Notes from Jan

Monumental Mistakes and Moments

July 3, 2020

We  keep making them, monumental mistakes and I’m not just talking about statues.  However,when it comes to  some of those sacred symbols of history, we bet on the wrong horse.  We put our money on clay-footed folks, instead of  on the horses.  W.C.Fields put it another  way. “Horse sense  is the thing a horse has that keeps it from betting on people.”  But that gives me pause. God, creator of humans and horses, for no earthly reason,  keeps betting on us, so to speak.  You’d think by now God would’ve given up on us.  Especially since some of us  keep committing our worst crimes against humanity under the guise of religion or in God’s name.

Take for instance, white supremacy or “white power” which made the news this week, shouted from the pinnacle of a golf cart.  Thankfully, history hasn’t totally white-washed how some invoked God’s name or wielded the Bible  like a weapon to maintain control. And some still do.

By now, you’re probably ready to stop reading, sick and tired of hearing what’s gone wrong and what needs fixing.  Me, too. And that’s exactly what some are counting on.  They’re hopeful we’ll  have the attention span of a fruit fly and crawl back into our cocoon of choice.  Some want us to believe, if we’ll just go about business as usual or sit tight, the storm will pass.

But the problem isn’t going away unless we, who’ve fanned the flames, wielded the power, repent and turn away from ways that dishonor God and all creation.  Change in us or in society takes want to and how to.  Too many of us  are still making golden calves, tossing our baubles into cauldrons to be fashioned into our god-du-jour. Way- back- when is still happening.  This feels familiar. “They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass.”(Psalm 106:20)   What am I exchanging for some bull?

We who call ourselves Christians need to ask who and what we really fear?  What is a seat on the Supreme Court worth? When did wearing a mask become political instead of caring? How much do Black Lives Matter? Annie Dillard in reference to us church-folks wrote in Teaching a Stone to Talk“Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke?  Annie goes on to say that instead of wearing our fancy hats to church, “we should all be wearing crash helmets.  Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares…” Why? Lest God show up, the one some of us mistakenly think might be tickled pink to see the Bible in a photo op as proof we’re a “Christian” nation.

So now what?  As troubled as I am about much in our country, in the “evangelical” world and in myself, I believe we have a sacred opportunity, a monumental moment in which to choose better ways of doing business, caring for others, telling the truth, tearing down false idols, teaching and living out God’s greatest commandments, “To Love God and our neighbors as ourselves.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Tomorrow is July 4th, the day we honor our national independence.  The other day, I heard my son-in-love, Matt ( a public health doctor) talk about celebrating our interdependence, in battling this pandemic and systemic racism.  We need each other  and the God who created us in all colors and “God saw all that he had made and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31 )

I heard it more than once, “It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.”

US, together.

And God just might want to capture in living color His kids doing something hard but so “very good.”













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  • Reply Radina Welton July 4, 2020 at 8:32 am

    You always speak my mind, sister, and so well! I shall today be celebrating our interdependence. Thank you, and hope you enjoy this day with some family at least. Mine are all heading west. In fact must tell you Dan & Lianne have just moved to Portland, Oregon!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 4, 2020 at 12:16 pm

      Well, send Danny and Lianne big hugs from me. I will be with some family today….masked and carefully distanced as we eat outdoors. They seat me at a separate table…like a much loved outcast. Happy Interdependence Day!

  • Reply Nancy Sheys July 4, 2020 at 9:30 am

    I wish I could share this on Facebook. You always seem to get to the important point and let the drama, untruth and other dribble in the dust. Thank you, Jan. Happy 4th of July!!!!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 4, 2020 at 12:18 pm

      Happy Interdependence Day to you, Nancy. Feel free to share this on Facebook.

  • Reply Jeanne Smith July 4, 2020 at 10:27 am

    Thanks so much, Jan, and a Happy 4th of July to you and yours. Every bit of your message is so true, thought-provoking and necessary for these troubled times. Would love to be able to express myself as beautifully as you do. Blessings.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 4, 2020 at 12:20 pm

      Happy Interdependence Day to you, Jeanne! We have much work to do, don’t we!

  • Reply Jill MacCully July 4, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Amen, sister!!! Amen and Amen! We’ve got a lot of listening, learning and lamenting to do if we the church really want to be like Christ and obey Him. Plenty of confession and asking for forgiveness to come, too. Lord help us face our sin and repent! Thank for having the courage to shoot it straight!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 4, 2020 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks , Jill. Someone said, “The worst part about being lied to is knowing that to that person, you weren’t worth the truth.” We’ve gotten too used to spin and need to get better at asking questions, reading widely, praying and listening. I’m preaching to myself! Happy Interdependence Day to you!

  • Reply Alice July 4, 2020 at 12:19 pm

    Dear, dear Jan,

    WOW! BINGO! This is “hitting the nail on its head” stuff! It’s what needs to be said day after day after day. Thank you so much for voicing what needs to be voiced, loud and clear – and as often as necessary until we GET IT.


    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 4, 2020 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you, Alice, and a Good Interdependence Day to you. We are all too slow to hear and learn and too quick to react in anger or withdraw in fear or comfort.

  • Reply Kathleen Sullivan July 4, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    I think you would really appreciate this shared by my friend John Patrick McGinty on Facebook, I believe this is how we build the Kingdom. Would he recognize my face when He comes?
    I went to the supermarket this afternoon. People were wearing masks. Many people were going the wrong way on the one-way aisles, just not noticing I guess. Just before that I’d been to the gas station where, unlike the last several times I got gas, no one else was wearing a mask. I was getting irritated with humanity (as if I have the right).
    At the supermarket checkout there was an older man in front of me. He could be 10 years older perhaps. He was alone, and had a feeling of aloneness around him. I know what isolation is like, and have learned more deeply than ever since March.
    He had just a few things, adding up to $36.25. The young man at the register graciously helped instruct the gentleman how to swipe his card. After a few moments he told the older man, “Your SNAP card has zero on it.” There was a pause, and then the young man helped him try it another way. Again, zero. The cashier repeated the amount owed. The man turned to his groceries, already bagged and in the cart and pulled out one first item, “Can you take the ice cream off?” he asked the younger man.
    There have been many moments in my life, moments I’m ashamed of, when I saw an opportunity to do a kindness, to do the right thing, to actually live Christ’s Gospel, and I’ve let the moment pass. I was afraid sometimes, or busy, or in a hurry, or preoccupied. None of those ‘reasons’ cover the lapse.
    This afternoon, I felt something collapsing around that dear man as this July 4th weekend begins. He just hoped to sit somewhere and have the little joy of a dish of ice cream. I saw that.
    I said to the cashier, “Could I pay for his, if he’ll allow me?” The older man turned toward me. He was wearing a Holy Cross Crusaders shirt. The college is right across the street from our church. I said to him, “You’re Holy Cross? I love the Jesuits. They’re my people.” I stopped. I said, “Can I pay this for you?” He looked at me, eye to eye, gentle sad eyes. “Thank you,” he said.
    So I put my card in the machine. He began moving away, then turned and did a simple and beautifully human thing. He asked me, “What’s your name?” I said, “John, just an ordinary name,” and I asked in return. “Stephen,” he said, “I’m Stephen.” “I’m glad to meet you Stephen,” I said. “And I am to meet you,” Stephen said, and he repeated, “Thank you.”
    The young man at the register and the other young guy bagging both thanked me, real quietly, and we all wished each other a happy holiday.
    I held it together until I got to the car. I cried there.
    I cried sorrow that a man can go hungry at the last years of his life. So many men and woman and families do.
    I cried gratitude that I was there to do one tiny little right thing this time.
    I cried hope that our nation and world can change again, so that Stephen and all the Stephens can live all their days in dignity and love.
    And I cried particularly with gratitude to Stephen. Though underserved, if ever I see the gentle Lord face to face, it will only be because, first, I was able to see Stephen. He gave me the gift.
    Thank you Stephen. Have a beautiful weekend. Enjoy your ice cream. Go Holy Cross.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 4, 2020 at 2:58 pm

      Dear Kathy, this is so tender, beautiful and painfully true in our culture with great divides between rich and poor, between those who care and those who need caring. Thank you for sharing this reflection. . May God bless the Stephens and the Johns in this world…..nothing ordinary about their names or their needs and loving responses. And God bless the Jesuits.

  • Reply Kathleen Sullivan July 4, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    thank you! I had just read it this morning before I read your blog and they just connected for me. So glad I could share it.

  • Reply Raquel July 6, 2020 at 3:23 am

    Thank you, dearest MamaJan!
    Love you lots,

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 6, 2020 at 12:08 pm

      And I love you, dearest Raquelita, and your family in the Dominican Republic and in Holland. You’ll always be part of my heart and our family. MamaJan

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