Diagnosis Du Jour

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
    a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
    and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
    I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
    not as they pretend to be.”                                                                                                                                                        Jeremiah 17:9-10 (The Message)

I know early on as a young counselor, when I had many fewer “tools” than I now posses, that I needed to learn a lot. You really do finally learn some things after 45 years of practice. There is an old saying which can be applied in so many situations. “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

To people young in a profession, like new counselors, we learn certain tools and techniques, and we want to apply them. Perhaps unconsciously, we anticipate things that perhaps look like a good opportunity to try out those new tools, so we may start to see things through the lens of a particular diagnosis.  

I have found over the years that there have been certain trends of “hot” diagnoses. For example, as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual periodically changes to stay current, diagnoses change or are added. I started my career when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM for short) was the DSM- II. We are now on DSM-5. The change from Roman numerals to cardinal numbers, does NOT reflect that in my early years we still counted in Roman numerals! They changed the numbering system for several reasons.  

Early in my career, the Vietnam war had just concluded, and we began to diagnose a large number of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnoses. PTSD was added in DSM-III in 1980 when there was a surge in Vietnam era veterans seeking help for the trauma they experienced.

As the years went by, other diagnoses became popular. Attention Deficit Disorder became very popular in the early 1980’s and ADHD later came along and gained much traction in the popular culture.

Later still, we saw the dramatic rise of Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as Manic-Depressive Psychosis. The DSM in those days indicated that the prevalence in the population of Bipolar Disorder was around 1.5% of the population. Yet we saw an inordinate number of diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder, and the popular culture seemed to adopt this diagnosis for every mood swing that happened in the life of people around them.

These days, there seems to be a great deal of attention paid to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Yes, it is a thing, however, the prevalence of the disorder is well under 2% of the population.  Indeed, we all have some narcissistic traits, because we are flawed humans whose first thought is self. However, we need to be careful when tossing out diagnostic determinations when someone exhibits selfish behavior.

The popularity of these diagnoses come and go. We just need to be careful to not get caught up in a wave of popular explanations for flawed human behavior.

 After all, every one of us fits into DSM-5 diagnosis somewhere.

Prayer: Lord, we are flawed and broken, yet you love us right where we are. We are thankful for that! Amen

On the Other Hand…

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.                                                                                                                            Philippians 4:8 (KJV)

Charitable giving rebounded in the second quarter of 2020, boosting total giving in the first six months of the year by nearly 7.5 percent on a year-over-year basis

-Association of Fundraising Professionals

I am writing this blog on “Giving Tuesday”. This day is designated as a time to consider, and donate to, the great non-profit organizations which serve to help those people who have been left behind in our economy; or those who suffer from terrible health problems; or those who have experienced tragic loss in natural disasters; or to help educate people otherwise unable to afford it; or maybe to help those who are simply in need of comfort and support that they can find nowhere else.

In a year when Americans can agree on seemingly very little, we do seem to agree on one thing- we care for people who need help.  In 2019, Americans gave over $427 billion dollars in charitable donations. We are on pace, in the very challenging year 2020 to give more than that impressive figure.

In this year when there was incredible political turmoil, a health crisis, and racial unrest, there remains that spark of what makes America a great country. The very things that make us great are the things that can tear us apart.

This is the basic tenet of strength-based theories of counseling. As counselors, our job is to find and help develop the strengths that clients bring to us. Frequently, people do not see, or discount, the wonderful strengths that they possess.

I see this principle in our country as a whole. The very differences that can divide us could just as easily be diversities that we could celebrate. It does appear that despite our differences, we do unite to help others in significant ways.

When I get discouraged about the tone of conversation that seems to pervade our national discourse, I think about the beautiful spirit of giving that exists in the same people who can get so upset with one another.

So, I think the Bible verse that I chose for today (I like the old King James version of this) is an apt one. Let’s not forget it.  

Prayer: We are so very different, but we share so much in common. Your creation is so complex and it is to be celebrated! Amen

“Designated Worry”

Dear friend, guard Clear Thinking and Common Sense with your life; don’t for a minute lose sight of them. They’ll keep your soul alive and well, they’ll keep you fit and attractive. You’ll travel safely, you’ll neither tire nor trip. You’ll take afternoon naps without a worry; you’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep. No need to panic over alarms or surprises, or predictions that doomsday’s just around the corner, Because God will be right there with you; he’ll keep you safe and sound.                                                                                         Proverbs 3:21-26 (The Message)

Today I would like to share another technique that I use in dealing with anxiety. It is known as “Designated Worry”. In this technique, we acknowledge that anxiety is a real thing, and it signals things to us about how we are interacting with the environment. As I have said earlier, “worry” is our anticipation of potentially harmful events (or in some cases, past events) over which we exert little control. The antidote for anxiety and worry (they are related) is behavior- over which we DO have control.

We all worry at one time or another. People who struggle with anxiety have difficulty containing the worry to controllable behaviors. For example, I have clients who struggle with anxiety, and they are aware that this is a more or less chronic thing running in the back of their mind at all times. Kind of like background music, but not nearly as pleasant.

When specific worries come up, like a presentation at work, they feel increased tension and their anxiety gets worse. One technique is to use “Designated Worry”. This “Designated Worry”- let’s just use DW for now- serves a purpose. Indeed, that presentation at work is important, and anyone may spend time anticipating it, worrying about it, because that is a common and reasonable thing to do.

 In order to give the proper justice to the worry, we should agree that the presentation is important, and that we should spend some time worrying about it. We can take control of that worry by setting aside a reasonable amount of time to worry about it. Further, we should designate the time- schedule it in and plan for it. When the DW time is set, the worry time should be behavioral, not just thinking about it. So, the DW time becomes a practice session for the presentation. It actually helps us to “overprepare” for the worrisome event. This way, the worry has become a tool for success. It is employed to help make the project successful.

Taking control of the time that the worry occurs, the WAY that the worry occurs, and to have control of it as a useful tool, actually honors the event. The event is not minimized (like someone saying “Don’t worry about that, you’ll do fine”).  I often tell clients to write down the things that deserve worry. Then promise yourself that you indeed WILL worry about that tomorrow at say, 8:30, or whenever they decide. They control the time and priority of the event.

This is especially helpful if the worry is keeping one up at night. I tell my clients to have a pad and pen next to their bed, and write down tomorrow’s DW list. Promise yourself that you will worry about it tomorrow (hopefully, have a behavior around it to actually gain some control), then follow through and do the worrying tomorrow.

People who struggle with anxiety are fighting a war every day, and that gets wearisome. Specific worry is only part of the battle. I want them to have the tools to beat that anxiety so that it does not beat them.

Prayer: Father, you promise to be with us in all of the things that trouble us. We trust your provision for us, Amen.

P.S.  I posted another section of Joseph Shepherd, chapters 2-3. Hope you like them.

‘Tis the Season

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace                                                                                                                                                                   Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

I write this blog on the first Sunday of Advent. Thanksgiving is recently passed, and the Christmas season is fully upon us. I love the season. It is the celebration of the great gift of Jesus coming into a broken world to offer hope and salvation. It has long since become a cultural holiday season that barely nods to Jesus. That being said, let us not discount the power of the Christmas season to a reeling culture.

We really need the Christmas season this year. We need a chance to celebrate. We need a chance to avoid bad news. We need the space to concentrate on something positive and uplifting. We need the comfort of Christmas music, greeting cards, expressions of goodwill, and traditions like trees and decorations. Indeed, I read that sales of live Christmas trees are booming this year. It also seems that I have seen more outdoor decorations this year than ever before.

Yes, I know that Christmas is supposed to be a holy occasion- and it certainly is- but I also think that all of the goodwill and love that Jesus represents is being expressed this time of year, even if some people are unaware of the real reason for the celebration.

I encourage people to consider the reason that we celebrate Christmas. I also believe that we need this space to find joy amidst pain, love amidst rancor, and smiles, even under the masks.

I trust that this is the start of a beautiful season for you. Use this time to refresh your soul and those around you. We all need it so.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for the gift of your son. His presence gives us hope and peace. Help us to share it well, Amen

Party Counseling Part II

To answer before listening—
    that is folly and shame                                                                                                                                       Proverbs 18:13

In yesterday’s blog, I talked about the idea of having the Republican Party and the Democrat Party in my office for counseling. I began with the idea that they both need to assume best motives of the other. Despite different viewpoints, they would agree that each party wants what is best for the United States.

From there, I would talk about good communication. That would include the patience and discipline to listen to what the other party said before making comment or criticism. This takes practice and discipline, but it is essential for safe, honest communication. I may well give them the Fair Fighting Rules (which I use for couples, and is included after the prayer at bottom) and ask them to post it on their desks to remind them of the Do’s and Don’ts of safe communication.

I might talk to them about the value of just hanging out together and having fun. Not every interaction should be intense and conflictual- they need to have some fun together. In order to do that, they need to spend some quality time together to get to know each other personally, not just professionally.

I would probably encourage them to find some humor wherever they can. This would include accepting and owning their own mistakes, and finding a way to laugh at them. There is nothing like being able to laugh at yourself, and in so doing, it helps others to laugh also.

Many, perhaps most in each party, may recognize that there is a spiritual solution to the problems that they cannot solve. Indeed, I would remind them that they cannot solve our country’s problems by virtue of their great skill or wisdom. Many problems must be submitted to their Higher Power, whom they would need to acknowledge, and humbly ask for help.

If both parties would agree to these simple suggestions (as our recovery brethren would say, they are “simple, but not easy”), our country would benefit. They might actually see that they are really on the same team- team USA.

Prayer: Lord, how often do we miss the most basic theme- that we can thrive when we work together, Amen.

Some Rules for Fair Fighting

Both parties need to be in agreement that they will abide by these rules long before any arguments/ disagreements take place.

                                                                 “DON’TS

  • No physical contact when in conflict – ever
  • No name calling- this can cause pain long after the discussion
  • No past sins or behaviors brought up- this discussion is conducted “in the present”
  • No loud voices which can intimidate the other party
  • No threats – such as “I’m getting a divorce!” or “if you do that, you’ll be sorry!”, etc.

“ DO’S”

  • Either party can call a timeout, and have a specific time to re-engage in mind. Time out MUST be respected. The boundary of time and space must be safe.
  • Stay on the current subject- don’t bring up side issues or “and you do this too!”
  • Speak the truth in love – our job is to speak the truth, not to convince someone of how right we are.
  • Allow the possibility of being wrong, or that you may not be seeing the whole picture
  • Become aware of your current feeling level (getting angry, frustrated, etc.) and own it- do not blame it on the other person. Your emotional response may be coming from something that is not currently part of the discussion but from possible past hurts, etc.
  • Try to put yourself in the shoes of the other person and understand how they are seeing it. That does not mean that they are “right”, or even that you need to agree with it; just be willing to try to see the world the way that they see it. 

Counseling Republicans and Democrats

Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.

Proverbs 13:10 (The Message)

I just caught a snippet of this on the news the other day, and the idea intrigued me. That is, the idea of looking at the current rift in our political parties as an issue for a couples counseling. I had written several weeks ago about the sad state of “non-communication” across the aisle between Democrats and Republicans, so this idea piqued my interest. What if I had the two major political parties in my office for counseling?

I have had the occasion, over the years, to counsel couples in the most incredible points of stress imaginable. On more than one occasion, I have had the experience of having one member of a marriage stating that they planned to divorce the other- for the very first time ever spoken between them. Also, I have had the experience of having one member tell the other that they were having an affair- again, for the very first time. So, I am used to the raw pain and emotion that accompanies such disclosures.

In that light, I thought about what it might be like to have the Republican party and the Democratic party in my office for the purpose of reconciling a bad relationship. I mean, can you imagine that?

Safe, effective communication is the basis of reconciliation, so we need to start there. Indeed, the political parties rarely speak “to” one another- they speak “at” one another. The first task would be to have the parties actually communicate with one another in a civil and empathic manner. I do not think that is asking too much. I will be instructing them what that looks like so that they understand that what they are currently doing is not working.

In any relationship, I ask the partners to “assume best motives” of the other. What that means is that, even as they disagree, and they do, that they both have a mutual best interest in common. In this case, it is the best interest of the United States of America. If the parties can agree to that, we have a huge first step accomplished.

My readers may be on different ends of the political spectrum. Actually, I hope you are. I do not want to be part of an echo chamber where people simply hear what they want to hear reinforced by other like-minded people. What is the value of that?

So, I am going to leave this blog at that point. Let us all assume that each party believes, in its own heart, that it is doing its best for the country. We are assuming best motives. We may not agree with the particular viewpoint of the other party, but we assume that they each love our country as much as the other does, even if they are of different political persuasions.

Good with that? I pray that you are. If not, the next couple of counseling blogs are going to be difficult. In the next blogs, I will be going over some counseling techniques which may be of help to our suffering parties.

 I often tell clients that healing of large wounds is more supernatural than natural, and that without a spiritual approach, healing cannot happen. I will expand on that in coming blogs.

 Stay tuned.

Prayer: Lord, we know that you are the healer. Help us to submit to your plans for reconciliation, Amen.

Rituals

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort                                                                                                                                                                    II Corinthians 1:3

I am writing this blog on Thanksgiving evening, belly full after a great meal of traditional fare- turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, etc. This morning I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I also watched the Detroit Lions play in their traditional Thanksgiving home game. They didn’t play well, but they played on Thanksgiving.

In other words, I tried to pack in all of the rituals of Thanksgiving that I could. Unfortunately, this particular year, the best tradition of all- being surrounded by family- will have to wait until safer times.

I made time for these rituals, and maybe you did too, because rituals give us comfort. Rituals help us to feel a sense of control and normalcy, even, maybe especially, when things are NOT normal.

There is a reason, for example, that TV reruns are popular. We have seen them frequently, and we know the story, but we watch anyway. Why? Because it is comfortable and soothing. Many of us have seen Andy Griffith shows a million times, but we watch because it soothes and relaxes us. So, it’s OK folks to hang on to traditions and rituals. They have their place in calming us in times when stress is the order of the day.

As we enter the Christmas season, I expect that I will continue to maintain the soothing seasonal rituals that hearken back to a time in my life when things were simpler and more predictable. During the Christmas season, Christians understand its true meaning, and we celebrate it. Those who do not follow the faith find comfort and joy in celebrating Christmas also. I’m glad of that. While I hope the true meaning of Christmas comes shining through, I think Christians might simply find joy in celebrating the birth of the Savior with the rest of the world.

 Jesus came for all of us!

Prayer: Father, thank you for the comforts that you give us, both small and large, Amen.

Joseph Shepherd

A Serialized Novel

A Story of My Travels with…
Joseph Shepherd
by
John F. Jung


New Creation Publishing, Tipp City, Ohio.


Joseph Shepherd is a historical novel. Some of the characters are easily
recognizable as important philosophers, inventors, writers, and even geniuses.
Care was given to be true to the events of the time period, and most events are
essentially historically accurate. Interactions between the historical characters
are part of the fiction, although many of these contemporaries did actually have
a relationship and had correspondence or interacted with one another.
Published in the United States by New Creation Publishing, Tipp City, Ohio.


© 2015 by John F. Jung


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted in any form or by any means- electronic, mechanical,
photocopy, recording or any other- except for brief quotations in printed reviews
without the prior permission of the author.

Foreword

(By Dr. Luke Greene)
This journal of my adventures with Joseph Shepherd has been in the
making for many years. I have compiled years of my own diaries, journals,
letters, as well as notes from others, to try to accurately describe this amazing
journey I have had with my friend, Joseph Shepherd. Indeed, some of the
descriptions of Joseph’s journey, where I was not present, are quite detailed.
I urge the reader to follow this chronicle to the end to see how that information
was preserved for this account.
Joseph changed my life and the lives of many others – indeed perhaps
the course of history. Certainly, he has influenced generations since our
adventures began. While he told me of his journeys prior to meeting me, I
suspect that there is much he left out. His journeys seemed to encompass much
of the world, for there were few places with which he did not have some
familiarity. He had met some of the most amazing people – scholars, scientists,
theologians, philosophers, etc., and he felt at ease discussing with each of them
their particular area of knowledge. At the same time, he could feel just as at
ease talking with poor, ill, broken people, and be completely engaged in their
world.
I have compiled this journal and committed it to the form of a book in
the hope that the reader may see that life is richer when the traveling
companion is a person of trust, one who challenges us beyond our comfort,
and one who helps us in the most difficult of circumstances. I trusted Joseph
Shepherd as my traveling companion, and I am glad that I made that choice…
Dr. Luke Greene

Part I
Chapter 1

The small boat seemed to dance in the moonlight. Seen faintly off the
starboard bow of the man o’ war HMS Intrepid, the small craft appeared to be
empty. Boatswain Thomas Kent was the first to see the boat, and he seemed
strangely excited by the sighting. He was on his first voyage, as were many of
the seamen aboard the Intrepid. “Captain Braden,” Kent yelled, “there’s a boat
off starboard.” Kent peered into the moonlight with eyes squinted, but
concluded, “I can’t see a soul on it.”
Captain Braden was an unusual commander of a British fighting
vessel. He was a veteran of several campaigns, including the historic battle
with the Spanish Armada over thirty years ago. He was only a seaman at that
time, but that encounter had changed him in many ways. He was a very astute
leader, tough when he had to be, but generally much calmer than most of his
counterparts, and for this he had suffered the indignities of fellow officers. Yet
he maintained a dignity and grace that had won his crew’s allegiance over the
years.
“Steer to starboard, Mr. Ross,” Braden commanded to the wheelhouse.
The great ship heaved to the right, making slow progress in the calm water. As
the Intrepid approached the little boat many of the crew came on deck and
strained to see what the change in course was about. Rumbles went through
the ranks of superstitious sailors. While a little excitement might be nice for a
mission that was nothing but a shakedown for the new warship, several of the
crew, mostly the veterans, questioned the idea of approaching an unknown
vessel, no matter what the size.
As the Intrepid crawled closer, silence gripped the lumbering ship.
The little boat, which had appeared to be empty, did indeed have an occupant.
A man lay face down in the boat, motionless, bloodstained, and tattered. He
appeared to be dead. “Board the boat Mr. Kent!” Braden ordered. Turning to
me Captain Braden said, “And you too, Doctor Greene.” I was not surprised
that he had asked me to board the boat. The poor devil in the boat was probably
dead, and he wanted me to verify the fact. Besides, Kent was just a young
fellow and might be a bit taken aback by the sight of a violent death. Several
of the Intrepid’s sailors had tasted death up close, but not Kent.

Mr. Kent and I struggled over the side of the now bobbing Intrepid,
and we boarded the smaller craft. The seas had picked up a bit, and there was
a breeze, which was making the little boat jump in the waves. This action must
have shaken our poor victim in the boat, for he suddenly lurched up as we
boarded his boat. Mr. Kent went for his dagger to subdue the stranger till I
screamed at him to stop.
“Mr. Kent,” I said, “this man is no danger to you; put down your
knife.”
Embarrassed, Kent sheathed the dagger, but he grabbed the stranger
and pinned him to the boat as he rolled him over on his back.
“Who are you?” demanded Kent in a voice that was at once harsh and
frightened.
The dazed stranger looked up at us and tried to determine where his
senses were. The man had been in the boat for some time, maybe
several days. His clothes were ragged and torn, his face and hands
burned terribly from the sun. The blood was dry, and his hair was
caked with it. His lips were parched white. His beard was caked with
salt that had dried in the sun. This man had been through an ordeal of
exposure, and he had sustained a serious blow to the head. He might
have other injuries too, but he could die from what I saw without a
further examination. There was a sack next to him that contained a jug,
some bread and a few salted fish – the kind that most sailing ships
carried as provisions.
“We need to bring him aboard the Intrepid if he is going to have any
chance to live,” I said.
Mr. Kent looked at me and said, “The Captain will make that
decision.”
“I know that, Mr. Kent,” I said with growing anger. “Captain,
permission to bring this man aboard,” I yelled up to him.
Captain Braden did not hesitate to order the man brought aboard the
ship. Kent glared at me, with an expression that reflected some of the odd
superstition that prevailed on ships. Findings such as this were seen as bad
luck. Adding another soul on board, a stranger found in the middle of the night,
was surely a bad omen. I sighed as I stared at Kent and I said, “You will obey
the Captain’s order now, Mr. Kent.”
The man was hoisted up onto the Intrepid and brought to the infirmary,
which was next to my quarters. The stranger seemed to be coming to his senses
as I slipped a cup of water to his lips. He tried to drink heartily – a good sign,
but a bad idea, for he would surely vomit it out if he continued to gulp as he
did. I pulled his clothes off, and he was even able to assist me some in that
endeavor – another good sign. The man was of slight build, bearded, with very
dark hair, which was rather long and unkempt, matted with blood. It was
difficult to determine his age given his disheveled and broken appearance. He
was not the most attractive of men, but his eyes were expressive and piercing.
His dark, ruddy complexion was evident despite terrible sunburn from
exposure in the boat. He was somewhat small in stature, but muscular. I finally
judged him to be in his early to mid-thirties, about my age, but it was a little
hard to determine. As I looked him over I saw bruises over much of his body
and a few telltale marks of a lash on his back. The blow to the head had not
fractured his skull, and I could not determine any other external injuries. If
there were internal injuries, I suspected that he probably would already have
died from them. I also determined that he had not been unconscious the entire
time he was on the boat, because he had been drinking water from the jug.
Even though he was dehydrated, he had obviously drunk some water over the
past several days.
“What is your name, sir?” I asked, hoping to determine his level of
clarity of mind as well as to find out more about him. He looked blankly at me
for a moment as if I had asked him to name the stars.
“Shepherd,” he said softly. “Joseph Shepherd.”
“Where are you from, and what were you doing in that boat?” I
inquired. He struggled to come up with the energy to speak. “No,” I said, “you
do not need to talk. I’m sorry that I asked you so much so quickly. You just
rest now, and in the morning I will bring you something to eat.”
I spent the rest of the night in the infirmary with him to make sure that
he would make it until the morning. I had seen cases before where men had
looked like they were going to recover, and then they just slipped away into a
coma. Where was this man from, and what was he doing in that boat? I was
very curious about this man’s past. Was he a criminal? What did he do to get
such a beating? He had apparently been cast from a ship, but what had he done
to deserve this fate?
The Intrepid had proceeded smoothly through her maiden voyage up
until this point. The seas had been calm through this summer cruise into the
mid-Atlantic. The Intrepid had performed well as the crew put her through her
paces. The guns had been fired without incident, and the sailors were awed at
the firepower of these new cannon. The larger sails and the sleeker hull design
of this ship made her the fastest of her class of warships. The latest navigation
equipment was on board, including the latest clock design, which allowed
more precise guidance from the stars to better determine longitude. Her crew
was beginning to gain confidence in the performance of this vessel. The
Intrepid could hold her own against any ship on the sea. Now it appeared that
she would have to show her ability to handle her first storm.
The crew was growing wary of the brewing storm, but they only talked
about the new passenger. It was not good luck to discuss a storm, so they talked
about Mr. Shepherd, though they, and I, knew nothing about him. As I came
into the mess, I heard the crude remarks of Seaman Pratt about the addition of
our passenger. “I been sailing for twenty years and never seen good out of
picking up the dregs of another ship,” he snorted. “I say we should have let the
bastard die like he was supposed to!”
“Mr. Pratt,” I called, “do you know where Mr. Shepherd has come
from?”
“Who is Mr. Shepherd?” yelled Pratt.
“I see you do not even know his name, but you know where he is from
and what he did!” I said. Several sailors laughed at Pratt, as I had hoped. Pratt
was a rather loathsome sort, and in need of someone to occasionally remind
him of it. I enjoyed this job greatly, and the crew often enjoyed it as well.
“Doctor Greene knows something about this new man,” said Pratt.
“Tell us what you know!” he demanded.
“I know that his name is Joseph Shepherd and that he is an injured
man. It is my duty to treat him, and that is all I know about him. The difference
between you and me, Mr. Pratt, is that when I do not know something, I do not
make up wild tales about the things of which I am ignorant.” At that I left the
mess area to the laughter of the crew and the curses of Pratt.
I went back to the infirmary on the lower deck, and found the footing
a little harder due to the pitch and roll of the ship. Upon entering the infirmary,
I found Shepherd vomiting up the little water I had given him. I had seen this
before with men who had sustained blows to the head. Mr. Shepherd was
suffering, but he was silent, and was not calling out to me in curses as other
sailors I had often treated. As I approached Mr. Shepherd, I saw Captain
Braden enter the infirmary. He looked pale, and he complained of aches and a
fever. I bid him to sit for an examination. He was indeed warm to the touch,
and he winced as he lifted his arms for my examination for swelling in the
limbs. I told him to lie down and rest, but he declined, stating that he had no
time for rest as a storm approached. He asked me for some medicine to relieve
the pain in his neck. His neck was swollen, and he appeared to be glazed in his
eyes. “Captain Braden, I believe that you would do well with a night’s rest. We
can ride out this storm.”
He looked at me with a strange glance, rose from the chair and said,
“I have no time for that man; I must be back up on deck!”
I knew that something was dreadfully wrong. Captain Braden was a
man of clear-headed logic, not given to impulse and whimsy. He was, I
presumed, becoming delirious with fever. He had not shown any symptoms
prior to this, so this illness, whatever it was, had come on very quickly.
As I was thinking about this latest of concerns, the ship rocked
violently as she was hit by a wave. The storm appeared to be approaching gale
status, and the ship was being tested very quickly on her first voyage. Cargo
was shifted on the lower deck as I heard a tremendous crash of barrels and
crates below ship. The crew had evidently failed to secure the provisions and
ammunition properly. I hoped that this mistake would not prove to be fatal.

Swamped food and cannon balls rolling around under me gave me a chill as I
thought about it. What kind of crew did we have on this ship?
The ship continued to be slammed by the storm, and the curses and
yells of fearful and angry crewmen filled the air. The crew was now working
hard to keep the Intrepid from being torn apart by the storm. I heard Mr. Pratt
screaming to Captain Braden.
“It’s that man Shepherd that you brought on board that’s caused this!
As soon as he was brought on board, this ship was doomed!”
Pratt was now raving, and I wondered if Captain Braden was able to
bear up under this madness in his condition. Others of the crew were starting
to believe the story of the frightened Pratt. They would be ready to throw
Shepherd overboard if they thought that would calm the storm. Suddenly, the
wind died down and the rain, which had been driving sheets, settled into a
steady downpour. This storm, which just seconds before looked to be disaster,
was now just a rainy night at sea.
As I looked up at the crew now beginning to pile in below deck, I saw
them staring at Mr. Shepherd, who was standing with his hands raised near the
entrance to the infirmary.
“Mr. Shepherd!” I blurted out. I was dumbstruck to see Mr. Shepherd
up and about. He had put on an extra set of clothes stored in the infirmary,
looking to be greatly recovered from his recent ordeal. He was standing
straight, and I noticed that he was rather short of stature, since this was the first
time I had ever seen him on his feet. His beard was rather scruffy from all the
time in the small boat. Yet he carried himself with dignity, despite his
bedraggled appearance – unshaven and in clothes not even his own. He seemed
oblivious to the stares of the crew, and he appeared to be talking to himself.
“Good God,” I thought, “has everyone on this ship gone mad?”
After a few moments, Mr. Shepherd turned and walked toward me.
“Mr. Shepherd, how is it that you are walking around? I was not sure that you
were going to be able to get out of bed for some time!” I said.
“I am feeling much better, Dr. Greene,” he said calmly. He called me
by name, which surprised me no less than his amazing recovery.
“And you know my name as well,” I said.
“Yes,” he replied, “I heard Captain Braden address you just a little
while ago.”
“Where are you from?” demanded Mr. Pratt.
“I fear that I have had a serious blow to my head and I cannot
remember very much of anything until this past hour,” Shepherd replied softly.
“We picked you up off a little boat floating in the sea. We reckoned
that you was thrown off a ship and left to die,” Pratt said.
“You may be right, sir,” replied Shepherd, “for I cannot remember
anything until I was taken aboard this vessel.”

I surmised that he was from England, given his command of the
language – an educated man, and not a seaman. What he was doing in that little
boat was a mystery, but so was everything about this man. He seemed to be a
gentle man, but not afraid of this situation which confronted him. His behavior
during the storm was most curious – rising from his sick bed to standing up on
a rolling ship in the middle of very rough seas. For not being a sailor, he
seemed to have sea legs, and a calm that belied his disposition and his physical
state. Truly, this man was a curiosity.

A Letter to My Readers

I have been writing this blog daily since April 1, 2020. I activated the site in 2017, but I did very little writing in it until the COVID-19 pandemic became a catalyst for me to write daily to encourage others, and indeed, to encourage myself to get through this crisis.

I want to thank my loyal readers, who encourage me more than they can imagine. I have numerous dear daily American readers, but I also have readers from China, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belize, France, and occasional readers from other global spots. I cherish each of you, and thank you for your support.

As some of my readers know, I wrote a novel that had been bubbling in my mind for nearly 30 years. That novel, Joseph Shepherd, was published in 2015. I donate all the proceeds (such as they are 😊) to New Creation Counseling Center or to Ginghamsburg Church Christmas Miracle Offering, which helps local outreach ministries serve people who are hurting in this area.  

Today, I begin the enjoyable process of serializing the novel for my readers.

My character, Joseph Shepherd, is a complex man who is… well let’s just say when you get to know him, he will remind you of someone. Here is little teaser I prepared for the book…  

What if there were someone who was not described in the history books, but who had incredible influence on the times in which he lived ? What if that man were someone who, for some reason, despite his good ideas and intentions, was accused of things he did not do? What if that man met with and influenced some of the greatest characters of the century in which he lived, but you had never heard of him? Meet Joseph Shepherd

The novel is written from the perspective of Joseph’s friend, Luke Greene, who also writes the forward to the book. Greene is his traveling companion, and his life is changed by Shepherd

So, in the coming weeks, in addition to my daily counselor reflections, I will begin serializing the novel. I became intrigued with the idea of serializing the book because it was a convention of the 19th century when writers like Charles Dickens began to serialize novels in the newspaper. My “old school” self became enamored with the idea, so I decided to serialize Joseph Shepherd.

I will publish, on the blog, sections of the book each week, perhaps twice/week based upon the feedback my readers give. It will give me joy to publish this way, and it also does something else. It will give me accountability to complete the sequel. Yes, there is a sequel, and if you all push me, I might actually finish it!

Yes, if you get impatient and want to just read the whole book, you can purchase it www.amazon.com by searching for “Joseph Shepherd”.

Thank you again for your love and support. I wish my American readers a happy Thanksgiving. To my other readers, I wish you a blessing on your journey, whatever it may be.

John