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Jesus, Josiah, and Me: How My Supernatural Encounter with an Autistic Boy Revealed the Wonder of God's Presence

Jesus, Josiah, and Me: How My Supernatural Encounter with an Autistic Boy Revealed the Wonder of God's Presence

by Max Davis


Learn More | Meet Max Davis

1

Something Compelling

The Universal Presence is a fact. God is here. The whole universe is alive with His life.,
…And always He is trying to get our attention, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate
with us.
—A. W. TOZER, THE PURSUIT OF GOD

January 8, 2015

A single phone call started this incredible journey and friendship. At about 9:00 a.m., as I walked around the path at Perkins Road Community Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I dialed Cheryl Ricker, a fellow writer who lives in Rochester, Minnesota. I had just finished reading a book she collaborated on and wanted to tell her how much it impacted me. We connected as fellow writers, discussing agents and publishers. We talked about the fact that we were living in the biblical end times and that we needed to be faithful with our writing gifts.

We also talked about our newest writing projects. While most of my books had been nonfiction, in those early weeks of January, I was racing to meet a major publisher’s deadline for my novel Dead Dog Like Me. Go check it out. The copyright is 2015. The year before, I had coauthored The Impressionist, another novel.

As we continued talking, Cheryl told me she was in the beginning stages of writing a book with Tahni Cullen, the mother of a nine-year-old autistic boy named Josiah who communicated by tapping words with one finger onto a laminated cardboard keyboard or a tablet. Josiah’s words, some believed, had spiritual impact. Cheryl gave me the quick elevator pitch, going into very little detail. Nothing was asked of me, other than prayer and advice. Our conversation lasted about an hour and ended at approximately 10:00 a.m. I had lots to do and hurried into my day. With my deadline looming, I forgot all about our call.

For years, the office where I did my writing was a twelve-by-twelve-foot metal shed next to the house on our forty acres of family property. The little shed was my place of retreat, but now it and our house of roughly two decades had been torn down so my wife, Alanna, and I could build an Acadian cottage. This would be our dream home and truly a writer’s paradise.

12 In the meantime, however, we were staying in a mobile home in the woods about a football field away from the construction site. I had created a makeshift office inside the mobile home, but it was extremely tiny—more like a closet with a curtain in the open doorway.

Have you ever tried building a new home and living in a crowded temporary one while undertaking a book project? As you can imagine, this made it even more difficult to have the space and quiet I needed to concentrate for extended periods.

Let’s just say I was feeling the pressure.

That afternoon, I got an email from Cheryl. She had called Tahni at 11:00 a.m., after talking with me, and relayed to her some of our discussion about being faithful with our writing in these end times. At 3:00 p.m., Tahni’s son arrived home from a special school for autistic children. Before she could talk to him or find out how his day went, Josiah shot over to his tablet and started typing. Tahni saw his references to “God” and “note takers” and got the impression her son might be alluding to a particular person. She asked, “Josiah, does this have anything to do with Max?” Though he had never met or even heard of me before, he typed:

Lots to do with Max, yes.

In the email on my screen, I read the things Josiah had written about me. Cheryl noted that Tahni was concerned about sending me Josiah’s typed thoughts since Tahni wasn’t even sure they were relevant. My eyes moved down the screen as I tried to imagine a young autistic boy plunking out these words, one letter at a time. I didn’t know him or his family. What did he look like? Why would he be sending me anything?

His message read:
Make no mistake. My arguments for God and Jesus and Holy Spirit are not for church people…but for those in this earth that say God is not here anymore.…It is for saving banished people from hell.…My Jesus wants note takers to name him as a king. He is King. He is daring. He is active. He is artful.…My mom is dalet to this careful named savior. My mom is a dalet.…His nails are his minutes in Heaven making answers to messes that man has made.

He certainly had my interest. I had to admit, there was something compelling about the way he phrased things. His words had depth and weight. I sat up and kept reading.
My name is no one, but my happiness is in my nothingness.…Jesus is best known through his nails, his broken heart for mankind. Messiah is making his kingdom become now, not then, through people that need a savior—not mental saving but monumental saving.

While this already had my attention, I was completely unprepared for what came next. It was the response Josiah gave when Tahni asked if this message had anything to do with me.

Lots to do with Max, yes. He is definitely not only a major novel writer; he knows valuable sameness is not always the best approach.

Stop.
Right.
There.
A “major novel writer”? After getting only my first name, the kid already knew I was a writer, and not just any writer but a novel writer. The fact that I make a living as an author is unbelievable all by itself. In high school I was a D student in English. If my classmates had voted on who was least likely to succeed in the literary arts, I would’ve been a serious contender. And to Josiah, “Max” could have been anybody—a coach, a teacher, an agent, a pastor, a friend, an astronaut. There are nearly seven billion people on this planet, yet he identified my exact profession.

When he wrote, “He knows valuable sameness is not always the best approach,” that was even more personal, applying to my career in ways few people understand. I cringe when aspiring authors ask how I became an author, because my path has been so unorthodox. When my first book was released, years before the internet and social media, I did something few others even considered. I sold it directly to thirty-five hundred non-bookstore outlets—gift shops, gas stations, grocery stores, you name it. This was hard work, but as a result, we moved thousands of copies outside of traditional bookstores! I am always considering unusual methods of getting my work into readers’ hands, even those who don’t usually read. Also, my books have creative titles to go along with my unique writing style. In Dead Dog Like Me, for example, I broke so many literary rules it wasn’t funny, but I did it on purpose. As Josiah mentioned, my approach is not the same as anyone else’s.

Wide-eyed, I read over the email again. To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. Think of it this way: What if I didn’t write novels? What if I wasn’t even a writer? What if I did things by the book? You see? It would’ve been so easy for Josiah to get one detail wrong, and then I could have blown off the whole thing.

But he didn’t.
And I couldn’t.
As I struggled with a deadline and my own insecurities, this seemed liked just the sort of encouragement God would send me. How else would I, in Louisiana, be getting a message from a complete stranger, a boy who couldn’t even talk, over twelve hundred miles away in wintry Minnesota?

Still, my skeptical, journalistic nature kicked in, and I figured surely someone had tipped the boy off. Maybe Cheryl had given the Cullens information about me. Or they had gone to my website and checked me out. That had to be it.

Unable to let it rest, I contacted Tahni right away and started questioning her. I wanted to know more about her and her son. I wanted to get to the bottom of this.

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