Notes from Jan

High Expectations

October 19, 2022

Saints below, that’s how I saw them, maneuvered the unique wheelchair, customized for the man’s small frame. A pair of child-sized sneakers, too clean, sat on the footrest. A blanket tucked around him left me puzzling about his ability to move without assistance. But these physical details contrasted with his wonder-struck face as he looked up at the rose window in Sainte-Chapelle. And his awe reminded me this man, ill-formed to most, was one of God’s beloved image bearers.

I’m guessing he was in his forties, hair peppered with some gray and a face growing wrinkled by life. Oh, but his eyes, how they focused up and over the crowd at the apostle John’s vision of the apocalypse in the book of Revelation. Maybe I was reading into his expression and thoughts. God knows I like a good story. And yet, I sensed something hopeful in his eyes. Like he knew the story. All of it. I prayed so. While Revelation’s full of terrifying images, the story’s not without hope. Or Grace.

While crowds hustled about, none in this holy triangle seemed hurried. His parents, I assumed, stood watch over and with him. Waiting and watching. I imagine they’d become accustomed to life at a slower pace. Aging slows us, as do life’s challenges and I guess they, probably in their early seventies, knew both more than most. Still I admired their calm as photographers and curious ones jostled for best angles.

But for me, it was three faces, too holy to capture through any lens but the eye. Two looking down with care, one looking up with awe at John’s vision. I can’t help but think they all knew the story. Perhaps, this was why they came and lingered. They knew the ending, laden with hope and a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. And specifically, “He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever. And the one sitting on the throne said ‘Look I am making all things new!’ “(Revelation 21:4-5a, NLT)

Were they, like I, pondering what’s possible in that new world?

Well, God only knows but this morning I woke up singing opening lines from this hymn, the lyrics written almost 400 years ago by a German, Joachim Neander (1650-1680).

“All my hope on God is founded, he doth still my trust renew.

Me through change and chance he guideth, only good and only true.

HOPE in GOD, “through change and chance.” A hope, embedded not in stained glass but engraved soul-deep in all God’s children.

HOPE, like a HOLY HINT that “the best is yet to be.”

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8 Comments

  • Reply Nancy Mering October 19, 2022 at 8:51 pm

    Page 635 or somewhere around there in the Episcopal hymnal, I believe. One of my most beloved hymns. . . Thank you for another heart-stirring story and image, Jan. Precious. I also have a Sainte Chappell memory, of an evening chamber concert, with the descending sunlight illuminating some of those majestic windows. Twenty-five years ago, with Margot Hammon and Nancy Cicero.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg October 19, 2022 at 10:03 pm

      Oh, dear Nancy, what a memory and such a treasured friendship among three remarkable women. As you know, I’m new to the Episcopal church but love that hymn as well. I know many hymns from my Baptist upbringing but these are new so I looked up more of the words today. In light of today’s blog, I appreciated the words and images in verse three.
      ” God’s great goodness aye endureth,
      deep his wisdom, passing thought.
      Splendour, light, and life attend him,
      beauty springeth out of naught.
      Evermore, from his store,
      new-born worlds rise and adore.”
      Miss seeing you and David at Christ Church. Lucky Maine and your Grands to have you closer.

  • Reply Dan Russ October 20, 2022 at 12:28 am

    Charis Chara! Praise God!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg October 20, 2022 at 8:08 am

      And I do, dear Dan, like you. May wonders never cease and we never cease to wonder and thank the One who creates new and fresh moments daily for us to behold.

  • Reply Dale October 20, 2022 at 9:44 am

    Hi Jan,
    I can “picture” the sweet picture. Thanks for the visual of God’s enduring and present love.

    Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg October 20, 2022 at 11:38 am

      And still, dear Dale, their love, Sainte Chapelle’s beauty, life’s hard realities and the hope of what’s to come touch me. Life’s meant to be lived more wide-eyed than I often do.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe October 21, 2022 at 12:18 pm

    Jan, you drew a portrait of this man and his parents that is so vivid I can see them myself. Thank you for allowing us a glimpse. A holy moment, yes!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg October 21, 2022 at 3:24 pm

      Yes, dear Maggie, it was and remains a holy moment for me, as well. So many each day, I suspect, too easily missed by life’s distractions.

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