Who’s On Your Team?

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.                                                           Philippians 2:1-2 (The Message)

Recently, I have spoken with some clients about putting a team around them to help deal with depression or anxiety issues. Sometimes, anxiety and depression can feel like “the devil on your shoulder”. You’ve seen this in cartoons and movies forever. There is a devil on one shoulder, and an angel on the other, each whispering things to the hearer, trying to win their position. The devil is saying damaging or evil things, tempting the hearer, tormenting him/her. The angel is holding out for the good decision, and saying positive things. Often in anxiety, the angel is not winning.

In extreme anxiety especially, that “devil” is seeking your destruction. I think everyone of us has a built-in “self-destructive” part that seeks to tear us down. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. What I do know is that we all carry within us the seeds for our own destruction. That is why we need to guard our hearts and minds and take our thoughts captive and speak truth to them. The part of us that is self-destructive is not from the truth or rational part of us. Indeed, self-destructive thought is irrational, but it does exist, and we need to counter its effects.

How do we do this? By surrounding ourselves with the truth, namely – that we are fearfully and wonderfully made; that we are the objects of God’s love; that others love us, etc. But when we are beset by the overwhelming power of self-doubt, and those recurring negative thoughts, it feels like the “devil” (that self-destructive part), is winning.

I suggest to clients at times that, when their own “exit strategies” of anxiety relief are exhausted, they should not try to fight this battle alone. They need to find a team- a trusted small team of safe people who love them- to help engage in this fight. If the client is “Bill”, I tell him that he needs to identify “Team Bill”. He will convene those people, enlist their help, and elicit from them their pledge to help when he calls or contacts them. I would tell Bill, “This is too big an enemy to fight alone. You deserve some help. Let’s build Team Bill to help”

 Think about who might be on your team if you need one.

Prayer: Lord, you have made us to thrive in community. Help us to identify our team of helpers, Amen.

Joseph Shepherd Chs. 52-55

                       Chapter 52

Shepherd’s letters over the years had been a constant source of joy and wonder to us. He was a faithful writer, obsessed with details, so I almost felt that I had been with him all those years. But I missed him, and I missed the adventures that we had as younger men. He had asked me to bring Margaret with me to visit him in London, and to see the mission, which again was flourishing. I had always declined, knowing that Margaret would not want to be away from our grandchild, and our daughter.

One day, Margaret said to me, “Luke, you have seemed restless, and I know that Joseph has invited you often to see him. Perhaps we should take his offer, and visit him and the mission. There are people we have not seen for over twenty years in England, and I know that you would love to see Joseph before you die. Of course I want to see him also, but I know how close you are to him. Would you like to take a trip back to England?”

I smiled at this and said, “Am I that close to death, dear?”

Margaret laughed and pinched my nose. “You may be if you get me angry!” she laughed.

Indeed, I had been restless, and I could not determine the cause nor the solution to that. I had done well in practicing medicine in America. That was perhaps in large part because I received the tutelage of one Dr. Joseph Shepherd, who kept me apprised of the latest medical happenings in Europe. His ideas on prevention of disease were remarkable. As always, he was meticulous about having a clean area for surgery, wound cleansing, and debridement, use of alcohol to clean wounds and equipment, and never using the same instrument on another patient without first cleansing it thoroughly. Other physicians scoffed at my practices, but my patients almost always had better outcomes than others, and I got a reputation as being, perhaps, the finest surgeon in New England. I was busy much of the time. However, I found time to lecture at Harvard College in medicine and biology.

Margaret continued, “I took the liberty of speaking with Jacob and Edwin last week after we had them over for supper. They are planning another trip to London next month on the Queensgate. She will be loaded with salt cod and pelts, mostly. There will be room for forty passengers. The best news is that several of our friends will be going on something of a governing mission – Thomas Hancock and Thomas Gerry will be representing the Massachusetts Bay Colony in discussions with the King about the stirrings of war in England and the effects on our colony. I know that the trip itself will be an adventure!”

I was struck by Margaret’s excitement about the trip. I knew that taking a trip with her beloved Jacob was dear to her heart. But she also knew, better than I, that I needed to return to England at least once before I died. She also knew I needed to see Shepherd again. I knew that I could arrange to have my patients seen by the young physicians whom I was training. I could arrange my affairs for the trip back to England.

“I will be honored to escort my wife to England,” I said.

“Of course!” she said.

Our trip to England was blessed with good winds and good weather. The trip east was always faster than the trip west, due to the wind patterns and the salutary effects of the warmer stream of currents, which aided a ship’s passage immensely. The experienced captains like Edwin Carr were masters of finding and riding this “river of water in the ocean” and taking days off the length of the trip to England.

My talks with Hancock and Gerry were fascinating. Their beliefs about governance in the colony were at odds with King Charles and Parliament. While there were those in Parliament who were inclined to give some latitude to the governors in the colony, Charles was firmly against any such thinking. Gerry and Hancock knew that the trouble in England at this point was possibly beyond repair. Parliament was increasingly independent of the Crown, and Cromwell and the Roundheads were ready to once again go to war in the struggle for justice and religious freedom. Hancock and Gerry believed that while England was caught up in the thrall of civil war, Massachusetts might find itself free of meddling from mother England. Commerce was beginning to prosper, and the population was swelling with refugees from England’s poverty and religious upheaval. America, they believed, was going to be a place of God’s special calling and provision. As some of the preachers were saying in America, it was God’s “beacon on the hill,” a place of blessing and abundance especially prepared and set apart for those who sought unfettered worship of God and freedom. Some even likened America to the Promised Land, the destination prepared for God’s chosen people on their journey away from an evil captivity in Egypt.

Upon our arrival in London we found a place vastly different from the one we had left over twenty years ago. Edwin Carr had arranged for us to stay with him and Jacob at his quarters at the Massachusetts Bay Company. After a day of rest from our journey, we arranged to go to the mission to see Shepherd. We had not had time to inform him that we were coming to visit, but I had been assured by him in previous letters that he had no travel plans due to his busy schedule at the mission. Our visit would be a happy surprise!

 Margaret and I approached the mission early in the morning as breakfast was being prepared. Just like the first time I approached the mission, I was struck by the smells that met my nose. This time, however, there was not the stench of rotting food and diseased bodies. There was the smell of fresh bread baking in the kitchen. Shepherd insisted that the people who were served in the mission, when able, must serve others who were coming in. He believed that this allowed them to have the dignity of service to others – a factor in complete healing.

I walked into the door from a little alley just off Livery Street. Margaret told me to greet him alone at first. Edwin and Jacob stayed with her and showed her the area around the mission. I approached the kitchen area and saw a baker kneading dough to make another loaf of bread.

“Pardon me, sir, could you tell me where I might find Dr. Shepherd?” I asked.

The man turned, hands covered in sticky dough, and flour dusting his clothes. His beard was white flecked with flour, and he broke into a huge grin.

“Dr. Greene, are you here to help me bake bread?” he asked.

I rushed forward to embrace him, immediately becoming a dusty, sticky mess.

“Joseph,” I said, “you are now a baker?”

“I am so blessed to see you, Luke!” he said. “You decided after all these years to visit me, but give me no warning! A man my age could drop dead with shock!” he said teasingly.

“Shepherd, you are no older than me. But as I think of it, my wife told me I need to see you before I die. We are aging, aren’t we?” I replied.

“Yes,” he said. “Let me finish this loaf of bread so that we can have a nice long visit before we pass away!”

“I will get Margaret, Jacob, and Edwin. I am certain that they are anxious to see you as well.”

“Yes, please do that,” he said. “This is a wonderful day!”

We sat for hours catching up on our years of separation. He told me of his abduction, his confrontation with Oliver Cromwell, his disaffection with King Charles, and the decisions that he, and many others, would soon need to make regarding allegiance to the Crown or Parliament.

I told him of our grandchild’s latest development, my practice in medicine in America, and the successes I saw with his methods. Jacob, now a fine sailor and traveler in his own right, talked of world trade, and the slave trade, which was growing. While he and Edwin Carr had left the employ of the London & Western Trading Company for the Massachusetts Bay Company, they still ran into some interference from old Andrew Kensington and his unholy band of traders and thieves. Indeed, Jacob told of a trip just last year where he was sailing a ship bound for Virginia, then to the West Indies, which involved salt cod bound for the slaves in the Caribbean. This had become a rather large market for the slavers, who fed plantation slaves with the cheaper lots of salt cod that did not meet London standards. Kensington’s people at London & Western did not like the price of the cod, which they had originally agreed to. When they declined full payment for the shipment, Jacob unloaded half the cargo of fish at Jamestown, and readied his ship to sail back to his Boston port with the other half. He had reasoned that Kensington’s price was half of what he had promised. He said that “London & Western can deliver this cargo to the West Indies.”

About one day’s journey out heading home, his ship, the Boston, was overtaken by a schooner raider equipped with just four cannon. The fast, agile raider was built to prey upon unarmed trading ships – “a small pirate ship,” Jacob called it. The little schooner fired upon the Boston twice, then moved in to make another firing run at the defenseless Boston.

The schooner moved closer and closer, wanting to board us and seize my ship,” Jacob continued. “I hoisted a white flag to surrender. I was hoping that this move would spare my ship damage as well as loss of life.”

Shepherd was completely absorbed in this tale, and burst forth with a question before Jacob could finish.

“What happened next?” Shepherd blurted.

Jacob looked a bit sheepish as he answered.

“They honored my white flag, assuming that they had an easy cargo,” said Jacob.

“So they seized your ship?” he asked.

“Well, they honored the white flag, but I did not,” smiled Jacob. “As the schooner pulled up alongside us, three of my crew and I put our hands out to show we had no weapons. They pulled closer and told me to receive the extended ropes to bring the ships closer so that they could board. We stepped forward to receive our unwelcome visitors and help with the grappling hooks that they extended. Upon my word, my three officers and I fell to the deck, and fifteen of my crew fired a volley of musket fire into the crew of the schooner. Immediately upon firing, they were handed fifteen more loaded muskets, which were then again unloaded on the brigands. I left out the detail that I hire only the best marksmen I can find,” he smiled. “The crew of the schooner was decimated by those volleys. If there were any left on board, they did not show themselves, for we heard no more sounds from that vessel. The “captain” – dirty pirate he was – was killed quickly by the first volley fired. We then towed the schooner back to Boston, where it has become part of our fleet.”

“Another of Lord Kensington’s schemes to rob, thieve, and destroy,” I said. “I came close at one time to being a part of that awful group.”

Margaret showed surprise.

“You were going to join his company?” she asked.

“Until I received a better offer from Dr. Shepherd, yes, I considered it. Don’t you remember me discussing that with you at the Boar’s Head when I first met you?” I asked.

She blushed.

“I try to forget about who I was then,” she said softly.

“You were no different than me,” I said.

“None of us needs to worry about our past,” said Shepherd. “What is forgiven is gone, and we are all forgiven as we acknowledge our sins,” he said.

Shepherd and I stayed at the Mission while the others went back to our quarters. I wanted to talk with him further about his plans, especially in light of the coming of another civil war, which we all knew was coming.

“On what side do you land?” I asked Shepherd.

“I take no sides,” said Shepherd.

“You may not choose sides, Joseph, but they will choose you,” I said. “You are a man of influence, a man of science, and a man of integrity. People will follow you, and the sides are going to chase you.”

“Cromwell said something of the same sort,” said Shepherd. “I am not sure I agree with that, however.

“Joseph,” I interrupted, “you have written in medical and scientific journals, you have ministered to the King of England, met with leaders and traveled to many countries. You have more influence and power than you realize. Even now, Thomas Hancock and Thomas Gerry are meeting with King Charles, and they told me that you have had profound influence on them. They are trying to build a new future in America, and some believe that such ideas have been planted by you. William Bradford spoke of this a great deal in his Mayflower Compact writings. Henry Adams attributes to you his ideas of a democracy which can govern without the entangled mischief of the Crown. John Milton has written to Henry Adams in a letter just several months ago that you were an influence on him in his ideas of republicanism and governance by will of the people. I did not realize that you have been so naïve in your own influence,” I concluded.

“If that is all true, I suppose that I am flattered, but influence is not my goal, unless it be for what God’s will is,” he said.

“Joseph, everyone who has an opinion on the governance of England and America believes that they are led by God, you know that. Someone must be right, but some must be wrong. I do think, my friend, that if you come down on some side in this conflict, I would wager that God is on your side!” I chuckled.

Shepherd laughed at this as well.

“Please do not wager on it, Luke,” he said. “You never did very well in that area, as I recall!”

                       Chapter 53

I don’t know if Shepherd would have ever decided on what position he could or should take in the growing likelihood of another civil war. He was close to William Harvey, who still had ties to the Crown, but he too was disinclined to ally with either faction. It was now April, 1648, and tensions were heightened between Parliament and the Crown. There were rumors of battles in Scotland between Scottish troops employed by King Charles to confront Cromwell’s New Model Army.

I was with Shepherd the next morning after he had asked me to join him in seeing his patients for the day. One could never know who might come through the door next – a poor wretch who had a wasting disease, a stabbing victim from a tavern brawl, or a young waif whose intent was to beg money, or, as commonly happened, to try and steal money.

A wagon pulled up outside the mission with two soldiers from the New Model Army. The soldiers had apparently been ambushed by a roving gang who were followers of the Crown. Quite probably, they were from a group with which Shepherd was familiar – followers of Oliver Craft and the men he worked for.

One of the men was stabbed in the back, and while in pain, he was not likely to die from his wounds. The other man had been beaten with a club, and he was in much worse condition. His head was bloody, and his nose was broken and displaced. The grenadier in charge of the small cohort of soldiers who accompanied the injured men was intent on getting quick help for his fallen soldiers.

“Be quick now,” he barked at Shepherd. “These men were hurt in the service of Parliament and the English people.”

I took some offense at the insolence shown to my friend Shepherd. Having been in America for so many years, I was shocked  that some lowly military man would so disrespect a physician. I certainly was not used to such treatment, and, in fact, had come to expect deference.

“See here, man,” I said. “You are to speak with respect to people in authority. As a man of the military I would expect more from you.”

The soldier was startled, and I suspected that he was trying to decide what to say.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” he finally said. “I just want my men to be cared for.”

“And they will be,” I said.

Shepherd looked at me and smiled but said nothing. He was already assessing the situation with the new patients. After treating the men, Shepherd suggested that we watch both of them for a time at the mission, and he told the officer of the New Model Army of our plan. The officer, now much more compliant, thanked us for our work, and told us that he would pass on to Mr. Cromwell how helpful we had been.

“In the coming weeks,” he said, “I suspect that you will be getting more of our men, but a lot more of the filthy Crown-followers!” he laughed.

“We are not looking for patients, and I detest the war that is looming,” said Shepherd.

The officer then looked at Shepherd and said, “Who do you back?”

“It seems that is all people want to know,” said Shepherd. “I back the policies that ensure peace and safety to people.”

“Well then, you must be a follower of Cromwell!” the officer said.

“Yes, well, believe what you would like,” said Shepherd as he turned to go back into the mission.

I spent the next several days with Shepherd at the mission, and he told me of his travel to visit Queen Christina of Sweden, and his eventual meeting with Rene Descartes.

“You would like Descartes,” said Shepherd. “He is a man of faith, with clearly a first-rate mind for science. As such, he seems to be suspected by people of faith as well as men of science. Odd, isn’t it, that one can be held in low regard by those who must have a clear choice of viewpoints?” he concluded.

I suspected that there was some self-revelation taking place in that statement. I had seen the same for Shepherd. His strong faith drew some people who wanted simple answers to hard questions. At the same time, his willingness to have scientific curiosity offended those same people.

His friend Descartes elevated the thinking of people. His belief in the power of the inquisitive natural mind put the power of the Church against him. Yet he was a deeply spiritual man. Shepherd saw this as another marker of God’s plan to give man a searching mind, for at the end of that search through a complex and marvelously made world, surely man must find the Creator of it. Shepherd embraced science and believed that it was a clear sign of God’s hand. How better to know the world and those in it than to follow the natural wonder of creation. Shepherd’s search had taken him to the capitals of Europe, meeting with kings and queens, philosophers, writers, even popes. Yet he received his greatest satisfaction working with these poor people of London in this mission.

I was nearing my time to take Margaret to visit some old friends from my past. She knew little of my distant past, my first marriage, and the people whom I knew from my schooling. I was feeling that this was my last visit to England, now that America was home, and I needed to see some people before I died. The rumblings of a mind starting to prepare for a next phase of life, I supposed.

Late one night, as I prepared to tell Shepherd of my plans, we were startled by the appearance of Charles Stuart, the King of England standing in our front door!

Shepherd addressed him, “My Lord, how can we be of service to you?”

Shepherd had probably repeated those words many times as Royal Physician with Harvey, so it came naturally in a most unnatural setting.

“It appears as if I am needing to flee for my life,” he said, but he was eerily calm as he said those alarming words.

“Is it true?” asked Shepherd.

“Yes,” replied the king, “I am told that Parliament has issued a writ ordering me to appear in that chamber. I have avoided receiving a copy of that writ, so it is just hearsay at this point. If I fail to appear, I could be taken into custody by Cromwell’s soldiers. If that happens, I fear that harm may befall the Crown. Can you imagine?” he asked.

While I thought about the implications of this, Shepherd was much more aware of the danger to the king. He had been observing this slow deterioration of reverence for the Crown, which had now gotten to the place of utter contempt for many. There had been some rumors that Parliament would be taken over by the more radical types, and that, indeed, the king’s welfare might be in jeopardy.

“May I seek refuge here until my quarters in Colchester Castle are ready?” he asked.

“Yes, your majesty,” replied Shepherd quickly. “There is no official notice that you are under arrest, so I can offer asylum without legal repercussion, I believe.”

Shepherd had not only eased the king’s troubled mind, he afforded him the gesture of calling him by a name seldom used anymore – “your majesty.” The tone of the country had become simpler in every way. Puritan thought and the Protestant influence in general had led to the desire to shed any deference to images of power and wealth. Catholic and papal authority was seen as unscriptural, as the Bible began to be read more by common people. French and Spanish monarchs who were under the influence of the Catholic realm were despised and feared. Charles Stuart was seen as at least friendly with Catholic thinking if not actually supportive. The reaction against privilege and wealth was becoming angry, even lethal. Charles Stuart was convinced of the divine right of kings, and he could not imagine why people were so ready to depose, maybe even kill him. Yet he knew that his life was likely in danger.

Shepherd took Charles around to the side entrance of the mission in the alley as the king’s footmen unloaded a few trunks. On this journey, the king only carried the most basic needs, while much of the rest of his belongings were sent ahead to Colchester Castle. Actually, the king had misled us just a bit, as we later found out. Colchester Castle was perfectly ready for him to go directly there. His stop at the mission was to see if his entourage to the castle was being followed. If the supply train were captured, he would still be safe in the mission. He was accompanied by only three royal guards in order to keep the secret mission as simple as possible. Charles believed that he was relatively safe in the mission, since any leaks might disclose the trip to Colchester Castle, but not likely his stay at the mission.

I wondered how long we would be harboring the fugitive king. Once again, it appeared that Shepherd and I were in a very dangerous spot. Shepherd went about his business of tending to the sick, taking in weary and wounded souls from the street. King Charles of England had now become just our latest wounded and weary soul.

                       Chapter 54

Anne and Andrew Kensington had found a way to complete the deal with Cardinal Mazarin for the shipment of muskets to the French government. She and Andrew profited handsomely from the deal, even if some of the profits had to go to the men on the docks who loaded the guns, and the trade brokers who helped to label the crates as “scrap lead.”

Anne was in no mood to be beaten by the old man, however, in the matter of his will. She felt entitled to half his estate for having put up with him and his arrogance and foul treatment for so many years. She also believed that King Charles owed something to her for all she had done to help defend the monarchy from the villainous rebels that Parliament now supported. Charles was in no position to recompense her now.

Her contacts within the king’s court had told her of the king’s recent flight for Colchester Castle. Her best source in the court told her the actual truth – that Charles would be at the Jacob Carr Mission for some time before the final trip to Colchester, as a way to get the rebels off his trail. Anne saw this as a unique opportunity that could resolve her problems. If her clever new plan worked, she could curry favor with the Parliament, gain revenge on Charles, and exact justice from Andrew Kensington. She just needed a little help and perhaps a lot of luck.

Malcolm Spencer was a Royalist sympathizer who was in the employ of Anne. Lately, he had been vacillating in his support for Charles, and had told Anne that he could see that the landscape was changing rapidly. She had asked him to invite Andrew to a secret meeting at the Jacob Carr Mission. The ruse was to lure Andrew to the mission as a “safe place to meet which no one would suspect,” in order to discuss some sensitive matters about the Crown. Andrew Kensington was never loyal to any particular system of government, whether it be monarchy, republic, or some combination. What he did not want was anarchy. He needed stability of government so that his commercial activities could proceed. He would pay or bribe whomever he needed, and he did not care whose pocket it went into. As long as he could proceed without disturbance, he was willing to pay a certain price for the unfettered practices he enjoyed.

Spencer had sent Lord Kensington a letter through an intermediate asking him to meet at 10 p.m. at the Jacob Carr Mission on the evening of May 12th. The topic would be a discreet discussion of those men closest to King Charles and how they could be used to influence the King to abdicate the throne. Charles’ eighteen-year-old son could be placed on the throne in his father’s stead, and he would be much more pliable than his father.

Lord Kensington took the bait and decided to meet Malcolm Spencer at the mission. Kensington was intrigued by the idea of being a kingmaker. All his life he had done business with kings, financiers, bankers, even cardinals, but he had not been in the position of actually changing a regime. His desire to wield this power overcame any sense of danger that might be attached to it.

Near 10 p.m., Spencer arrived at the Mission and waited for Kensington. Shortly thereafter, Kensington arrived with a bodyguard. This was not unusual for Kensington, as he had advanced in years and felt increasingly vulnerable physically. Spencer noted the fact that Kensington was not alone, and while he was not surprised at this, he decided to feign anger and put Kensington on the defensive right away.

“Kensington, you fool! I told you to come alone,” said Spencer.

“You did not say that, Mr. Spencer. I am accompanied these days by my guard. Besides, why should I trust you?” he asked.

“By calling this a secret meeting, one which requires the utmost discretion, you should have known to come alone!” said Spencer. “He is here now, so let it be. I must be certain that he can be trusted, however.’

“He has been my personal guard for over five years,” said Kensington. “He can be trusted.”

“Very well,” said Spencer. “Keep your man here to be on guard for us, and come with me down the alley to the side entrance.”

“Very well,” said Kensington, and he instructed his man, Coleman, to stand guard as they walked toward the Mission.

“King Charles will be there to discuss some details about his escape. He will need our help to ensure that his son, Charles, will be named as his successor. Many of us believe that Parliament will accept this gesture in order to save the Monarchy, and also to avert another, bloodier, civil war,” concluded Spencer.

Kensington looked at Spencer, incredulous.

“Are you saying that King Charles is here?” he said.

“Of course he is. I was quite sure you knew that,” Spencer lied.

“And he is planning abdication on his own?” continued Kensington. “You led me to believe that he needed to be convinced of that idea.”

“Things change, Andrew,” said Spencer as he walked closer to the side entrance of the mission.

“Then why do you need me now?” asked Kensington.

“Money, connections in Holland where he is seeking asylum, and perhaps one of your merchant ships to give him cover as he travels,” Spencer concluded.

Kensington was overwhelmed with the suddenness of this information.

“All those things will take me time,” Kensington finally stammered.

Spencer smiled, happy that Kensington seemed to be in agreement with the plan, and said, “Of course, Andrew, but we do not have much time. Now let us speak with the King and discuss these things.”

Spencer then lifted his lantern high above his head as if to see a bit further down the dark alley. As soon as the lantern was lifted, four men emerged from the shadows and grabbed Kensington. Another four men had already grabbed Coleman, gagged him, and dragged him into the bushes.

“What goes here?” demanded Kensington.

Spencer gave no answer, but said to the four hooded men who had Kensington,” Here is the traitor who wants to help Charles Stuart escape. If you follow me, I will lead you to ‘your king,’” he said, dripping sarcasm.

“That is why we came here,” said the leader of the group. “We don’t care much about this old man, but if he is part of the plot, we’ll take him too,” he said.

“Indeed he is!” said Spencer. “He was just telling me about his plan to spirit Charles out of the country to Holland in one of his merchant ships. Lady Anne Kensington can verify all of this if he ever makes it to a trial,” said Spencer.

“Trials ain’t what we are here for,” said the hooded man. “We came for Charles Stuart, present King of England, but soon prisoner of the New Model Army.”

Kensington by now was also gagged and bound as he feebly struggled against his captors. The soldiers banged on the door of the mission. It did not take too long for a response. People at the mission were used to late-night banging on the door from some wretch who needed food, shelter, or bandaging. Sister Clarice of the Order of the Poor Clares answered the door. The soldiers pushed through, knocking Clarice down in their haste to capture a king. She cried out, and this alerted others to come to her aid, but the soldiers leveled their muskets all around, and soon the other four soldiers joined them in the foyer of the mission.

“Just hand over Charles Stuart, and we will not bother anyone else in the mission,” the Captain said.

Shepherd came down the stairs and asked the Captain what his business was at the mission.

“We have come to take Charles Stuart into our custody,” he said.

Shepherd responded, “The King has asked for asylum here, and he is under our protection.”

“You cannot protect him, sir,” said the Captain. “I am ordered to bring Charles Stuart into custody to face trial before Parliament. I am under such orders from Mr. Oliver Cromwell, Protector of England and leader of the New Model Army. I am prepared to use force if I must.” As he said that, the other seven soldiers raised their weapons and pointed toward Shepherd. “You will hand him over, or you will be the first to die here tonight,” said the Captain.

I was ministering to Sister Clarice at the side of the foyer as this unfolded. Shepherd was determined.

“I cannot allow violation of this safe sanctuary. I have made a promise of protection for King Charles, and I am bound to honor it,” he said.

Two of the soldiers cocked their muskets. The clicks sent chills through me as I anticipated an imminent murder of my dear friend.

“I will produce him for you!’ I said.

The Captain looked over at me and said, with some relief, I believe, “Someone with sense in this building.”

Shepherd shot a glance at me that signaled his disappointment.

“He is upstairs,” I said, “but there are guards.” As I said that, I realized that those guards were likely to be of no use to the king. If they were truly his guards, they would have engaged the soldiers before now, and maybe perished in his defense. But these guards did not have such loyalty. I wondered if they had already found a way out of the mission.

I led the soldiers up the stairs toward Charles’ quarters. I pounded on the door, but there was no response. Indeed, there was no sound at all. I pounded again and heard nothing. The Captain, now impatient, hurled himself at the heavy door, but it did not budge. Finally, he ordered one of his men to shoot away the lock. He stepped close and blasted his musket at the lock, sending shards of wood and metal into the area around us. The noise was deafening and frightening. The door swung open to reveal no one present. The Captain looked at me angrily.

“Your little ruse will get you all in a great deal of trouble!” he screamed.

I was shocked that Charles was gone. I went down the stairs to see Shepherd, and I told him what had transpired upstairs. The soldiers were now spreading out around the mission, looking for a royal treasure that had just eluded them.

“Joseph,” I said, “Charles is gone!”

“I know,” he said calmly. “I saw a lantern at the edge of the Mission about ten minutes before they knocked down poor Sister Clarice at the side door. I alerted the guards and they whisked the king away down through the cellar and out a secret passageway. As you recall, this building was part of a stable that Jacob Carr tried to burn down years ago. He had told me that story and that his band of thieves used it as a clandestine hideaway for several years. They had built in a secret tunnel through the cellar. I think that there is hardly anyone left who knows about that passage now that Jacob is gone.”

The New Model Army Captain came up to me and Shepherd and gruffly told us that we were under arrest for harboring a fugitive from justice. I had unwittingly become a traitor to the state of England by enabling the king to escape. Shepherd and I were in deep trouble.

Unfortunately for Andrew Kensington, he was probably in worse trouble. The soldiers were in a foul mood after having “lost their prey.” Capturing the King of England would have landed them great honors from Cromwell and Parliament. Now they faced possible discipline for failing in that attempt. They ungagged Kensington and demanded to know where the king had gotten off to. They thought that this was part of his scheme to spirit the king out of England to Holland, and they were none too pleased with him. Kensington was completely bewildered by the whole affair. He truly had no idea what had just transpired, but his protestations were discounted as further lies and cover-ups.

The soldiers began to slap the old man when he failed to answer their questions. He was now completely terrified, trembling from fear and from rage.

“Tie him to that tree over there,” said one of the soldiers, “and we’ll just flog him until he tells us what we want to know.”

Kensington could hardly stand as they dragged him bound to the tree. They tied his hands so that he was hugging the tree, and they ripped off his shirt. One of the guards took a whip from his coach that he had used often on his poor horses when they failed to respond as he wished. At the first lash, Kensington screamed in pain. He knew that he could not withstand many more lashes like that.

“I know how he escaped!” said Kensington.

“Tell us now, or I will just have Roberts whip you to death!” screamed the soldier in charge of this grisly affair.

“Please, please,” said Kensington. “I am an old and sick man. If you whip me more I am sure to die. I know how he must have escaped,” he repeated. Roberts lowered the whip, as his superior motioned him to do.

“Tell us!” he said.

Kensington said, “I had no idea that the king was even here when I came tonight, but I think I know what has happened. I suspect that Shepherd and his cohorts smuggled him out through the secret passage off the cellar. Jacob Carr and I would meet there at times when this was a stable attached to a brewery. The brewery cellar survived a fire in the stables. Shepherd turned this into the Jacob Carr Mission after Carr himself died in a fire at the Franciscan mission many years ago. Shepherd must have known about the passage from Carr, with whom he became friendly after some kind of conversion that Carr had. He must have escaped in that way,” Kensington concluded.

“Go into the mission and look for the cellar. Take Shepherd and his friend to show you. Torture them if you must. We will do what we need in order to capture our prize. We are not going back to Mr. Cromwell without Charles Stuart!”

                       Chapter 55

Shepherd and I were already bound by the time some of the other soldiers came to us in a very bad state of mind.

“These two know where Charles Stuart went. In fact, they enabled his escape,” one said.

I squirmed at this accusation, knowing what might lie ahead. I had heard the screams of poor Kensington, and I suspected that it might be me screaming soon.

“Where is Charles Stuart?” asked the leader, a man we now knew was named Mullins.

“We do not know where he is,” I said.

“But you do know how he left, and where that passage leads,” said Mullins. “You must show us where that secret passage is!” he demanded.

I was now very uncomfortable, knowing that Shepherd would not give up any information, just for the sake of principle. Just then Shepherd spoke up.

“James Mullins?” he said to the leader.

“Yes,” glared Mullins.

“Was your father Dr. James Mullins?” asked Shepherd further.

“Yes he was,” said Mullins, now curious, but still skeptical.

“Did you and your father make the trip on the Mayflower as you had planned?” asked Shepherd.

“Yes, we did,” said Mullins. “And how did you know my father?”

“He was a good man,” said Shepherd. “He worked with Dr. Greene and me many years ago when we were on the ill-fated ship the Intrepid. He told us how your uncle died at the hands of tyranny, and that he was dedicated to standing for his convictions. He had also decided to pursue a medical life in order to help others. Is your father well?”

Mullins flushed and responded, “No, he is dead. Dead at the hand of that murderous traitor Charles Stuart!”

“I am so sorry to hear that,” said Shepherd.

Mullins paused, then said, “You are Joseph Shepherd!”

“Of course! I knew that name was familiar. My father told me about his encounter with you and Dr. Greene several times. He related that he was touched by your ideas, as well as your courage. He took courage himself from your example, brief as that was. It came at a very important time in his life.”

I now remembered the encounter with Mullins all those years ago as he had boarded the Intrepid in search of plague before it was allowed into Plymouth. I spoke up.

“It was your father who showed courage that day,” I said. “He volunteered for a mission which put him directly into harm’s way. Tell us how this terrible deed of your father’s death happened.”

Mullins told the other soldiers to wait outside as he took Shepherd and me to the kitchen to sit down. He seemed to be in no hurry now. Shepherd took the cue about the current situation and asked one of the Sisters to make some tea. We would sit and talk for a while.

Mullins began, “You see now why I want to pursue this criminal. My father was a good man, a kind man, a man of principle. He stood against Charles in his insatiable need to tax everything in the kingdom to raise money when he failed to convene Parliament to legally do so. He had my father hanged just three years ago. He had returned from America on a delegation to pursue more relief from taxes. Then he stayed on for a little longer in England when he was asked to run for a seat in Parliament. He did not win that election, but he was implicated during that election as having been treasonous to the Crown. We never were able to determine who arranged for his arrest, and how the charges were trumped up. My father was not one to be a political man, and I think he trusted people too quickly,” concluded Mullins.

Shepherd addressed him.

“James,” he began in a warm and familiar tone, “I know that your father was a good man who deserved much better than the treatment he received. You may also know that I served as an assistant to William Harvey as physician to the king. I have no real political position regarding Charles, but I did and do have the responsibility to honor my promise to harbor him in safety at this mission. I cannot reveal where he is – indeed, at this time I do not know. But I know that he did leave through a secret passage that exists in this building, as you have been told. I simply cannot lead you to the passage,” he concluded.

“My men are searching all around the area,” said Mullins. ‘It would be helpful if you would help us to narrow the search. But I do understand your position of honoring a trust. I do need to arrest you two, but I will not inflict any harm upon you, for my father’s sake. I will deliver you safely to Mr. Cromwell, and I will give you my word of honor about fair treatment.”

“Thank you, James,” said Shepherd. “We will go with you, but we must beg that no other person in the Mission be arrested or held culpable for this. It was my decision alone. Indeed, Dr. Greene had no part in the decision to harbor King Charles, nor was he even aware that he had escaped. He still does not know where the passage is, and he should be completely exonerated and allowed to go free.”

“I respect your position, Dr. Shepherd, but I cannot decide that. That is for Mr. Cromwell or a jury to decide.”

The other soldiers were getting restless outside as they now spread out to search for the missing monarch. Malcolm Spencer had told the soldiers that he would take responsibility for watching Andrew Kensington. Kensington’s man, Coleman, bound and gagged in the bushes, was, apparently, slowly suffocating.

Kensington, now alone in the presence of Spencer, was starting to regain his senses from all that had happened that evening.

“You trapped me into this despicable plot, you scoundrel!” he hissed at Spencer.

“Treat me well, Lord Kensington. You are in no position to disrespect me,” he said airily.

“Who put you up to this?” asked Kensington.

“Many people hate you, Lord Kensington. Perhaps you can pass the time deciding who hates you enough to plan for your demise. But as far as I am concerned, you simply had bad fortune – having New Model Army soldiers appear as you try to meet with the King you are so loyal to,” he said.

“Spencer, we both know that this was a planned ambush. I did not even know that the king was here!” Kensington nearly shouted.

“Yes,” said Spencer, “you keep saying that until people believe it – but they never will!” he laughed. “They never will.”

The night passed with a fruitless search for Charles and his guards. In fact, they had never left the security of the passage itself and never appeared above ground. A large chamber opened up off the tunnel, and it was stocked with provisions for several days. Shepherd and I were incredibly fortunate that Mullins had treated us so well. He could have, indeed would have, tortured the information out of us had Shepherd not remembered him and his father. I know that I would have quickly given whatever information I knew (which I did, alas, not possess) under torture. Shepherd likely would not have given in quickly if at all. I was just grateful that Mullins showed mercy because of the legacy of his father’s character. He had taken risk himself for this protective action toward us.

In the morning, we were packed off into a cart, bound but not gagged. The soldiers found poor Coleman dead in the bushes in the morning and simply dug a shallow grave near the mission and dumped his body into it – another unfortunate victim of the Civil War who died in secrecy and intrigue. We were not gagged, but we were instructed to keep quiet or we would have a club to the head to quiet us. Kensington was not one to listen to orders, and he was livid about his situation. He wanted to tell everyone how he was being set up for a crime he did not commit. Kensington glared at Shepherd and me as we sat together. We had been through some adventures in both America and England, and we were now well-defined enemies. Kensington continued to tell us, the soldiers, and some people who gathered in the morning sunlight, about his mistreatment. He was beginning to get louder as he saw a group of people gather, and suddenly he felt a club fall on his kidney. He slumped in pain, and he was silent for the rest of the journey to Whitehall. The once proud Kensington was now reduced to a sick and pitiful old man, subject to the whims and authority of any soldier who decided to humiliate or subdue him. How like Charles Stuart, I mused…

We pulled up to Whitehall to witness a gathering crowd. There seemed to be no secrets in London these days, and word had quickly spread that the King was in hiding, the New Model Army was in pursuit, and collaborators who were trying to hide the King were being brought in to be questioned.

We were taken into dark rooms to be questioned, each of us interrogated alone. I was questioned first, likely because I was seen as least culpable. I was treated with some respect and dignity. I wondered what the purpose of this questioning was, but I quickly determined that they had no interest in me. A visitor from America who had no dealings with any politics was not their target. I was going to be used to get at Shepherd or Kensington.

I was asked about my relationship with Joseph Shepherd – why was I visiting from America? Was Shepherd plotting to get Charles out of the country, since he had so many contacts on the Continent? What were my plans about going back to America? Did I have any idea about the whereabouts of Charles Stuart?

Such questions went on for a long time – I lost track of the time, and I was getting both hungry and tired. That, I am sure, is what they had planned for the questioning. They wanted to break me down somehow. I held fast, answering questions as truthfully as I could. Finally, I was released to get some food. I had not eaten in a day, and I was famished. Even the dry bread and thin soup I was offered tasted good to me.

The questioning for Shepherd and Kensington was not as easy. Shepherd was being treated shamefully, beaten periodically if he did not answer to the satisfaction of the questioner.

“Mr. Shepherd,” said one of the brutes who questioned him, “tell us why you took in the fugitive Charles Stuart!”

He had heard this question numerous times by now, and he never wavered from the answer: “King Charles of England requested asylum at a place of healing and worship. It is in the best and highest traditions of Christianity to offer refuge for the oppressed, and to give help for the weak and broken people who seek it,” he said.

“Damn you!” said the jailer. “Charles Stuart is an enemy of the English people, and you harbored him as he ran from justice. You are guilty of treason, and you will be hanged or beheaded!”

“He has no warrant against him, sir,” said Shepherd.

“You would not know that, Shepherd. He may have had a warrant, and you did not know,” countered the guard.

“You saw soldiers of the New Model Army approaching your Mission, you knew that they were after your fugitive, and you willfully hid him and allowed him to make an escape,” said the jailer.

On and on this went for hours. Shepherd was hungry, tired, weak, and bleeding from the beatings he was receiving. He was terribly thirsty from the ordeal, and the jailer frequently took large draughts of water in front of him, keeping the jug just out of Shepherd’s reach. Then he would laugh at Shepherd, humiliating him because of his now distorted looks, matted and filthy hair, and the clothes that hung in tatters. Shepherd remained silent except when being questioned directly. He refused to break in the face of these illegal proceedings. He waited and he prayed, but he made no other defense to the guards.

In the other room, things were going very differently. Lord Kensington spoke with the jailer who questioned him.

“Young man,” he said, “I think you know that I have been set up by my enemies in this affair. I have no interest in defending Charles Stuart any more than I care about Oliver Cromwell or Parliament. But I do have money, and I am willing to spend it to, let us say, ‘resolve’ this situation.”

The guard was quite used to bribes and expected such a response.

“And how much money will I get for helping you speak to the right people?” he asked.

“Son, I will give you £100 just for the simple task of getting Mr. Robert Tarleton to come here right now,” he said.

The jailer did not blink, even though that sum was well more than a year’s wages for him.

“Make it £150 and I will do it.”

He had learned to never take the first offer. He also knew that, with such an offer, Kensington was rich as well as desperate.

“Off with you then, lad,” said Kensington, once again feeling in control because his money could be used to do so. The young jailer left the room only after getting a note of debt from Kensington. He departed, leaving Kensington shackled to the wall.

I was kept in a dank room, which had a small window near the top of the room. This let in a little light, and it kept a little bit of air moving to lower the stench just a bit. However, human wastes, mold, and rotting garbage made the place foul almost beyond words. Yet, in my current state of exhaustion, I curled up to sleep. The day was almost over already – a day that had been wasted in questioning about things that I knew nothing about. I had protected Shepherd as best I could, even shading the truth when I could slant it to make him look as ignorant as me. I knew nothing about Kensington’s involvement in the affair, and I never could make any sense of it. I knew that he was a friend of the Crown, but he had no personal liking or allegiance to anyone. I could hardly imagine that he wanted to help Charles Stuart, but I did not say that. I simply answered all questions about Kensington saying, “He is a man of means and cunning. I do not know what that man is capable of!”

Kensington’s connections began to come through for him as money began to pass hands to the proper people. By the next day, Kensington walked away from Whitehall’s holding prison. He had already found out that, indeed, Lady Kensington had arranged for his predicament. She had nearly gotten him killed, and perhaps had wanted that.

Shepherd alone remained in the horrid prison. I was released the next day, since they seemed to have a villain identified in Shepherd. He would face charges of treason for his role in harboring Charles and for allowing him to escape. I was consumed with fear and rage over this injustice. Shepherd had only taken in his King and followed through with the help he promised on his honor. At the time, Shepherd did not know for a fact that Charles was truly running from a legal warrant. In fact, it is still not clear whether there was a warrant at that time, but Charles acted as if his life was threatened, and, indeed, it truly was. Sorting this out in a court of law would be tricky, and the current political landscape was not in his favor. Day by day, Cromwell and the New Model Army took on the role of stable government, offering moral authority – something that the King could not do. Charles had made too many enemies with his perceived favor of the Catholic Church and his runaway taxing schemes. People wanted change, and change was going to happen. Those who stood in the way – Charles Stuart, Joseph Shepherd, and any MPs who were seen as loyal to the Crown – were going to be tried, and likely convicted.

I came home to Margaret and Edwin Carr and fell into their waiting arms. They sobbed with relief as I told them about the latest adventure I had with my friend Joseph Shepherd. This time, Joseph did not appear to be likely to survive it. I had a dream the same night that I was released from Whitehall. In the dream, I heard a strong but very gentle voice come to me from across the English Channel. I was in a ship, the Intrepid,I am quite sure. The voice said several times, “Where is Joseph Shepherd?”

“He is in prison,” I finally said.

“What will you do to get him released?” the voice asked with rising volume.

“I cannot get him released. I am helpless!” I cried, now in despair.

The voice was not pleased.

“You can get him released, and you must get him released!” the voice concluded.

“I am just a common man. I have no power!” I said weakly.

Now the voice was getting angry.

“You act weak as a newborn kitten, but you have more power than you realize!” it said. “Joseph Shepherd has many friends. You must call upon them for him, and you must do this quickly!”

I awakened in a sweat. I was crystal clear in remembering the dream – something very unusual for me. It seemed so real that I almost did not regard it as a dream. It was direction! Quickly I called in Edwin Carr and young Jacob. Margaret was mopping my wet head with a cloth, worried that I was losing my mind.

“You cried out in the night, saying that you were helpless and that you ‘could not get him released.’ What in heaven was going on with you, my dear?” Margaret asked.

“I must make a list of Joseph Shepherd’s friends,” I said.

“He has many friends,” they all said almost at once.

“Yes, I know,” I said, “but we must contact the friends of influence and power. Joseph needs help beyond what we can give, and I must make this effort!”

I started to write down the most obvious people who might intercede for Shepherd. William Harvey, well known and well respected, even if he had the taint of Charles Stuart, having been Royal Physician. Rene Descartes and his friend Queen Christina of Sweden, William Bradford, Henry Adams, Robert Boyle, John Milton. Even though Milton was a strong Cromwell man, he had great affection for Shepherd.

I immediately prepared letters to each of them, explaining the predicament that Shepherd was facing. He was going to go on trial for his life, and time was of the essence! Edwin Carr said that he and Jacob would get the letters on the first ships out to the ports needed to reach the recipients. A courier was hired to send letters to John Milton and William Harvey. We then simply fell on the floor to pray that the letters would reach open hearts and minds in time.


Moving Toward the Good

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.                                                                                        Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)

I was speaking with a client recently who had experienced significant trauma in her childhood. She was dealing with the added burdens of not being believed by others about her trauma, and the pain of loss and rejection she felt, and indeed still feels today.

We talked about the need to redefine herself, and not accept the confining narrative that has held her for so long. She needed to see that she has the power to define her own future. She can move toward an intended future that will be redemptive of her past pain. She can express that pain through her poetry, gardening, and other creative arts to redefine herself. She can see herself as a nurturer and as an artist, who will use her gifts, and even her pain, in the expression of hope for others for their healing, as well as her own.

The principle is that of “moving toward the good rather than just trying to avoid the bad”. Moving toward the good energizes us. Running away from the bad just eventually wears us out.

We choose to run toward the good, and take others with us!

Prayer: Lord, the pain we experience can be used for the good of others and for your Kingdom. Help us to see the ways to redeem the pain, Amen

Lou Gehrig and Other Heroes…

As I write this blog, it is June 2. This day has been designated as Lou Gehrig Day by Major League Baseball. Lou Gehrig died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, now better known as ALS, but in Gehrig’s day, the dreadful disease took on his name. He had become the face of the then barely know disease.

Gehrig faced this terrible disease with courage and character. On the day that he retired from baseball, knowing that he had a death sentence, he called himself “the luckiest guy on the face of the earth”. People who battle this disease, which progressively robs them of nearly everything, and eventually ends their life, fight it with amazing courage. I have walked through that struggle with one dear friend, and he and his family gave new meaning to courage and the sense of community it created around him.

Lou Gehrig is one of my heroes. All one need do is look at my office, and they will find no less than three pictures of Gehrig on my walls. However, there are many lesser known heroes who battle the disease themselves, or support those who do.

Huntington’s disease is in some ways similar to ALS, but is even lesser known. Huntington’s is a neurodegenerative disease every bit as devastating as ALS, but it has a genetic pathway which looms over every family with a history with the disease.

Another major league ballplayer, Joe Smith of the Houston Astros, along with his wife Allie LaForce, have been strong advocates of finding ways to eliminate this terrible disease. They too are heroes in this fight to deal with the devastating effects of the illness.

So, on this Lou Gehrig Day, I ask my readers to consider donating to either or both organizations to help the fight continue. I have included links for contact information. Let’s also pray for these families. They are not alone in the fight…

www.HelpCureHD.org

www.als.org

Prayer: Lord, we lift up those who suffer from grievous illness, no matter what the source. Help us to be your hands to help ease the suffering, Amen

Stephen and Saul

At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!”

 Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them.                                                                                                                                                                          Acts 7:57-59 (The Message)

We leave lasting legacies based upon our behaviors in life, and those legacies can last for many generations. We see here a picture of Stephen’s death as a martyr, and Saul, later to be named Paul, fully participating in that death. Yet Stephen left an indelible mark on Saul, which later was carried down through Paul’s writings, and which last even until today. That legacy is of grace, especially under fire.

We read in the passages above that Stephen was stoned for proclaiming the good news of Jesus, and even up to the point of his death, he was testifying of the grace and forgiveness of God. Saul was a willing participant in the death of Stephen, and, as we later see in Acts 9:1 he was still a cauldron of seething anger and hatred. Yet even while he was breathing out murderous threats on Christians, God was preparing him for an incredible mission for which he alone was suited. Was Saul ready for this work when he was participating in the death of Stephen? How much was Saul affected by the behavior of Stephen as he was being murdered?

I am reminded of Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

This powerful verse is exemplified in this scenario. Stephen, while dying, gives grace and forgiveness to his persecutors. Saul, while in the midst of rage and blind hatred, is being chosen by God for a special mission, and total forgiveness of his murderous sins.

Saul’s rage may actually have been intensified by seeing Stephen’s strong faith and supernatural grace in his gruesome death. This is called “conviction”. Saul was being deeply affected by Stephen’s behavior, and he was chosen by God soon after that event to have a life transformation. We are ready for life transformation when the hard shell of our defenses gets cracked by events that refute those beliefs. The Spirit rang true to Saul at the time when Jesus chose to manifest himself to Saul on the road to Damascus.

What are the legacies that we leave to those around us? How many great things are in store for the world if we simply choose to display grace under fire? Only God knows, and that should be all we care about.

Prayer: Father, we do not know the legacies we leave by our current decisions and actions. Give us grace and strength to be the models for those we do not yet know, Amen. 

Graduation Season…

A word to parents of graduates…

Congratulations on achieving a milestone! Loving and involved parents are perhaps the best indicator of future success for students. Your encouragement and support from early on in your child’s life sets the tone for a healthy self-image which lasts a lifetime. There is no substitute for unconditional love and acceptance, and the best news of all is that is the legacy you will set for your grandchildren. You can and do influence generations to come.

Allow your kids to dream big, and encourage them to live out their life mission. Remember, it’s their vision, not yours, that will propel them to achieve great things. You have been the “greenhouse” for their nurture and growth, now they can set out to accomplish what they have been equipped to do.

The values that you have inculcated in them will continue to become more prominent as they take on increasing responsibilities of jobs, families, and community involvement. What you have demonstrated in your day-to-day living will be much more significant than what you have taught them. Gradually, they are internalizing values that you have lived. What used to be external motivation is now becoming internal motivation that they have owned.

Your job is not finished by a long shot, because if your relationship with them has been set on solid ground, they will continue to seek your counsel, your support, and your companionship. Be prepared to enjoy this next exciting phase of life for both them and for you.

A word to graduates…

Congratulations on your achievement! Graduation is a milestone achieved through hard work and discipline. Indeed, learning hard work and discipline is the REASON you went to school. The information you learned is less important than the process that you learned. The discipline of delayed gratification, pushing through to the goal when you don’t FEEL like it, and the courage to come back from failure, are the most important tools that you can carry into the future.

I mentioned to your parents that they had a role in your self-image, and I trust that they imparted that to you well. You have the full responsibility of gaining your own self-esteem. I define self-esteem as the feeling you get when you have kept promises to yourself. If you can trust yourself by keeping those small promises that you made to yourself, you will have something that no one can take from you. From this comes confidence, willingness to take risks, and the knowledge that no one else will define who you are.

Finally, if you have not already done so, I hope that you have begun the process of determining your life mission statement. This is comprised of things you already have- namely, a recognition of your God-given talents and strengths; a set of life experiences (small now, but growing) which have helped to shape you; and your passion- what is the thing that you would do in this world even if you never got paid for doing it? Put those elements together, and you come up with the reason that you were put on planet earth. May you live out that mission for the benefit of yourself, and, more importantly, those around you.

Memorial Day 2021

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.                                               Philippians 2:3-4

“Patriotism is not just short, frenzied bursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steadied dedication of a lifetime.”                                                                                                                                                                                        Adlai Stevenson

“The willingness of America’s veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude.”                                                                                                                                                               Jeff Miller

“I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism.”                                                              Bob Riley

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends                                              John 15:13

The quotes above speak for themselves regarding the cost of patriotism. We who have never had the privilege of wearing a uniform to serve out country serve her by living sacrificially for the principles of freedom, honor, and service to others. We know that there cannot be love without sacrifice. Christians hold that Jesus was the ultimate lover of humanity as he gave his life to pay for the sins of humankind.

Our military veterans paid the price of love by sacrificing their bodies for the defense of their country. Many paid the ultimate price for that service.  All of us who love our country can serve her by the “tranquil and steadied dedication of a lifetime” as Adlai Stevenson stated.

On this Memorial Day, as we celebrate the sacrifice of our veterans, let us rededicate ourselves to serve our country by serving one another, taking the needs of others into primary account as we strive to make our country strong and healthy. As Alexis de Tocqueville was quoted as saying, “America is great because America is good”. Whether or not he actually said that, I believe that it is true. Let us make sure that we try to live into that quote.

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength to serve others as you served us through Jesus, Amen

Broken, Unbroken

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken… “                                                                     II Corinthians 4:7-11 (The Message)

Laura Hillenbrand wrote a beautiful book in 2010 titled Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It was the story of the incredible life of Louis “Louie” Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and subsequent World War II hero. The book is moving and uplifting. Zamperini’s life was one that needed to be celebrated, and Hillenbrand accomplished that well in her book. A subsequent movie about the book was also very powerful, if somewhat less inspiring than the book.

As we begin this Memorial Day weekend, we celebrate those who gave their lives in service to their country. Zamperini did not die in World War II. He survived the horrible ordeal of capture by the Japanese army, and terrible treatment in prison camps. It was only after the war that Zamperini suffered what we would now call PTSD, and he descended into alcoholism. His recovery from a life broken by war and torture is touching and carries hope.

We can see that Zamperini had a light, a Spirit in him, from early in life, but it was not fully exposed until after he had been broken by war and disease. He was strong, but he was breakable, as we all are.

God indeed has given us the treasure of the Holy Spirit in clay pots which are easily broken. Yet, those pots need to be broken in order for the light to shine out. Jesus said that we should not hide our light under a bushel. Indeed, we have this precious treasure of eternal life inside of very breakable clay bodies. When we yield that clay to God’s purposes, His light will certainly shine through.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the sacrifices that people have made to keep us free, and thank you for the Spirit that powers our lives, Amen

Ask, Seek, and Knock…

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” Matthew 7:7                                      

When thinking about this verse, and how to interpret it, I imagine being lost and asking for directions. Yes, it is true, I am a guy, and I do not readily ask for directions when lost. I would rather somehow intuit how to find my way, but that is a reflection for another day!

So, when lost and asking for directions, we need to be trusting of the direction giver, and then we need to follow the directions. I think that Jesus is inviting us to trust him in giving the directions for living a whole and healthy life. He also expects that we would follow those directions if we really want to get where we ultimately want to go. This act of trust is rewarded with his promise that the “ask will be granted, the journey will be successful, and the final destination will be accommodating”.

So, first we get the courage to ask- an act of humility. Meaning, my best efforts to date have gotten me totally lost! I better get some help!

 Having gotten the directions, we set out, seeking the destination- an act of faith. If we are good at following the directions, it is often a pretty direct route- one we had not realized before that moment.

Finally, when we get to the destination, we have not quite completed the task. We need to go up to the door and knock to gain entry- an act of courage. After all, it could be the wrong house, or perhaps even the right address, but we could be turned away.

So, to complete the journey, we need to have humility, faith and courage. Jesus calls on us to have all of those traits to live the completed life.

Prayer: Thank you for the simple plan of asking for help, and following your directions for success, Amen

Little Behaviors

“Change one thing and everything changes…”                                                                                       Nelson Mandela

I talk with my clients about the power of “little behaviors”. When we talk about some behavioral changes, I often take great pains to emphasize how small I want them to start. It can seem very daunting, and almost impossible to conceptualize it, when someone says “I need to change my attitude”. So, we have to start small to start to get a grip and produce some momentum

I mean first of all, congratulations on that insight. The recognition of the need for a change in    attitude is a very important insight and it should be affirmed. But where do you start? As you might have guessed from me, it changes by making tiny behavioral changes. For example, the simple thoughtfulness of sending someone we care about a random text that says “Thinking of you”, or “Love you”, may take ten seconds. It can give that person ten hours of good feeling.

A little behavior, such as doing a chore around the house for your partner when they are not expecting it, or offering to bring them a cup of coffee in the morning- these little behaviors communicate way more than we realize sometimes.

I tell my clients, “change one thing, change everything”. It is amazing how changing one little behavior communicates more than we can imagine sometimes.  Then we see that, having changed a few little behaviors, our whole attitude improves. Small behavior changes bring forth large effects.

Funny how that works.

Prayer: Lord, give us the prompts of your Spirit to make those little changes that mean so much, Amen