Notes from Jan

Of Legacies and Leftovers

September 19, 2020


She’s gone.

Some cheer, some mourn. Too many will take little or no notice that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died yesterday.  One death among so many, does it matter?

Time and who replaces her will tell,  in part. Also, whether we’ll continue to put our thumbs on the scales of justice and lift her blindfold in whatever name we choose.  And we’ll also learn, during these next few months, how much division  our democracy can  handle?

Well, I hope even those who disagree with her judicial decisions will honor RBG as one who fought for justice and loved this country.  To gain insights into the true measure of a person, it helps to know how their adversaries perceived them.  The late Antonin Scalia, Ginsburg’s  antithesis in ideology, viewed her as a close friend with whom he shared a love of opera.  Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said of her in today’s Boston Globe,” Today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her—a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

So, when all is said and done, legacies are our leftovers, that which remains after our life ends on earth. Which is one reason I go to funerals, when possible.  They give me a chance to take stock of my life to date, to ask of myself and God, how to use/invest what’s left of my time?  To examine what kind of  story am I writing?

Well, one of my favorite stories in the Bible comes from John 6.  It’s about 1 boy+ 2 fish+ 5 barley loaves + 12 helpless disciples + more than 5,000  hungry people. But at the heart it’s about Jesus with a twinkle in his eyes and a stack of empty baskets nearby.  God only knows where they came from. The baskets, not the people.

Anyhow, to condense the story, Jesus takes, then blesses a small boy’s lunch,  miraculously multiplying it into a picnic to ponder for the ages.  The Bible says that everyone had plenty to eat.  Then Jesus told his disciples,  “Now,  gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” (John 6:12, NLT) And they collected twelve full baskets. One picnic- party- favor for each astonished disciple.

So what does this have to do with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Just this.  While life’s no picnic, for most, her life, like ours and the lunches entrusted to us,  matter to God. Though unnamed to us, the mama who packed the lunch and the boy who gave it to Jesus became partners with God in creating something bigger than either could’ve imagined.  They simply offered what was in their hands.

And legacies and leftovers matter. God gathers so nothing’s wasted.  The bits and pieces of our lives ,God scoops up as sacred scraps. Sometimes I’m slow to hand over my lunch. I’m like one of those seagulls screeching, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” But when I do, whether I get to see it or not, I’m willing to bet God transforms it into something better than I could’ve imagined.

So, to Ruth Bader Ginsburg I say, “thank you for sharing your lunch.” Your life on earth is over but not your legacy. And to the rest of us I add that it’s not too late to offer our lunches, no matter how meager they seem.

Jesus, the Lord of Leftovers, waits with open hands, twinkling eyes and a stack of empty baskets within reach.

Impossible people and picnics are his specialty.




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  • Reply James Trent September 19, 2020 at 3:40 pm

    Wise and true words. Thank you, Jan.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 20, 2020 at 6:07 pm

      Thank you, Jim, for your ongoing encouragement.

  • Reply Valerie McCoy September 19, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    I remember the beauty of Baroness von Blixon’s words, taken from Out of Africa. As she boarded the train to return home she offered this final exhortation about her time in Africa.
    “If my life has a story about Africa, will Africa have a story about me?”

    Will my own leftovers, just as the Baronesses, be a faithful morsel to a God so loving and anxious to receive?

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 20, 2020 at 6:11 pm

      We are stories and part of the stories others are writing with their lives. How blessed we are!

  • Reply Darlene Gibson September 19, 2020 at 6:14 pm

    Beautiful words! I am just now purging my pieces of the past. And one was a sweet letter from you, dear Jan. Your words still work for me. I will gladly take the leftovers.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 20, 2020 at 6:13 pm

      Well, what a sweet surprise to see your name, Darlene. I was winnowing, as well, and found some very dear correspondence from you. Thank you for writing then, as well as now.

  • Reply Sharon Wolgemuth September 20, 2020 at 7:39 am

    Thank you Jan for sharing the story of feeding the 5,000 and your urging each one of us to share what is in our hands. So simple and so hard to do at times. Something to think about – and do!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 20, 2020 at 6:15 pm

      Well, when I think of you, I think of hospitality, Sharon. You and Ken were so welcoming and gifted at sharing “what was in your hands”…even eons ago , when we struggled together in Owosso.

  • Reply dale September 20, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Thanks Jan,
    You remind me I am a steward and not an owner and that what God gives me is done to allow me the privilege of giving it away. In these times, it is easy to be possessive (not sharing how my toilet paper we are hoarding). 🙂

    Blessings, Dale

  • Reply Jan Carlberg September 20, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    You make me laugh, right in the middle of some holy thought you’ve just passed along. If JOY is a mark of the Holy’ve got more than 12 baskets full.

  • Reply Sylvia Wallis September 21, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    Dearest Jan, I just read a little pamphlet my prayer partner gave me – she found it tucked away and thought I would enjoy it – “Neighbors with Names”, and of course, I did! A teacher friend who loved words told my little artist son, who was reluctant to write, that writing is like “painting with words”. You are the perfect example of that encouragement! You and your precious Mama’s words warmed my heart years ago at our women’s gatherings, and now still again. I am inspired to pick up “Lena” and let it fill me with hope again…. Thank-you, Jan – you are a gift!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg September 21, 2020 at 10:12 pm

      What a surprise to hear from you, Sylvia. I wrote that little pamphlet for Gordon College in 2007 after speaking in Stockholm, Maine and about 6 months after Mama took off for heaven. She was just shy of 91 and loved by many besides her family. I still hear of how she blessed so many in person and through her books, like Lena. I’m grateful to God that we were able to travel together and share stories and Bible truths to so many folks, including the women from attended your special events.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read, then write. You encouraged me.

  • Reply Lauren Becker October 12, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    Jan, this is beautifully written! I’m adding Lord of Leftovers as my favorite new name for Jesus.

    You don’t know me, but I have heard heaps upon heaps about the love you gave and impact you made while at Gordon College. It’s a legacy that lingers.

    While I would have loved to cross paths with you at Gordon, I am delighted to be able to glean wisdom from your writing here. As I look back at previous posts I am nodding and laughing and appreciating you. Thank you for sharing.

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