(I thinned out the content of this post on July 14, 2017.)
((And then I edited the post for improved clarity on September 9, 2019.))
One afternoon in early March, I was walking home from work. I saw White Car Guy out at his usual observation post. In early March there was much speculation regarding the future of one Tony Romo, who had long quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys. I took an educated guess that WCG and I could talk Cowboys, if nothing else. I smiled and waved to WCG, and he responded in kind. I figured there was no better time than the present and no easier means of breaking the ice. “What are they going to do about Romo?” I called out. And we were off. We talked Romo, Cowboys, Dallas history, apartment history, family lives, and so on. We talked for a good twenty minutes. It was a crash course, of sorts. I left the conversation with a new friend.
During the church service today, the pastor asked all of us who needed healing prayer to stand. I stood. Our pastor requested that those around us who were not standing should lay hands on us and pray. Vince Corcoran was sitting behind me. He got up and came around the chairs. We greeted each other, and he asked me what I needed prayers for. I told him I had a laundry list but that the big issues were my shoulder and the spermatocele. Vince told me the first healing he’d ever participated in was for testicular cancer. Encouraging.
For purposes of convenience and socially acceptable laying on of hands, Vince decided to focus on my shoulder. I showed him my limited range of motion. He prayed for me for a minute or so, until our pastor instructed everyone to take a break and check for any improvements. I hadn’t felt anything during the prayer, which didn’t necessarily mean anything. I checked for any change in my range of motion and immediately noticed a slight difference. Maybe. I hesitated to embrace or celebrate any change so slight; I’m extremely aware that some perceived healings are nothing more than imaginations based on suggestibility and wishful thinking. Do not want.
We had one more round of prayer, after which I didn’t notice any improvement. I took a turn on the microphone and told the room that I thought there had been some amount of healing and that I was ready to have more. I left church aware that not all healing takes place immediately.
That night in my sleep I moved in some way sufficient to make my shoulder pop loudly. I was jerked awake by the sound of that bone moving into a better place than it had been. I praised God and fell back asleep. Fully awake the next morning, I found I had a remarkably improved range of motion. Not so much that I’d call it healed. But it was much better. Two shoulder healings within two months. Thank you, God!
My lips started burning again. I hadn’t had the hot sauce in a few weeks. So the lip thing was definitely a hot spot.
Grief was noticeably diminishing by this time. In place of the waning grief were resignation and acceptance. I was officially broken more than I’d ever been before, without a doubt. But my feet were less made of lead, by now, and facing each new day wasn’t a burdensome reinvention of some forsaken wheel. I was hanging on to “worthy and desirable.” My shoulder was much improved, and I figured the new hotspot had to mean something. God was apparently giving tangible evidence that we were starting over – new plan, new hotspot, new whatever.
I even came to peace with something that had been driving me nuts for a while: assuming “we” are starting over, how would I know what to do and when to do it? I felt stranded and alone; ill-equipped to do anything at all, much less reboot a process of the magnitude and apparent complexity of that which has been fodder for several years’ worth of blog posts. Not only that, but there was also a nagging question of whether I was still Joseph in prison. If I had ever been a modern-day Joseph in a metaphorical prison, then there was a decent chance that I was now going to be stuck in that prison for the rest of my life. Such a thing wouldn’t be the end of the world, since I’ve probably got no more than twenty to thirty years left on this side. But still, in such a scenario I would likely live every second of the remainder of my life filled with regret.
Enter God’s mercy, by which He showed something important. I “realized” at some point today that all three of the people who had given me “Joseph” encouragements in 2010 and 2015 had some interesting commonality: prior to the respective incidents in which they each dropped the Joseph word on me, I (mostly) hadn’t known the people at all. The only exception was the guy at Upper Room who actually did his Joseph thing on the second of two consecutive Sundays in which he spoke to me, which were the first two times I’d ever seen him. And I’ve never seen him since then, for what it’s worth.
Also, in each Joseph instance, the people offering the Joseph word were making an unsolicited contribution to the fund, so to speak. I hadn’t asked for any such thing, and I wasn’t looking for it at all, in any of the three encounters. The closest any of the three had to being a response to my inquiry was Charles Slagle, in February 2010. I had approached him as a total stranger, wanting him to pray prophetically over me. I didn’t really even know what I was asking for; I just knew that I was miserable and that any encouragement would be welcome. “Joseph” got started on that day.
The summary realization of that previous paragraph is: “God will tell me what He wants me to know, when He wants me to know it.” Just like He has done so many times in the past. I don’t need to worry about the “what” and the “when”. I don’t need to worry about whether I’m still Joseph. I simply need to relax into the uncertainty of the present and know that He will provide info on an as-needed basis. Easier said than done, for sure. But it is something that allows me a smidgen of control, this intentional surrender to God’s timing of my expectations.
“You: here, now. Me: no plans, no expectations.”
I am taking a walk during lunchtime at work. For the first time I speak these words out loud to God: “You will tell me what You want me to know, when You want me to know it.” It’s not a command, of course, but a comfortable acknowledgement of a truth that I know from experience. It is a comforting thing, to know that the Creator will let me know when it’s time to know something new. If waiting is often a grind, He is always generous and faithful. Speaking the words one time out loud doesn’t do justice to the peace He brings. So I say it again. “You will let me know what You want me to know, when You want me to know it.” I am amazed by Him, even as I speak the words. I finish the walk and my work day.
I leave work early, because I’d come in early that morning. Walking home at an odd time of day, I’m struck by the unfamiliar position of the sun. The automobile traffic has a different flow than it does during my typical walk home. The unusual circumstances make for a “new” feel to things. Fifteen minutes into my walk, I turn off the main sidewalk, onto the property of our apartment community. There are several people in front of me, walking their dogs. There are other people out in the athletic fields, in the volleyball sand, and in the driving range enclosure. The dog-walkers in front of me stop so their dogs can do dog things with each other. I pass them.
Spring is definitely in the air, and some portion of the grinding regret of the previous four months just falls right off me. I feel like I’m on sudden vacation. I tell God, “I feel like I’m on sudden vaca…” and then I notice something unusual on the path in front of me. There is money on the path. Money is never on the path. However, there it is, right there. My brain is jarred a bit by the image of United States currency on the walking path, where it has never been before. I scan my immediate surroundings. There’s no one within fifty feet of me. I squat down and scoop up the bills from the asphalt walkway. My mind struggles to adjust to this alien reality, even as I count one hundred and eleven dollars. Two $50’s, one $10, and one $1. Clearly, 111 is a good-sized chunk of 1111; and 1111 had been a player for quite some time.
I have the presence of mind to laugh and suggest to God that $1111.00 would have been an even more prophetic amount of cash. But the most important thing is, NO WAY did I just find one hundred and eleven dollars on the walking path. Yes way, indeed I did, even though I’ve walked thousands of miles on that path over the past seven years without ever finding any money. The sense of sudden vacation is not diminished in the least by the likewise-sudden discovery of cash.
I continue walking and taking assessment of the money situation. It’s too perfect. One hundred and eleven dollars? Come on. I consider the distinct possibility that God will soon present me with a chance to give that money to someone else. I resolve to not get too attached to the money. I am planning to attend a church small group that evening, for the first time since April of 2016, when the guy gave me the “kicking through walls” prophetic encouragement. I imagine a scenario in which someone at the meeting announces a need for one hundred and eleven dollars for something or other. I plan to take the money to the group and give it to whoever has such a need. We’ll all have a cool God story to tell.
By the time I’ve come to quick terms with giving the money away, I’m rounding the bend down past the tennis courts and towards the first of two large ponds. It’s early yet on a Friday afternoon; but the park area is busy with people walking dogs, baby strollers, and young children. A couple of lingering Canada geese stand in stark contrast to the usual mallard and Muscovy ducks. These two geese are stretching out their winter visit longer than usual; their dozen or so companions have already flown back north. Diagonally across the pond and up into the visible parking lot, I see White Car Man, leaning against said car and taking in the afternoon sights. I’ve got plenty of time before I need to leave for the church group; so I head over his way.
When I’m close enough to him, I call out his name and wave. He waves back and returns the greeting. We begin what turns into another lengthy conversation. Our talk at one point turns to the topic of White Car Man’s employment. Turns out he’s indirectly affiliated with one aspect of the whole Dallas Cowboys/Seattle Seahawks scene. When he tells me his job, I continue casually talking and listening, all the while some big chunk of my mind begins almost frantically reflecting with a giant eyeball behind a magnifying glass on the potential Cowboys-Seahawks dream reference. That same big chunk of my mind is pretty incredulous. Within weeks of having the dream and deciding there’s a chance that God is sending me to that game, I’m discovering that White Car Man, THE White Car Man, is a possible player in that world. It should be tiresome by now to think or say or type, “No WAY.” But things keep happening to prompt such a response
The cumulative affect of finding the money and then hearing what it is that WCM does for his own money significantly challenges my orientations to person, place, and time. WCM and I finish our conversation and I continue on my walk home. I can’t decide if this day has really become as weird as I think it has. It feels like one long God encounter, lasting the entirety of my walk across the expansive grounds of this apartment world. In the parking lot of my own complex, I spy a lone penny on the ground. Normally, I’ll stop and pick up a loose penny, if only to check and see if it’s an old solid copper one worth saving for the metal value. On this day, flush with $111 sudden dollars in my pocket, I coolly breeze past the hapless cent, leaving it to whatever fate might befall it there on the concrete. (Only days later, at the prompting of Dave From the Office, will I realize that God did indeed give me 1111 that day; only with a different decimal placement than I’d suggested upon finding the paper money.) ((UPDATE January 19, 2019 – I just realized today that I got my decimal place wrong. The added penny made my total haul $111.01, not 111.10. Decimal places are important and deserve updates from twenty-one months in the future.))
A couple of hours later I walk the pleasant mile or so to the church small group. I arrive after a few people have already begun setting up for the evening’s dinner. The host introduces me to several new (for me) faces and gives me a tour of his and his wife’s families, via the photos in the kitchen shelves. The small group is established for over a year, so there are some very comfortable relationships in the room. There are a few faces I’ve seen around church before and one in particular that I’ve known personally for a few years. Mostly it’s people whom I do not know and do not know me. There is some pre-dinner visiting, and then we eat dinner in groups around various tables. The group feels like an easy fit for me, and I can easily see myself making this my regular small group home.
After dinner the host/leaders call us all to the living area. We move chairs into whatever configuration will accommodate the group in that end of the room. Once everyone is seated and we’ve had an opening prayer, the leaders ask everyone to share experiences where God has showed up powerfully in their lives. I volunteer a story about how God changed me dramatically in an instant, several years ago, after I’d gotten serious about seeking and offering forgiveness, among other unprecedented acts of humility in my life. I emphasize some of the more striking differences in the person I had been one second before the change, versus the very different person I instantaneously became.
The group leaders offer some feed back, and we prepare to move to the next person. Before anyone else gets started, a young woman interjects something to me. “While you were talking, I got the sense that you’ve been waiting for something. You’re like Joseph in the Bible. You’ve been waiting for something. Don’t give up. It’s going to happen.” She speaks with comfortable authority, and I am appropriately floored by her words. I give her and the rest of the group a brief explanation of my history with Joseph, including a belief that I’d blown whatever promised blessing was supposed to come my way. She says, “I hear God laughing.” She adds something to the effect, “We aren’t powerful enough to derail the plans God has for our lives.” I believe her, and yet I also know what I’ve been living through and experiencing for a few years. Some of my experience has reasonably led me to believe that my actions absolutely have an impact one way or the other on how God deals with me. But most importantly in that moment, there’s this new Joseph encouragement, one year and a couple of weeks after the guy in Ben Gurion Airport.
There’s no way or need for me to convey to the group how nuts this evening is turning out, as a continuation of the already-unreal day in an increasingly unreal life. The focus moves off of me and onto other people who want to share what God has done in their lives. We continue on in group discussion format for another hour or so. Independent of the shocking Joseph business, the whole experience is encouraging and faith-affirming. The husband-and-wife leaders promote authenticity and humility in the room. At the end of the evening, I stop by the new Joseph prophet and thank her for speaking out. “It changed my life,” I tell her in all seriousness. One of the group members drops me off at my apartment, saving me the walk home.
It was not until the next that day that I realized the young Joseph woman’s full name – first and last – is a comical reminder from God that He can effortlessly bring together the most unlikely of elements in the most sudden of encounters, to let everyone within earshot know that He’s in control. Suffice it to state the obvious, He can do anything.