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Poor Choices: Return to King Saul

On Monday, we started digging deeper into King Saul’s beginnings. We found that by not acknowledging his God-given role and authority, Saul set the stage for his own decline. Today, we’re looking at some of the poor choices Saul makes that further separates him from his true identity.

The Passage

Saul, however, was still at Gilgal, and all his troops were gripped with fear. He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him. So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” Then he offered the burnt offering.

1 Samuel 13:7b-9 CSB

Samuel said to Saul, “You have been foolish. You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. It was at this time that the LORD would have permanently established your reign over Israel, but now your reign will not endure. The LORD has found a man after his own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over his people, because you have not done what the LORD commanded.”

1 Samuel 13:13-14 CSB

Saul answered Samuel, “I have sinned. I have transgressed the LORD’s command and your words. Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them. Now therefore, please forgive my sin and return with me so I can worship the LORD.”

Samuel replied to Saul, “I will not return with you. Because you rejected the word of the LORD, the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” When Samuel turned to go, Saul grabbed the corner of his robe, and it tore. Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingship of Israel away from you today and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you. Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change his mind, for he is not man who changes his mind.”

1 Samuel 15:24-29 CSB

Poor Choices

Starting in 1 Samuel 13, Saul steps up to lead the twelve tribes of Israel. He quits avoiding his role. Rather dramatically, he unites the tribes by slicing up his ox and sending it to everyone as a warning if they don’t join him in battle. He pronounces a curse on anyone who eats before the Philistines are defeated, which winds up landing on his son’s head. When the time came to fight the Amalekites, Saul ignores the task to kill everything and avenge the injustice done when the Israelites left Egypt. Instead, he keeps the best of the possessions and imprisons the king.

Basically, Saul does a 180. His actions show his fear and insecurity. He still does not trust God or his God-given abilities to lead the people of Israel. This time, instead of hiding from the responsibility, Saul relies on intimidation to bring the people together. It’s the same negative perception of the world that plagued him when Samuel anointed him. Now, his fearful perception is strengthening, and Saul’s poor choices exacerbate the problem. His fears come true. God rejects him. His control of the tribes weakens.

In his last encounter with Samuel, Saul shows remorse. He reaches for Samuel’s robe, and it tears. I imagine Saul relives this day over and over in his mind. His poor choices pile up, and Saul does not know how to cope.

Do you agree that Saul’s poor choices influenced his mental decline? Let’s talk about it in the comments! Stayed tuned next Monday when we see Saul’s mental state affected by irrational anger.

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Keeping Quiet: Return to King Saul

I received some great feedback last week asking me to go deeper into the minds and emotions of the Biblical people living with mental illness. For the month of February, we’re returning to King Saul. Saul starts 1 Samuel as Israel’s first king, but his life ends in 2 Samuel with assisted suicide. Today, we’re starting at the beginning and learning how keeping quiet set the stage for Saul’s decline.

The Passage

Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it out on Saul’s head, kissed him, and said, “Hasn’t the LORD anointed you ruler over his inheritance?”

1 Samuel 10:1 CSB

Saul’s uncle asked him and his servant, “Where did you go?”

“To look for the donkeys,” Saul answered. “When we saw they weren’t there, we went to Samuel.”

“Tell me,” Saul’s uncle asked, “what did Samuel say to you?”

Saul told him, “He assured us the donkeys had been found.” However, Saul did not tell him what Samuel had said about the matter of kingship.

1 Samuel 10:14-16 CSB

Samuel summoned the people to the LORD at Mizpah and said to the Israelites, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel out of Egypt, and I rescued you from the power of the Egyptians and all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your troubles and afflictions. You said to him, ‘You must set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and clans.'”

Samuel had all the tribes of Israel come forward, and the tribe of Benjamin was selected. Then he had the tribe of Benjamin come forward by its clans, and the Matrite clan was selected. Finally, Saul son of Kish was selected. But when they searched for him, they could not find him. They again inquired of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?”

The LORD replied, “There he is, hidden among the supplies.”

They ran and got him from there. When he stood among the people, he stood a head taller than anyone else. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the one the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among the entire population.”

And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

Samuel proclaimed to the people the rights of kingship. He wrote them on a scroll, which he placed in the presence of the LORD. Then Samuel sent all the people home.

Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, and brave men whose hearts God had touched went with him. But some wicked men said, “How can this guy save us?” They despised him and did not bring him a gift, but Saul said nothing.

1 Samuel 10:17-27 CSB

The First King

1 Samuel 8-10 tells of Israel’s request for a king to lead them, of Saul’s anointing, and of Samuel’s announcement of Saul’s leadership. However, Saul either hides from or doubts his role as leader of Israel throughout all three chapters. In truth, he had good reason to be afraid. Israel created a brand new political role by demanding a king. Samuel made it clear that by demanding a king, Israel chose to worship an idol instead of God. If I wore Saul’s sandals, I would feel doomed to fail before I even started!

On top of stepping into an unprecedented role, Israel charges Saul with coordinating a forgetful, stubborn-headed bunch of people. Skip back a few pages in your Bible, and the Benjaminites (Saul’s own clan) committed some pretty heinous acts. Then all the tribes fought with each other over it, and tribes made plans against each other… It created a big ole mess. Now Saul (who didn’t ask for this… he set out just to find some lost donkeys!) is responsible for uniting and leading this mess. That’s a pretty stressful job.

Keeping Quiet

The odds certainly stacked against Saul, but his actions didn’t address the problems, either. When Saul’s uncle asks what Samuel told Saul, he avoids talking about his anointing, despite it coming directly from God. Further, when all the tribes convene to hear Samuel, Saul hides in the packs of food and blankets rather than standing with his tribe in the count. Then, Saul stays quiet when Israelite dissenters speak against him (and thus against God’s choice of a leader.)

Sometimes, keeping quiet in the face of rude, unreasonable people helps a situation. At least, it doesn’t escalate into anything worse. However, Saul’s silence about his role as King of Israel actually denies God’s authority and power in choosing him. This passage really shows us that Saul held some deep seeded insecurities. Saul demonstrates signs of a depressive personality where his negative self-perception tells him that he can’t do what God calls him to do.

I know I have often doubted that God would actually use me to bless others. I sometimes doubt his desire to bless me. Saul shows us, though, that we really need to focus on accepting our God-given worth if we want to expand God’s kingdom. Otherwise, we head down a dangerous, self-destructive path.

How do you feel about keeping quiet? Let’s talk about it in the comments! Stayed tuned Wednesday when we see how Saul’s poor choices have drastic consequences.

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Faith in Children's Literature: Method 1

Adult literature has its own subgenre for faith based works, but what about children’s literature? With such a diverse range of beliefs among students, controversy over religion culminates in the public school system. How can we write faith back into kids’ books and our schools? Thankfully, the classics give us three methods for melding faith into kid lit. Today, we’re delving into the world of allegory.

Method 1: Allegory in Children’s Literature

Of all three methods of writing children’s literature, we can recognize faith most easily in the allegorical style. C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe still fascinates school children despite its original release date of 1950. On its face, the story engages readers well in a fantasy plot delving into sibling relationships and self-discovery. Beneath the surface, Lewis reflects the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection with the killing and return of Aslan, the lion. Lewis continues writing Bible stories into the rest of the Narnia series, especially the creation story in The Magician’s Nephew and Revelation in The Last Battle. For a deeper look at how Lewis reflects the Bible allegorically into his books, read this article from HarperCollins.

The power of allegory comes from its ability to reach readers from a variety of backgrounds. Readers who hold negative views of Christianity may soften to the whimsical stories. These stories reach far beyond their original Christian audience and enter the larger realm of children’s literature. Thus, schools can carry the books in the library and teachers can promote the books in class. These books can plant seeds of faith in a wide audience.

One caution before we run off and rewrite the whole Bible in kids’ books: the power of allegorical books can also be its weakness. For example, while Lewis focused on glorifying God through the writing and publishing process, his books teach and entertain readers who may not agree with the Christian religion. Therefore, the religious references cannot overpower the quality storytelling if he wants to keep his readers engaged. If we want to impact readers like Lewis does, we must strive to write quality stories that children relate to and enjoy.

What do you think of the allegorical model? Let me know in the comments! Stayed tuned next week for method #2!
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Suicide in Ministry: Lessons from Judas

While all of my blog posts need prayer, I had to say an extra one for this post. Suicide affects just about everyone in some form or fashion. It feels heavy and uncomfortable and hard to talk about. Even so, the longer we let suicide hide in corners of shame, the more people are hurt by it – especially by suicide in ministry.

The Passage

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:1-5

Suicide in Ministry

One of the most heartbreaking responses I received on my Letter to the Church about Anxiety and Depression came from a friend of a friend. She responded that her nephew who worked in ministry at a church committed suicide several years ago. Their family was still hurting from the event.

I can’t help but think that if Judas, one of Jesus’ own disciples who lived every day with Him for years, can struggle with mental illness to the point of committing suicide, then we should not forget our own ministers or look down on them for depression. That’s what the chief priests and elders – the ones who orchestrated the death of Jesus – did in rejecting Judas’ confession. They told Judas that it was his own struggle and they need not be bothered. I wish I could shout a rebuke to the church from the rooftops: mental illness is not a sin!

Friends, can we make an effort to bring mental illness out from the shadows? Let’s dig deep with our ministers and not shame them for struggling with the same things we do. Let’s sit with others in their pain and walk alongside them in their struggles. Perhaps we could keep a few more friends on this Earth with us for a little while longer.

For another article on suicide in ministry, check out this post on Christianity Today. As always, please seek professional counseling if you are struggling. The National Suicide Prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and there is no shame in calling it. We need your story with us in this world.

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Music and Depression: A Look at King Saul

I find it funny how music can affect my mood. Sometimes when I tense up with anxiety, I hear “Sunshine on my Shoulders” by John Denver and instantly calm to memories of my mother singing. Then there are times when the flowy worship of “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman makes me feel absolutely claustrophobic. It changes from day to day. When I think of music and depression in the Bible, King Saul of Israel best exemplifies the power music can have on mood.

The Passage

Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”

So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”

One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.”

Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.

David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.

1 Samuel 16:14-23 NIV

While this passage speaks of Saul’s mental distress as an evil spirit, Saul exhibits many of the symptoms of a depressed and anxious person. His mood swings without warning. Later in 1 Samuel, Saul responds to irritations by throwing spears at the people in the room with him. He lives in constant fear of losing his identity as King of Israel. The only source of relief he knows comes from a young shepherd who knows how to play the lyre.

Music and Depression in Therapy

Many studies have been done on the links between mood and music. In this academic article, Lucille Magill Bailey, D.A., discusses the effect music had on families dealing with cancer. She found that music eased their anxiety, facilitated communication and confidence, and allowed families to feel peace when their loved one passed on. She noted that songs from all genres of music could ease the family’s depression and anxiety. Patients and families needed the links to memories and feelings more than they needed a specific key or instrument played.

2 Tips on Music and Depression or Anxiety

  1. Listen to what you need now. The song that calms you the most on Monday may drive you up the wall on Thursday. Honor your body’s changing needs and listen to the songs that best speak to you in that particular situation.
  2. Remember to breathe. Deep breathing regulates mood and tension quicker than any other trick out there. (In fact, most tips I know of for anxiety and depression involve reminding yourself to breathe.) Try adjusting your deep breathing to match the flow of the song. Singing also requires controlled breathing, so sing out if that helps you.

How does music affect your mood? Let me know in the comments! And as always, seek a professional counselor for advice on your particular situation. (Mental health is not one-size-fits-all!)

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Review: The New England Romance Collection

I hate to say it, but this collection of Christian Fiction romance stories was the straw that broke the camel’s back. (Although, I should really credit one of the Amish romance novelists with weighing down the camel in the first place.) I avoided sunburn and heatstroke by curling up indoors with The New England Romance Collection on my summer break. Let’s dive in to what I found.

What Worked

  • First and foremost, these five ladies wrote novellas, found agents, and published their manuscripts. Kudos to Susan Page Davis, Darlene Franklin, Pamela Griffin, Lisa Harris, and Lynette Sowell for that! It takes a lot of hard work, focus, and dedication to complete a work of this length.
  • The purpose of encouraging other Christian women in their faith clearly drove these five authors in their writing. Regardless of the execution, I believe these women wrote with pure hearts and an admirable goal.

What Could Improve

  • Unclear Settings: The book’s back cover provides the most clarity for the time and place where each story occurs. The stories themselves do not contain enough unique descriptions to differentiate this book from the thousands of others on the shelves. In addition, the descriptions in these books rely heavily on the visual sense. Unfortunately, the simple visuals actually prevent the reader from getting drawn into the story.
  • You Told Me Too Much: What is the first rule of writing? Show, don’t tell. Now, I find it easier to say that rule than to accomplish it, but that rule separates diaries from prestigious magazines. Unfortunately, The New England Romance Collection tells the reader setting, emotion, and character development far more often than it shows the reader. By telling instead of showing, the authors actually prevent readers from putting on the characters’ shoes and walking around.

Why Does Walking Around in the Character’s Shoes Matter?

When readers can’t immerse themselves in the story, they can’t learn the lessons the characters learn, either. Bringing readers along on a character’s emotional journey allows readers to learn the lessons for themselves. Don’t we usually learn better from experience than from rules and advice? If it’s true for a parent trying to keep their child from touching a hot stove, it’s true for the author trying to lead people in a deeper relationship with God.

Hope Exists for Romance

If Christian Fiction Romance authors focus on vivid sensory details, we can vastly improve the genre. (Of course, editors and publishers have a hand in promoting immersive books, and that’s a different issue.) I believe improving the quality of the writing would start bringing a wider audience into the genre. That wider audience means more people who can be shown Christ. A win-win!

If you are looking for a romance book that handles sensory details well, check out Jan Karon’s Mitford series. For a different take on The New England Romance Collection, the Goodreads reviewers note what they valued and liked in the book. How do you feel about immersive sensory details in books? Let me know in the comments!

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Stay in Your Lane, Michal

I think Michal gets a bad wrap. Her father was unstable and her husband had his own struggles with mental illness. She’s bounced around from husband to husband and place to place. All of that builds up, until one day she sees her husband acting a fool in the streets, and it all boils over. She bursts out in frustration when he gets home. And she’s told – stay in your lane.

The Passage

Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

2 Samuel 6:12-16 NIV

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said “How the King of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel – I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

2 Samuel 6:20-23 NIV

When You Stay in Your Lane Too Long

I imagine that the years of uncertainty and chaos took its toll on Michal. After all, her father, king Saul, starting throwing spears at people in random fits of rage. Then she marries David, and she has to cover his disappearance by sending him out the window and hiding an idol in their bed. At some point in the ensuing chaos, Michal marries another man. When her brothers and father die so that David assumes control of Israel, David’s bargain forces her to leave her current husband and return to his palace. While the Bible does not state Michal’s feelings on the matter, her husband Paltiel “went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim,” (2 Samuel 3:14). She disappears among the throng of wives, concubines, and children whom David amassed during his conquering years.

I think that would cause a heap of frustration in anybody.

*It is important to note that Michal clearly struggled with some spiritual issues of her own. Based on 1 Samuel 19, she had easy access to an idol. David’s rebuke in 2 Samuel 6 involved Michal’s concern for outward appearance rather than pleasing God. However, today we are focusing on Michal’s emotional state and what led her to the outburst in 2 Samuel.

Stuffing Your Feelings

Michal carried the weight of years of pain and frustration inside her. She had no opportunity to express her feelings to the male family members in her life; her father Saul raged without warning, her husband David disappeared for many years, her brother Jonathan was often in battle, and her brother Ish-bosheth completely depended on his father’s army commander to make decisions.

Without having any way to release her negative emotions in a way that caused positive change, Michal’s feelings festered. It is no surprise to me that Michal lashed out at David for acting the fool when she grew up watching her father do the same. Unfortunately for Michal, that outburst cost her dearly. She lost her already tenuous standing in the midst of David’s household. She never bore children, which could have given her purpose.

Like Michal, stuffing our emotions too long can lead to disastrous consequences in our own lives. For information on other ways of managing anger and negative emotions, check out this article. And as always, a professional counselor can be a great help in navigating these deeply entrenched patterns in our lives.

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"Meaningless": Solomon's Mental Struggle

History knows King Solomon as the wisest king of Israel. He wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs, all of which are jammed packed with pithy guidance for living a fruitful and content life. So why does Solomon repeat “everything is meaningless” in Ecclesiastes?

The Passage

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

Ecclesiastes 1:1 NIV

I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:12-14 NIV

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NIV

If King Solomon, the wisest man probably of anyone except Jesus Himself, struggles with despair and finding everything “meaningless,” I think it is fair to say that many of us will, too. And I don’t think we failed if we do. Solomon found that our world is broken. That truth wedged its way into our world back in Genesis 3, and Solomon noted its effects on every aspect of life. He found that it did not matter whether you were wise or foolish, rich or poor.

Solomon saw the big picture of the world, and it overwhelmed him. The brokenness of the world can overwhelm us, too. What are some ways we can cope?

3 Ways to Overcome the “Meaningless”

  1. Focus on the basics. Often called creating boundaries, I have to remind myself that I cannot control anything other than my own actions. When I focus exclusively on acting in a way that pleases God, I am empowered to help others without worrying about things outside of my control. I am in no way good at this. Therefore, I employ all sorts of tricks like deep breathing and exercise to occupy my mind and overcome my tendency to people-please. This book is an excellent resource if you struggle with boundaries.
  2. Act according to your beliefs. I learned the hard way that living in a situation that goes against your beliefs takes you to a very dark place. “Meaningless” only begins to describe it. However, I want you to remember that there is always another option. You may feel stuck with no hope of escape; I certainly did. It took family, friends, and my therapist to help me see a way out of the job situation that caused me intense internal conflict. Once I left, I flooded with relief knowing that I was following a path that upheld my beliefs.
  3. Evaluate your beliefs. Through the process of leaving my job and fighting depression, I learned that we often hold beliefs that hurt us. I tell myself what I “should” or “need” to be doing every other sentence in my head. Sometimes, it’s just simply not true. I create the impossible standards that depress me when I cannot live up to them. Therefore, I try to habitually evaluate my beliefs to determine if they are true and helpful or if they are misconstrued and harmful. Talking with a professional counselor can be very helpful in working through your beliefs.

What are ways that you combat depression and feeling that “everything is meaningless”?

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Review: At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

I wanted to start this Friday’s review of Christian Fiction with first book in Jan Karon’s Mitford series, At Home in Mitford. The series is one of my favorites, as I mentioned in last week’s blog post. This week, we’re talking about what makes At Home in Mitford great.

The Characters

  • Father Tim: The main character of the Mitford series is Father Tim, an Episcopalian priest with a heart of gold and a stomach for a few too many sweets. He’s well rounded in more ways than one; he has a heart of gold that comes off as gruff under stress, and his affinity for sweets and concern for his parishioners’ feelings often leads him to neglect his own health. He is lovable and flawed. For someone in their sixties, Father Tim has a lot of growing left to do, and that makes for a fascinating book.
  • Cynthia: She draws cats and moles for her children’s books. She forgets to take the pink curlers out of her hair. She sits on the Gospel side of the Episcopalian church. Father Tim’s new neighbor is as interesting as she is a mess. Cynthia provides a lovely catalyst for Father Tim’s character development, but she also works through several deep issues of her own like divorce and barrenness.
  • Dooley: With whom do you foil a highly educated, very reserved, proper priest? You foil him with a red-haired, freckle-faced mountain boy with a penchant for fighting. Dooley is one of my favorite characters in all of literature. He has a deeply broken past for one so young, but he also runs around as an energetic promise of hope for the future. His story is a big part of my interest in adoption. Props to Mrs. Karon for discussing a complex topic in such a loving way.
  • Barnabus: A dog who responds to Scripture… can you get any more unique than that? (Side note: I tried this on my parents’ dog Teddy. I got mixed results. Chalk it up to little dog syndrome?) Any author who can so clearly articulate a dog’s personality should get major quality points, in my opinion.

The Setting

  • Mitford: Mrs. Karon created a town that might as well be a character in and of itself. The shops reflect their owners’ complex personalities with vivid, specific details. Consequently, it looks like a capsule of a perfect town, but its edges teem with the realities of life that often get swept under the rug. Thanks to Father Tim’s relationships with his parishioners, the readers get to see both the perfection and what it hides.

The Style

  • Humor: First, I love the ironic, sarcastic humor around Father Tim. Then, there’s Dooley’s hilarious childhood antics. Barnabus instigates some of the most outlandish predicaments that every dog owner will recognize as possible. All in all, this homey humor appeals to my desire to laugh at the ridiculousness of life and the characters we are all surrounded by.
  • Dialect: Despite hailing from Mississippi, Father Tim speaks with, and thus narrates with, a measured, educated dialect. In contrast, we meet Dooley, whose impoverished mountain relatives exacerbate his youthful grammar mistakes. The town residents’ individual dialects reflect their personal histories, which imparts a ton of information to the reader before the characters expressly discuss their backgrounds. I admire Mrs. Karon’s ability to dissect the tiniest differences in dialect. In addition, the text reads effortlessly.

If you are interested in reading At Home in Mitford, you can find the book for purchase here. I also purchased this audio version by using an Audible credit, and the narration reflected Father Tim’s essence well.

What do you think of these home-style reads? Do you prefer something fast-paced and hard-hitting? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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Is Praying Anger Away Really Possible?

I’ve talked about David in blog posts before related to anxiety and depression. Today, I wanted to take a different look at David’s emotions. I started reading 2 Samuel and found multiple accounts of David killing those who killed Saul’s family. It was a smart move for uniting a country after years of political unrest, and in it David demonstrated his reverence for God’s ultimate authority. However, David’s response also rockets from grief to anger and violence then back to grief.

It brought me to the idea of praying away your anger. It was honestly a strategy my mom tried to instill in my brother and me as children so that we would calm down and process our emotions instead of hitting or kicking each other. But is praying anger away really a viable strategy for handling emotion? Let’s dig in!

The Passage

“What happened?” David asked [the Amalekite]. “Tell me.”

“The men fled from the battle,” he replied. “Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”

Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. They mourned and wept and fasted till the evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and the army of the LORD and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?”

“I am a foreigner, an Amalekite,” he answered.

David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?”

Then David called down one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. You own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the LORD’s anointed.'”

2 Samuel 1:4, 11-16

Your Anger May Be Something Else

In researching emotions and anger, I was shocked to find this article discussing people whose anger and violent thoughts flared out of control. Most of the individuals affected by these violent thoughts had some sort of head trauma as a young child that affected their temporal lobes. One individual even had a genetic condition that altered the structure of his temporal lobe, which gave him terrifying violent thoughts.

I love watching CBS’ Seal Team. Last season dealt a great deal with traumatic brain injuries and how they can affect mood, behavior, and memory. However, I had no idea that trauma could occur to the temporal lobe as a child or due to genetics that would influence a child’s anger forever. Thankfully, the individuals in the article all received treatment and gained control of their anger. As with other mental illnesses, it turned out that these individuals’ anger issues actually had a deeper physiological root.

If Your Anger is Purely Emotion

For those whose anger is not caused by a malformation or injury to the brain, there are techniques available for controlling our anger. This article from the American Psychological Association has a great list of ways to cope with and redirect anger. Does prayer make the cut?

If you use prayer as a “calming” tool or to help you reframe the experience in your mind, then you should absolutely continue using prayer to control your emotion. However, whether you habitually pray to control anger or are trying prayer for the first time, make sure that you do not suppress your feelings with prayer. Our goal is to express the source of our anger in a nonjudgemental way so that we can improve in the future.

If you feel that your emotions swing like David’s or you are having explosive anger, you may benefit from seeking counsel from a certified professional. Please check out the APA website for more resources and to find a counselor in your area.