Notes from Jan

God’s Four Letter Words

April 30, 2024

God uses some four letter words. Really. Words like: Come, Seek, Heal and Walk. What started me thinking about this was a recent invitation to teach adult Sunday School at Essex Congregational Church. I needed a title and something to lure folks to wake up an hour earlier for Sunday School. So out popped: God’s Four Letter Words. Actually, it’s a fascinating exercise. Try it.

Then, last Sunday, Essex Congo choir sang an old hymn, He Hideth My Soul. But I didn’t see or hear them as much as I heard and saw two Vietnamese pastors and some of their family members gathered around the piano in my parents’ home in the early 1970s. Recent protests on campuses take me back to the Vietnam war.

But back to my parents’ small living room in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Vietnamese sang words unfamiliar to us, while Mama played the familiar tune on the piano. But we all sang and God’s Spirit linked us heart to heart. SING is one of God’s four letter words.

The hymn, written by Fanny Crosby in 1890, spoke of the truth of God’s protection to these two families as they fled Vietnam. They believed God hid them and kept them safe. Imagine what this song meant to those needing God’s protection as they fled a war zone, and to the author, Fanny Crosby, blind since a baby. Consider verse two.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord; he taketh my burden away.

He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved, he giveth me strength as my day.

And the refrain: He hideth My soul in the cleft of the rock that shadows a dry, thirsty land.

He hideth my life in the depths of his love, and covers me there with his hand.

And covers me there with his hand.”

Mama’s piano is now in Chad’s home in Ipswich. it’s a rare time when I stop by that I don’t walk up the stairs to their music loft to touch those keys that still touch me. Hymns connect me to generations long gone. But even more to the One who uses music, tough times and words to help me SEEK, COME and OBEY. Now, OBEY feels like a four letter word. But God’s Grace comesalso nudges us, by faith, to SING, HOPE and then to REST.

Need one of God’s words?

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  • Reply Darlia Conn April 30, 2024 at 12:25 pm

    Just exactly what I needed to hear today, the words to an old favorite hymn!
    Thanks dear Jan!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 30, 2024 at 12:40 pm

      And you’re one of the people I so love to hear from, dear Darlia. I pray you and Paul are doing well. For sure, your years of serving at Lee University have marked generations of faithful singers to WALK faithfully in good and tough times. Hope you come up from Tennessee to this neck of the woods soon,

  • Reply dale May 7, 2024 at 12:55 pm

    Hi Jan, this is late but not profound so take it in stride. I was the aid to the Commanding General in Washington, D.C. during the Vietnam war. My main job was coordinating the notification of families when their child had been killed or was missing in the jungles. My four-letter word is “grim” as bodies were flown in from Dover, DE and escorted to Arlington National cemetery and sometimes my grief was greater than theirs. Words do matter and I am grateful that God’s Word matters most. Blessings dear friend, Dale.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg May 7, 2024 at 2:03 pm

      Oh, dear Dale, what a tough responsibility. GRIM is an apt word for that kind of news. Words matter and I’m confident yours helped families hear, then bear the unbearable. I, like you and most likely some who heard those dreaded words, took and continue to take comfort from words in Isaiah 53: 3 that refer to Jesus as “…a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…” (KJV) It’s years late in coming , but thank you for your service, Dale.

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