Since August of 2018 I’ve been working on blog content that will explain the goings-on during September 2017 through the present. The good news is September 2017 is a static point in time. That end of things is fixed in place. The bad news is “the present” keeps rolling forward, week after week, while I’m still trying to get the incomprehensibly bizarre and complex “past” squared away. Consequently this writing project has felt like I’m bailing water with a measuring cup while water continues pouring in through a measuring cup-sized hole in the bottom of the boat.
The good news is that the occurrence of content-worthy events slowed dramatically in July 2018. To that end the water stopped pouring in quite so quickly. This has allowed for less frantic bailing. The bad news is that I have potentially figured out what All This is about. That’s a bad thing because, due to the nature of what All This is potentially leading to, there’s no practical value in publishing about it right now. It’s too soon. There will, I believe, come one single moment in time which will serve as a pivot from Too Soon to Right On Time. Whenever that right time rolls around, I will hopefully have an air-tight chunk of content ready to publish at a moment’s notice. It will be a large chunk of content, regardless of air-tightness. Right now there are seventy pages, give or take. But until such a time as I can publish all those pages, I have to decide how much of life at any point after July 2018 is worthy of publishing; while still trying to make sense of September 2017 through the present. And then write about it. But not publish it.
The good news is there’s one particular and monumental event that I can freely describe, by way of putting a proper pause on this blog. (It’s not lost on me that I’ve left all things “blog” hanging awkwardly for over a year now. It’s not been for lack of trying otherwise.) This one particular event was a continuation of a consistent theme that has been a player in my life since February 2010. Variations on this same theme are sufficiently documented in past blog posts.
There is no bad news with this one.
The morning of September 30, 2018. I’m five weeks into a dawning realization of what I think All This has been about, for however many years. Two? Ten? Fifteen or fifty or two thousand? The scope of it keeps growing into both the past and future. For five weeks I’ve had one long tension headache that occasionally grants me a few hours’ relief. My breathing is shallow and inadequate, no matter how much I attempt to discipline my lungs. Sleep has been hard to get and then fitful in the getting. I’m essentially having a weeks-long panic attack. Not because things are looking so bad; but because things are looking so big. I am dwarfed and overwhelmed by ramifications and potential.
A couple of days ago I realized that I had not received a “Joseph” message from God since March of 2017. And it has been even longer since I’ve heard from the friend who first prophetically called me Joseph in February 2010. I wasn’t complaining about the lack of Joseph in my life. I was simply surprised at how long it had been since either of those two wonderful things had crossed my mind. Especially since “Joseph” and my friend Charles are two elements in this wild story that God has used extensively to encourage me during horrible years.
I’m laying in bed trying to decide whether or not I will go to church. My kids aren’t with me this weekend; so I have no pressure to be the good example. But there’s a different kind of pressure that is weighing on me. In the past few months I’ve become increasingly aware that God has used dozens of people during the past sixteen years to speak to me His words of encouragement into whatever challenge was paramount at the time. Anything from an old friend who has had an extremely relevant dream, to a complete stranger who gives me a dead-on accurate prophetic word that cuts through the confusion of the moment. Each one among these dozens of people was a blessing to me because they bothered to show up. At church; at small group; at a prayer set; at a scheduled lunch visit. They showed up and were able to minister to a fellow believer.
It’s about being the Body of Christ. Encouraging each other; exhorting each other; sharpening each other. Bother to show up, and you just might be exactly the person someone needs in their life for a moment or longer. Or you might receive a blessing from God that will not be available to one who is still between the sheets, comfy and not apostate, yet separated from other parts of the Body. This reality is flatly on my exhausted mind, here between those sheets. I check the time. 10:05. If I get up now, I’ll make it to the church halfway through the worship hour. Even the overflow room might be full by then. Body of Christ. I get out of bed, both dutifully and grudgingly, and get myself to the church.
The spread of parked cars extends far out into the warehouse district surrounding Upper Room. No way will there be seating available in the main auditorium. My parking space is a four-minute walk from the building. I walk the four minutes. The sub-woofer of the worship team is rhythmically stuffing itself into the air outside the office park church. I go directly into the overflow room. Big crowd. But not at capacity. I spy five contiguous empty seats, second to last row. Perfect. I move to the middle empty seat with a buffer of privacy on each side. If no one sits in either of the four empty seats, I won’t have to fake friendliness during the meet-and-greet between worship and sermon. DETEST the meet-and-greet. Body of Christ? Whatever. I got my buffers. And then I join those in the room who are worshiping God, accompanied by whatever song the band is playing. I continue a silent line of prayer that I’ve been slinging up for weeks (years?). “Lord, is this real? This feels like it can’t possibly be real. Too big. Too much. Help. I love You.”
Worship is over. Our pastor announces the meet-and-greet. Totally prepared for this. I smugly sit with two empty seats on either side of me. Very satisfied with my foresight. “Yes. Buffers. Enjoy your meet-and-greet, suckers.” Someone taps me on the shoulder. You’ve got to be kidding. I hadn’t considered there were people behind me. Almost irritated, I look up to my right. There’s a guy I’ve never seen before. “Hey man, my name’s Caleb,” he announces with a disarming cheer that makes me forget to be irritated. “I’m Joe,” I reply as I stand. Caleb gives me a weird look. “Really?” “Yep.” I’m sure of it. We shake hands. Caleb hands me a scrap of note paper. “I think I’m supposed to give you this.” I glance down at the paper and things take a surreal turn. My vision clouds with tears. Caleb has apparently written me a note during the worship time.
I glance across the note, deliberately not reading the whole thing yet. I want to focus on it during the sermon. I tell Caleb. “I don’t know if you do this kind of thing regularly, but keep doing it. You’ve blessed me massively. This is further confirmation of something that’s been going on for years. Something that’s going to be huge.” I consider trying to explain my entire life – focusing primarily on the improbable events of the past fifteen years (and especially the past nine, and really especially the past two) – in one or two sentences. It cannot be done. We all sit for the sermon, and I read through what looks to be a hand-written note from God, as penned by a stranger named Caleb:
JOSEPH: Psalm 105:17
Sup, bro. The trials and oppression of Joseph positioned him to be sent before the people of God. In season he arose and stepped into the place for one part of his calling to be confirmed – that being the journey as a son of God.
May your heart find strength in the LORD this morning.
Psalm 59 has been a jam.
After the service I turn to speak with Caleb. He is talking with a woman on his left, possibly in another prophetic ministry moment. I’m shocked to see another woman standing on his right. She is a friend from our mutual previous church home and with whom I’d attended church small group with my then-family ten years ago. She and I both attend Upper Room now, though we see each other only twice a year or so. More pertinent to the moment on September 30, 2018, she is a part of the “Joseph” narrative. On February 20, 2010, when a total stranger named Charles had first called me Joseph, this woman had been one of two other people standing with us at the front of the church as Charles ministered to me. She had been present when God first put a name to whatever this is that He’s doing in my life. And here she’d been sitting next to another total stranger who continued that same effort more than eight years later. We greet each other, and I tell her what has just happened. She recounts a similarly remarkable prophecy that Charles gave her, back in the day. Charles bothered to show up, and the effects are still rolling, years later.
Caleb and I speak again when he is free. He is making plans to go or not go overseas. Conflicted. Sounds like he is feeling over-extended in some kind of ministry. I notice the small spiral notepad from which he’s torn a half page of paper with the note to me. I assume that Caleb is someone who routinely hands out the kind of message that he’s given me; that he is someone who can both hear from God and take the step of faith to offer such a message to a total stranger. We walk four minutes together to our cars, which are parked just a few spaces away from each other. We exchange phone numbers and head our separate ways.
The following Wednesday. I’m returning to my apartment after exercising. The events of Sunday morning have exploded like a paradoxical bomb of peace. Absolutely life-changing. If there had been unacknowledged cracks and flaws in my overall peace about waiting endlessly for some theoretical blessing that seems theoretically to grow larger each day, Caleb’s note and related elements have smoothed things over dramatically. I look down at my phone, which I’ve left on my dining table during the past hour-and-a-half. Right next to my phone is the note from Caleb. There’s a message alert flashing on my aged and disintegrating Blackberry. I thumb through to the waiting message and am yet again hit between the eyes. I see these words, accompanied by appropriate emoticons:
I sure love you and miss you.
The message is from my friend Charles. We haven’t exchanged texts or seen each other in some years. How is this happening? I grin uncontrollably. How did he know? Did the woman I spoke with on Sunday talk to Charles and mention me? How? I am disoriented, amused, grateful, slightly skeptical. I text Charles back immediately. We arrange to talk the next morning.
The next morning I call Charles. He tells me that he’s moved out-of-state since we last visited, which is why it’s been so long since he’s gotten in touch. I tell him about Sunday morning, reminding him for the hundredth time about the Joseph process that he’d announced back in 2010. He is genuinely awed at what God can do. He tells me that on the previous morning he’d gotten a strong sense that he should get in touch with me. Which is why he’d sent the text. Which addresses my skepticism about the woman from Sunday possibly talking to him.
So that whole thing – start to finish – was organic God activity; of a nature that perfectly avoided any circumstances that I could question as being driven by human agency. It was God and not man.
Some partially-baked thoughts about this particular “Joseph” episode:
+ The recent “Joseph” siting has cemented in my mind that All This is absolutely real. I don’t know why this one occurrence more than, say, the last one has calmed my doubts. Perhaps the cumulative effect of all (five?) of them is too much to ignore. It surely has something to do with the fact that this Joseph experience came on the heels of the most spiritually chaotic eighteen months I’ve ever lived. Whatever the ultimate reason(s), I know that I know that I know that God is doing something here.
+ There’s a sense of finality with this Joseph message. I have no proof that God will never send me another similar message one way or another. But the timing, method, and message of Caleb’s note has left me in a state where I don’t need any more. This recent one tied all of them up into one complete package.
+ The message on the note is the most comprehensive Joseph encouragement yet. It references:
Joseph’s “trials and oppression,”
which all ended “in season,”
when Joseph was “sent before the people of God.”
This comfortably confirms that my life’s challenges for many years have been for a purpose and that the season of trials and oppression will end when the time is right. Then, just like Joseph arose into his sudden promotion, I will presumably find myself likewise promoted one day. Promoted into whatever. The idea of going “before the people of God” perfectly fits with what I suspect is the real endgame here. The nature of the speculative endgame is irrelevant right now. But it is supported by Caleb’s reference to Joseph’s involuntary and unwitting role in the Redemption story, as described in Psalm 105.
+ It’s not possibly a random coincidence that I had that throw-away thought about Joseph and Charles; and then within days, both of them showed up the way they did for the first time in a year and a half (Joseph) and three years (Charles). For all I know, God inserted into my brain the Joseph and Charles thought. It certainly added a level of awe to the experience.
+ There is inestimable value in the permanent nature of the medium involved: it is a handwritten note and not an ephemeral spoken word that vanishes as soon as it leaves my ear drums. I can keep the note – have kept it – situated on the dining table for easy reference in times of despair, doubt, pain, grief, impatience, loneliness, or any other unpleasantness that has defined my existence for some years now. To be sure all of those negatives have actually been diminished BECAUSE I can look at the note and see the God behind it; the God and His love and His mercy. Or when I feel grateful for little things and huge things and all things in between. It’s also a nice prop with which to encourage my kids, who are inextricably caught up in all this.
+ This note from Caleb has caused me to consider more closely the suffering of Joseph the Patriarch and God’s relationship to him during Joseph’s time of testing. We today have scriptural references to people like Joseph and Job, for example, to provide perspective in our own trials. Joseph didn’t have that benefit. He was living the original thing, with no scripture to comfort him. How, then, did God encourage Joseph for all those years, when there was no previous Joseph character for God to reference through notes from random strangers? I have to believe God moved Joseph along with dreams, visions, or other breadcrumbs, which would have helped sustain his hope in otherwise hopeless circumstances. If God is merciful enough to repeatedly refer me back to Joseph the Archetype, then I think surely He would have done something equally merciful to the archetype himself.
I’ll continue writing about September 2017 through the present and will post the info whenever it’s the right time. Anything else like the Joseph note happens in the meantime, I’ll post about it.