Notes from Jan

Listening for God

May 25, 2020

It’s quiet around here,  on this Memorial Day.  No parades.  It’s cool and misty, so no beach traffic.  Unless I crank up the music, zoom or answer the phone, the day will settle into  silence, sometimes too deep for comfort. Now and then,  a seagull squawks, “Mine! Mine! Mine!”,and I don’t beg to differ. Mostly, it’s a NO WAKE zone, like the advisory to boaters in the harbor.  No waves.

As an introvert, I welcome quiet. Reading and writing are restorative, give me joy. But these weeks of distancing from others feel different.    How can silence be more meaning-full?  Frederick Buechner’s words from Whistling in the Dark, challenge me.

“It is no surprise that the Bible uses hearing, not seeing, as the predominant image for the way human beings know God.  They can’t walk around God and take God in like a cathedral or an artichoke. They can only listen to time for the sound of God–to the good times and the bad times of their own lives for the words God is addressing to, of all people, them.”

So I probe, “What am I missing when I panic,  use noise to drown out the silence of hard memories, tough questions, future worries?  What might God be saying to me during this pandemic?  How does one “listen to time for the sound of the good and bad times of our lives”?

More than 300 years ago, a German woman, Katharina von Schlegel(born in 1697) wrote a poem.  Decades later, Jane Borthwick (1813-1897) translated the poem into English. Still  later, her words were set to music by Finland’s Jean Sibelius(1899).

‘Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side, bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide, in every change he faithful will remain.”

Suffering , death and loss aren’t new.   Today many struggle with painful memories.  Wars destroy more than bodies.  Which makes me wonder, what was Katharina’s “cross of grief or pain”? What was life like way back then? How did she listen to her times?  I can only guess but remain grateful she listened, heard and wrote that which God still uses to whisper hope into our days.

Katharina’s words remind me God’s faithful. and can be trusted with hard memories, tough questions and future worries.

So, be still my soul.





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  • Reply Peggy Hothem May 25, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Once again, thank you Jan for your insightful words.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 25, 2020 at 11:53 am

      Always good to hear from you, dear Peggy.

  • Reply Carolyn Sylvester May 25, 2020 at 11:42 am

    You have reminded me it’s okay to be quiet and still. Thank you, But I hope someone calls you today!!! Ha Ha -and not only the seagulls.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 25, 2020 at 11:58 am

      I’ve had a beautiful zoom time with 4 very dear Gordon”girls” this morning. So much for which to be grateful every day. LIfe is made of good and hard silences. I don’t wish to fill space but to be faithful to listen and not shy away out of fear or lesser distractions. Thank you for you snail mail, dear Carolyn.

  • Reply Linda Coonrod May 25, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you dear Jan, lots of quiet and stillness here as well. And I am at peace. God bless you!!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 25, 2020 at 4:52 pm

      And God bless you, too, dear Linda. You were part of a faithful group of women who prayed with me for Gordon and for students by name. Quiet work.

  • Reply Shirley Westrate May 25, 2020 at 1:49 pm

    Today, dear Jan, I heard Him in your words. I am so grateful that your reading and writing are restorative to all of us too. Big hugs.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 25, 2020 at 4:54 pm

      Seeing your name makes me smile. Sometimes I laugh out loud, which breaks the silence. I’m grateful something I wrote restored you, dear Shirley. Hugs to you down the coast to much warmer Florida than up here today.

  • Reply Dan Russ May 25, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Too often I am so busy telling God what I am feeling, thinking, wanting, and requesting that I suspect He can’t get a word in edgewise. Thanks for reminding me to give God a chance to speak–to be still and listen.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 25, 2020 at 8:46 pm

      Unfortunately, I get what you’re saying, Dan. My jabber-prayers are sometimes fillers and my better prayers wordless.

  • Reply James B Griffin May 25, 2020 at 11:42 pm

    Thank you Jan. You are right: Seeing God is rare, but hearing God is fairly common.
    No big celebration here either. Dad has been gone for two years. He served in World War II and the Korean War. A young man he served with, Donald R. Moyer, was killed on May 20, 1951 near Seoul. Dad didn’t discuss the details of combat, though he talked of his military service often. Every once in a while, Dad would tell Sgt. Moyer’s story, of how he threw himself upon a grenade to save the lives of his infantry squad. Dad would tear up every time. For Dad, Sgt. Moyer represented all the courage, comradeship, suffering, and loss of the war. He never mentioned the name of a single other man killed in action. Sgt. Moyer embodied them all. (He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.)
    Dad suffered from the war, mostly in silence, the rest of his long life. Some things cannot be spoken, yet God loves us and understands our “groanings too deep for words.”

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 26, 2020 at 1:18 pm

      Dear James, what a tender and powerful reminder of war’s toll, long after the signing of treaties and honoring of the dead one awkward or meaningful way or another. Your Dad’s memories and tears were a gift to you and a reminder to us to never forget to honor their sacrifices and to be grateful for the God who weeps with us and hears our “groanings too deep for words.” We are to Jesus a face and a name, never a statistic.

  • Reply Shirley Dubeau May 26, 2020 at 8:52 am

    Dear Jan,
    Thanks for this quiet post; It whispered to my heart … thanks for the Buechner quote and reminder about ears over eyes.
    Still … listening!


    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 26, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      I remember you, dear Shirley, as a calming presence, and a good listener. You have developed good “habits of the heart.”

  • Reply Wendy Lane May 27, 2020 at 9:10 am

    Thank you for this beautiful post. I’m glad I waited until I had some quiet time to read it carefully, re-read it, and ponder the words deeply. Yes, God is faithful and can be trusted. Be still my soul. Love you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 27, 2020 at 4:51 pm

      And I love you, Wendy. You have a quiet spirit about you. It’s catchy, in a good way, not like a virus.

      • Reply Wendy Lane May 28, 2020 at 9:29 pm

        Hahaha! <3

  • Reply Evelyn Morgan May 27, 2020 at 9:54 am

    I loved seeing the origin of “Be Still My Soul.” I am reminded of you every time I hear someone rudely uttering words to quiet someone, with your simple, gentle “HUSH.” I adopted that word when my children were young and still think of you when I use it You taught me many gentle ways. I am sure you wondered many times why this Klutz entered your life, but God used it for good. Thank you for being YOU.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 27, 2020 at 4:53 pm

      You were never a klutz, dear Evie.. You were a very dear college roommate and I love hearing from you. Thanks for putting up with me!

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