Notes from Jan


May 20, 2020

To most, it’s just a necklace.  However, to me it speaks of hope and courage to persevere in tough times. It’s a tangible reminder of roots and branches, the makings of family trees. My daughter-in -love gave me  this silver and enamel tree of life  after Jud died. Sometimes I still need signs that life is precious, no matter how it looks or feels.

This morning I lifted it from my jewelry box, fastened it around my neck like a hug, for good reason.  Tonight, via zoom, our Community Bible Study group gathers to wrap-up our study of Revelation.  God only knew we’d be studying this frightening and mysterious book, rife with plagues and consequences, during a global pandemic. So why the necklace? Revelation speaks of trees, from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis to the Tree of Life in Revelation.  And bridging the gap between the two, the tree on which Jesus died.

So, trees matter.  God sometimes uses them to teach. For example, as a child I memorized Psalm one in the King James version.  Part of it reads, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Spell check has a  hard time with all these “eths.”)

Now that I’m older, I bookend Psalm 1 with  Psalm 92.”But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon…even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.  They will declare, “The Lord is just!  He is my rock! There is nothing but goodness in him!”(from Psalm 92:12-15, NLT)

So what’s the point of all this tree-talk during a pandemic? I guess it’s this, we’re trees, not fragile flowers.  We’re stronger than we think and like trees our roots go deep, spread wide, so when storms come we can better withstand the pummeling.   Suffering, plagues, deprivation are not new, just new to some of us.  Like trees in winter, we may look like nothing’s happening but I’ve lived long enough to know  God often uses the worst of times and dormant seasons to heal and promote growth in us.  Today, oaks, pines and cedars grow stronger with cleaner air and water. How are we doing?

While I confess, I dreaded reading Revelation, I found it’s rooted  more in  hope than horror. Its truths remind me choices have consequences.  God’s merciful and just, but through Christ we also meet Grace.  Sometimes I learn from words, other times life’s my teacher.  For instance, this pandemic continues to teach, revealing much about me, us, leadership, nature, our world and what needs appreciating, reevaluating or changing for the good of all.

The book of Revelation, like this pandemic’s, a tough teacher; my necklace a tender one.  However, the final words in Revelation cushion  the hardest truths and these times with hope. The Apostle John, finishes the book with a blessing,  “the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all.” (Rev. 22:21, NLT)

In the end it’s about Grace, that which we could never earn.  God’s grace towards us and us towards each other, cushioning hard truths and tough times. As Anne Lamott said when speaking on hope,”Grace bats last.”  That reads like a winning walk-off grand slam to me.

And to you, God’s beloved Trees,  while we hibernate, I pray we’ll grow in Grace.  Our families, neighbors and this world need some holy cushioning.









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  • Reply Maraleee Laughlin May 20, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    Hi Jan,
    Fred & I met you & Jud @ Hope College 40 some years ago. We were with the Andringa’s & Lefever’s along with our children.
    I’ve kept in touch with you thru our mutual friends, but also thru your Blog. I feel like we are old friends.
    Thank you for the God inspired words that you post. I save many of them to reread, & many of them I forward to friends & family .
    Today’s Blog about the Tree of Life & the book of Revelation touched my heart in a very special way.
    Thank you for your faithfulness, your transparency, your humor and always your wisdom.
    May our Father continue to Bless you as you choose to serve & glorify Him.
    Stay safe & stay healthy,

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 20, 2020 at 9:25 pm

      What a wonderful surprise to see your name pop-up, Maralee. I remember you and Fred and the forever friendship you’ve had with Lefevers and Andringas. Your words came wrapped in God’s love and care. You know Community Bible study well, from your leadership at the national level. It is such a worthwhile endeavor, teaching and tending on many levels. I’ve loved being part of a small group with young moms. for the past two years. .Thank you, Maralee, for reading, responding to this blog and for years of helping me and thousands of men, women and children grow in wisdom and grace through studying the Bible and learning to care for each other..

  • Reply dale May 20, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Thanks Jan,

    Wisdom, mixed with humor, that’s based on God’s truth and love makes me want to plant a tree or, at least, climb and swing from one – symbolic of course.

    Love you sister, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 20, 2020 at 9:52 pm

      Michigan’s in my prayers. Miss you and Marty. If you go outside, wear a mask, then you won’t have to climb or swing from a tree symbolically. So happy to see Francis Collins received the Templeton Prize.

  • Reply Gail MacDonald May 21, 2020 at 9:33 am

    Thank you, Jan, for never being satisfied with surface things. You have taken us to deep truths that matter during any season, but now particularly. Your deep roots are blessing us all this day, my friend. Won’t your daughter-in-love be delighted by what her gift of love given years ago, when being a deeply rooted tree was also needed, has kept giving right up to today? The value of such gifts only increases with time. Treasuring you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 21, 2020 at 10:36 am

      Thank you, my Forever Friend. We are both blessed to have daughters-in love who have made our families wiser and richer in ways that matter most.

  • Reply Peggy O'Neill Clarke May 21, 2020 at 9:58 am

    Yes, we are trees, not fragile flowers! Thanks for reminding me of this today, Jan. I will remember to stand taller this day, to let my roots grow deeper, my limbs wider. When I walk through this day I will remember to be a refuge for those who may need strength and shelter.

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