Thinking in the Past Tense

I cannot sleep until you act. I am too distressed even to pray!I keep thinking of the good old days of the past, long since ended.  Then my nights were filled with joyous songs. I search my soul and meditate upon the difference now                                                                                                                                                          Psalm 77:4-6

I was speaking recently with a client who has chronic anxiety, and he told me that he spends a lot of time thinking about the past. He finds this comforting, and it also affords him the peace of not thinking about his current anxieties. We discussed the fact also that when he remembers the past, it is with a sort of “rosy lens” which somewhat distorts the reality of what that past may really have been like.

I assured the client that thinking nostalgically about the past is very common, and indeed helpful in some ways because of the comfort it may bring. Why do you think the Andy Griffith Show remains popular now over 60 years since its first broadcast?

Thinking about the past conjures up some warm memories for many, and it is also highly predictable. No surprises, typically, as we go over some old comforting themes and memories. I also discussed the idea also that while visiting the past is enjoyable and comforting, we can’t live there. Yes, we can visit there, we just can’t live there.

Indeed, the word nostalgia comes from the Greek as a compound word, with the sense of both “homecoming” and “pain”. Probably coined from the homesickness of that famous traveler, Ulysses.

So, reveries of the past are great- I enjoy it a lot as I get older- but we can’t get lost there. The present is too important to leave for very long.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the capacity we have to fondly remember our past. Give us the courage and strength to face our present and future with confidence, Amen.

The Power of the Hidden

So, we have seen and proved that what the prophets said came true. You will do well to pay close attention to everything they have written, for, like lights shining into dark corners, their words help us to understand many things that otherwise would be dark and difficult. But when you consider the wonderful truth of the prophets’ words, then the light will dawn in your souls and Christ the Morning Star will shine in your hearts.                                                                                                                                                II Peter 1:19 (Living Bible)

I recently spoke to client with anxiety, asking her to write out the things over which she has control, and the things over which she does not have control. She started on the list but then admitted that she had trouble completing the assignment because it gave her anxiety to look at those things directly. Things which are hidden take on more power than they ought. My client  started to recognize this as she began the assignment.

Indeed, even if she did not complete the assignment of bringing to light those things over which she lacked control, they still remained with her- but hidden to the light of day. When we began to talk about those things, the power of the hidden became less. She was, in that moment, exercising some control over those things which she formerly had assumed had power over her. She could exercise a behavior which showed that she does have the ability to control her thoughts.

So, hidden things in our life can exercise control over us, if we let them.

Prayer: Lord, we see your truth that light breaks the power of darkness, Amen.

Team Effort

Several days later he returned to Capernaum, and the news of his arrival spread quickly through the city.  Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there wasn’t room for a single person more, not even outside the door. And he preached the Word to them.  Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a stretcher.  They couldn’t get to Jesus through the crowd, so they dug through the clay roof above his head and lowered the sick man on his stretcher, right down in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw how strongly they believed that he would help, Jesus said to the sick man, “Son, your sins are forgiven!”                                                                                                                                     Mark 2:1-5 (Living)       

 The story of Jesus healing the paralyzed man in Mark 2 is powerful for many reasons. The faithfulness and tenacity of his friends is remarkable. They stopped at nothing to get help for their friend who was hurting. Their commitment paid off, because Jesus healed that man, and he did it simply by telling him that his sins were forgiven. Yes, another example of physical, spiritual and emotional connectedness.

However, the theme I am picking up on today is the actions of the ailing man’s friends. I often tell clients that they need to identify their “team” as the people that they can turn to in time of trouble. They need to be able to name that team, and also communicate with that little team that they are part of his/her healing and recovery. I have never seen a situation where a potential “team member” was not honored to be named as a part of the helping team for the client.

The first step is the hardest one- to ask people to be part of your recovery team. Mental health and addiction recovery is a team effort, make no mistake about it. Once the team is in place, like the group we saw in Mark’s gospel, the power of their help is remarkable.    

Prayer: Thank you for the plan that we go about this journey in life in teams, Amen

Joseph Shepherd Chs. 29-31

Part II July, 1621 –


Chapter 29

 Andrew Kensington had not succeeded in his attempt to foment trouble for the king. Oliver Craft’s clumsy thugs had been unable to disrupt John Ward’s religious revivals, and in fact had added to their success. Kensington however was on to other things. He was busy making plans to implement his scheme of New World trade of slaves and tobacco. Upon Edwin Carr’s return he would approach him about the plan. The East India Company was becoming aware of the possibilities of huge profits to be made from the trade of tobacco largely through Kensington’s efforts. Our sea journey from Rome had been mercifully uneventful.

 Upon our arrival in London, Shepherd immediately went to visit the Franciscan hospital, which Jacob Carr was organizing into a place of healing for many sick and destitute people of the street. I went to visit Kensington, and I found him in a foul mood. He was desperate to begin his trade route plan, and decided that with or without royal approval he would proceed. He told me that a “Mr. Kelley” had inquired of him as to the whereabouts of Dr. Greene and Dr. Shepherd, whom he had sailed with on the Intrepid last year. Kelley was looking for help in getting back on a ship, though he was “damaged goods,” as he put it, having been wounded in the service of England while in a fight with pirates.

He limped slightly on his damaged right leg, and now was unable to find any kind of work. Worse, he was under suspicion for inciting mutiny, and he was staying away from old sea mates and any royal military people. Yet he had told Kensington of Shepherd and me, stating that he had never met finer men, and if there was a way to get aboard an East India ship, he would want Greene and Shepherd aboard. I was pleased to hear that Kelley was still around, and that he had said such good things about me. This seemed to solidify for Kensington that I would be on his ship to Virginia when it sailed in the next three months. It looked to me like my near future was already planned for me, especially when I had not really had my own ideas on the subject. My only real plan had been to follow Joseph Shepherd on his quests. I thought that this might be an opportunity to engage Shepherd on a quest with me. I also knew that Shepherd would be loath to become involved with Kensington’s ventures, especially since it would involve slave trading as part of the arrangement.

“Lord Kensington,” I began. “So good of you to have such faith in me in being part of your business enterprise.” Kensington interrupted me at that point. “Dr. Greene, I will be direct with you. I have been told that the King seems to feel very kindly disposed to you and Shepherd for some reason, and if I can invoke your names in the discussion of a royally commissioned trip to Virginia, I plan to do just that.” Kensington must have been referring to our visit to King James, and our odd experiment with his poor health. I was certain that no one else knew of this, and likely the details would never be known, but the King knew, and that was all that mattered. Kensington had the ability to make a request seem like a direct order that could not be disobeyed except with the most dire yet subtle consequences. On the other hand, I had just heard that King James was kindly disposed to me. Had I just been dreaming this, or did my future just get much brighter?

I was snapped out of my reverie when Kensington said, “You need to convince your friend Shepherd to go on this voyage with you. I am prepared to pay whatever it may reasonably take to make this happen.” “Lord Kensington,” I said, “Joseph Shepherd will not go on this voyage no matter what you may want to pay him. He is deeply opposed to slavery, and anything that is involved with it will crush the idea with him.” “Well, Dr. Greene,” he sniffed, “your job just became more difficult, but you need to make this happen.” I was convinced that he was simply using his arrogance, intimidation, and nefarious implication to force me to do something that he really had no control over. I really had nothing to fear from him, but the idea of going to America, and doing it under the protection and blessing of the King, was too heady for me to dismiss. Somehow, if I could convince Joseph that our trip was purely scientific, and that he could bring along some of his philosophers, scientists, theologians as guests, he might be willing to come along.

 “What an opportunity!” I would say to him. He could see firsthand a New World, one that he had already influenced through his lengthy discussions with William Bradford last year. I knew he would be excited to have some influence on the spiritual growth of these people in America. Perhaps the reason for the trip could be explained as a fact-finding, scientific voyage. Indeed, that would be true, at least to some extent. If Kensington could be persuaded that the plan for slavery as part of the trade arrangement could be at least shelved for now, maybe this would work.

I met Joseph Shepherd at the Franciscan hospital mission, where he seemed to be completely in his element, encouraging friars, teaching the children, who were increasing in number daily, and ministering to the medical needs of patients. Jacob Carr also seemed to be very content with his life, especially now that Margaret had decided to stay and help also. Carr’s fortune, larger than even I had expected it to be, seemed to be a large source of the funding now for the mission. The friars were amazed at the turn of financial events, and Joseph simply said to them that “God provides.” “Joseph,” I said, “you have really done some fine work here!” Almost immediately I caught myself, because I knew his response would be something like, “God did this, not me,” so I added quickly before he could answer, “And I know this is God’s work, but He surely picked a fine servant to make it happen!” Shepherd smiled. “You’re learning!” he said. “Are you ready to join us?” “Actually,” I said haltingly, “I am asking you to join me on a trip to America.”

I held my breath, pleading to someone that he would not immediately cut me off and dismiss the idea out of hand. If I had a chance to talk to him, maybe I could at least get him to consider it. “A trip to America!” he said. “I have been thinking about that.” I am sure that my eyes widened and my jaw dropped. “Is that true?” I stammered. “Yes,” he said. “Just two days ago I received a letter from William Bradford. He is now governor of the settlement, which they have named Plymouth after their home port in England. He told me of the incredible hardships they have faced there. Great illness and famine are their torments. He also told of native people there, and most have been helpful to his group. In fact, without their knowledge of the land, how to grow crops, deal with weather, et cetera, all might have perished. As it is, nearly half have died. He also told me of the vast beauty he has seen: lush forests, abundant game, and, importantly, freedom to worship as they see fit.” I was trying to soak this all in. The fact that nearly half of his people had died in less than one year did not sound very enticing to me. “This is what piqued Joseph’s interest?” I thought. “Joseph,” I said, “I came to ask you to accompany me on a scientific trip to America, not to go die there!”

 Shepherd laughed. “Every adventure has that possibility, Luke, but that is not my plan either!” We both laughed, and that eased the moment. We then began to discuss the idea further. I explained that Kensington had arranged for a scientific trip to determine how crops may grow in America. Of course, Shepherd knew that this included tobacco. I felt that I could venture that much, but I certainly could not even hint at his idea of a slave trade as part of the plan. Shepherd countered with his own reasons. As a scientist and medical man, he was fascinated by the potential of finding new medicines and cures for disease, since there were certainly whole new plants and herbals that could possibly fight disease. He reasoned that people displaced from one part of the world to another were exposed to a whole host of new diseases that their bodies could not fight off. He used the word “immunity” to explain how some people were able to avoid getting ill while others around them did. He also observed that people who had developed cowpox never ended up getting smallpox. He had witnessed this, and it gave him the idea that somehow our bodies could “fight off” getting smallpox.

Once again, his ideas were beyond my grasp, but he did make a very convincing case, even if it were simple coincidence. Shepherd was not one to put much faith in coincidence. He wanted a logical, scientific explanation of the world around him, and he was willing to be ridiculed for his ideas if need be. “So, you may be willing to become part of this trip?” I asked. “Kensington told me that you could bring along other men of science in whatever field you desired. He also feels that King James would be most honored if you were to go.” I had saved that little bit for last. It was not entirely accurate, but there was truth in the statement somewhere.

“Luke,” Shepherd began as he looked directly at me and into my eyes, “I do not want any part of the slave trade, nor the tobacco trade, and I am certain that Andrew Kensington has both in mind. Is that true?” I was completely disarmed at this, and I said, “Yes, both are true. He wants to grow tobacco, and as part of that plan, he wants to import slaves to do the work of growing the crops.” There, I had said it. As I spoke it a sense of shame came over me. Not because I was ashamed of being part of the slave trade (although I felt that to be at the very least a disagreeable institution), but because I was deceiving a very decent and honorable man – a man with whom I had endured pain, danger, fear, joy, and every human emotion. What kind of a person would deceive a close friend?

 “Luke,” said Shepherd, “I would love to go to America with you, but not as part of Andrew Kensington’s plan. I hope you understand that.” “I do,” I replied. “I do.”

Chapter 30

 John Ward was amazed at the following he was starting to gather. His simple message of salvation by faith seemed to resonate with people. Among the people attracted to this message were Herbert Wesley, who had been away with us on the trip to the Continent, and Henry Adams. Wesley was smitten with the simple theological message, but Henry Adams was touched by the sense of freedom and independence that stirred in his restless spirit.

Adams could never understand why religion needed to be tied to the governing of the country. Religious wars were, to him, completely illogical, and an affront to his spiritual as well as moral senses. Consequently, he became convinced that he wanted to move his growing young family to America. There was a growing number of people who decided that the adventure of crossing the sea to America was both an adventure and an opportunity. Land there was said to be so plentiful, forests so lush, animals so exotic, and freedom so intoxicating, that the risks were believed to be well worth the effort.

Dangers were discussed, but as with all enticing ideas, the emotion of the calling seemed to outweigh the logic of the risks. He was also convinced that his wife Edith would be as excited and taken with the idea as he. She was a hardy, strong woman (who would eventually bear him nine children), and she could manage anything, including a trip to the New World of freedom and opportunity.

Wesley met Adams one evening at a gathering where Ward was preaching. They struck up a conversation about Ward’s message that evening. “I like the message that Ward gives these people,” said Wesley. “He tells the truth no matter what the Church of England tries to force on him.” “It’s not the Church of England that is the problem,” countered Adams. “The King simply wants central control, and he can control people with religion. The real problem is with a King who wants us to believe that God has anointed only him as the leader of a country. I value the freedom to believe more than I value the belief itself, I think,” continued Adams. “Kings only want more power and control, and if religion gives that to them, they will use it.”

Wesley pondered what Adams said, but he could not agree. “Faith is all that we have and all that we need!” Wesley said somewhat firmly. “Don’t be confusing worldly power with faith. But keep in mind that Paul said in the book of Romans that God anoints Kings to rule, and we should be subject to that authority.” “I suppose you would then say that the Pope in Rome is an authority, appointed by God whom we must obey,” Adams countered, knowing that this would likely raise the temperature of the conversation.

“I most certainly would not!” Wesley shot back. “The Pope is the head of the anti-Christ Babylon – a perversion of God’s plan. Scripture is the only authority in matters of faith. Kings are earthly authority whom we are required to obey.” Adams smiled at Wesley and said, “Friend, let us agree that God is in authority, and man needs to follow his conscience in responding to Him.” Wesley was disarmed by Adams’ smile, and he agreed that arguing was not productive here, especially with someone he had just met. “You remind me some of a friend of mine with whom I journeyed last year – a man named Joseph Shepherd.” Adams looked surprised. “I remind you of Joseph Shepherd?” he said. “I hear that he consorts with the scoundrel Jacob Carr. Andrew Kensington told me that Shepherd cannot be trusted.” “So, you consort with Andrew Kensington?” replied Wesley. “Kensington is the one you need to hide your purse from, not Joseph Shepherd!” “It seems that we cannot agree on anything!” Adams said, again with a smile. “Perhaps not,” said Wesley, as he tried to suppress a smile of his own. “Shepherd is an interesting man. He can be challenging, I will give you that, but he is bright, fair, and caring. He will make you angry and troubled, and at the same time give you hope and encouragement. I have never met anyone quite like him. So, rather than judge Joseph Shepherd without knowing him, would you like to meet him?” “Yes, I think that is a fine idea. Let’s agree on that,” said Adams. “Meet me tomorrow at the Franciscan mission on Market Street,” said Wesley. “I know the place,” said Adams. “I will meet you there about mid-morning.”

Wesley and Adams met at the Franciscan mission the next day, and Wesley introduced Adams to Shepherd. They exchanged pleasantries, then Wesley got right to the point. “I think my new friend, Mr. Adams, has the wrong idea about you,” Wesley said to Shepherd. “He has heard that you consort with Jacob Carr, and that anyone who has dealings with Carr has dealt with the devil himself.” Shepherd looked at Adams and said, “Is that what you believe?” Adams looked back at Shepherd and said, “I know of Jacob Carr, and he is of the vilest sort. Two years ago he and his unholy mob broke into my cousin’s shop, stole all of his wine, gin and brandy, and all the gold coins from his money drawer, then cracked his skull with a truncheon. They left him for dead, and he might have died if it were not for my wife Edith who was coming by the shop the next morning. She bound his wounds, brought him to our home, and we slowly nursed him back to health. To this day, he is blind in one eye, has headaches and dizziness, and has fits from time to time where he falls down drooling and clawing the air with his fists drawn up. He cannot work, and we care for him as he tries to do a little work in our garden. So yes, Jacob Carr might be of the devil himself. If you want to be around such a man, perhaps you too are misguided, or foolish, or evil.”

 Shepherd did not respond for a long while. “You and your family have suffered a great loss and a great injustice,” Shepherd said. “In what way can I be of help to you?” Adams replied, “You owe me nothing, sir, but Jacob Carr should be hanged.” “So, you would be pleased to see Jacob Carr hanged?” he asked. “Yes I would,” said Adams. “But that would not restore your cousin, now would it,” said Shepherd. “No, it would not,” said Adams, “but it would be justice.” “Perhaps it would be justice, but does justice restore or does it simply punish?” asked Shepherd. “If there is a chance for restoration, would you choose that over punishment?” “Perhaps I would. I don’t know,” said Adams, “but I cannot speak for my cousin Albert. He is the one wronged here the most.” “Yes, that is true,” said Shepherd, “and perhaps there is a chance to begin that journey right now.

Jacob, can you come out here to meet Mr. Adams?” Shepherd asked. Carr walked out of the mission and approached the gathering of men. Adams, shocked, eyed him warily and moved toward him. Shepherd stepped in and said to Carr, “Jacob, this is Mr. Adams, and he has told me about the harm you did to him and his family.” Carr was solemn as he said to Shepherd, “I have wronged so many people in my life, I am ashamed to say that I do not know this man, or his family member, or specifically what I did to them. I can say that I humbly ask for forgiveness. If you will be so kind as to tell me my crime, I will do my best to make restitution to this man and his family.”

 Adams was not sure how to respond, but his anger was still not dissipated. “You beat my cousin Albert Adams nearly to death, and you stole almost the entirety of his shop. You robbed him of not just his goods, but his livelihood and his dignity. He is physically damaged, and he cannot care for himself. What you have stolen from him cannot be restored.”

 “I ask your forgiveness even though I do not deserve it,” said Carr. “I will restore the value of what I have stolen, and I will give you a pension for your cousin for the rest of his life. I know that this does not restore his body or his mind, but it is all that I can offer, and I offer it in the hope that you may find some peace in it.”

 Carr finished and bowed his head to Adams. He then turned and walked slowly away, allowing Adams time to absorb this act of repentance.  Shepherd said to Adams, “It is now up to you if you would like to accept this offer, or if you would like to take Mr. Carr to the sheriff to have him thrown into gaol.”

Herbert Wesley stood silent as he watched this dramatic event unfold. He believed that he had just witnessed an act of faith that was an experience of what the Bible prescribed. It was faith in action right before his eyes. “I will need to think about this,” said Adams. “Yes,” said Shepherd, “we all need to think about this.”

 Chapter 31

I began to think about King James’ part in the expedition to America. Kensington had said that King James was kindly disposed toward Shepherd and me, and he wanted to use our influence with the King to help finance the journey. Imagine that! If that were the case, we could bypass Kensington, appeal to the King, perhaps with Harvey, to form our own scientific mission.

I was actually considering giving up the lucrative benefits offered by Kensington to spend more of my life with Joseph Shepherd. More and more I was feeling that whatever journey I was to take next, I wanted it to be with Shepherd. Going to America would be a wonderful (albeit dangerous) and exciting venture. Shepherd would respond favorably if he knew there were to be benefits for people, especially if he could exercise his scientific mind. He would love to bring some of his new friends along if they were up for the adventure.

I went to the Franciscan mission the following day and found Shepherd busily tending to some new arrivals. “Joseph,” I hailed to him warmly, “I have an idea for us.” “Another idea for the trip to America?” he said smiling. “Well, in fact it is,” I said. “Let me hear it,” he said. I proceeded to explain my idea about approaching Harvey and King James about a trip to America. The primary reason for some of us was for the adventure, as well as the scientific benefits. For the King, however, there needed to be some military, political, or economic value. So we needed to find out how we could approach the King in those areas.

There are risks to such endeavors, not the least of which might be how we would alienate Andrew Kensington, stealing the expedition out from under him. However, the potential rewards were just too great to pass up. Henry Adams was increasingly torn about moving his family to America. He believed strongly in the freedom principles that drove many adventurers to leave England for America, but he felt that he had a responsibility to care for his cousin Albert.

Henry Adams had told his cousin about his encounter with Jacob Carr at the Franciscan mission. Albert was strangely quiet as Henry spoke. “I have upset you, Cousin Albert. I am so sorry,” said Henry. “No, that is not the case, Henry. You and Edith have been so kind and helpful for me these past two years, and I do not want to be a hindrance to you any longer,” he said.

 “Nonsense!” said Henry. “That is what families do for one another. You would have done the same for me.” “That is what I have been thinking about, Henry. I want to do the same for you and your family,” said Albert. “What do you mean?” said Henry. “I mean that I am leaving your kind family to free you to go to America. I cannot live with myself if you stay in England only to provide for my care. I am leaving tomorrow. Please do not try to stop me.”

 Henry was completely dumbstruck. “You cannot survive without help and care. You surely know that.” Albert seemed wounded by this remark, true as it may have been. “I did not mean to hurt you, Albert, but truth is truth.” “I need some time to myself, Henry. Please indulge me that,” said Albert. “Yes, of course,” said Henry.

Albert took off for the The Bard tavern to drink a pint of ale and think about his next move. He had been considering for some time how to free Henry and his family from the burden of caring for him. He had no other family, his wife having died just before he was robbed and beaten. He had a son who had died at birth, and a daughter who had perished with smallpox as a child. His parents had died in a fire when he was seventeen years old. He had been fiercely independent as a youth, starting his business when he was twenty-two, and finding a way to survive by guile and a flair for business. Now he faced another life challenge, and he was sure not to let his disability get in the way of his cousin’s dreams.

As he walked in the dusk down to the tavern, he was deep in thought. Suddenly he had another of his fits. He fell to the ground with a grimace, grasping wildly at the air. He bit his tongue deeply, and blood started to pour from the side of his mouth. He was lying helpless on the ground, unable to even call out for help. Even if he had, it was not likely to result in real help, as three people on their way to the tavern simply stepped over him. “Helpless sot!” one of them called out. Another said to his friend, “Another victim of demon gin!” as he laughed at Albert’s helpless body beneath him. The fit subsided finally, but Albert was unable to get up. He was completely exhausted, bleeding and unable to speak intelligibly. As he lay in despair, a stranger came up to him. “Friend, it looks like you need help,” he said. Albert could not speak, but he simply nodded. Then a look of terror came upon him. The man standing over him was Jacob Carr.

 It turned out that it was not as difficult as I might have imagined persuading the King about financing the trip. It turned out that the Dorchester Company, which was a trading company poised to exploit New World wealth, was looking for added support for their venture in establishing a new settlement at Cape Ann near Plymouth. We would become part of that expedition, and we would be given a royal charter to “explore the American coast, begin a settlement, determine which crops can best be grown, find new medicinal plants and herbs which can benefit the people of the realm, and provide for the health of people who have traveled to America.”

Shepherd and I and our new traveling companion, Henry Adams, began talking about our upcoming trip. “Tell me again how you decided to make this trip with a young family, Adams,” I said. Shepherd had told me earlier about Adams and his disabled cousin, and I wanted to know why he had decided to risk his own family, as well as how he had provided for his cousin. “My family, and generations beyond mine, will live free of royal abuse of authority, and free of religious oppression. As for my cousin Albert, that is an interesting story. I sometimes think that this was somehow an affirmation from God about my decision.” “Why is that? I asked. “Albert was caught with another of his fits last week and he was left on the street until, of all people, along came Jacob Carr. Apparently, Carr has taken to searching the streets, especially near taverns in the evening, looking for people who might be in trouble. That evening, it was Albert. He picked Albert up from the street and carried him to the Franciscan mission. Then, weeping, he asked Albert’s forgiveness, and he pledged to take care of him at the mission for as long as he needs care. I am still stunned at both God’s provision for Albert, as well as the miracle of Jacob Carr’s conversion. Albert says that we are now free, all of us, to pursue our own calling. Funny thing, but Jacob Carr says he is now free also.”

Announcing a New Holiday!

Anxious hearts are very heavy, but a word of encouragement does wonders!

Proverbs 12:25 (Living Bible)

I mentioned yesterday that today, March 1, is my first day of Spring. In honor of that, I decided that today should be a holiday of sorts, so I have named it Affirmation Day. Today, to celebrate this wonderful holiday, every person is to specifically affirm or encourage someone that they know, be it family or friend, coworker or acquaintance. The celebration of this day is not complete unless one has sent a text, called, emailed, or in some other way communicated a message of appreciation and encouragement to another person.   

I think today is the right day for this because, in his creation, God has reaffirmed to us that another season is coming- a season long awaited and much needed this year. Ancient traditions had festivals to celebrate the end of the season of death (Winter) and the start of the season of new life (Spring). So, isn’t this holiday just the natural evolution of such past celebrations? I say it is.

So, Happy Affirmation Day. Spread the word!

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the reminders of new life springing up around us!


 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion                                                                                                                                                                 Proverbs 1:2-4 (KJV)

Today is the last day of February. To me that means Spring starts tomorrow! Yes, I know I am rushing it, but if they are playing baseball somewhere (and they are!), it is officially Spring.

Today also is the last day of Black History Month, and I want to call to mind one of the great pieces of literature of the 20th century, that being Martin Luther King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. I encourage my readers to read the letter in its entirety, but I just quote a portion here. He is discussing the comparison of just and unjust laws. As we are painfully aware, the “Jim Crow” laws of the south were still in effect in many states at that time. In this letter, King gives a thoughtful and poignant comparison of just and unjust laws, as well as stirring quotes such as Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

So, I conclude with this quote from his letter…

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man- made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Prayer: Lord, help us to see truth and justice as you see it, and give us the courage to seek those goals, Amen

Finishing Strong

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us                                                                                                                                                                                            Hebrews 12:1

Since I am a baseball guy, I have this image of a baseball player, maybe an aging outfielder playing what may be his last game. He knows it, maybe others do too, maybe they don’t. But he is on the field on October 1, the last day of the long season. His team is hopelessly out of the playoffs, and have been for weeks. The game he is playing has no value for either team, both just playing out the string. It is late in the game, his team down by four runs in the eighth inning, and fans, the few that showed up, have mostly long abandoned this contest.

The pitcher winds up and delivers a ball that the batter sends screaming on an arcing line toward the outfield. Runners on first and second move with the hit as it appears to be well out of fielding reach. Our aging outfielder responds immediately, tracking the ball as it soars into the outfield gap, headed for extra bases. He does not give up on it. He tracks it toward the wall, leaps at the ball and makes contact with the ball and the wall at the same time. He crashes down, the ball in his glove. He manages to right himself, and throw the ball into the cut-off man who completes the double play on the stunned runner who had occupied first base.   

The game, that season, are essentially meaningless, and those around him have essentially given up on it. The fans had mostly left, and the game meant nothing in the standings, yet he poured himself out on the last play of his last game ever.

This is the scenario I think about when I think about effort- effort to the end. The aging fielder is doing his very best to the very end, no matter what others thought about the meaning of it. It meant everything to him.

That dear readers, is how I want to go out. How about you?

Prayer: Lord, help us to finish strong, doing the right thing for the right reasons, Amen.

Owning Responsibility

for each one should carry their own load…                                                                                                                    Galatians 6:5

In talking with a client recently, we discussed the values he learned from his mother about responsibility. I had commended this client for his willingness and ability to recognize and own his part in some disputes with his wife. He told me that his mother had taught him that when he was in some trouble at school or in the neighborhood, she did not automatically rush to his defense whether he was right or wrong. Rather, she had him explain the situation and examine his part in whatever problem had been encountered. He explained that he felt that his deep sense of personal responsibility stemmed from her valuable teaching.

That mom taught her son some important life lessons. We always need to examine our part in any relational problem and take responsibility for that. It is not a matter of trying to shift blame, nor accept blame inappropriately. It is simply a good exercise in the personal ownership of relational issues. We all own a part. It is important to accept what that is, and work toward our own self awareness and responsibility for maintaining healthy relationships.

I never met this client’s mom, and I never will, but I like her thinking.

Prayer: Help us Lord to see that we honor you and others when we recognize our own failures or mistakes, Amen.


This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.                                                                                             Psalm 118:24 (KJV)

In 1920, Warren Harding ran for President with the slogan “Return to Normalcy”. No one really knew what that meant, because it meant something different to everyone. The country had been through a devastating World War, the “Spanish Flu” Pandemic, the “Red Scare” fallout of the Russian Revolution, and heaven knows what other terrible disasters that had recently beset the country.

That “return to normalcy” concept was ridiculed by many, but the truth was, everyone wanted a return to normal after all that had happened. Harding was elected in a landslide. People wanted to forget those terrible years and find diversions and that wonderful “normal” that had been   missing. Hello Roaring 20’s!

Today, we feel much the same way. The COVID-19 crisis looks like it is starting to abate, vaccinations are in the pipeline and, increasingly, in arms. The political turmoil is still here, but the volume is much lower, and the economy seems ready to take off as restrictions are slowly lifted. Yes, we yearn for return to normal.

Isn’t it interesting that it always takes disasters for us to appreciate “normal”? Maybe we can learn to appreciate everyday life- our jobs, our families, our friends, indeed our health, even without the threat of something that disrupts them.

Let’s just enjoy the day we live in, and thank God for “normal” every day.

Prayer: Lord, we forget so easily that normal is such a blessing, Amen

Pain Into Gain

You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending…                C.S. Lewis

But Joseph told them, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you?As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people.                                                                                                             Genesis 50:19-20 (Living Bible)

Context is important in understanding mental health difficulties.  We are not condemned to live out past trauma as our ending fate. Many of my clients have suffered from very difficult, even traumatic developmental circumstances, yet they are very often overcomers. I find it important to remind these clients that they are not just survivors of trauma, they are “thrivers” because of it. If our mindset is that we are not defined by pain and abuse, then we can translate personal pain into someone else’s gain and thereby redeem that pain or evil from the past.

So many clients find it gratifying that someone can see their growth, and remind them that their identity is as an overcomer, indeed, a “thriver”.

We often do not always know where people have come from and what they have suffered. We can affirm to them that they have a future as an overcomer and a thriver, and that they are not defined by a hurtful past.  

Prayer: Thank you Lord for your grace to overcome pain and loss and redeem it for your glory, Amen.