Notes from Jan

The State of Our Souls

March 4, 2022

Earlier this week President Biden addressed the State of the Nation. But, for me, and I suspect others, the greater concern was for the state of our world. Apart from inflation, waning but ongoing challenges from the pandemic, Ukraine holds our attention and the media’s focus. Our President’s opening remarks condemned Putin’s war and addressed support for the nation of Ukraine. And, for the most part, Congress seemed united, some wearing yellow and blue in solidarity with Ukraine. Most know enough Bible stories to back David versus Goliath.

So why care about Ukraine? Is it because they look more like us than others bullied by a Goliath? Perhaps, and worth more than a passing thought. But it feels like something more. Like suddenly their borders are our borders. Their fragile democracy, ours. And, as I watch the bravery of ordinary people, I wonder what’s in me, in us to resist the Goliaths that plot to demolish or redraw boundaries I value?

And that leads me to ask what do I value enough to die for? How would I arm myself? In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David rejects King Saul’s impressive armor. It doesn’t fit. He’s a lad, a shepherd boy, not a soldier. So he drops the heavy metal and goes for his familiar defense, a slingshot, five smooth stones and trust in God. (I Samuel 17:40, NLT)

So I wonder, “What are my five smooth stones?” What are yours? Where do I place my ultimate trust? We’ve entered the season of Lent and as Garrison Keillor reminded me today, “It’s a good time to consider the State of Our Souls.” My greed and excessive need for creature comforts make me vulnerable to using more than my share of the earth’s resources and harming many of the world’s precious people. My fear of the other keeps me from weeping when they weep, sharing what I have in excess to meet their basis needs. Lord have mercy, there’s a Goliath in me.

Two days ago, one of my dearest friends reminded me of a hard truth. He said,” Maybe soft lives make for hard hearts.” For years he’s supported a pastor in Poland. The pastor and many in his church have taken in families from Ukraine. Some drove hours to welcome them at the border, take them to a safe place. In the midst of suffering, love shows up. God’s love.

Yes, I know these have been challenging years for many of us, but to watch the horror of Ukraine unfold is to gain perspective on what HARD really looks like, as well as true patriotism. And I’ve seen it before in our country, after fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and especially after 911. Love let loose to help put broken people and places back together.

Last night’s newscast turned into church for me. The sanctuary was a train platform in Poland. No pews, just people holding cardboard signs. They came from Denmark and neighboring countries. In their hands they offered hope through words and numbers. “We can take 8 people.” “We have room for 4.” And need ran into generosity of spirit. Hope’s a universal language. It was a holy place for those few moments, a glimpse into the heart of God.

And I prayed that I’d remember, no matter what country or color, they look like us because they are us.

Nobody knows that better than God.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Radina Welton March 5, 2022 at 9:43 am

    Thanks for this, Jan. Well said! It joined our outside world events with the reflective inside-of-me world and made me search my heart. I just wish we were younger and could hold up one of those cardboard signs in Poland. After all, my paternal side all came from Poland and it was always on my agenda to visit one day. But alas, I sit here at 81 with an ailing husband and can only weep and pray as we watch the news! At least we have our vote, our money, and freedom to pray. May God have mercy on our country and bring it together with this new perspective in our world. I continually pray for Biden, Blinken, and all our leaders!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 5, 2022 at 11:42 am

      You always do my heart good to see your name show up, dear Radina. You and the Petrocellis are some of my favorite “peeps.”..Gordon “kids.” As for your Polish heritage, you have much for which to be proud. It is always a master class in life lessons when those who have suffered much(WWII) are swift to offer comfort, open their arms instead of taking up arms. As for visiting Poland, I’m reminded of a conversation with my Mama. I’d hoped to take her to England one day, but as her years became days, I told her I was disappointed not to have made that happen. She smiled and said,”Oh, don’t worry, honey. I’ll see England and more. The One who made it all will show me the world as it was meant to be.” Maybe they’ve had tea together, as well. Hope is a universal language and you speak it well.

  • Reply Toni Lovingood March 5, 2022 at 12:06 pm

    Our British neighbor experienced being sent out of the city on a train where families met the train and took people in during WWII. How we all hoped to not see such evil again.
    Often soft lives do make for heard hearts.
    We all need to soften our hearts. I pray for a David that can stop this Goliath.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 5, 2022 at 5:02 pm

      Yes, dear Toni,the sight of crammed trains with women and children is a graphic reminder of images from wars past. But nothing like the horror Jews and others suffered at the hands of Hitler and Stalin’s reigns of terror. I’m sure your neighbor has many stories to tell. Yes, may Davids multiply as people begin to identify the true Enemy. and realize how fragile democracy is and how strong we must be to defend something “for the people, by the people.” It is encouraging to see so many world leaders and countries rally behind Ukraine. What a brave people. Prayer is our key weapon.

  • Reply Wendy Lane March 6, 2022 at 8:22 am

    Thank you for this and all your posts dear Jan. I’m so thankful for your thoughts – wise and humorous, encouraging and joy-filled, challenging and uplifting. <3

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 6, 2022 at 2:46 pm

      You are always welcome, on-line or to my Perch. Thank you for taking the time to read this post when you have many options out there, dear Wendy.

      • Reply Wendy March 7, 2022 at 11:28 am

        It is so well worth my time!! <3 <3 <3
        And how I would love to come to your lovely Perch again!

        • Reply Jan Carlberg March 7, 2022 at 5:45 pm

          Well, you know where I live and Norwegian pancakes are easy to make…especially if you’re Norwegian.

  • Reply Alyssa Arnold April 28, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Such beautiful writing, Jan. Thank you for your perspective.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 28, 2022 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you, dear Alyssa. We all need reminders to be part of the solution for a world that hurts and hungers for soul food. Sending love go you and your Norsk spouse.

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