Notes from Jan

God Within Reach

December 22, 2021

It’s a simple prayer request. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Still, sometimes we feel full of dread more than bread. We sense something’s missing. Some One. Which may be why more than two thousand years ago, God said, “It’s time.” And Jesus Christ, God’s Son, entered the world’s darkness and dread as the Light of the World. He arrived about the size of a loaf of bread.

Most missed God’s Gift back then. And many still do. It’s easy, especially if we give up looking and hoping. We settle for lesser gods of stuff and such. Yet, God still finds ways to connect by nudging, caring, reminding. Sometimes it’s as obvious as a package on the porch. Take last week when two loaves of Norwegian Julekake arrived, a gift from my sister-in-love, Chris.

But, it’s easy to thank God for obvious bread. But much of life involves a choice to believe before we see, to give thanks for nothing, it seems. As my grandmother taught my Mama concerning “tankfulness”, ” Ve set our hearts before ve set the table.” She called them, “Life’s valuable lessons.”

Well, that’s advanced faith. Like other saints among us, she believed against all odds. They hope even when their prodigals stay away, sickness persists, death comes, and prayers feel unheard, unanswered. Their faith, more fragile than we imagine, reminds us to hang tough when nothing changes. They whisper encouragement to trust just one more day in the God who is our daily bread.

Well, often God’s bread comes to strengthen fingernail faith to hang on, to love somehow, to forgive, listen and stay at the table. But sometimes heaven’s bread shows up in a word, Beloved. Like on a day when I felt adrift, a Christmas card arrived addressed to “Our beloved Jan.” Who does stuff like that? Folks who God taps to deliver his daily bread to someone hungry for something not sold in stores or available on-line.

So to any who read this and wonder, you are beloved by God. Even when it seems your prayers bounce back as addressee unknown. A long time ago, a man named Paul, wrote these words, maybe as much to remind himself in times of dark dread as for the rest of us:

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t… Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow… nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. “( from Romans 8:38,39, NLT)

Well, dear friends and family, I pray you’ll sense God’s love this Christmas. Jesus isn’t hiding. Don’t look to the heavens or pedestals. Look where you’d least expect to find God. He’s on the lowest shelf, within the reach of all.

Then ponder, like Mary, God’s goodness, grace and love for the least likely.

That’s everyone.

Love came down at Christmas.

And stayed.

MARY Christmas, beloved ones!

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  • Reply Nancy Sheys December 22, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    Merry Christmas, Jan. Thank you for a year of encouragement.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 22, 2021 at 7:45 pm

      You are most welcome, dear Nancy. Fear not…or know what to do when you are afraid. For sure, you’re not alone. Jesus is near and you are beloved.

  • Reply Dan Ru December 22, 2021 at 7:20 pm

    Merry Christmas, Jan! I am deeply grateful for the joy, the laughs, and the challenges you continue to give us. You are a gifted gift.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 22, 2021 at 8:52 pm

      Always good to hear from you, Dan. Thanks for your encouragement. Yesterday I attended, on -line, the memorial service for Dr. Janet Arndt. Her husband, Ed, died also, both from Covid. They were in the hospital together. So much sadness. But in the middle of sorrow came the message from many about the JOY of knowing where they were and the mark Janet left in the greater New England region through the undergrad and graduate education program at Gordon. Thank you for ways you lifted the standards at Gordon, dear Dan. JOY to you and Kathy and your family. May 2022 bring more peace and less Covid and its variations.

  • Reply Dale December 22, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    I hope you don’t mind if I read this on Christmas Eve when our family is gathered. The Holy Spirit already reminded me to say I did not write it but I think the children and grandchildren would notice I had not had a spiritual lobotomy!

    Tanks dear friend, Dale

    • Reply Dan Russ December 22, 2021 at 10:47 pm

      Jan, Thanks for letting me know about Janet and her husband. I look forward to catching up with her when we join our Savior and no longer have deadlines to meet. In the meantime, I pray for her family, especially Priscilla and the department.

      • Reply Jan Carlberg December 23, 2021 at 12:42 pm

        Amen. Your prayers matter, beloved Dan.

  • Reply Jan Carlberg December 22, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    Oh, my wonderful friend, feel free to read this and, if led,( you know what I mean) to alter appropriately. And I “tank” you for your faithful friendship and unrelenting wit, with hints of wisdom and sage advice, just when I seem to need it most. Blessings on you, Marty and your very precious family as you gather. I LOVED your card. You and Marty age like sloths move….r e a l l y s l o o o w l y, as in hard to notice. If we ever do a group shot, I’ll be sure to stand far away from you two…like in the next state. Whoops, I can hear my mama’s voice, “Janice Dawn, life is short. Never miss a chance to sit close.” So I “vill” obey. JOY to you my marvelous Michigan friends!

  • Reply Nancy Vecchio December 23, 2021 at 5:03 am

    Dear Jan, thank you once again for your blogs. You make my heart glad and it’s ever so timely. I’m sorry for your loss of obviously two special friends. Only Jesus lifts our heavy hearts and reminds us we are all his beloved.
    We have an “eternal vacation” to prepare for. What a joy set before us!!
    “Tank” you again! Love ❤️ Nancy

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 23, 2021 at 12:43 pm

      And love and “tanks” to you, beloved Nancy.

  • Reply Ray Pendleton December 23, 2021 at 7:06 am

    Dear Jan – I thank God for your faithful witness of his love and goodness. You are a true servant and encourager. Your personal vulnerability and obvious deep faith is a bright light in the darkness all around us.
    Grace and Peace,

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 23, 2021 at 1:01 pm

      Beloved Ray, I close my eyes and travel back to hear your powerful voice sing something that transported me out of wherever I sat in Grace Chapel to a land where darkness cannot dwell. And now you are a priest in the Anglican church, blessing many through your varied gifts and life experiences. You’ve helped folks come of out of darkness into light through your years as a professor at GCTS in the field of pastoral care and your profession as a clinical psychologist. Quite a legacy! I recall fondly our years together at Grace Chapel. Sending JOY to you, Jan and your wonderful daughters and their families this Christmas and in the year ahead.

  • Reply Linda Moore December 23, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    Your words and just YOU are always a gift! Thank you and Merry Christmas!!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 23, 2021 at 1:10 pm

      And a wonder-full Christmas to you, beloved Linda and your family. Special hugs to Megan! Thank you for your creative, faithful and important work to encourage women in ministry throughout New England. Your work matters…but you matter even more. The years of doing Christmas with your Chelmsford team remain some of my favorite memories and examples of creative ways to reach to a wider world at Christmas. Thank you for letting me be part of those years. They grew me and my view of the God who loves extravagantly and so personally.

  • Reply Lisa Calmus December 24, 2021 at 6:59 am

    “Mary” Christmas to YOU.. sweet friend and “tanks” for this special blog. YES, I read them ALL….
    With Our Love … “Julisa”

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 24, 2021 at 11:55 am

      Beloved Lisa and Mark, MARY Christmas to you, as well. Many of my best Christmas memories from our years at Gordon involve you and the amazing team of Food Service staff and students who provided 5 star feasts for the college and larger community. Your creativity, delicious food, serving hearts and hands extended God’s love to all who came to feed hungers deeper than physical needs. “Tank” you, Queen of hospitality and nurturer of students to become more than they imagined. Love always, “Misfit Julia”

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