Notes from Jan

Not Your Average Jo

December 14, 2022

It was both sign and story. No angels sang but a few impatient cars honked. It happened on the same day the BELIEVE sign welcomed shoppers, during this season of mixed messages and blessings.

As for the sign, it stood outside the J Jill store. At about five feet in height and wrapped in greenery, it announced JO to the world. I don’t know it someone stole the Y and robbed onlookers of JOY. Or perhaps, it was all about JO, who tired of being average. Whatever the reason, I took it for what it was, a sign and a story.

Actually, the better story belongs to Tony Campolo, which I read the day before in, More Stories from the Heart. The story’s about JOE, not JO, however. As the story goes, Joe was a wino, a drunk, a hopeless sort until he met Jesus. He was converted. Whatever you call it, he was a different man. Changed from the inside out. It happened at a Bowery mission in New York.

Well, after Joe turned around, Tony said that he became known as helpful, not hopeless. Joe cared. He cleaned up the vomit of others, scrubbed toilets, fed ones too feeble to feed themselves. “Joe did what was asked with a smile on his face, and a seeming gratitude for the chance to help.”

Tony wrote, “One evening, when the director of the mission shared an evangelistic message to the usual crowd of sullen men with drooped heads, something unusual happened. One man looked up, came down the aisle to the altar and knelt to pray, crying out to God to help him change. ”

For sure, there’s nothing unusual about the story so far. Many of you, like I, know what it’s like to come to a fork in the road, or down some aisle, kneel and ask God to forgive and help us change. But what was different about this man, he kept shouting, “Oh, God! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe!”

After a while, ” the mission director leaned over and said to the man, ‘Son, I think it would be better if you prayed, ‘Make me like Jesus.’ The man looked up at the director with a quizzical expression on his face and asked, ‘Is he like Joe?’ “

Signs and wonders still happen. We’re wise to keep close watch. Sometimes God shows up in JO to remind us something’s missing. And sometimes through a not so average JOE.

JOY to the world, the Lord has come.

Just ask Joe.

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17 Comments

  • Reply Patty Wick December 14, 2022 at 10:48 pm

    Absolutely loved this Jan Carlberg ❣️❣️❣️

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 15, 2022 at 9:47 am

      JOY to you, dear Patty. There’s a JOE in you, as well. Let your light shine.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 15, 2022 at 9:50 am

      Well, JOY to you, too, dear Patty. There’s a JOE in you. Shine on!

  • Reply Suzy Young December 15, 2022 at 7:16 am

    Blessing to you, Jan, and all the family. Hope we can all be more like the Jesus in Joe! David and Suzy

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 15, 2022 at 9:53 am

      Always a gift to see your name appear, dear Suzy. You and David have been JOE to so many over the years. Count Jud and me twice, at least. Sending Christmas JOY to you and your precious family. Remembering fondly our Christmas at Baldon House with you in Merry Olde England twenty years ago.

  • Reply George Richardson December 15, 2022 at 8:07 am

    Nice!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 15, 2022 at 10:00 am

      Great JOY to you and Linda, dear George, in snowy Colorado. Jud loved the times he shared with you at the Denver Seminary board meetings. As an athlete at Barrington College and in your life’s calling, there’s been nothing average about you. You’re God’s JOE.

  • Reply Marla Henderson December 15, 2022 at 10:22 am

    Loved this one Aunt Jan!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 15, 2022 at 10:06 pm

      Yay, Marla! How fun to see your name show up. You and Rich fit the JOE model, for sure. As do your wonderful parents, Marla! Hope you’ll all get to be together for Christmas.

  • Reply Wendy December 15, 2022 at 5:08 pm

    Oh my goodness, what a wonderful story! Of course I want to be like Jesus, but … I want to be like Joe too. <3

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 15, 2022 at 10:11 pm

      Between JO and Tony’s story of JOE,I feel like I’ve been given another chance, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Grace comes in many forms to nudge us on to what God intends us to be for each other and for Christ’s sake. You and Steve are like JOE to so many people, Wendy, when you were at Gordon and in the years since. JOY to you and your family this Christmas season.

  • Reply dale December 15, 2022 at 8:55 pm

    Thanks Jan,

    I remember my mom saying “you might be the only Bible someone ever reads.” At that time, I smiled and asked “what was for dinner.” Now, I get anxious thinking about the number of years I have been given and how many people have watched me. I appreciate your humble reminder. Blessings, Dale

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 15, 2022 at 10:15 pm

      Your mom was right, my friend. As for being anxious, I get it. Me, too, sometimes. But I can assure you, my brother Dale, you and Marty have been JOE to so many over the years: Young Life, Community Bible Study, U of M, ministries in Poland and so many places nobody knows about but God. You’ve been JOE to me, too. Thank you.

  • Reply Jeri December 18, 2022 at 6:20 pm

    Love this! Merry Christmas Jan! You bring a smile to my face and my heart with each reflection…

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 21, 2022 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks, Jeri. And I smile thinking of you and Ron and our years together at Gordon. Keep spreading the JOY so many long for today.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe December 19, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    When I read the title of your post, I assumed you’d be writing about Mary’s Joe – him not so average either. Make me like Joe, please, and Jesus, and Jan!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg December 21, 2022 at 6:10 pm

      Well, dear Maggie, the first two I’d pursue. Being more like Jesus and Joe is already part of why you’re so loved and respected. You’re JOY to so many through your speaking and writing. Knowing you and the years you were a pastor’s wife, I’m sure you did plenty of the caring and serving that made JOE so worth following.

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