Notes from Jan

Wring or Fold?

July 2, 2024

What to do with our hands in times like these? Wring or fold them in prayer? I choose to pray, not because I’m so saintly, but because I’m scared. And I can either cower in a corner or come to Jesus, and have a little listen and talk. It’s natural to be afraid. It’s supernatural to trust in times like these. But who or what we trust matters.

OK. I’ll admit I’m more liberal than some of you who read this blog. But keep reading. I’m grateful to have you come along with me on this journey. I’m an Independent but also, more centrist than some of you. We don’t have to agree on everything but I hope we’ll stay at the table and continue to listen to each other. David Brooks said in a recent opinion piece regarding his interview with Steve Bannon, “It’s possible to be humble and appalled at the same time.” Humility requires choosing to stay at the table and listen. Even when appalled at what you’re hearing.

Today’s the second day of July. In two days we’ll picnic, watch fireworks, swim, enjoy time together with family and friends. It’s what many of us do on July 4th. Flags will fly, showing loyalty to more than this country. Some will wear hats, signifying something other than their favorite baseball team. And some topics we’ll avoid to keep the peace. Such a fragile peace in many of our families, churches and work environments. And then there’s Congress and the Supreme Court. Lord, have mercy!!

So, sometimes God surprises me by the means he uses to get my attention. Why just this morning I read about God using a donkey, to get the attention of a prophet named Balaam. Even Rembrandt painted their story in 1626. You can read about it in Numbers 22:21-38. Not about Rembrandt but about the prophet and the donkey. I wanted to say ass, but thought some of you might think I was referring to a person. Nope, it was a donkey. Well, the Bible actually says, “Ass.”

Well, by now, some of you must be wringing your hands. Trust me, fold them. Really. Worrying is harmful to our bodies, minds and spirits. So this morning I started singing AGAIN, “Cheer up, ye Saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about.” We know there’s plenty to be anxious about. Some are calling our kids the anxious generation. Who can blame them. But we’re at fault if we constantly talk about what’s wrong and wring our hands. Or threaten to wring the necks of those we loathe.

It’s time to consider what’s right. And if it’s not, to ask God to help us be part of the solution for making it better. And not just for ourselves! Oh, and when I said God gets my attention in unique ways, I meant it. The other night I watched an interview between Stephen Colbert and Senator Cory Booker. My takeaway from the interview? When asked, if he had an encouraging word for us, Senator Booker said,“Don’t let despair have the final word.”

And that’s why I choose to fight fear with faith, along with hope and love. No way will I allow dread and despair to have the last word. I don’t want to be a Balaam or an ass.

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  • Reply Radina Welton July 2, 2024 at 1:18 pm

    I’m with you, dear sister! Yes, we can pray and live in hope! I thank you for putting this out there, and for listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to do it.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 2, 2024 at 4:50 pm

      Well, I thank you for reading and taking time to respond, dear Radina. Hope you and your family are doing well in beautiful Oregon.
      Keep folding those hands when fear creeps in and sing. Music is another form of prayer, but you know that. You’re a musician!

  • Reply Dan White July 2, 2024 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for this, Jan. A much-needed encouragement during an especially challenging moment in our nation’s history.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 2, 2024 at 4:53 pm

      It is a challenging time. But God’s not asleep, nor apathetic. And many thanks to you and Beth for taking me to the Red Sox game. It was great to spend time with you and see other friends from Gordon. Rain didn’t dampen our friendship. Plus, now we have a rain date in August!

  • Reply dale July 2, 2024 at 4:47 pm

    Hi Jan,
    You might be a liberal among our group but in my department at the UM you would be a right-wing conservative! However, “perfect love does drive out fear” and you have represented this to all of us on many occasions. Hebrew names of the genus Asinus occur in the Old Testament. Chamar denotes the male domestic ass. Athon, the common domestic she-ass. And, since A comes before C you can draw your own conclusions. Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 2, 2024 at 5:01 pm

      Did you hear me laughing in Michigan!! You are so my brother-friend. Twins, both born on June 2nd but a few years apart. OK, I’m the oldest. And I’m sure you could say more about that, Never knew a Hebrew scholar who could speak so definitively on asses. I’m unwilling to draw any conclusions, at this point. Time to fold my hands and for you to jump in Burt Lake.

    • Reply Karen Edwards July 2, 2024 at 9:00 pm

      Thank you, Jan for this timely reminder. I’m a loyal reader and fan of your posts. I too find myself to the left of many so I appreciate where you’re coming from! I’m grateful for your voice that reaches all the way to California! Praying along side you!

      • Reply Jan Carlberg July 3, 2024 at 8:27 am

        California! I’ve got kids, grands and other family and friends in California. And now, you. Thanks for your encouragement, Karen. And thank you for praying. It makes a difference in the one who prays and the ones and situations prayed for, I do believe. Sometimes it helps me, even in July, to head to the Gospel of Luke, to huddle with the shepherds. They were just doing their jobs, the not sought after kind of jobs. They didn’t make the cut for the list of folks to invite to events where you wanted to impress others with who you knew. Life was tough for them, like for so many around the world. But they put one sandal in front of the other and did their jobs. Then SUDDENLY, into their mundane lives, the sky lit up with angels. And they were terrified. But an angel spoke to them and said, “Fear not!” Like I wrote earlier, Fear’s natural. Trust is supernatural. And so is HOPE. But the angel didn’t just say, “Fear not.” That wouldn’t have lasted long for them or us. The angel told them, “You have a Savior!” And if ever there was a group of people who knew how to love a Lamb, it was this motley crew. And that’s just what they found, Jesus, the Lamb of God. Their Savior. And ours. Always keep open to miracles in the mundane matters of life. I say this to me and to you, dear Karen.

  • Reply Alyssa Arnold July 2, 2024 at 4:49 pm

    I enjoy reading your thoughts of fear and faith, Jan!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 2, 2024 at 5:09 pm

      And I like seeing your name show up, dear Alyssa. Often there’s such a fine line between the two: fear and faith. But you’re a dancer so you know the value of one step and one beat of music. I keep Anne Lamott’s quote in my daily planner (I’m old, so I still write things down in my little green book) I’ve written this before, but Anne said,”Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”Sending a hug; to you and Andrew in Utah.

  • Reply Sabine Sile July 3, 2024 at 12:45 am

    One of the best short stories I’ve read! There’s meaning, depth, relevance, humor and hope. Should be part of the curriculum!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 3, 2024 at 8:35 am

      Well, that’s quite an endorsement, dear Sabine. Thank you for this massive dose of encouragement. And may God work through your prayers and choices this day to bend that arc towards justice, mercy, peace, kindness, wrapped in hope. We all need an infusion of HOPE fortified by JOY and GRATITUDE. Blessings on your day and the work of your hands, heart and mind.

  • Reply Nancy Vecchio July 3, 2024 at 5:51 am

    Thank you Jan! Prayer is the only way to live in response and reaction to the events of this present world we live in and temporary I might add! Hallelujah!
    Bottom line to everything is, “GOD IS IN CONTROL”, never people! Another Hallelujah!!
    I love you and thank God for you, Nancy Vecchio

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 3, 2024 at 8:42 am

      WooHoo! Ain’t that the truth! God is in control no matter how it appears. But we get to be part of the solution by how we vote and how we make daily choices to be civil in a culture that seems to think one can say and do anything without consequences. I loved my time with you in Community Bible Study, dear Nancy. Thanks for keeping connected through this blog.

  • Reply Noelle Neville July 3, 2024 at 8:31 am

    You are such a treasure!!!! Thank you for bringing so much light to this dark world!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 3, 2024 at 8:53 am

      Thank you, dear Noelle. A long time ago I learned two simple songs, “Jesus Bids Us Shine” and “This Little Light of Mine.” I remember holding up one small finger in Mrs. Miller’s Sunday School class to symbolize I was letting my very little light shine. But even pinpricks of light make a difference in the darkness. So thanks for your encouragement and for letting your light shine. Like the song says, “Jesus Bids Us Shine with a clear pure light, like a little candle burning in the night. In this world of darkness we must shine, you in your small corner and I in mine.” Keep shining, Noelle.

  • Reply Wendy July 3, 2024 at 9:13 am

    Oh Jan – you’re the best! “NO WAY WILL I ALLOW DREAD AND DESPAIR TO HAVE THE LAST WORD!” That’s so good! I believe so much in our power to choose how we feel – for goodness sake Paul learned to be content in every situation and he was in some pretty horrific ones. But your reminder was needed as it’s hard not to worry what kind of world my precious grandchildren are going to grow up in. And so I, too, pray and pray and pray some more! PS I used to be politically conservative… I’ll say no more. Love you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 3, 2024 at 10:11 am

      Hah! Truth comes out! Well, when all’s said and done, and too much gets said and too little gets done, it’s not about political parties and labels. It is about right and wrong, truth versus lies, and character versus rhetoric, no matter how well spoken. Amidst all the noise, sound bites, TV ads, and the angst of these times, it’s hard to discern truth, to recognize the worth of character. And so we pray. God’s Spirit will guide us. We often know what’s the best choice, but fear retribution or shunning from our tribe. Like Anne Lamott wrote, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Pray on, dear Wendy. And vote!

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe July 3, 2024 at 6:22 pm

    Jan, as a veteran hand-wringer, I needed this reminder to fold my hands when I am prone to wringing them in worry instead. And I appreciated your mention of No. 22. One of my favorite Amy Carmichael stories is when she wrote home from her initial field of service in Japan, where her health sadly failed and she was unable to learn the language. She said, “My only comfort comes from Numbers chapter 22, in which God opened the mouth of an ass. Perhaps He’ll do that for me as well!” While straightlaced in her books, Amy’s letters that she never expected to see publication were often full of wry humor. Our kind of girl!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 4, 2024 at 9:52 am

      Love that story, Maggie. Thanks for sharing it so both this writer and the readers of this blog learn more about courageous women, like Amy. It comes easy for me to picture Jesus weeping. But I love picturing Jesus laughing, telling jokes on himself, getting into a water fight with Peter and the boys. Trust makes room for laughter.
      Wait! Did I just hear you laugh, Maggie? You go, Girl!

  • Reply Carole A Scott July 6, 2024 at 8:49 am

    So well said, Jan! So well said! And so I am folding my hands and remembering, “don’t let despair have the last word.”

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 6, 2024 at 9:46 am

      Thanks, dear Carole. And may the number of folded hands increase in the days and months ahead. And may HOPE spread deep and wide to stem the tide of despair. Hope, like laughter, is catchy. And with no harmful side effects.

  • Reply Linda C July 6, 2024 at 12:33 pm

    Dear Jan, i continue to be so blessed by your shared wisdom and insights. And then the follow up of further insight through the conversation stimulated here among all of your wonderful followers. True HOPE amid our very human fears…that says so much! Thank you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 6, 2024 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks, dear Linda. I loved and needed our years together as the folded hands group of women who prayed for Gordon students, faculty and staff by name. I’m grateful for the part you and Margie played in that special group of women. Only God knows what came of all those prayers. But, for sure, it kept us from sitting around wringing our hands. And then, there was the year-end finale when we celebrated the goodness of God (seen and unseen) and love for each other with a salad luncheon, each bringing something to share.. Such creative chefs! What fun we had! JOY is contagious.

  • Reply Priscilla Young July 6, 2024 at 5:23 pm

    We loved this! Mark and Priscilla

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 6, 2024 at 8:45 pm

      And I love you! Thanks for making time to stop by. I enjoyed our time together. Denver Seminary has been blessed to have you as their President, Mark. And you, Priscilla, as part of the team. Thank you for years of faithful and energetic service to Christ, through your challenges to and encouragement of the Church and those who serve through various forms of ministry.

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