Notes from Jan


January 7, 2016

That was her name. Epiphany.  She wore no name tag.  I asked her name a few days before when I’d handed her my parking ticket and credit card at the MGH parking garage where she cashiered. This time friendship interrupted function with,”How’s your husband doing?”  We chatted a little, since the line behind me kept growing, then Epiphany’s dark eyes flashed and she leaned in and said, “You shouldn’t be paying all this money to park. You need to go over to…..and get approval for the discounted rate and….”

Epiphany.  She and I had one, “a sudden and profound understanding of something.”  In this case, it was an understanding of how the system works but also that connections  are possible between two strangers if  each cares even a little bit.  She, caring enough  to ask about Jud, then introduce me to the system and I, simply asking her name a few days before, then caring enough to remember it and call her by name in the days that followed. Small stuff.

Or is it?

Last night Luke, Basil and I finished reading aloud  Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Seeing the Christmas story through the eyes of the unchurched Herdman children became an epiphany, of sorts.  Initially, they’d come to Sunday School only because another kid, Charlie, frustrated at Leroy Herdman stealing the dessert from his school lunch each day said,” Oh, go on and take it.  I don’t care.  I get all the dessert I want in Sunday School.”  Charlie went on to list all the things they got at Sunday School:” candy bars, cookies, Kool-Aid, ice cream, doughnuts and popcorn balls!” Leroy Herdman yelled,”You’re a liar!”  Leroy was right but Charlie didn’t back down and next thing you know,  six beat-up Herdmans slithered into Sunday School and  found themselves smack dab in the heart of the Christmas story.

It’s impossible for me to read this story without hearing the booming voice of Dr. Peter Stine, Professor of English at Gordon College for 40 years before his death.  For many years his oral interpretation of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever held a significant place in Christmas at Gordon.  I encourage you to read it aloud with someone.

For any of you who’ve ever been in charge of a Christmas pageant, forced to wear or make angel wings or show up in public tripping over your dad’s bathrobe as a faux shepherd, this book’s for you.   But for any of us who need a fresh look at the Christmas story,  on this day of Epiphany, January 6, 2016, I recommend seeing it through the eyes of Imogene and Leroy Herdman, a couple of throwaway kids who take on the roles of Mary and Joseph.  Leroy, Claude and Ollie  Herdman sign-on as the Three Wise Men, leaving Gladys, the youngest and meanest Herdman, to represent the Angel of the Lord and somehow, these six rejects give a church full of ho-hums one big epiphany.

And who couldn’t use one of those.


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  • Reply Shirley Dubeau January 7, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Remembering the Herdman’s … One of my favorite Christmas traditions!

  • Reply Sharon Wolgemuth January 7, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks Jan for sharing your heart with us Jan. Epiphany is Kristin’s anniversary . This year it would have been 15 years, except for Ray’s untimely death from cancer almost 7 years ago. She and the three girls have crafted a life of service, but we still miss him dearly. Love you!

  • Reply Dale Lefever January 7, 2016 at 11:50 pm

    Thanks Jan for the special reminder about Peter. I was the catcher and he was the pitcher for two summers of “fast pitch” softball at MSU. We won the campus-wide intramural championship both years! Peter would warm up by throwing fairly slow and wild until the first batter, when he had an epiphany, as Peter buried a fast ball right down the middle and the game was over. He pitched several no-hitters each summer and I had to wear a sponge in my catcher’s mitt to ease the sting.

    Thanks for your wonderful touch in staying in touch. Dale

  • Reply Jill MacCully January 8, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    I love you, Jan Carlberg! I know that sounds crazy because I don’t even know you. You were my first women’s minister at Grace Chapel in the late 1980’s and I fell in love with both you and your Mom’s storytelling way back then. I remember hearing her speak, too, but I can’t remember for the life of me, where. When I heard you were coming to GC this fall to speak, I signed up right away but I got sick and couldn’t hear you. The only remedy was to hunt down your Mom’s books,, First We Have Coffee and Lena , and re-read them. What a gift! I was so sorry to learn about Jud’s passing ? I remember seeing both of you mostly going in and out of service at Grace, he being so tall and easy to spot! My husband and I just celebrated 40 years together so when I’ m reading your blog, which I just signed up for, I am watching God at work as I can’t quite imagine what life with him after so long would be like. I am so enjoying your stories, especially about your Grands! I have five of those and I call them our Cherubs. Thanks for your fun spirit and faithfulness. That Anne Lamott story just made me chuckle all day long! I hope you keep writing:))). -Jill MacCully

  • Reply Jim Trent January 8, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    You’ve introduced me to a new reading. Thank you. I can hear Peter Stine’s voice now.

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