of faith now displaced. A church body set to wander and find a new sacred space on this upcoming holy day of Easter.

These incidents were swirling in my mind this evening as I laced up my shoes and headed out for a run. Up the block I went, and instantly I was struck by the beauty of our own church spires and stained glass windows that I get to see from my door each day. I say “our” church, but the building is not ours to own. In fact, the church I have been a part of for almost 14 years is currently worshiping in our third meeting space.

Photo  @Steve Carr  2015

Photo @Steve Carr 2015

I turned the corner and up a few blocks and there ran past our very first church building. Another gorgeous structure with stone and stained glass and a pipe organ inside. The was the first place we became Echo Church; we were able to rent it out on Sunday nights, gathering as a few friends who sought to worship, pray, and fellowship in our community—simply, to become a church.

I realized I wanted to finish the trifecta, so I took off a mile away with intention, arriving at the small box of a building where our friends lead a church. They had graciously rented to us when we had to vacate space number one quite quickly. It was a temporary home for an in-between season.

Three buildings in 14 years. As I ran, I thanked the Lord for each edifice. Each sacred space where I sat and stood, where I bowed my head in prayer and raised my hands in praise, where I was challenged to look at God’s Word in a new light, where I met strangers who became friends as close as family. Yes, I know buildings don’t last forever, but spaces can inspire and invite, can shelter and strengthen.

That displaced, nomadic feeling of a church without a home is not new to me. I have felt unmoored a couple of times.

But I’ve learned that spaces become meaningful because of the people you share them with.

My friends in California are living proof of that. Last fall Hope Christian Church was ravaged by the most destructive fire in the state, and most members were displaced from their homes as well. Yet they haven’t missed a Sunday, gathering together to worship and hug one another, grateful for another day to be alive.

Where they meet is secondary to who is standing by their side.

Today I pray for my sisters and brothers in Christ who’ve lost their sacred spaces. Those in Paris. Those in Louisiana. Those in California. Those in Venezuela and Haiti where civil unrest brings uncertainty to each gathering. Those in Myanmar and Pakistan and India whose worship is watched with sideways glances and sometimes must be moved. Those I don’t even know about.

I pray that wherever they meet—wherever you and I meet—and however long we get to meet there, we exalt the name of the Lord together and anticipate an eternal sacred space being built for us by an unparalleled architect:

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents . . . For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)

Kelly CarrComment
“When my time is up, have I done enough?”
Hamilton book pic.jpg

I saw Hamilton for a second time last Friday. My heart moved to the core yet again, in ways anew, this time around brought intricate insight from inexplicable angles. While I had rested from its influence for a time, with Hamilton lyrics merely hovering out on the perimeter, seeing it onstage once more brings it front and center to my mind, being the filter through which I view my current events.

Just 12 hours after the final musical note rang out and I stood in ovation, I received a text: a mentor of mine had passed away. Unexpectedly. Seemingly he had been in good health; this was a shock of news to receive.

This followed mere days after another shocking death, when a couple we know suddenly lost their 10-year-old daughter to a rare mix of several infections that struck her.

“The Lord, in his kindness . . . he gives me more—time.”

Times like these bring self-reflection. What do we do with the time we have when we aren’t promised tomorrow? Even more jarring: what do we do, knowing that our time with those we love is not promised tomorrow?

  • Let’s tell others what they mean to us now. Don’t let it be only in memoriam.

  • Let’s put aside the petty and focus on what matters. We can work through our differences.

  • Let’s share God’s grace. Because we all need it.

“You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”

I always found it powerful that with Aaron Burr as Hamilton’s musical narrator, we follow Alexander’s life through the eyes of his frenemy. Alexander has no control over what Burr says. And Burr has biting descriptors throughout.

But watching again, I found it especially gripping that Eliza, Alexander’s dear wife, took over the telling of the story in the end. Putting herself back in the narrative, she could speak with depth of the Alexander she knew—yes, his sins were readily evident, but she shone the light on his victories and aspirations and the support of those who surrounded him.

When all is said and done, isn’t that what we want—someone who loves us enough to forgive the grievances we’ve caused and instead focus on the goodness they saw in our heart? God’s grace unending.

Yet two more things to ask ourselves:

  • Whose story needs us to tell it today?

  • When our own story is told, what will they say?

“Oh, I can’t wait to see you again. It’s only a matter of—time.”

(photo above: my copy of Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda & Jeremy McCarter)

Kelly Carr Comments