Notes from Jan

No Ordinary Joe

March 19, 2021

No, I’m not talking about our President, Joseph Biden, nor some new blend from Starbucks. Today the Church honors Saint Joseph. Think Christmas. If you were a church-going boy, he’s the one you hoped to play in the Christmas pageant, since Joseph spoke no lines but headlined, unlike sheep and shepherds, elbowing and bleating for attention . Usually, Joseph stood slightly behind Mary, dressed in one of the better bathrobes, keeping a watchful eye on Mary and her baby, Jesus. Easy.

Well, Joseph’s real story reminds us, life’s not so easy, even if God picked you for the part. Until a dream interrupted his sleep and life, he was ordinary Joe, a carpenter. Suddenly, he’s asked to believe the unbelievable and then become the guardian of Mary and God’s son, Jesus. Like anyone, Joseph could’ve said, “No thanks.” But he said, “Yes” then and for every arduous day or amazing moment to follow.

Sometimes I imagine Jesus and Joseph in the carpenter’s shop. Did Jesus take his first steps there? I picture Joseph squatting in wood shavings, rough hands outstretched to catch God’s son toddling towards him. Joseph, so proud of those firsts, as if Jesus was his son. I wonder if Joseph carved a small boat as a birthday gift for Jesus, the boy who’d grow up to walk on water and calm seas with a few words? For sure, Joseph did more than repair and construct things. He built into Jesus and Mary.

Which is why I love Joseph. He reminds me of other good men, like the one I married. They love through actions more than words. They protect, model, encourage, teach and provide. Sometimes they’re in the background, keeping a watchful eye. They believe in us, sometimes before we do. Their hallmark is faithfulness. You need something hard done? Ask Joseph.

So today the Church honors Saint Joseph, but it’s good to remember he wasn’t a saint, as most think of saints, when God chose him. Which reminds me to look back and around, then give thanks for God’s Josephs. Ordinary saints who stand behind, walk beside or lead to assist others in fulfilling God’s call. There’s nothing ordinary about their fingernail faith, leaping in the dark and hanging on by their fingernails. And there’s nothing common about choosing to believe the unbelievable, then do the unthinkable for God’s sake, with or without a speaking role.

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  • Reply dale March 20, 2021 at 9:22 am

    Thanks Jan.

    And, he was no ordinary Jud, either. Saints are those who are redeemed by Christ and show it in their lives. Wonderful memories don’t erase the grief, but they can bring a smile rather than a tear when the grief comes.

    Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 20, 2021 at 5:30 pm

      That’s true, dear friend. Jud was and I am so grateful you came to MGH for a visit. You and Marty celebrated many special times with us over many years of friendship. You are one of the Josephs I thought of. Happy First Day of spring to both of you, in Florida or Michigan.

  • Reply Mark March 20, 2021 at 9:43 am

    Dear Jan,
    I always look forward to your writings and insights and wanted to share with you one memory we have of your beloved husband Jud that still stands out in our minds. In 2008 when my wife and I were bringing our daughter to Gordon For the start of orientation her freshman year. The First person we met while waiting in line in our cars on that hot summer day was Jud greeting each family with a warm smile, a hello, some instructions and handing out bottled water to all the new arrivals. Jud wasn’t wearing a “name tag” just serving nervous new students and apprehensive parents for the first time. For me that act of kindness and servant leadership is what help confirm to us that God had lead us to the right place having our daughter attend Gordon.
    Thank you both for being examples of servant leadership and encouragement over the years.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 20, 2021 at 5:36 pm

      Thank you, Mark. Jud and I loved greeting and welcoming families and new students. He took your trust in Gordon as a sacred gift. Me, too. Thank you for reading this blog and for taking the time to share this memory. You touched my heart, as well. and made me thirsty for some water!

  • Reply Stan Gaede March 20, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Love your comments about Joseph. And Jud! There are some interesting comparisons, actually. Not that you’re Mary! 🙂 But what Jud took on (was given) was amazing. He didn’t complain. He stewarded. And the rest of us were blessed, as a result. Thank you, Jan, for your part in the story. And thanks be to God!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 20, 2021 at 5:41 pm

      Well, as I wrote to Dale, you were one of the Josephs I thought of Stan. Thank you for many years as colleagues and friends. You and Judy have helped me navigate turbulent waters during his illness and after Jud died. Faithfulness is too rare. You have it in spades. (whatever that means, since I grew up Baptist and we weren’t allowed to play cards.)

  • Reply Maggie Rowe March 21, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    Jan, I’m going to remember the phrase “fingernail faith” – that’s where we are right now. Faith is strong but our emotions are so fragile when it comes to the situation you are aware of.

    Thank you for your strengthening words.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg March 21, 2021 at 9:07 pm

      And I continue to pray with you, dear Maggie. We leap with our fingernail faith while God secures a net beneath to cushion us, a net woven by Grace and God’s faithfulness to all generations. Take a deep breath of hope.

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