Notes from Jan

Sometimes Hope Needs a Hand

November 7, 2023

Ayla did it again. She preached a sermonette without words. So once again, Sunday at Christ Church delivered some sacred surprises. It was All Saints’ Day, Children’s Sunday and Naomi Gray, our Rector’s wife did the sermon. Win. Win. And win! But if that wasn’t enough, The Gordon College Choir joined with our choir. Well, let’s just say, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1, NLT)

The children led the procession into the sanctuary with banners flapping, dragging or in front of their faces. I guess it depended on levels of confidence or age. Ayla’s read, HOPE. But she looked dubious, as she hunted her sisters, Lily and Claire, among the throng. Every now and then, HOPE rose timidly, only to be lowered when Ayla seemed lost in the crowd. Alarmed, she turned around and scooted towards the back of the line, until she found Lily’s hand. That’s what it took, one small bearer of HOPE just needed a hand.

Well, Ayla loves to sing, like most children. So when, Naomi Gray, Director of Children’s Ministries, knelt in front to conduct, while Fred accompanied on guitar, the children lifted their voices and us through their singing. And joyful hope spread as they did the motions while singing, “Peace, Love and Joy like a River,” and “This LIttle Light of Mine.” For sure, nobody was louder or more definitive than Ayla when it came to shouting, “NO!” to the notion of hiding their lights under a bushel. She’s at that age when NO is a favorite word.

Later in the service, the Gordon College Choir sang a soul-nourishing arrangement of “How Great Thout Art.” And suddenly, I was a teenager in Georgia, listening to George Beverly Shea sing this song in the 1950s during a Billy Graham Crusade. Our family watched on a small black and white television with rabbit ears. Do some of you remember those days?

Well, sometimes when HOPE wanes, we need reminders of the greatness of God. And it helps to hang onto a hand or song, familiar ones to help us swap fear for HOPE. And often a simple Sunday School song reminds me to let my light shine in dark times. More light. Less words.

It’s Tuesday as I write but I can close my eyes and see all those children singing, smiling, sharing peace, love and joy like a river to my soul. And then, holding up small fingers like candles, while promising to let their lights shine. And they did shine!

It’s darkner now in the world, and not just because we set our clocks back an hour. But it’s a significant time to be light, not add to the darkness or despair covering the world like a shroud. Like one of th early church fathers, Tertullian, wrote, “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.”

So, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV)

And take courage. The light and hope you radiate may help someone who’s lost in the crowd find a handful of hope, wrapped in love, joy and peace. God loves delivering sacred surprises through everyday saints, like you.

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14 Comments

  • Reply Rita Smith Dove November 7, 2023 at 10:40 am

    Oh Jan, how this brought me joy and hope! Thank you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg November 7, 2023 at 12:13 pm

      Oh, dear Rita, how good to see your name show up. You radiated light during your years at Gordon and I’m so grateful we were on the same team. May God continue to tap you to deliver sacred surprises to those who feel lost in the crowd.

  • Reply Dale November 7, 2023 at 10:46 am

    Thanks Jan for the exhortation to find hope now and not only in our eternal reunion with Jesus and His saints. It is easy to pray come Lord Jesus and to note that being absent from this body will mean being present with our Lord. However, these actually are somewhat selfish requests when I should be asking the Lord to make me an instrument of His peace and to do this NOW. Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg November 7, 2023 at 12:16 pm

      Well, dear Dale, you and Marty have been doing that for a long time…delivering hope and dispensing peace. Jud and I were often the recipients. But you continue to do this, not just in this country but in other places in the world where God’s chosen you to be his hands.
      Thank you. Shine on.

  • Reply Joyce Ruppell November 7, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    I remember hearing George Beverly Shea sing How Great thou Art at the Billy Graham crusade in Boston in the early 60’s! Thanks for the reminder and for your much needed message of Hope
    We’re so glad this is Rhode Island’s motto!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg November 7, 2023 at 1:43 pm

      I didn’t realize HOPE was the motto for the State of Rhode Island. Thanks, dear Joyce, for this fact. So you nudged me to dig into it. So I looked it up and read, “Chapin(an historian) wrote that the words and emblem of the Seal were probably inspired by the biblical phrase “hope we have as an anchor of the soul’ from Hebrews 6: 18 and 19.” The seal’s background is blue and the arms of the state are a golden anchor with the motto simply, HOPE. ” You live in a hopeful place. And you’re a bright light.

  • Reply Gail. MacDonald November 7, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    Yes, Janny, you make us feel like we are there with you sitting listening and breathing in the joy, hope and light.
    Thank you, as always for taking your precious time to reflect in ways that we can feel are so close to heaven’s thoughts. Those of us who know you well rejoice that the added surprise this past Sunday was to sit with open heart as your beloved Gordon College Choir joined in the spirit of it all. I am now wishing I could have been there. But, I can spread His Light and that’s more important than just feeling good!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg November 7, 2023 at 5:31 pm

      Well, my dear friend, you know how much I love Gordon College and the Light and joy they spread through music. Sometimes through music education in schools and in concerts throughout New England and beyond. It was so very special to see and hear them on Sunday. And you, dear Gaily, have been spreading His Light and joy for decades. Thanks for taking the time to respond. You encouraged me, as you often do.

  • Reply Judy Pelikan Norton November 7, 2023 at 6:16 pm

    Oh my goodness Jan… thank you.
    Sunday was all you said. Moving, lovely, delicious, fun, funny and again, moving. A sweet, tender, holy atmosphere. ‘Newness’ in the air…

    • Reply Jan Carlberg November 7, 2023 at 7:51 pm

      And you, dear Judy, are a beautiful part of the “newness” in the air. I’ve watched how children gravitate towards you. Thank you for being part of the Sunday School team of loving, joyful, helpful volunteers. It takes a village and God still chooses to make good use of any willing to put on an apron and serve however, wherever and whenever.. And then blesses us with artists, like you. Thank you!!

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe November 11, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    Jan, I needed your words – and Tertullian’s – this week in particular. One of our children (whom you know, but won’t identify here) has had a second child (their oldest) diagnosed with severe behavioral problems/ neurodivergence/ most likely autism spectrum. The parents no longer live near us and we are helpless to help, though Mike is there with them this weekend. The child has suddenly become uncontrollable. We need hope as patience with the lamp lit!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg November 12, 2023 at 8:12 am

      Oh, very dear Maggie, how you and they must be suffering. I weep with you and pray for your family. Thiis is so hard to read, much harder to lean into this reality. May God bless and strengthen Mike to be for them what they most need besides his strong presence. We are HOPERS. Now,God of mecy and kindness, give us grace to be patient as we hope.

  • Reply Shirley Anderson November 13, 2023 at 6:04 pm

    Jan you con’t know me, but you have been my friend for 10 or more years. Ten or so years ago my daughter Judy told me there is a blog on line that I know you would enjoy. She said you remended her of me. I consider that a compliment. I do know after readng your blog for 10 years we both enjoy and love our families and we both love the Lord. We both try to stay positive and show love to those we are around in a world that seems so confused about good and evil. Judy sent me a picture of you and her taken at Gordon College today when you spoke at Chapel. I have enjoyed and been encouraged by your writing. Thank you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg November 14, 2023 at 7:58 am

      What a double treat, dear Shirley. First, to connect with your daughter yesterday after chapel, and then to read your words and meet you in this unique way. Thank you for being my blog-friend in Colorado for ten years. We began our married life in Denver where my husband attended Denver Seminary and served at Galilee Baptist Church. We still have friends and family in Colorado. Thank you for stopping by and reminding me that God loves to surprise us. Sometimes through a new blog- friend. Keep hoping and shining, dear Shirley.

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