Places of Encouragement

Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness                                                                                                                                                    Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

It seems funny that a great encouragement can come from a book titled “Lamentations”. Yet, we get this great quote from a Bible book about national pain. Then again, maybe it makes all the sense in the world that an encouraging quote comes from a book about the lament of the destruction of Jerusalem- the literal worship center of the Israelites. The people who read these writings needed a great deal of encouragement. They got it in the middle of suffering.

Once again, the paradox of life always strikes me. We often get the greatest encouragement from those who are in the midst of suffering. In fact, it is much more meaningful to hear the story of an overcomer, and get encouragement from that, than it is to hear encouragement from one who has not known a great level of suffering. Don’t get me wrong, it is great to get encouragement wherever we can- we all need it. But to hear encouragement from an overcomer- that is deeply meaningful.

I have an old friend who has suffered all his life. He was born with a significant and debilitating epilepsy, and finally, at age 40, he received a surgery which essentially gave him almost complete relief. He got his driver’s license when he was 50, and he began driving others to appointments, doctor’s visits, etc. He has been on disability since he was a teenager because the brain damage he suffered in all those early years left him with some cognitive deficits that rendered him unable to do paid employment. Yet he has volunteered to serve others since he was about 20 years old, teaching disabled kids to learn how to swim. This guy volunteers almost everyday at a food pantry and other church ministries. This guy encourages others by his service every day.

 Let me tell you, that encourages me.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for encouragers! Amen

Tradition

Weep no more, my lady
No, weep no more, today
We sing one song
For my old Kentucky home
For my old Kentucky home
Far away.

(From My Old Kentucky Home, by Stephen Foster)

It pleases me that you continue to remember and honor me by keeping up the traditions of the faith I taught you. All actual authority stems from Christ.                                                                                          I Corinthians 11:2 (The Message)

Fiddler on the Roof is a great play and movie, so when I hear this word- Tradition-, I can’t help but think of Tevya on the roof, singing his haunting song. But today, I am thinking about some other traditions. One of them is the singing of My Old Kentucky Home before the Kentucky Derby. When the entire crowd sings along at the chorus, it just brings tears to my eyes. Why? I’m not sure. I am not from Kentucky, nor do I have southern roots. I suppose it is like the 7th inning stretch when the crowd stands and sings together Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Whenever my son and I go to a ballgame, we stand, put arms around one another’s shoulder, and sing this traditional ditty. Yes, that gets me teary too.

Collective acts like singing common songs, or having long-standing practices that we have memorialized into the culture are very reassuring and strengthening. Things that we can count on in a changing environment bring us a sense of comfort.

So today, if you watch the Derby (and I will, because it is a great tradition), listen to the song and see how people join in together. Oh, and by the way, the song is not a racist relic of the Old South as some may think. This little piece from Smithsonian magazine is worth noting…

 Few of those singing along, however, may realize that the original lyrics were not a “Dixie”-esque paean but actually a condemnation of Kentucky’s enslavers who sold husbands away from their wives and mothers away from their children. As Foster wrote it, “My Old Kentucky Home” is actually the lament of an enslaved person who has been forcibly separated from his family and his painful longing to return to the cabin with his wife and children.

Yes, it is good to visit the origins of our traditions too. Let’s just make sure that we try to hold on to traditions worth keeping.

Prayer: Lord, you give us memories and rituals to give comfort in changing times. Thank you for that plan, Amen

Prevenient Grace

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.                                                                                                    Isaiah 55:8-9

I am not a Bible scholar, nor am I a theologian. I am an observer of people and an admirer of grace. I recognize that there is much that I do not know about theology, but I do have a belief about the nature and character of God. He loves people. He loves his creation. He is not bound by our definitions, nor our understanding. He is sovereign, and he can do as he pleases, and I often do not understand his ways. But I trust them.

I feel comfortable with the answer “I don’t know”. I am OK with that position. In fact, in some cases, I don’t even know what I don’t know. The good news is that I do not need to have an answer for everything. I think too often we believe that there must be an explanation of why things happen, or “why does God do what he does?”

That is where this idea of prevenient grace comes in. My understanding of prevenient grace is that even before I have an inkling of who God is, or his power to redeem his creation, God provides grace for us to even begin the quest of understanding.  His grace is sufficient for my lack of understanding.

 I’m good with that.

Prayer: Thank you for the grace that you give, even before we know what grace really is, Amen

Learning Models

Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;
    collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
    set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
    and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.                                                                                  Proverbs 2:1-5 (The Message)

Sometimes when I am introducing a new concept for clients, I am asking them to do something that feels uncomfortable- at least initially. Gradually, when practicing a new behavior, they warm up to it and it then becomes familiar, and then routine. This typically prompts me to talk about a learning model. It looks something like this…

Stage I Unconscious Incompetence– This is the stage where we don’t even know what we don’t know. This can be a problem, because at this stage, we might not even know that we have a problem or a lack at all. It is invisible to us until it is pointed out, or we come to an understanding that we are missing something.

Stage II Conscious Incompetence– At this stage we have become aware that we have a lack of something or a problem and we can now begin to work on a remedy for this situation. This can be uncomfortable, and it takes some humility to accept this stage. However, that is crucial to go on to the next stage.

Stage III Conscious Competence – This is an uncomfortable stage where we begin to practice new behaviors in order to learn and grow. It may feel awkward, contrived, and it makes us anxious because we are engaging in behaviors that do not feel natural. We do them because they are said to be helpful. This may take some real trust.

Stage IV Unconscious Competence– This is where we finally begin to feel comfortable. We have practiced the new behavior often enough that it comes naturally to us.

I think of this in terms of my early counseling career. At the very beginning, I did not even know what I didn’t know. I needed to be around competent people and just learn from them. I started practicing techniques and methods which I had learned are helpful practices, and I applied these principles, but early on, it sure was not comfortable. Gradually, years in, I felt increasingly comfortable, and I can now practice with significantly less anxiety because I know myself and feel comfortable with what I do.

That does not mean that there are still some “Stage I” things out there for me. We always need to be ready to learn. There are certainly things that I don’t know that I don’t know, but I am open to that and can work my stages to grow.

Prayer: Lord, you have given us the ability to learn and grow, and it never stops, Amen

Thanatopsis

  Yet a few days, and thee   

The all-beholding sun shall see no more   

In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,   

Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,   

Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist   

Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim   

Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,

And, lost each human trace, surrendering up   

Thine individual being, shalt thou go   

To mix for ever with the elements,   

To be a brother to the insensible rock 

(From the poem Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant)

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.                                                                                                                                                                                 John 12:24

I am not trying to be a real downer here today, because discussion of death need not be. We don’t like to think about it, of course, but, of course, it will happen. I started thinking about this poem because I am sitting out on my patio on a completely gorgeous morning looking at a spectacular crabapple tree that I planted on the day that I buried our beloved family dog, Maggie. I decided to plant a tree right next to her, because this would be a way that she could, in a way, continue to live. Her remains nourished that tree (obviously named the “Maggie Tree”), and today it remains lush and life-giving itself.

The flowers of that tree give beauty to the back yard, and the leaves give shade to the Hostas- you know, they sort of like shade. The branches provide homes for numerous birds, and I cannot tell you how many nests have been there over the years.

William Cullen Bryant stated in the poem that…

  Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim   

Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,

And, lost each human trace, surrendering up   

Thine individual being, shalt thou go   

To mix for ever with the elements,   

    So it is in the circle of life. Death gives rise to new life- a perfect circle. The Bible speaks beautifully about this in many passages. The plan of creation and continuation of the life-cycle follow the laws of physics. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only altered in form. Matter and energy can go from one form to another, but it is never destroyed. Wow, what an amazing Creator!

Prayer: Lord we are awed by your plans for us and your creation, Amen

I See Your Point…

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

One of the instructions I give to clients in couples counseling is part of my “Fair Fighting Rules”. It goes like this… 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. 

I further explain to my clients that good attorneys can understand the argument of their opponent so well, that they can argue his/her case. This, of course, is in preparation for their own case, the one they argue on behalf of their client.

My point is, we need to be able to listen to and understand the viewpoints of those with whom we disagree. This may take a great deal of patience and discipline, but it is valuable in order to be able to see the world from another’s viewpoint.

We can, and do, become very convinced of our positions on certain things- politics, religion, and a cultural understanding of our world. We all have opinions, and that is good. It means that we are thinking and actually care about the world we live in.

However, when we are trying to connect with others, and have meaningful and thoughtful conversations, we would do well to try to put ourselves, as best we can, into their shoes to see the world from that angle too before we judge it.

Prayer: Lord, give us the patience to hear matters fully before we answer, Amen

Joseph Shepherd Chs. 41-43

Chapter 41

We returned to Cape Ann to find a broken place. Henry Adams had been released from his chains, and he was trying to organize and encourage a demoralized situation. There had been a loss of 41 men to death or desertion in the face of battle. Four of the men who had been wounded were in some stage of recovery, but we feared at least two would likely not survive. Women who had lost men were distraught. Many talked of leaving America to return to England. Margaret, little Jacob and Albert met us with complete joy. Our fears about being blamed or suspected of treachery were unfounded- or perhaps the people were too weary to pursue any kind of retribution or blame.

Margaret rushed up to me and hugged me tightly, weeping and laughing. I saw, for perhaps the first time that she cared deeply for me. I was overjoyed, but restrained. Henry and Albert Adams asked to meet with us to hear of our story and our version of the battle which had taken place.

Chepi wondered how she might be accepted at Cape Ann. Kelley was very protective of her, and she did not leave his side. Her pregnancy was not evident yet, and she wore a loose gown-like tunic which covered her almost completely. At some point the situation needed to be addressed, but not now. Mr. Kelley made it very clear that Chepi had been loyal to the English, and had served as a faithful interpreter during negotiations. Loyalty to Kelley from the settlement ensured that Chepi would be safe at Cape Ann. He told Henry Adams and some other leaders that he planned to have Chepi as his wife. Some in the camp may have been surprised, even offended, but the testimony of Shepherd and I affirmed that Chepi was a loyal and needed member of our settlement now. 

“Captain Braden, Edwin Carr and I were set against the attack”, said Henry Adams. “I was shackled, Captain Braden confined to quarters with Albert assigned to minister to his needs, and Edwin Carr was placed in provisional charge of the settlement since he refused to be part of the attack. Levine thought Edwin to be competent to be in charge while at the same time disappointed that he refused to enter the battle. Edwin chose a wise course of offering to be part of leading the camp while avoiding the misled attack”.   

Henry Adams reached out to Joseph Shepherd immediately for help and guidance in organizing leadership of the settlement. Edwin Carr was in agreement with asking for wisdom in how to proceed. The settlement was in a tenuous situation. Fear of Algonquin reprisal was rampant. The settlement, now comprising about 250 people, was in jeopardy of collapsing.

Shepherd had some clear ideas of how governance should take place. He had discussed these ideas countless times, whether it was with William Bradford, Henry Adams, or Edwin Carr. He was enamored with the idea that self-governance was in the best interest of people. He knew that, people being inherently flawed, there would be flaws in such a government, yet he also believed that shared ownership of the governing process was ennobling for people. He trusted that with proper checks on power, such a system could work.

Soon Carr, Adams, and Shepherd were putting in place a plan for government for Cape Ann that responded to the needs of those governed, not just the desires of the Dorchester Company. They held an election for a council of 7 governors, with the man getting the most votes becoming Chief Governor.  This man would report to the Dorchester Company, but would also be held responsible for securing the rights and needs of the people of Cape Ann.   

Henry Adams received the most votes for the Council of Governors, so he became Chief Governor of Cape Ann. When he convened the Council of Governors, he first brought up the idea of defense of Cape Ann. It had now been almost a month since the battle with the Algonquin. We had been surprised that they had not come to our camp to wipe us out in retaliation for Levine’s attack. Shepherd told the Governors that he believed that the Algonquin were not a war-like people, but that our biggest threat was from the French- either through a pact with the Algonquin, or directly from them. Many of the Algonquin elders began to figure out that trouble only began when the French started the problems with us. Those elders had been successful in persuading the rest that the Algonquin would only be puppets of the French if they went along with the French desires. Besides, who had died in the battle with the English? It was not the French, but Algonquin who had died! The Algonquin knew that they had inflicted a dreadful loss on the English, and perhaps that would be lesson enough.

In fact, that was the very thinking of the elders as we later found out. At the time, however, we could not discount a threat from the Algonquin as well as from the French. We were very vulnerable. It was for this reason that the Council decided to dismantle the camp and move south from Cape Ann. We would move down to Gloucester, where another small settlement which was mostly dedicated to fishing was starting to show signs of thriving. Besides, we had understood that the soil down there was better than the rocky soil of our area, and that crops would grow much better there.

We dismantled some of buildings and packed them on wagons to transport them on the short trip south to Gloucester. We had heard that the Conquest had recently arrived at Gloucester after having been re-routed because of the terrible weather she had encountered in the crossing. Repairs on the Conquest would take some time, and there were no trained shipwrights available to help refit her. In the meantime, those passengers bound for Jamestown were now in Gloucester, biding their time.

Word came to Gloucester that the Cape Ann Settlement was packed and moving south the Gloucester. Leaders at Gloucester were afraid that the Cape Ann settlement would bring trouble since they had attacked the Algonquin. Gloucester was a small fishing village which wanted no harm from the natives they called Indians. Nonetheless, they were mostly ready to welcome their English brothers. There was some strength in numbers, and Gloucester was struggling to establish itself as a viable settlement. They were successful in fishing, and they actually were exporting some salted fish back to England.

Anne Kensington could hardly believe her luck. Edwin Carr was coming to her after all. While he had been rather coy about her obvious affections toward him, she hoped that time and distance had rekindled some romantic feelings in him for her. She knew that she could hardly stand to stay with Andrew much longer, even though it was in her financial best interest to do so.

Our group from Cape Ann arrived in May, 1624. Anne Kensington sought out Edwin Carr, and they exchanged a warm embrace. Andrew Kensington saw Shepherd and me and greeted us as if we were old friends. His ability to demonstrate warmth while nurturing rage was remarkable indeed. “How have your adventures been here in America?” he asked us. “We have indeed had adventure”, I said. “How did you end up in Gloucester?” I asked. “That is a long story” said Kensington, “but it matters not. Anne and I will be going to Jamestown as soon as we can get passage there”, he said. “And your plans?” he asked. I had been considering that very question. I was becoming convinced that there may be a life here for me with Margaret.

Shepherd seemed to want to stay because he told me that he was very disturbed by the way these Indian people were being decimated by disease. Our part of this trip was to be scientific and medical in nature, and what better way to fulfill that mission than by trying to stop the devastation of disease which felled these Indian people? Chepi had told us that her people were not sick with the strange illnesses that beset them now until the English came and interacted with them. Many of the Algonquin believed that the Great Spirit was disturbed by the presence of foreigners, and the Spirit stirred up strange and fearsome diseases that killed them. Shepherd saw patterns in these diseases, and he saw that many English were not affected by the diseases that were running through the Algonquin camps. Smallpox, bloody flux diarrhea, debilitating coughs, and a host of other ailments were felling these native people. 

Shepherd suspected that somehow, we English had brought these illnesses to America, but that, for some reason, we were immune to these diseases. He said that we acted as “hosts” for these illnesses, but we were usually unaffected by them. “Why was this?” we pondered. Shepherd continued to work on this problem in earnest as the death toll mounted for the Algonquin. He made meticulous notes which he kept diligently. He was truly a man of science I believed.

I was uneasy with Kensington- he had been much too friendly, and I did not trust him. Edwin Carr was used to such behavior. “You just need to keep your hands in your pockets while you talk with him so he does not steal your purse!” he laughed.    

Despite his outward casual acceptance of Kensington, Carr was deeply suspicious of Kensington’s part in the Mission fire that had killed his brother. At the same time, Kensington was unaware of who had been responsible for the death of “Red” Locker. Lady Anne’s presence simply added to the unease which was always present. Kensington and Carr were locked into an odd tension of suspicion, yet both tried to maintain the outside appearance that all was well. Both knew it was not.

The Cape Ann settlement melded into Gloucester rather seamlessly. The Dorchester Company was losing hope that the settlement had any economic benefit. Perhaps a successful fishing port might turn things around. In the meantime, Andrew Kensington was working on having his London & Western Trading Company buy out the interests of Cape Ann expedition from The Dorchester Company. If he were going to be in America, and he was involved in this venture, he wanted to be in charge of it. 

As the weeks unfolded, and winter came creeping in, living conditions became harsher. Fishing was out of the question as storms and ice floes appeared in the bay. The chief source of food was now game killed or trapped, and that brought inevitable interaction with the Algonquin hunters. The Gloucester camp was now more fortified with canon, wooden walls, and a militia of about 70 armed men.

Chepi began to show her pregnancy, and it could no longer be concealed. Kelley announced to the weekly assembly that Chepi was pregnant, and that he was the father of the child. Chepi did not really get along well with the women in the settlement, and she received no support from them. Herbert Wesley, who held the weekly church services, was confronted with a problem. How could he not condemn the obvious sin that had beset the camp? What should be done to deal with this? Sin in the camp unpunished would surely be visited upon the entire camp. Wesley recalled the sin of Achan at Ai from Joshua chapter 7. Because of Achan’s sin, the entire Israelite camp was defeated in battle. The sin of one man had caused havoc and judgment. Better that this be punished by the leaders in the camp than by God’s fearful wrath upon them all. Chepi must be punished, he believed.

He convened the governor’s council, which now included Gloucester leaders also. He explained to them the need to act on this sin. Andrew Kensington had insinuated himself into the governor’s council by virtue of his financial holdings in the community. It would soon be a matter of law that the London & Western Trading Company would own the rights to the charter of the settlement. Kensington was not yet chief governor, but that would happen as soon as official word came from London that Dorchester had concluded the contract sale to his London and Western company. Now he did not have complete control, but he had great influence.

Henry Adams and Edwin Carr still seemed to have a coalition of control on the council, but the animosity was growing. Kensington, true to form, seemed to thrive on the chaos of tension and hostility. It was in that atmosphere that he could manipulate those who had less of a stomach for conflict. He was in his element.

“Mr. Wesley”, Kensington said as they met privately to discuss the situation, “I agree that you must act decisively in this matter as spiritual leader of our settlement. I was moved by your sermon from Joshua 7 yesterday, and we must remove sin from the camp!”

Kensington’s new found interest in religion was his entrée to exert his influence. It was very clear that Joseph Shepherd, Edwin Carr, Margaret Brennan, Captain Braden, Henry Adams, Albert Adams and I were supportive of Chepi and Mr. Kelley. We represented the faction that bristled against his attempt at control, and Chepi’s situation had now brought the uneasy truce to a head.

While Kensington was calling for judgment and Chepi’s expulsion from the settlement, Shepherd was calling for ways that we could help resolve the situation. “What Chepi and Kelley need now is help, not punishment”, he said. Margaret and I had discussed that approach also, and we believed that Chepi’s unborn child should not be punished for the actions of his or her parents. For his part, Sean Kelley was ready to fight for the protection of his child, but the wrath of many of those in the settlement seemed to rest on Chepi. She was the outsider, the savage, perhaps even a witch who had seduced Kelley. Many, especially the women, noted that she seemed to have a strange hold on people, a mystical air that influenced others unnaturally.  Chepi did have a transcendent quality about her, but it was certainly not like the magic charms of a witch. Such talk always baffled me, but a large number of the settlement were convinced that Satan worked evil through such women, and that they must be executed. Chepi’s sexual behavior had seduced Kelley, and he could hardly be blamed for succumbing they reasoned.

Kensington demanded that this be settled with a trial, and he pressed the council of governors to convene such a trial. “English law demands it!” he thundered.  While several members of the council were reluctant to convene a trial, they rationalized that a trial would be a fair way to get facts out in the open, and allow the accused to have their say in front of the entire community. They thought it best to let God judge through a trial, and not by sending a disaster to the community.

A “grand jury” of 6 men was convened to review charges against Chepi. The formal charges were:  

“fornication with a man, and seduction of that man by the wiles and mystical powers of a witch under the power of Satan; worship of idols and unknown gods which are in conflict with the worship of the One True God; stirring of conflict and war which threatens the tranquility of the Cape Ann and Gloucester settlements”

 The last charge added to the list of charges was championed by Kensington himself. That charge was one that could result in the execution of Chepi, and that raised the level of the trial far beyond what was originally proposed. Now Chepi may be on trial for her life.

Chapter 42                   The trial

The trial began with Herbert Wesley presiding. The trial was an odd combination of English law and theological court. The rules of the trial seemed to evolve as the trial progressed. What was clear was that Chepi would be allowed to speak in her own behalf, and that there would be an official “accuser” functioning as the “prosecutor”. The jury consisted of 6 men (different from the “grand jury”), chosen by the Council of Governors.   

Sean Kelley was beside himself with anger and fear. He was convinced that this “trial” was a complete sham designed to humiliate Chepi, and to vicariously punish the Algonquin by persecuting Chepi. He had pleaded to go on trial with Chepi, but Herbert Wesley had reminded him that no charges had been brought against him, only against Chepi. While he had transgressed the moral law by fornicating with Chepi, it had not been adultery since neither was married. The grand jury had spoken, and a trial must proceed. Further, since the charges against Chepi were serious, she would be put into gaol, with settlement matrons ordered to minister to her needs during confinement.

Margaret Brennan stepped forward to ask that she be given the task of caring for Chepi. Since no other women came forward, Margaret was assigned to be her caretaker. Both Chepi and Kelley were much relieved about this since Margaret was about the only woman with the care and compassion Chepi so needed at that point.

The trial began with Herbert Wesley appointing Leviticus Martin as prosecutor. Martin was a former barrister who had left his law practice in London after hearing John Ward’s preaching. He felt compelled to come to America with his wife after they lost two small children to smallpox. His wife, Annette, was so distraught after their deaths that Leviticus believed that she may die of failure to eat, or that she may simply take her own life directly. The only thing that may have saved her life was the two sons who survived, boys of 13 and 15 years of age. He was a fair man, but prone to very strict religious justice, and a very literal interpretation of the Bible.

Chepi had no representation, and Herbert Wesley felt that she needed a proper defense. He brought this up just after he appointed Leviticus Martin as prosecutor. Immediately, Joseph Shepherd stepped forward and asked if he could be appointed as her counsel.

“Do you have any experience as legal counsel?” asked Wesley. “I do not Mr. Wesley” he said, “but I believe in Chepi and her innocence in this matter. So, while I do not have training, I have a strong commitment to her defense.”

Wesley asked Chepi if she wanted to have Shepherd as her counsel, and she responded a definite “Yes, I do!” “Mr. Martin, have you any objections to Mr. Shepherd acting as her defense?” he asked. “I do not”, he said simply.

“Very well then, let us proceed”, he said.

The charges were read formally to Chepi and the jury. Wesley proceeded to tell the jury of the possible consequences. If Chepi were to be convicted of any of the charges, she could face, at the least, banishment from the settlement. If, however, she were to be convicted of the third charge, she could be hanged. She could possibly be burned to death if she were convicted of having the Satanic influence of being a witch. Being possessed by demons often resulted in having the body completely eliminated by burning.

A chill came over the place as both jurists and spectators recognized, in this more formal setting, the possible grisly outcome. I wondered what would happen, if by some miracle, she were to be acquitted. Banishment might as well happen since she no longer had a place in the settlement. Even if found innocent, she would carry a life sentence I believed.

Leviticus Martin proceeded to address the jury. “Gentlemen of the jury, I bring to you today the case of a woman whose behavior has caused this settlement great grief and danger. As a result, at least indirectly, she has caused the death of 43 men, lost to the Algonquin savages in battle. Further, she has seduced one of our men, albeit a morally weak one, into fornication, which has resulted in her pregnancy. Indeed, as we see in Holy Scripture, a woman caught in adultery, was to be stoned to death. Her lascivious behavior has caught up with her, just as Aachan’s behavior at Ai did to him, and indeed, the entire Israelite camp. Can we let that go unpunished? Can we risk God’s wrath if we do not punish her? It is indisputable that she has fornicated with Mr. Kelley- she carries his child. It is indisputable that she does not worship the One True God- she is a heathen who worships woods sprites, and a Great Spirit” she talks of. Her seduction of Mr. Kelley led to the incident which provoked this entire problem- the death of one her own kind- a man named Achak. Even her own people, I am told, believe that she possess a spirit of deception. A spirit that causes men to have little control of themselves in her presence. I am told that she has this power even over her own people. Gentlemen of the jury, we are confronted with the presence of evil here, and I beg you not to look directly into her eyes lest you fall prey to her wiles and powers!”

A little gasp came from the jury and from some of the women in the spectator gallery. Such powers, they believed, were indeed the work of Satan, and heaven forbid, such power may be at work in our very own midst!

Martin proceeded, satisfied that he had made an impression on the jury. He still had some courtroom flair, and he seemed pleased that he had a chance to use it again. “Gentlemen of the jury”, he began again, “I cannot emphasize the danger we face here. Not just from the Algonquin heathen, but from the very powers of Satan. I will proceed to ask for a finding of guilt on all charges and a swift execution of the sentence of death by burning! We must consider the safety of our settlement. An influence such as this foul woman will corrupt our men and expose our children to danger! You must find her guilty, and in so doing, you will please God and keep safe your settlement!”

With that he sat and looked toward Wesley. Wesley asked him, “Have you concluded Mr. Martin?” “Yes, I have”, Martin said. Mr. Shepherd, would you like to make an opening statement?” “Yes, I would” Shepherd said, and he approached the jury box. “Gentlemen of the jury, I beg your indulgence as I have neither the eloquence nor the expertise of Mr. Martin. I do have a belief in the defendant, Chepi. I will call her by name, and I encourage you to do the same. She is a woman, a human being, carrying a child in her womb. She has no more supernatural powers than you, although Mr. Martin would have you believe that she can make you do things you do not want to do, and that her influence comes from demons in her. Mr. Martin calls on Scripture to have you find this woman guilty like the adulteress in John 7:53. In that case, Jesus simply asked those without sin to cast the first stone. However, his larger intent was to point out to them that they simply used the law to their benefit and to suit their own needs. Those people brought Jesus into that situation to trap him, much like Mr. Martin has set a trap for you. Jesus knew that they had not followed the law, since the witnesses were to cast the first stone, and because the man caught in the act was not similarly prosecuted.  And what, I ask you, did Jesus do after confronting the crowd in this attempt to pervert law? He told the woman to go and sin no more. They were ashamed, and each went away chastised. I suggest that if you want to proceed in a strictly legal manner, you charge Mr. Kelley as well”.

The jury members looked at one another with surprise. Was Mr. Shepherd going to ask for indictment of his friend to save Chepi? Shepherd seemed to read their mind. “Gentlemen, I ask for an indictment of Mr. Kelley knowing that it will never be brought. This charge has been trumped up to prosecute Chepi and the Algonquin people- to have flesh for flesh in retribution. Besides, Mr. Kelley would relish the opportunity to step into this trial if it could save Chepi. Doesn’t the Scripture also say that there is no greater love than to give your life for a friend? Indeed, Mr. Kelley would give his life for Chepi. I say that shows great love, not seduction and blind following. So, I will proceed in the defense of Chepi, as long as the jury and all present know that this trial is a sham, produced for no other reason than to exact vengeance on someone who actually tried to prevent the entire unfortunate incident!”

“As for Chepi’s beliefs, I ask the jury to consider the reasons for many of you for coming to America. That was for religious freedom- freedom to worship as you choose. Does this not apply to the people who were here before we came? Some of you came to preach the gospel to the native people here- certainly a right and good thing to do. Mr. Wesley, you are one who came for that very reason. I suggest to you that the Apostle Paul recognized that people at Mars Hill were worshipping the “Unknown god”, to whom they had built a temple. He commended them for their search of God, and he purposed to show them the One True God by virtue of his willingness to listen to them, and share with them about faith in Jesus as the only way to God. I ask you, are you doing the same with the Algonquin people? Have you shown them kindness and understanding, or have you come only to exploit them and their land? How can they ever come to know the God you worship if you behave in such a way? Is that the God they would be inclined to worship?”

Shepherd sat, yielding to Mr. Martin as Martin stood before the court. “Mr. Shepherd”, he began with some condescension, “I would not be so presumptuous as to question a valid grand jury indictment, whatever you may think. English law has, thankfully, followed us to America, and we are bound to follow it. If you want a separate indictment on Mr. Kelley, I will be most happy to bring charges against him as well, which a grand jury can ponder. Meanwhile, let us proceed with this trial, and with due haste.” 

Mr. Wesley asked them to proceed with witnesses, and he asked Mr. Martin to call his first witness. “I would like to call Mr. Andrew Kensington to the stand”, said Martin. Mr. Wesley asked Kensington to swear before God and the assembly that he would tell the truth, and Kensington affirmed that he would.

“Mr. Kensington”, Martin began, “have you testimony that will corroborate the charge that this defendant has the power of seduction, and mystical powers that emanate from occult practices and beliefs?” “I do” said Kensington. “Please proceed Mr. Kensington”, said Martin. “I have begun to have some business dealing with some traders in the area to discuss the shipment of beaver pelts to markets in England. One of these men, a French fur trapper, told me that he was well acquainted with this woman on trial, and he has seen first-hand her ability to influence the minds of men- to have them do things they would not normally do. She has this power over men of her own tribe, as well as men who are not of the savage type mind.”

“And what did this trapper say about the defendant”, asked Martin. “At the risk of being indelicate with women present here, she seduced him to have relations with her, and on more than one occasion”, he concluded. Several women gasped at this type of testimony. Mr. Martin interjected, “I apologize for this lewd atmosphere, but we must get at the truth”, he concluded. “Go on Mr. Kensington”, he asked. “This man, Charles Asante, related this to me as I told him of our problems here at Gloucester.  He told me this because he fears this woman, and he said that he and his fellow trappers want her to be executed. They fear that her presence may cause conflict with the French and Algonquin, perhaps like we have experienced with the Algonquin because of her”, he said. “That is all, thank you Mr. Kensington”. “Your witness Mr. Shepherd”, said Herbert Wesley.

“Mr. Kensington”, began Shepherd, “did you just tell the truth there?” he asked bluntly. Kensington rose out of his seat in a rage, “How dare you accuse me of lying!” he sputtered. “I simply asked if you told the truth” Shepherd said softly. “A simple ‘yes’ would have sufficed Mr. Kensington, but you seemed to take rather extreme offense at this question” he observed. Kensington glared at Shepherd. “My honor was questioned!” Kensington retorted. “Indeed Mr. Kensington, I can hardly believe that this was the first time your honor was called into question”, Shepherd said. “This is an outrage!” screamed Kensington. “Mr. Shepherd, you seem to be badgering this witness, please proceed in a more dignified manner”, said Wesley.

“I beg your pardon Mr. Wesley, Mr. Martin, gentlemen of the jury”, I am simply seeking the truth, and I have merely asked the witness the simplest question about it. I observed a slight twitch in Mr. Kensington’s eye when he testified. I also saw him drumming his fingers when questioned. He also showed some flushing on his neck as he spoke earlier about Charles Asante. In my medical practice I have noted these physical signs to be often present when someone is not telling the truth. That is why I asked if he were telling the truth so that I could verify if these findings were present again. Indeed, his response seemed far beyond the question I asked”, said Shepherd.  

“As to questions about his honor, he is an experienced businessman who has had dealings with some people of questionable repute, such as slave traders, port workers who have some past problems with the law, and some associates who were not the most trusted of men. Surely I am not the first to imply that he has questions about his honor”, said Shepherd.

Kensington was now burning with rage. He had indeed acted out of character. He always had a way of keeping that simmering rage under the surface, and then using it against people at a more opportune time. He had been baited and then trapped. He hated Shepherd, and he hated himself for this foolish response.

He composed himself and gave a slight chuckle. “No, Mr. Shepherd is right, I have been questioned about my honor before, as has every savvy businessman who knows how to make a shrewd deal. Accusations are often made without any facts to back them up!” he smiled.

“I certainly agree Mr. Kensington, just like in this case against Chepi, wouldn’t you agree?” smiled Shepherd, on to his game. Kensington’s face darkened then he quickly recovered. “No Mr. Shepherd, not like in this case,” he replied.

“Now Mr. Kensington, why is Mr. Asante not here to testify?” asked Shepherd. “He fears too much involvement with the English settlements. There have been tensions between French and English in America, and he fears that he cannot risk coming here for a trial that does not really concern him”, replied Kensington. “So you believe Mr. Asante’s word on this?” asked Shepherd. “Of course, he has no reason to lie” said Kensington. “Perhaps that is true, perhaps not”, said Shepherd. “Is it possible that Mr. Asante wants to please you for the sake of business, and would say what you want him to say? Who knows, perhaps there is no ‘Mr. Asante’” concluded Shepherd.

Kensington caught himself this time and simply smiled at Shepherd. He made no response to this bait from Shepherd. Mr. Martin rescued him. “Mr. Shepherd, I object to your treatment of this witness! You have continued to speculate about his testimony and to denigrate his character. You ought to be ashamed!”

In fact, there was a Mr. Asante, and he did hear of Chepi’s great influence in the Algonquin camp from some of the hunters he had dealings with. But he had never met her, and he would never even be able to identify her. This testimony was indeed a sham and Shepherd had suspected it. His only hope was to expose Kensington, and trip him up as best he could.

Kensington’s motives were becoming clear. First, he still held a grudge against Shepherd and me, as well as Edwin Carr. He wanted our influence in the settlement gone, or at least diminished. Further, he was starting to see some value in having a presence in both Virginia and Massachusetts. Here, he could develop the fishing trade, beaver pelts, as well as boat building. In Virginia he could ship tobacco, import slaves, and use his own boats to conduct business. He could do business more or less as he pleased, and he did not need or particularly want interference from natives like the Algonquin. Trouble with the French might even work to his advantage in the future, but for now, they would make good allies and trading partners. Asante and his people knew this too and were happy to work with Kensington.

“Do you have other witnesses Mr. Martin?” asked Wesley. “I do not” he said. I think that the facts, as well as the corroborating testimony of Mr. Asante through Mr. Kensington are more than enough to make the case that this woman is a seducing witch of the lowest estate. Besides, I fear that if she is allowed to have this child, the child itself, conceived in such circumstances, may bring untold harm to us!”

“Are you asking for the death penalty for this woman?” asked Wesley. “Yes, I am”, said Martin. Her behavior clearly warrants it, and I fear the wrath of God should we not carry out this justice”, he said.

“Mr. Shepherd, do you have any more witnesses?” asked Wesley. “Yes, I do” replied Shepherd. “I would like to call Mr. Martin”. Leviticus Martin was stunned, as was the entire assembly in the hall. “Excuse me Mr. Shepherd, perhaps you are confused with the legal procedures here” said Wesley. “Mr. Martin, as Prosecutor cannot be called upon in defense of the defendant.”

“Yes, I understand that Mr. Wesley. I am calling him not to defend her, but to defend himself”, he said. “Defend himself?” asked Wesley. “Do you understand the legal system at all Mr. Shepherd? Your behavior here today is most puzzling and disturbing”.

“I appreciate your questions Mr. Wesley, but I believe that I need to understand better why Mr. Martin is so intent upon asking for the death penalty. The only way that I can get at the information is to ask him to testify.”

“You understand that Mr. Martin will be considered a hostile witness do you not?” asked Wesley. “Yes, I do sir”, said Shepherd. “Very well, Mr. Martin, you understand that you are under oath”, said Wesley. “Yes, of course” said Martin. “Proceed” said Wesley.

“Mr. Martin, are you aware of the genealogy of Jesus, the one found in the book of Matthew?” asked Shepherd. “Of course!” said Martin, “but please do not ask me to recite it”, he smiled. For the first time, the jury laughed. Shepherd smiled, “I will not ask that Mr. Martin, but I do want to know if you know who the mother of Perez and Zerah was?” asked Shepherd. “Well not right at this moment” blushed Martin. “That is understandable Mr. Martin”, said Shepherd, there are a number of names there!” The mother who is in the genealogy of our Savior Jesus is Tamar. Are you familiar with her story?” he asked. “Not right at the moment, but I know I have read of it” he countered. “I am certain of it Mr. Martin, however I will help you recall that Tamar conceived these twins as a result of an act of prostitution with her father-in-law Judah. Do you recall that?” he asked. Leviticus Martin blushed some more and said, “Is this necessary Mr. Shepherd? This lewdness mentioned today should not be spoken in the presence of women”. “Mr. Martin, if the Author of Scripture saw fit to include this, I think we need to honor the Word of God, would you agree?” “Yes, of course” he said, trailing off. “Mr. Martin, are you familiar with who is listed as the mother of Salmon, who was the father of Boaz who was the father of Obed, who begot Jesse, the father of King David?”   

“Again, I am sure that I would know when you tell me”, said Leviticus Martin, now becoming exasperated. “It is Rahab, known as the harlot, the woman who delivered Jericho to the Israelites.” “Yes, of course, I know the story”, he said. “Mr. Martin, do you know of Bathsheba, the woman who David seduced, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Shepherd asked. “Yes, again, I know the story Mr. Shepherd. Are you trying to discredit me because I do not have the same familiarity of the Bible as you?” he asked. “Oh no, not by any means Mr. Martin, I am trying to discredit you because you do not know the spirit of the Word of God. I believe that you know the stories, but you fail to grasp the spirit beneath the stories”, said Shepherd.

“Whatever are you saying Shepherd?” said Mr. Martin, now clearly unnerved by the line of questioning. “The story of Jesus and his lineage are filled with people of low estate, sinners, liars, even murderers- in other words, plain people who Jesus came to redeem.”

“What has this to do with the defendant Mr. Shepherd? Why did you say you were questioning me so that I could defend myself? From what am I defending myself?” he asked.    

“You had proposed that Chepi receive the death penalty, partly because she is carrying a child. You speculate that this child could do grievous harm to the settlement, and therefore, we should kill Chepi and the baby on that chance. What if some jury had been convened to judge Rahab, or Tamar, or Bathsheba? Would that have been good? What if some jury had decided that your mother should die because…” “Stop this I say, stop!” cried Martin. He burst from the witness chair and left the room.

I do not know to this day if Joseph Shepherd knew that Leviticus Martin’s mother was a prostitute- I rather doubt it- but that caused the jury to deliberate more deeply than they might have earlier in the day. Martin’s and Kensington’s behavior had shown them to be out of control of their usual legal, clear thinking, and displaying emotional responses. Shepherd pointed this out in his closing argument, absent Leviticus Martin, who did not return to the court room.

  Shepherd in his closing argument made it clear that Chepi and Kelley had acted in a reckless way, a sinful way, but that God was the judge of that, not this jury. Chepi had done nothing to threaten the settlement, and in fact she had likely averted further harm to the camp by her positive actions toward the English, much like Rahab had done for the Israelites. Rahab’s reward was to be included in the Israelite camp, and indeed, she had an important role in the line of Jesus. Can we display the same grace to Chepi he asked?

The jury deliberated for less than one hour. Chepi was found not guilty of being a witch, and further was acquitted on the harsher charge of treason. Chepi was found not guilty, but that did not mean that she was found to be innocent.  She faced judgment from most people because of her behavior with Sean Kelley, and she was not generally accepted by those in the settlement, especially the women. She faced isolation and rejection. Her trial was not completely over, but she had been spared..

Chapter 43

Margaret and I were becoming closer. I was attracted to her compassion and care for little Jacob, who was now toddling about the settlement and making himself both a nuisance and a lovable little scamp. Margaret also was about the only woman who reached out to Chepi. Margaret worked on getting better at the Algonquian language while teaching English to Chepi. She still managed to look in on Albert Adams, but he seemed to be finding a place of service by helping Captain Braden, who was really starting to fail physically. Albert moved in with Captain Braden to care for him on a regular basis, and Margaret made sure that both were getting along, especially in the cold of winter.

Margaret and I found time to be together, and soon I realized that my attraction to her was shared by Edwin Carr. Margaret was discreet about how she handled this attention, but it became apparent that she would need to make a choice. I believed that at least some of her attraction to Edwin Carr was based upon her desire to have some kind of connection with her beloved Jacob, whose death she still mourned. I needed to know if Edwin felt that way also, or if his intention was to simply comfort Margaret. I doubted that, wished for that, but I probably knew better.

Anne Kensington had her own desires about Edwin Carr. She had never really given up on him despite Carr’s decision to break off their mostly physical relationship some years before. Anne and Andrew Kensington were now again in some major arguments over her time with Edwin Carr, her growing disaffection with the American weather, the loss of the comforts of London, and her growing sense of emptiness that a trip to America had not solved. Her mood had changed again, and she wanted another change in her life.

One day, Anne decided to pick a fight with Andrew. She was bored, and conflict seemed to be the only thing that gave her energy anymore. “Andrew”, she began, “are we going to stay in Gloucester forever?” “We have been here barely 6 months” he said, “and you are restless already”. “You promised that America would be a place where there would be adventure and eventually greater wealth” she said. “I see neither so far” she said.  Andrew looked at her blankly. “I have an idea”, he said. “Why don’t you and Edwin sail back to London together? I have business that I need to have conducted there, and Edwin, despite his increasing distaste for me, has some obligations for the Dorchester Company, or rather the London & Western Company now.  Whether he wants to work for me or not, he will do it because he needs me. Besides, that is what you want- to be with him. Here is your opportunity.”  “Is that what Edwin wants?” she asked. “I do not know Anne, why don’t you ask him?” he said.

The lines had been drawn, and both Kensingtons had played out their part in it.  Andrew, having had his fill of Anne, had dismissed her back to London. Anne, now without other good options, decided to approach Edwin to see if there was a chance for them again. She approached Edwin that evening with the proposal that Andrew had suggested. Edwin mused at the suggestion. “Andrew has his way doesn’t he?” said Carr. In one step he rids himself of both of us- me because he knows I must fulfill my contract with the company, you because, well, I think he detests you”.

Anne looked stricken. She had hoped for a bit more positive response from Edwin. “Do you want me with you when you return to London?” she asked. “You will be a welcome guest on the ship” he said. There is no future for us together Anne”, he said. “Is that because you love Margaret Brennan?” she asked. “I think I may love Margaret Brennan”, Carr said, “but Luke Greene loves her more I believe. He is prepared to marry her and spend his life with her. I am not prepared to do that. Besides, I cannot live my life in my brother Jacob’s shadow, and I believe that he may always be in her heart somehow. I cannot be reminded of that. Loving her at a distance may be best for all. I can let her go to Luke Greene, and I will be satisfied that she is cared for. Good Dr. Greene will provide for her and little Jacob. Perhaps I will be ‘Uncle Edwin’, and that will suit me fine”.

“And what of me?” asked Anne. “You will be fine in London Anne. Andrew will support you in a fine style, and you will be free to have the romances that you seem to desire” said Edwin. “You don’t love me?” she asked in a plaintive voice. “I do like your energy and fire Anne. You have strong determination and passion. Your fire runs hot, but usually a banked fire can be counted on more for heat and consistent warmth”, he said. “I won’t satisfy you, and I doubt any man can. You need more than I have the energy to provide”, he concluded.

Anne was a bit wounded and confused. She would once again start over in her life. This time it would be back in London, but alone. Edwin Carr saw the trip as a relief. Rather than curse Kensington, he chose to see this as a way that perhaps God was doing something for him that he could not do for himself. He would fulfill his contract with Kensington, and then decide where his life would go. He oddly felt free for the first time in a while. He was going back to sea, and that was something he knew well. He could then be free of Andrew Kensington.   

  I called upon Edwin Carr shortly after he had met with Anne Kensington, and he told me of their meeting. I was elated to hear his decision about Margaret, and he was most gracious in giving a blessing to Margaret and me. It affirmed to me that others saw of my love for Margaret, and he knew before I did that I should marry her. Of course, I would ask her to marry me! 

Feeling Good

You’re addicted to thrills? What an empty life! The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied.

Proverbs 21:17 (The Message)

Early in the days of laboratory exploration of the brain, there was an experiment with rats. The experimenters hooked up these rats with electrodes that were connected to a machine that would give a very mild stimulation to the area of the brain we call the “pleasure center”. When the rats pressed a lever, they were given a mild brain stimulation which resulted in an experience of pleasure. The rats would press this lever endlessly, foregoing food for the stimulation. Later, in other experiments, intravenous cocaine was offered at the same time as food was presented, again based on pressing the lever, and the rats consistently pressed for the shot of cocaine over eating the food.  

The point here is that anything that produces immediate pleasure is addictive. Think of those potato chips, or those Hershey Kisses, or maybe those peanut M&Ms. You name your addiction (I just named mine with those peanut M&Ms). If it gives immediate results, that is, makes you feel good right away, it has the potential to be addictive.

That is the thing with those immediate “feel goods”. We end up paying a heavy price if we are not aware of the potential that lies therein. Food, sex, gambling, alcohol, drugs, etc. make us feel good right away, as soon as we “use”. The key is awareness of what we are actually doing. Denial says that “I can handle it”, or “just one more time”, “I’m not like them”, or whatever particular line works for you.

Again, moderation in things that give us pleasure is important. God gives us good gifts, receptive senses, and a host of things that are available to give us pleasure. Our job is to be aware of what we are doing, and honestly look at our behaviors over time. That is one of the truths that set us free- literally.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for good gifts you provide for us. Help us see them as gifts and use them wisely, Amen.

The Wisdom of Serving

The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
    the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped                                                                                                        Proverbs 11:24-25 (The Message)

One of the typical types of homework that I give to my clients is to find a way to serve others. There is so much value in this practice for so many reasons. When serving others, we cannot fully concentrate on our own troubles. That is a good thing.

One of my clients who has chronic pain realizes that she has done all that she can do medically to deal with her situation. So, she has a choice- become a victim of the pain and let it make her bitter, or she can concentrate on serving others, have a diversion from thinking about her pain, and at the same time feel that she has purpose when she wakes up every morning. She chooses to serve others.

The book of Proverbs has a lot of wisdom in its pages, and the one above is a good example. It talks about making our world larger and larger. When we volunteer, we serve others, but we also are served.

Prayer: Thank you for the plan that as we serve, we are served also, Amen

Manna

God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration.                                                                                                                                     Exodus 16:4-5 (The Message)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.        Isaiah 55:8-9 (KJV)

Manna. Yes, it’s a thing. Most of us are familiar with the stories in the Bible that God miraculously provided food for the wandering Israelites as they trekked through the desert on the way to the “Promised Land”. Many people are understandably skeptical of this amazing provision, but it turns out that scientists have actually identified what they believe is the food that nourished the Israelites. They call it Manna.

Actually called mann-Rimth, the Rimth shrub is the Bedouin name for the Haloxylon salicornicum. The secretions we call “manna” are also called “honeydew”, which is the product of the digestion of insects as they munch on these plants which are found all over the Middle east.

I found it quite interesting that there is a very logical potential explanation of a miracle. Can God provide things for people in ways that we cannot explain? Uh, yes. It happens all the time. I do not know the particulars of how this all happened, but the general point of what the Bible tries to say is that God is able to do things which are inexplicable to us. People actually eat manna today, and it does provide nourishment with a sweet taste like coriander seed- so the consumers say.

So, I don’t get particularly hung up on the details of how God provides. I just know that he does, and we don’t always understand it.

Prayer: Lord, you work in ways that are higher than ours, we just accept that your plans are for our good, Amen