Notes from Jan

Uncommon Grace

August 1, 2020

Two avocados, four peaches and one cantaloupe struggle to ripen while I watch. It’s one of those lazy, hazy days of summer. But not quite as still as ones I remember as a kid in Georgia, when the heat and humidity bore down like a well stoked furnace.  Gnats bugged you worse than some folks.   And for sure, one of our prized possessions was a  cardboard fan from the local funeral home.  You know, the ones  with the flat wooden handles, like a wide Popsicle stick.  Good for swatting bugs and stirring the air.

After we moved South in 1950, the rich black earth of  Illinois farmlands gave way to Georgia’s red clay. Still stuff grew and ripened. Plants and people adapt, most of the time. I grew to favor gardenias as much as lilacs, and maybe a little more.  Fried okra gave Mama’s canned green beans a good fight and won most of the time, except for Sunday dinner. And sweet tea, fresh peaches and pecan pie? Well, they had no rivals.

So what put Georgia on my mind?  Probably watching the funeral service in Atlanta, Georgia for Congressman John Lewis, along with the high heat and humidity we’ve been having. He accomplished so much, including, early on, getting rid of those shameful signs in Nashville. Most of you don’t remember when bathrooms and drinking fountains  told you where to line up.  They read: Whites or Colored. 

Coming from rural Illinois, I’d not seen such, so Daddy explained.  Later, I learned  prejudice, like this pandemic, respects no boundaries. It adapts, finds ways to get its way without thought to how much it costs some folks,  especially minorities. It wraps around like those tenacious kudzu vines you see choking out the life of some living things in the South.

Still, there’s not a part of this country where my heart’s not felt at home, whether the Midwest, South, West,  or New England. Good folks everywhere, the other kind,too. Often in the same person. Like, me. Which is part of why I took to President Obama’s  eulogy. He reminded  us that our country came about ” to form a more perfect union.”   Nothing’s perfect. But folks like John Lewis kept at forming by reforming and he did it with love and the unhurried pace of grace.

Well, grace reminds me of Amazing Grace. We sang it often in the South. While it’s been a good while since I’ve been back in Georgia, enjoying fried chicken, okra, sweet tea and pecan pie, I find I’m hungry for more than food.  I long for a time when we’ll  lay down our strident arguments, put aside party pettiness, our fear fueled hate and distrust and listen to each other to learn. I’m hungry for less  self-righteousness more mercy, to acknowledge this social kudzu called white privilege  and love no matter what or who.

Then, instead of just saying grace before a meal, become grace to each other. It’s a national shame that we’ve had to take to the streets to remind each other that black lives matter. John Newton who wrote the hymn, like John Lewis who lived it knew the One who is Amazing Grace, Jesus.

One of the verses reads:

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,

I have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.”

John Newton and Congressman John Lewis are Home now.  Before we get there, lets be on the side of justice and righteousness and do so with uncommon  Grace.

That would be amazing!








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  • Reply Jim Trent August 1, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    As a native of North Carolina, I can identfy with your memories of the South. The hymn, Amazing Grace, has almost become a Christian anthem. It is beaufitul and full of meaning.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 1, 2020 at 9:51 pm

      It is a beautiful reminder in song of how Grace finds those who “once were lost but now found, were blind but now can see.” We need Grace to find our way, and no one knew that better than the former captain of a slave ship, John Newton. Always good to hear from you, Jim.

  • Reply Nancy Sheys August 1, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    Oh, Jan, wasn’t his funeral like a history lesson? I can remember so many of the indignities of the 1960’s. Lest we forget! John Lewis was such an example of what the Lord can do with His created beings! Please Lord, use me!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 1, 2020 at 10:12 pm

      John Lewis was remarkable, a leader worth following. And many did, and do. His letter in the New York Times (to be published after he died) is a marching order for all who want to join the band of Micah 6:8 warriors. “Love mercy, Act justly and walk humbly with our God.” Simple instructions but tough to do.

  • Reply Anna August 1, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    Amen- may it be so!!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg August 1, 2020 at 10:15 pm

      Part of how this will “be so “is to VOTE and I know you will, dear Anna..

  • Reply dale August 2, 2020 at 8:19 am

    Thanks Jan. I find myself, at times, wanting to live a life worthy of His grace, but this often moves me away from it and back to my good deeds. I remember reading the book, Guilt and Grace, and learning (again) that guilt does not lead us to grace, but that grace frees us from guilt. My prayer is that we don’t try to prove ourselves worthy of His grace, but rather demonstrate what it means to honor Him by living as a child of grace.

    Blessings, Dale

  • Reply Jan Carlberg August 2, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Always love hearing from you, Dale. We know deep down we don’t deserve a smidgen of grace, which is why it’s so amazing and motivates us to act, not to earn favor, but as a way of saying, “Thank you, Jesus.” You and Marty have done that for as long as I’ve known you. Jud and have been the recipients of your grace-full kindness.

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