Notes from Jan

So What Are You Reading These Days?

October 9, 2023

Like many of you, I love to read. So it’s troubling to learn how far behind many children are in reading. And how few can read or write cursive. One’s handwriting offers clues to a person, as does what we read. So many of our moorings cut loose and all cannot be blamed on a pandemic. As a culture, we’ve bashed church/faith, education/teachers/books, marriage, science and government. And worst of all, we seem to have built up a tolerance for bashing each other. So I ask myself, “Who am I listening to? And what am I reading? And how do they inform how I live?

Well, I’m part of two book groups and both enrich my life. My church group is reading: If You Met My Family, You’d Understand by Jack Shitama. And yes, that is the author’s name. It’s a book about family systems and how they work. Fascinating and disturbing.

In my other group of four friends, we just finished reading River Town, Two Years on te Yangtze by Peter Hessler. It’s so worth reading. But because it’s October, I’m recommending also His Very Best by Jonathan Alter. The subtitle is Jimmy Carter, A Life. And this month Jimmy celebrated his 99th birthday in Plains, Georgia. October 1st is the birthday of two former presidents: Jimmy Carter, President of our country and Jud Carlberg, President of Gordon College. Jud would like that connection because Jimmy Carter was one of the leaders he respected for how he lived out his Christian faith, during and after he left office.

So back to the topic. As a follower of Jesus, I love reading the Bible, which is why I’m part of Community Bible Study. It helps me to study with other hungry and curious folks who ask good questions and share helpful insights. But this morning, as if to encourage and connnect me back to Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer who became a president, I read the following in William and Randy Petersens’ One Year Book of Psalms:

George Washington Carver was a brilliant bio-chemist who “revolutionized Southern agriculture by discovering hundreds of valuable uses for the sweet potato and the peanut. This black scientist was invited in 1921 to Washington, D.C. to speak before the House Ways and Means Committee. ” He spoke for almost two hours. Afterward the chairman asked, ‘Dr. Carver, how did you learn all these things?’

Carver replied, “From an old book.”

“What Book?”

“The Bible.”

“Did the Bible tell you all about peanuts?”

“No, sir,” replied the scientist, “but it told me about the God who made the peanut. And then I asked him to show me what to do with the peanut and he did.”

So, I ask, “What are you reading these days and who are you listening to?”

It matters.

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  • Reply Wendy October 9, 2023 at 2:20 pm

    Oh my goodness, I love what George Washington Carver said! So good!
    You’ll probably get a bunch of book recommendations, but I really think you’d love “The First Ladies” by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. It would be a wonderful book club read :). Thanks for your thoughts and words dear Jan! <3

    • Reply Jan Carlberg October 9, 2023 at 4:36 pm

      Woohoo! I love new book ideas. Thanks, dear Wendy.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe October 9, 2023 at 2:50 pm

    I had never heard of that story about Carver, Jan; thank you for sharing it. I always appreciate and pay attention to your book recommendations. After you mentioned Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, I ordered it and devoured it. Mike just finished reading it as well. I am currently reading Daniel Nayeri’s “Everything Sad is Untrue” after I saw in my Wheaton alumni newsletter that it is the book the College has chosen as its core read for this school year. I totally agree with you and Jud’s assessment of Jimmy Carter; he truly has lived out his faith in a way that has earned him the respect of millions. Oh that we had someone with his integrity willing to lead our country now!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg October 9, 2023 at 4:42 pm

      Oh, dear Maggie. We do need men and women to rise up, especially in the House of Representatives. Chaos abounds. Thanks for the book recommendation.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe October 9, 2023 at 2:51 pm

    Also, did you see that Norwegian author Jon Fosse was just awarded the Nobel Prize in literature? I have never read his works but have requested several titles from our local library. We have Fosse relatives in SW Norway and I’l have to check to see if there is any connection. 🙂

    • Reply Jan Carlberg October 9, 2023 at 4:44 pm

      Yes, I saw that and was thrilled. Not one of my Norweigian ancestors but I am not too proud to celebrate yours!

  • Reply Evelyn Morgan October 9, 2023 at 3:31 pm

    Love your assessment, Jan. Actually, the Bible is my first choice; however, one of my favorite authors is someone dear to you. Her name is Margaret Jensen, and my favorite of her books is “Lena”. It made me laugh, cry and reflect on life in general. If we could only get back to the simplicity we once knew, our country would be better off. What we hear and see on the news these days takes me to the Book of Revelations. Maranatha!!

  • Reply Jan Carlberg October 9, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    Well, dear Evie, you’re not alone in choosing my mama, Margaret Jensen, as one of your favorite authors. Count me twice among her fans. and her book, LENA, is one of my favorites, too. Just yesterday I shared one of Lena’s saysing with one of my nephews. Lena was a tall black woman. She carried herself with dignity, shoulders back, head held high. One day one of Lena’s friends, who also worked as a maid, put her down for carrying herself “like you be sombody.” Lena’s response was,”I is somebody. I’s a child of the most high God. I can’t get no higher!”

  • Reply Russell K Bishop October 9, 2023 at 10:39 pm

    I hear Jack Shitama changed his name–to Bill Shitama. Phew

    • Reply Jan Carlberg October 10, 2023 at 4:50 pm

      Hah! Looking forward to breakfast with the bunch Saturday, wih a side of your wit and wisdom.

  • Reply Valerie mccoy October 10, 2023 at 9:29 pm

    Jan, always a sweet read when your name appears in my email! Thank you for speaking of books…..there are so many friends who enjoy their novels on a tablet. But there’s nothing like the turn of a crinkled page from a book given through the generation of family. The smell of old bindings, the smell of the public library, and the writings inside a second-hand book at a flea market table.

    One of my favorite memories related to books?
    I was chosen to be on a sequestered jury panel during a murder trial. As I was sitting in the ‘wait’ room before the Judge began his instruction, he whispered something to the court clerk. In a moment the clerk walked over to me and said, “the Judge has instructed that you cannot take any books into the court room or deliberation room.” I replied, “it is my Bible, and it goes everywhere I go.” The clerk said that he would have to ask the Judge. After a nervous few minutes, the clerk leaned over my shoulder and said, “the Judge agreed that you can bring your Bible in with you because it really won’t make a difference.” My reply to the court clerk…please tell the Judge….”that’s what HE thinks!” And after the trial concluded the Judge came into the deliberation room to thank us for our dedicated service. But the first thing he did was to say, “where is that lady with the Bible, I’d like to meet her.
    ~Amazing Grace~
    I love you Jan, keep your pencil sharpened!

  • Reply Jan Carlberg October 11, 2023 at 11:21 am

    What a great story, dear Valerie. The BIBLE does make a difference. Why do we swear upon one to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, if it dosn’t matter? Thanks for adding to the blog with your story.

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