Tag Archives: God winks

Be a Joseph

Our Christmas homily included the advice: Don’t be an innkeeper; be a Joseph.

The innkeeper in the Nativity story, the guy who said there was no room and turned Joseph and Mary out, was probably a realist—all his rooms were filled (Luke 2:7). Granted, he may have been inundated with people seeking shelter because of the census so he had no empty rooms, but the priest wondered if the innkeeper had considered all his options? Had he thought of giving up his bed so that a pregnant woman could rest comfortably?

We don’t know. Maybe another pregnant woman had arrived earlier. Maybe…. Well, we just don’t know. The story handed down to us is not a first-person account, so we can only guess at what really happened that night.

The more important thing to consider, though, are our own actions.

We don’t have to go far to find people in need, people facing difficulties, struggling with illness or life’s challenges.

How are we like the innkeeper, turning people away when we feel we are at our limit and they are asking us to make room for them?   

Do we do things a certain way because we have always done them that way? Are we so focused on one course of action that we cannot see alternatives?

When life seems full, do we shut the door and say enough? Or do we make room for one more?

Compare that to Joseph, who had already made up his mind to divorce Mary, until he had a dream suggesting a different course of action. Then he pivots and does as the angel in the dream instructed (Matthew 1:19-24).

I wondered if the innkeeper might have had a dream that night after turning Joseph and Mary away, a dream when an angel told him to go find Joseph and Mary and offer them his bed. But upon waking from the dream, he only said, “I had the weirdest dream last night,” and went about his day as usual. Haven’t most of us done that?

We are all invited to change course from time to time, to reframe a situation, get a different perspective.


Can we be like Joseph and be willing to rethink our decisions, to make new decisions based on new information? Can we be guided by the whispers of the Spirit when we feel a nudge to reach out to someone, to offer assistance or comfort? Can we hear the voice of God in our dreams and gain insight into a new direction for our lives?

As I review my journals from this year and remember different events, I am aware of how often I am like the innkeeper, choosing to be comfortable rather than stretching to meet another’s need.

My friend Steve (who died ten years ago) used to start each year by choosing a word or phrase to guide him through the year, something that the Spirit had whispered to him.

Be a Joseph is my phrase for 2023.

God winks

God wink is an expression I first heard when I moved to Michigan eight years ago. A God wink is one of those serendipitous events, something totally unexpected, which has a hint of divine intervention in it.

Since moving here, I have heard God wink on several times, but not used the phrase myself until the other day.

Two days after I came to the aid of the woman who fell off the ladder—and knowing only my first name and my street name—this woman went house to house on my street to find me. She wanted to thank me for helping her. One of my neighbors pointed out my house to her, and she pulled into my driveway just as I was coming home.

We chatted a bit and she thanked me (and gave me a lovely gift).

“No one else who would have helped me,” she said.

“I wasn’t supposed to be here,” I told her. “I was meant to be in Europe this week, but I canceled because of Covid.”

And then I gasped. “This was a God wink,” I exclaimed.

The next morning, the Liturgy of the Hours had a reading from St. Ephrem, who wrote, “When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance…against lethargy and timidity.”

Being vigilant is a theme for me this Advent, and I think of helping the woman who fell off the ladder as an example of being vigilant.

When she visited me, she told me a car had been parked in front of her house the entire time she was hanging lights. There were two people inside the car, and they only drove away after I had left her. Even though they were closer to her when she fell, neither of them got out of the car to help her.

Reading St. Ephrem’s words, I wondered about being vigilant against timidity and if the people in that car were too timid to come to her aid.

Timidity is defined as “a lack of courage or confidence.” Perhaps they lacked either courage or confidence.

One of the gifts of aging for me is having the confidence to respond in a crisis. I may not have medical training, but I can tell when someone needs medical help—and I can certainly call 911 or drive someone to Urgent Care.

Are there other times, though, when I lack courage or confidence? When I am, in fact, timid?

John the Baptist comes to mind. He lacked neither courage nor confidence, but boldly proclaimed his message of repentance.

Advent is a time to take a step back from daily life and look at where we might need more courage and confidence to speak of love, forgiveness and hope. Advent is a time to pray for the grace to be vigilant against timidity and to act on the urgings of the Holy Spirit to extend a helping hand.

When we act with courage and confidence, we can be conduits of God winks.