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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph’

Art by Desexign

What is a dream? Night time dreams and daydreams are what I think of first, but other symbolic uses come up as well. I suppose the most prevalent one is the speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., who said “He had a dream . . . ” as he looked to a brighter future. He was a visionary. And I think of Don Quixote who “Dreamed the Impossible Dream.” Quotes aplenty sprinkle the web. Check them out for encouragement.

But after he [Joseph] had considered this [divorcing Mary quietly], an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife’ . . .  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him . . . ” [Matthew 1:20a; 24a, NIV]

But I am looking at a specific kind of night dream that a humble carpenter had when his fiancee became pregnant. Being a nice guy of sorts, he decided to divorce her quietly, although I find that amusing since her pregnancy, without his protection, would have ended her stoning. I think he was rather more interested in a) not participating in the punishment, and/or b) disassociating with her and her family. Also, he was a fearful man who could not imagine dealing with the fall-out.

And yet, he had a dream.

How do we know when a dream is from God? I’d say, in general, that the dream contradicts our normal thinking about an event. A dream brings in new information that we would normally suppress. And I believe it’s straightforward.

When I was still struggling with my decision about accepting the Christ, I had a vivid dream of standing on rope bridge. Below me, what initially looked like roiling water and waves, was human bodies. At one end of the bridge was a woman who was interested in enticing me into her lifestyle, both decadent and exciting. At the other end, was a man who had introduced to the stories of Jesus and prophecy in the Old Testament, a “holy” life I could not fathom for myself at the time. I was torn between the two but knew I had to choose one way or another or I would be pulled into the maelstrom below, lost to both. This was a dream from God, still distinct in my mind after more than thirty years.

I am without doubt that Joseph’s dream stayed with him until he died. We don’t have a record of Joseph’s later life, how he died or when. He and Mary bore other children after Jesus, so we know he didn’t disappear and he was still on the scene when Jesus was twelve. But after that? We’ll never know. But we have a dream and savior because one man submitted to a dream.

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. Anatole France.

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cup runs overJoseph got tagged by Pharaoh for one reason only: Joseph was identified as a man of God. That was his bio in short. He had no interview and no references. Pharaoh did not ask him about his five-year plan or to discuss his strengths and weaknesses. Joseph took hold of an opportunity. He put all his eggs in one basket, God’s basket.

Genesis 41:39-40

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

I am pretty sure, if Pharaoh would not have found Joseph’s dream interpretation pleasing, he would have had Joseph executed. That’s how it worked back then. But the truth resonated and so Pharaoh took pendulum and swung it the other way. Joseph was not looking for fame and fortune even. He just wanted out of prison. He got much more than he had bargained for. But all the same, he stepped up.

Have I missed these opportunities? Have I been aware of them at all? And I’m not talking about looking for a promotion. I’ve done that plenty of times. I’ve calculated what impact my work might have and would I be noticed. That’s not the way it works for the people of God. I should know that by now.

Instead, we are asked to simply be the mouthpiece of God in a particular situation, to speak with authority, but without pride, to speak with intent but without ulterior motives.

Pharaoh could have heard the interpretation of Joseph’s dream and then sent him back to prison. But Pharaoh had the power to change Joseph’s life and he did so. That’s all. It was a God moment.

And what about me? Have I ever had the power to change someone else’s life because of my position, my authority? Maybe. Maybe. Something to ponder.

Perhaps it’s time, at my age, to stop worrying about my next promotion (in either secular or spiritual worlds) and simply give promotions to others. Give a level cup of praise or hope or love. Give more than is required. Give abundantly. Give as a pharaoh to a prisoner. Give what I do have.

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dreamingWe have lost the art of dreaming. I suppose we are still fantasizing about our futures. Despite my age, I am still hoping for new things to come along. I want to write and be read. I want to speak and be heard. I want to manifest holiness and thereby introduce the power of the Holy Spirit to others. I want to be happy and I want the best for my children. Those are all human dreams. No interpretation needed.

Genesis 40:8

“We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

There are dreams that come from God with a message. But mostly, dreaming and interpreting has been relegated to the New Age crowd and cast off the average person’s radar. Oh, we might engage in a little lighthearted reading of a dream book just like we occasionally read a daily horoscope. But we don’t take them seriously and we expect little from our brain’s nightly forages into that other dimension.
There is one primary test for an effective prophet–their prophecies come true. It is the same for a dream interpreter. Truly divine dreams will speak into a situation and will have more value when interpreted. I say more value because the dreamer will know the dream is unique, unlike any other nightly offering. That dream will be remembered the next day instead of fleeing as soon as the eyes and consciousness re-enter the present.
But the dreamer must take a second step to remember the dream and write it down. Write everything down as fast as possible. Add to the description as it unfolds again later in the day. Give the dream its due.
And finally, ask God for an interpretation or an interpreter.
No, dream interpreters do not put out a shingle, but God is still able to speak in a variety of ways, whether it’s dreams, dark speech (unexpected circumstances), strangers, friends, teachers, pastors, and in fact, any written or spoken word. Any of these may carry the interpretation of a Spirit gifted dream. But we must be open to the interpretation.
Before I became a follower of Christ, I had a Spirit-infused dream that frightened me. I was at a bridge whose expanse extended across a very wide river. The bridge was made of slats and did not seem very secure but I knew I had to cross it. As I started, I looked down into the waters and discovered they were not waters at all but teeming bodies, writhing and contorted and reaching out for me, some for help and others to drag me in. I wanted to run back but a man stood on the other side beckoning me to keep coming. A voice called and I turned to see another man back at the start of the bridge encouraging me back to the safety of the shore I knew. Then he laughed and I woke up.
In waking, I understood this dream and decided then to continue crossing that bridge. It was a turning point in my life.

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One day This DayThe difference between Joseph and me is acceptance of today, just the way it is (not the way I think it should be). Joseph went from “favored son” to “favored slave” to “favored prisoner.” Instead of focusing on the favored part, I’d be moaning and groaning about the other transmutations. I’d be comparing now with what used to be. I’d be comparing now with my dreams. Could this day be God too?
Genesis 39: 5a, 19-21
From the time he [Potiphar] put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. . . . When his master heard [believed] the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison . . . But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.
I remember when I turned thirty (back in the day) and I was sure it was the worst day of my life. I had a litany of accomplishments that I expected to have mastered by then: successful marriage, successful career, stable income, maybe a kid, fabulous apartment, and the perfect body. Instead, I was working as a cocktail waitress in a singles bar, living in a tiny one-room cabin back in my home town (having left New York), with no boyfriend (much less a husband), and totally out of shape. Plus, the one date I did have for my “big turning thirty day” stood me up. I was a mess. God? Surely not. This could not be in God’s plan!
Looking back, of course, I can see some incredible events that happened as a result of my circumstances: the people I met, the healing between my mom and me, but mostly the discovery that I could be alone. I needed to learn who that person was (since my nature had been to define myself by others). I see God in my rear view mirror, but I couldn’t see God then.
Joseph appears to have the gifted insight, at a young age, to trust God no matter what. He took what was given and did the best he could within the parameters he was given. He worked it.
It’s time to take my head out of the sand and really look around. Every neighbor, every acquaintance, every brief encounter at work, every pet (accidents and all), every loss, every gain, every child (adult or not), every married year, every relative, every hour, day, or minute: they are all God.
Last week, I learned that one of my oldest friends (from high school days) is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. I was so angry, Mary, the happiest one of us all, the most content, the healthiest, the most well-centered in God–she was dying? No Fair! And yet, when I spoke to her, I was immediately arrested by her Today God. She was in the now and accepted this journey just like all the other journeys.
She put me to shame without even trying. Really. Today is God. Thanks. Really, thanks for today. God.

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Art by Shoshannah Brombacher

Art by Shoshannah Brombacher

We’re not supposed to play favorites. And yet, we do. Well, all right, let me make this more personal. I do. It’s not necessarily overtly conscious, but I catch myself expecting certain behaviors from one sibling or another. I’m sure this crosses over to my work, my neighbors, and my friends. After all, that is how we get a “best friend.” My favorite.

Genesis 37:3-4
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornaterobe for him.When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

But, there’s more to this than that. This is not just about the father who blatantly treats one child differently than another. It’s also about the siblings themselves. They, too, wanted to be their father’s favorite. Don’t we?

For many years, joked about it, but secretly truly resented my mother’s preference for my brother, especially since he didn’t really deserve it. I’m not saying anything I haven’t told him over the years. She favored him primarily because he was male and the oldest. This was the norm in her day and in her generation. And yet, I was the one who made sure that she got a call on Mother’s day and holidays. I was the one who visited. I was the one who took her places and eventually, even took her into our home. What about me? Look what I’m doing for you. See? See? See?

James and John, Jesus’s own disciples were the same. Let us be the one who sit on either side of you. We want to be your favorites (and by implication, not John and Peter).

I’m thinking I’ve been doing this same dance with the Christ. Anoint me Jesus, make me special, pour out your gifts upon me, use me in some miraculous way, speak through me, astound the world.

Yikes! God forgive me for those secret thoughts.

There’s no doubt, Jacob made an error, showing his favoritism so overtly. Joseph, too, made an error, telling his dreams of exaltation and power.

But, here’s the real point.

In the same way that Jesus told James and John, “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” [Mark 10:38] He was trying to clarify: the greater the anointing, the greater the cost, the greater the sacrifice.

Before Joseph became powerful, his life led him through great trials.

If I accept the mantel of blessing, then I must also understand and accept what comes with it. It’s not a sled ride downhill. It’s a climb. It’s not a sailboat blown by the wind, it’s a rowboat.

We must be careful what we ask for and count the cost.

Joseph did not ask to be favorite but the impact of that position changed the course of his life. In some ways, Jacob, himself, by casting Joseph in that role, initiated that direction. So, let us all take care. We are all responsible, whether by favoriting one person over another or by wanting it.

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” [Luke 12:48b]

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There are a few stories in scripture about being told to get up and go. Abraham comes to mind [Genesis 12] when God told him to leave Harran and go (who knew where) and Abraham wandered to several places looking for the right one (and even, for a time, into Egypt). When God first spoke to Abraham and Joseph, the “away” was more important than the destination.

Matthew 2:13-14
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt . . .

God doesn’t always give us the big picture when we’re asked to leave one situation or place for another. In fact, I think the truly Godly adventures come with a pretty good dose of the unknown (may even a flat-out Star Trek mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before). Anytime we leave the familiar for the unfamiliar, there is trepidation and fear. If there wasn’t, then we’re probably not being straight-up about the departure. We’re thinking, I can always go back. Like so many twenty-somethings who are boomeranging back home after college while looking for work, they figure “home” is a good Plan B. But you see, Joseph didn’t have a back up plan. He was totally dependent on that voice inside his head that said “go” and had to hope he’d hear it again when (and if) a time came to return.

Me? I’m always second-guessing my destination. My not-so-private joke is that I prefer “planned spontaneity.” I don’t even like using a GPS because it’s a turn-by-turn description and too hard for me to “see” ahead. Give me a good old paper map any day. (And this is from a tech junkie!)

So, here’s the thing. If God wants me to head to Egypt (symbolically), chances are I’m going to ask for a Fodor’s. Maybe, if I had a really strong guide or someone who’s been there before, I would be more willing to go.

This is where the Body of Christ could really come into the picture. You see, each one has been to one of these Egypts along our way. Right? Even me. Like everyone, I’ve had times and places I didn’t really want to go, but I had to go and despite my proclivities, I didn’t always have a map: I learned through experience. Boy, did I learn. (I’m pretty sure those “Egypt” trips would have been better had I gone willingly; had I gone with trust in the one sending me there.)

That’s the key: I can say or do all kinds of things to avoid Egypt and yet, I end up there anyway–the long way; like the Israelites who had to put in those extra 40 years in the desert because they were unwilling to trust God for the land of milk and honey. They thought they knew better.

I believe I have a certain obligation to go back and tell/show the other ones about the way. I know there are folks still hanging back? Granted, I blazed a pretty loopy trail, but I also got some insights and short-cuts in hindsight.

As I begin this new, and last quarter, of my life, I believe I am being asked to take on a new role.

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