Notes from Jan

Remembering Some Blessings Tucked into Endings and Beginnings

January 20, 2023

Two days ago Chad’s text refreshed my memory. “Dad’s funeral was eight years ago right now! We made it.” And he’s right on both counts. The memorial service was January 18, 2015. As to Jud’s death in November 2014, no day dawns without the awareness he’s not here, at least in the usual ways. But since January 18, 2015, I haven’t marked the day, nor re-watched the film Chad made, even though the service and film touched me and others deeply. Life goes on. Different but still life.

However, that service continues to steady and encourage me as I recall those who came on that frigid January day. And to all who spoke, shared musical gifts and sent words of gratitude for Jud, and love for me and our family, you still embolden me to carry on. And I’m so thankful for ways Gordon College helped make the service possible from the space, participants visible and behind the scenes, and the reception. Lavish generosity of heart from a community we loved and served.

But Chad’s, “We made it” reminds me that the life and death of one impacts many. We give up or we move on and make it together. Looking back and ahead, I’m not sure how I’d have survived without family, friends, good neighbors and this much abused day and place known as Sunday Church.

Sunday’s a reminder that last week’s history and another’s beginning. It’s the gift of a fresh start, second chances at life, love, forgiving and being forgiven. Each Sunday I sit beside other folks with backstories, present hurts and needs, as well as future hopes. Sunday’s a day to remember what I can’t do and what God did, is doing and still can do. And so I haul my past and present self to the altar, kneel, open my hands to receive all Christ offers, which is everything my soul most needs.

So on this bleak, slushy twentieth day of January, 2023, I just want to say THANK YOU. THANK YOU, my dear family, friends, neighbors, Grace Chapel and now Christ Church for helping me make it. And many others, too.

But I would have struggled more without Jesus, who often shows up when none of you are around. No blame or shame intended. That’s just how life is. But it’s also who Jesus is. It’s why I still sing Fernando Ortega’s song, Give Me Jesus. And that song, for me, weaves past pain and present concerns into future hope. Like, “In the morning when I rise, and when I am alone, or when I come to die, give me Jesus.” Tender mercies and truth in song.

So to any of you reading this who see Sunday as just another day and church not worth your time, I say, “Give us another try.” And I say, “us” because the Church isn’t a building, it’s a gathering of the hopeless, the helpless and the hopeful. It’s a place for sinners and saints in the making. The one thing we have in common is we all bear the image of God, no matter how disguised.

And we are relentlessly loved by God who knows all about us and never gives up on us.

And that makes anything possible.

Even miracles.

Like second chances and fresh starts to more than this Year.

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  • Reply Marnie Ketcham January 20, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    Amen and Amen. This was a poignant timely post, so meaningful to a widow of 23 years,. I remember attending Sunday worship the same week my husband died and it was the best place I could possibly have been, and it still is.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 20, 2023 at 4:56 pm

      Well, dear Marnie, it’s the same for me, too. I’m so grateful for Christ Church and all who minister with and without titles. Thanks for reading and responding. May you discover ongoing blessings in endings and beginnings throughout this New Year.

  • Reply Valerie McCoy January 20, 2023 at 4:59 pm

    Oh my goodness, Jan…..I a.l.w.a.y.s. love your writing, but this day I counted my tears as two beautiful reminders swept over me. The first was when I was driving on Rte 114 and Fernando Ortega began singing, “Give me Jesus.” I had to pull into a parking lot until I could compose my Jesus heart. It took much more time to be at rest than the ending of his tender rendition of this piece.
    And then secondly, you wrote, “And we are relentlessly loved by God who knows all about us and never gives up on us.” Do you know the words MY EYES read before I read YOUR exact words?  “And we are relentlessly loved by God who knows all about us and never TELLS.”
    And there, sweet friend, are the tears that, yet again, broke through my Jesus heart.
    Thank you, thank you for knowing when hearts need stitching.
    And remembering and loving Jud was, and IS…. easy!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 20, 2023 at 5:27 pm

      Oh, thank you, dear Valerie, for these words. Music reaches where mere words sometimes miss the mark. Thanks for remembering and loving Jud, too. And I remember you with gratitude and the years we shared together at Gordon.

  • Reply Nancy Mering January 20, 2023 at 5:44 pm

    So many church folks will appreciate your reminder to all of us—those still attending regularly and those whose lives have pulled them away from the Sunday church habit—about the blessings and benefits of showing up at church. The blessing may come from the music, the sermon, saying the Lord’s Prayer with others, or a word from someone during coffee hour. Church can be like a treasure hunt, on the lookout but not knowing just where our heart and/or mind will be stirred.

    Thank you, Jan—

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 20, 2023 at 6:01 pm

      And thank you, dear Nancy, for reminding us of some of the wonder-full and creative ways God shows up. Dean Pedersen shared last night at our small group gathering at Church about an Ad on T.V. The bottom line states, “Jesus gets us.” And may be part of why we experience Him in different ways in and outside the church building. So many of us miss seeing you and David at Christ Church but we get it. Maine and your family beckoned and good for them and you. I’m sure you’ll be a blessing wherever you’re transplanted.

  • Reply Huntley Leavens Skinner January 20, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you dear one. Glad we have Jesus and each other

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 21, 2023 at 9:07 am

      Me,too, dear Huntley. And folks like you and Tom who enlarge our visions and encourage us open our hands to help folks Jesus loves in places like Haiti.

  • Reply Dale January 20, 2023 at 7:30 pm

    Jan, thanks for the memories. And, while many gave a lot, the gift of giving blesses the giver first – we were made more like Jesus because of how you desired and welcomed our gifts. Thanks for that privilege. Jesus is right about everything including the friends He brings into our lives at just the time we need them – “my big brother and big sister” were perfect.

    Love, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 21, 2023 at 9:15 am

      Well, brother/friend Dale, who’d have thought all those years ago at Wheaton College, you and your Big Brother, Jud, would become life-long friends. It meant so much to us that you came from Michigan to see Jud at MGH before he took off for heaven. Nothing like the gift of presence. You and Marty continue to be rare and wonderful friends. THANK YOU.

  • Reply Wendy January 20, 2023 at 7:54 pm

    It was an incredibly moving and powerful service – sooooo special. I especially loved all of your family that shared – whew! They did honor to Jud, dear Jud. Such an amazing wonderful man. I thought of that service 2 days ago too as a picture of me and you popped up on my phone – made me smile. How I love and treasure you in my life. And I join with you in encouraging people to “give us a try” – the church – His church! It can be hard to get up and out on Sunday mornings, but I am ALWAYS so glad I did. I also love Fernando’s song “Give me Jesus” – it’s so simple and so profound. <3

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 21, 2023 at 9:23 am

      And it meant so much to me that you and Steve came from Virginia to Jud’s service. It was such an emotional and amazing time with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, medical staff and strangers who Jud’s life impacted. There were so many who braved the elements to show up. And showing up seems small but God seems to love it when we just show up. It’s the starting point in life and Sunday morning church. Come to see and know God. Come to be surprised or reminded that we matter to God and to each other.

      • Reply Wendy January 21, 2023 at 11:06 am


  • Reply Peggy January 20, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    Jan, I loved reading this beautiful reflection as well as the call to return to Sunday Church —— so well stated in the above comments.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 21, 2023 at 8:58 pm

      So many factors seem to be influencing the trend to move away from church. Covid patterns to stay home in comfy clothes and watch on-line is one part. Church/Christianity getting too tied to politics, another. The business of life, over scheduled days and nights leave some thinking Sunday is Me-day. Kids with games on Sundays. And for some a sense of no-need for God and whatever comes along with that. Well, those are starters but at the heart of the matter is The Heart. Our hearts and what we’re hungry for. Thanks, dear Peggy, for reading and commenting.,(I know several Peggys so I’ not sure which one you are but I’m sure you’re beloved by God and so you’re dear to me.)

  • Reply Katherine Bagley January 21, 2023 at 10:03 am

    Thank you for this Jan. It was a needed reminder. Katherine

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 21, 2023 at 9:00 pm

      We all need reminders, dear Katherine. You and Jim were part of the Gordon family that meant so much to Jud. And you still do to me.
      Thanks for keeping in touch.

  • Reply Sue Andringa January 21, 2023 at 12:06 pm

    Such a good word, Jan … thank you. We were so privileged to call Jud a dear friend and so grateful to be with you, your family and others who loved him to celebrate his well- lived life. He continues to inspire us, often through you, our treasured friend and his beloved. Hugs from Bob and me.❤️

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 21, 2023 at 9:04 pm

      Oh, I love seeing your name show up, dear Sue. Yes, it meant so much to Jud and me that you came from Arizona to celebrate Jud’s life.
      I’m grateful we’ve stayed in touch over many years since Michigan State days. JOY to and through you and Bob.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe January 21, 2023 at 8:25 pm

    Remembering you today, Jan, even as this past week brought the anniversary of so many who gathered to remember your beloved Jud. And as for church, every week the hopeless, the helpless and the hopeful are indeed there, and sometimes I’m present in all three.

    I so appreciate your words. Apples of gold, Settings of silver.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg January 21, 2023 at 9:11 pm

      Tusen takk, my Norwegian sister. Yes, like you, I often show up to Sunday Church as hopeless, helpless with a smidgen of hope to hang on by fingernails of faith. Keep encouraging others through your writing and speaking dear Maggie. And give a hug to my two” Gordon kids” who live close by in those beautiful mountains of North Carolina.

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