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Ish-Bosheth Son of Saul

To be honest, I don’t recall Ish-Bosheth appearing in the book of 1 Samuel. We learn a great deal about Jonathan, we see three of Saul’s sons die on Mt. Gilboa, but Ish-bosheth stays silently in the background. That is, until Abner gets ahold of him in 2 Samuel. He steps forward as a puppet king of Israel for two years while David leads the tribe of Judah. So, how did the family lines of depression affect Ish-Bosheth, son of Saul?

The Passage

Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.

2 Samuel 2:8-9 NIV

During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”

Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, “Am I a dog’s head – on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the LORD promised him on oath and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.

2 Samuel 3:6-11 NIV

Family Ties

In addition to being commander of Saul’s army, Abner was Ish-Bosheth’s uncle. He not only brought his political experience to the table, but he also brought his position of family authority over Ish-Bosheth. It is no surprise that Abner’s previous positions alone were enough to sway Ish-Bosheth into becoming a puppet king. Between Abner and David, every decision Ish-Bosheth made was directed by someone else. Even Ish-Bosheth’s death in 2 Samuel 4 occured at the hands of two of his men while he was sleeping. In fact, the only report of Ish-Bosheth ever making a decision on his own occurred when he confronted Abner about Rizpah, and it ended with his authority as king being stripped away.

Outside of Abner’s direct influence, Ish-Bosheth had an unusual relationship with the rest of his family. We don’t see Ish-Bosheth fighting in any battles alongside Saul. In 1 Samuel 28, the ghost of Samuel warns Saul that he will lose all of his sons in the battle against the Phillistines. So, how does Ish-Bosheth survive the carnage? Based on 2 Samuel, he must have been at home. Ish-Bosheth was not a warrior like his father and brothers. He did not lead thousands of men every day like his older brother Jonathan did. We really don’t find out anything that Ish-Bosheth did do. He certainly did not have any experience or qualities to enhance his claim to Israel’s throne. Yet, thanks to Abner, he sits in charge of eleven loosely connected tribes.

Ish-Bosheth Son of Saul

Unlike Jonathan and even Michal, Ish-Bosheth seemed to inherit none of his father Saul’s warrior instincts. Instead, he inherited all the fear and silence Saul ever possessed, and he seems to have inherited it ten-fold. Ish-Bosheth faced a bully in his Uncle Abner, and he did not know how to stand up for himself or his family. We don’t even see him wake up or fight back at his death. He reacted to every circumstance we see him face, and he never made proactive changes to protect his household.

Ish-Bosheth really exemplifies the breakdown caused among his family because Saul never treated his depression. Aside from God’s punishment for Saul’s poor choices, the family never learned to readjust their negative thinking. Those like Jonathan who didn’t struggle with mental illness themselves spent the majority of their time trying to play catch-up and keep the peace. Ultimately, the family met with a tragic end. Perhaps the tragedy could have been avoided if Saul had sought help for his struggles instead of running from them in fear.

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King Saul's Daughter: Another Look at Michal

I became interested in the story of King Saul’s daughter, Michal, when I read The Wives of King David series by Jill Eileen Smith. Getting an on-the-ground view of the book of 1 Samuel completely changed my opinion of Michal. Today, let’s look at Michal again so we can understand how depression affected King Saul’s daughter.

The Passage

Then [Saul] himself went to Ramah and came to the great well that is in Secu. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” And one said, “Behold, they are at Naioth in Ramah.” And he went there to Naoith in Ramah. And the Spirit of God came upon him also, and as he went he prophesied until he came to Naoith in Ramah. And he too stripped off his clothes, and he too prophesied before Samuel and lay naked all that day and all that night. Thus it is said, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

1 Samuel 19:22-24 ESV

And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.

2 Samuel 6:12-14 ESV

Parallels between Saul and David

Anger often hides a deeper emotion like fear. Michal certainly had reason to fear her husband David following her father’s footsteps. After all, Saul was Israel’s first king. Who was to say that Saul’s fate wouldn’t also be David’s?

Consider 1 Samuel 19. Saul ramps up his attempts to kill David. After three rounds of soldiers have fallen to the ground in prophesy before they can complete their mission, Saul himself journeys to David. In contrast to the joyful prophesying Saul preformed at his anointing, Saul winds up naked in the streets for a day. No doubt his family at home was ashamed by the scandal and the turmoil.

Now in 2 Samuel 6, David has taken over Israel. He already failed once at moving the Ark of the Covenant. In fact, Uzzah died stabilizing the ark in transit, and 2 Samuel reports David trembling in fearful humility because of it. However, word arrives that the house currently holding the ark was blessed, so David decides to move it again. Michal probably recalls her father’s fearful attempts to gain power as David left for Ark Transport Round 2. She probably feels fear for the Ark herself.

Next thing Michal sees, her husband is dancing basically naked in the streets because of this ark. I imagine the scandal of her father’s naked prophesying flashed before her eyes. She probably fears that this foreshadows David following in Saul’s depressed footsteps. She lived in that unstable palace once before; I doubt she wants to live there again. So, Michal waits with all her fury at the door to the palace for David to come home.

King Saul’s Daughter

Besides the stress of living in royal palaces led by men with mental illnesses, Michal has another fact working against her. Genetics play a large role in anxiety and depression. Saul’s early pattern of silence certainly parallels Michal’s stuffed feelings. It is very possible that Michal inherited her father’s depressive tendencies. Add a life of stress to genetic inclinations, and Michal’s own depression kicked in full swing. As 2 Samuel 6:20-23 repeats, Michal was “the daughter of Saul” in more ways than one.

Unfortunately, Saul’s untreated mental health problems led to further problems for his children. While Jonathan lived in the shadow of Saul’s poor decisions, Michal faced the scary truth of depression in the mirror. Without the example of someone seeking help for their mental struggles, Michal played defense like her father did. She put up rules to stop the cycle from returning, but it cost her more family in the end.

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The Relationship of Jonathan and Saul

We’ve looked at how King Saul’s life was affected by depression in 1 Samuel. However, Saul’s struggle with mental illness affected more people than just himself. His warrior son, Jonathan, was not immune to the consequences of Saul’s depression. Today, we’re looking at the relationship of Jonathan and Saul.

The Passage

But Jonathan had not heard that his father had bound the people with the oath, so he reached out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened. Then one of the soldiers told him, “Your father bound the army under a strict oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food today!’ That is why the men are faint.”

Jonathan said, “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?”

1 Samuel 14:27-30 NIV

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.”

Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”

Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death.”

1 Samuel 19:1-6 NIV

The Relationship of Jonathan and Saul

Jonathan shows the unfortunately difficult parts of living with someone struggling with mental illness. While fighting depression surely took its toll on Saul, it also affected Jonathan’s actions. As shown in 1 Samuel 14 and 19, Jonathan spent most of his time undoing his father’s poor choices. When Saul forbade the men from eating food, Jonathan had to accept the consequences of breaking the oath. (Thankfully, the men saved him from dying.) When Saul decided yet again to kill David, Jonathan tried to make peace between them. He hid David and attempted to reason with his father multiple times. Unfortunately, he wasn’t always successful.

While Jonathan may not have inherited his father’s mental struggles like his siblings did, countering Saul’s unreasonableness came with its own stress. Jonathan never knew when a spear would fly across the room. He could not let his battle instincts relax in his own home. On top of all of that, Jonathan never got to see his best friend David again when David went on the run from Saul.

I hope the story of Jonathan reminds us that mental illness touches more than just the mind of the person battling it. When we seek to support those fighting mental illness, let’s also remember and support the family members and close friends who often bear the brunt of outbursts. Moreover, I think the relationship of Jonathan and Saul shows us how important it is to treat mental illness as soon as possible. Had Saul learned to cope with his depression early on, he might have had a closer relationship with his son.

Jonathan was not the only family member affected by Saul’s mental illness. Stay tuned next week as we look at the stories of two more of Saul’s children.

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Handling Stress like Moses: Two Methods

Moses was a pretty stressed-out dude. I mean, leading thousands of grumbling people through a desert when you really don’t like talking anyway doesn’t sound like the best way to spend your day. But, God called Moses to lead His people, and Moses was obedient. That doesn’t mean God left Moses to learn handling stress on his own, though! God sent advice in a surprising source: Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro.

The Passage

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.”

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people – men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

Exodus 18:13-23

All the grumbling people were wearing Moses out! It seems to me that Moses didn’t even realize how much his work as judge was affecting his health and ability to lead God’s people. It took an outsider, Jethro, looking in on the situation to notice the path that Moses was headed down.

Two Tips for Handling Stress like Moses

  1. Listen to advice from those who know you. Moses had lived with Jethro a “long period” before he found the burning bush and returned to Egypt (Exodus 2:23). He tended Jethro’s sheep, married Jethro’s daughter, and lived in Jethro’s house. When Jethro watched Moses at work, he knew Moses well enough to recognize that the work would overwhelm him. In response, Moses listened to Jethro’s advice. He acknowledged the relationship he had with his father-in-law, recognized the advice for the help that it was, and implemented the advice quickly to avoid the negative outcome he was headed for. It’s not always easy to take advice, but sometimes it can make a dramatic difference in our health if we listen.
  2. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Jethro’s advice was fairly simple. If Moses taught other faithful, respectable men God’s commands directly, they could handle the smaller cases based on that knowledge, and Moses would only have to judge the difficult cases. Delegation isn’t easy. It requires time to teach the skills and principles needed to complete the work. It means the delegator has to trust the workers to implement what they’ve learned. However, delegation also took a lot of repetitive busy work off of Moses’ plate. Delegation allowed Moses to focus on what was important – leading the people in God’s will – and helped him in handling stress.

God sent Jethro to teach Moses ways of handling stress. Just as God provided food for the Israelites in the desert, and just as God provided Aaron to be Moses’ mouthpiece, God provides us with wise friends who warn us when we are headed down a path that is dangerous for our health.

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Writing for Granna

We spent Thanksgiving lunch at my grandparents’ house for the first time I could remember since I was a child. For whatever reason, the holidays got celebrated in the days before or after the day marked on the calendar, or my grandparents would stop at our house on the way to see other family, or someone had moved or changed schools and it was easier not to leave town. This year, my mom and I really wanted to spend it further south, so we packed up our respective families (minus the cat) and drove two hours to the Quad Cities.

When I walked in my grandparents’ house, I didn’t remember the narrow galley kitchen being blue. I recognized the blue living room and den, but my mind expected the darker colors from twenty years ago. Both my mom and grandfather tilted their heads when I asked how long the kitchen had been blue. “It was all painted at the same time,” they said. “Granna turned on a light under the cabinet to make it brighter.”

I washed my hands in the kitchen sink and tilted my head to look through the window into the added-on sunroom. I remembered sitting on the couch with my brother and grandfather playing Spyro or Ratchet & Clank on the Playstation. Granna would be fixing sandwiches in the kitchen, or washing dishes, or frying chicken for our picnic supper, and she would lean through the window to tell us we were doing a great job or that food was ready. We would lean forward and wave, and sometimes I ran to the sink to imagine what the window looked like from Granna’s view.

Despite feeling like I was straddled two decades in a single moment, my brother and I laughed at the ceiling fan chain hitting us in our foreheads. We had been so proud to grow tall enough to reach it with the tops of our heads, and now we had to pay serious attention not to whack it when we walked through the middle of the room.

We finally all settled in front of the tv to drift off in a turkey-induced dream or zone out to the random and somewhat confusing movie on the screen. Granna sat at the dining room table and asked me across the room how my writing was going. I told her about my blog and how I was working on my book.

Granna smiled and nodded. “There’s a woman at church who writes books,” she said. I told her I remembered hearing about the author. “What I like about her books is the same thing I like about your writing. Your books aren’t over complicated or deep; I can relax when I read them. I can’t keep up with all those multiple storylines like I used to. I just want books I can relax to.”

Granna then told me the story of her struggles to learn to read in 1st grade and her transformation to a teacher when reading clicked. I nodded; I had heard the story before. More than this story, her earlier comment was circling in my head. I just want to read to relax. I had spent so many hours in college studying literature and feeling sheepish for writing simply that I never realized the reason I wrote that way in the first place. I wrote because I wanted to help people relax, to give them an escape where they could process emotions through catharsis and feel a little more hopeful when they finished.

Before we left, my grandfather ran to a shoe box and pulled out a handmade star ornament. “I want you to have this, an ornament for your first Christmas tree.” I held the slim piece of glass in my hands and felt my heart swell. I knew my grandfather had spent a lot of time choosing the best pieces of glasses and soldering the pieces together. I also knew I would be putting it at the top of my tree when I decorated the day after Thanksgiving.

As I held the ornament in my hands on the drive home, I decided I would no longer feel guilty for not writing complicated literature. I would write well, yes, and use all I knew to make the words true and round and engaging. But my Granna needed stories she could relax to, and so did someone else’s Granna or Meemaw or Grandma. I couldn’t fail these ladies who poured their hearts into teaching children to love reading, who still devoured books to cope, who read to keep their minds sharp. I love them too much not to write for them.

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A Little About Me

Hello, everyone! Since I’ve revamped my blog and hope to see several new faces visiting in the near future, I thought it would be fun to fill out one of those cheesy getting to know you questionnaires we filled out as kids on the first day of school.

  • Favorite color: Green!
  • Favorite book: I have three favorites (give or take a few…): Emma by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, and the entire Mitford series by Jan Karon. After all, how many English majors can pick just one favorite book?
  • Favorite song: Currently, I love I Don’t Dance by Lee Brice because it is the song my husband played the first time he asked me to dance, and I love If We Have Each Other by Alec Benjamin because my brother sent it to me (cue the tears on verse 3…)
  • Favorite food: Pepperoni pizza or cheese tortellini with marinara sauce
  • Least favorite food: Mashed potatoes (and yes, I have been informed that is strange)
  • When I grow up, I want to be… an author of quality Christian Fiction books that are suitable for any age to read. Longer post coming on that next week!
  • My best friends are… My husband, Joe, and my brother, AJ. I don’t know what I would do without those goofballs!
  • My hero is… my mom, and she always has been. I think most people my age recognize our moms for the superheroes they were as they raised us in a really transitional season. I mean, flip phones were the coolest thing ever when I was 7! Now, I can post formatted articles with edited pictures and graphics all from my iPhone. It’s been a crazy world post-9/11, and it took a lot of guts and prayer from my mom to raise me right. I would also like to add my dad to the list. He works so hard to provide for my family, yet he still takes the time to send me a funny GIF every morning and make sure I’m always ok.
  • If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to… Scotland and Ireland! I’ve always wanted to visit the land of the redheads.

Do we have any of the same answers? If you want to see more of these posts, leave suggestion questions in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

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In Honor of Father’s Day

My first memory is riding in the backseat of our Pathfinder while my dad drove. He was wearing his purple college track jacket that reflected the sunlight coming through the windows. My baby brother had been born, he told me. We were going to see Mommy and my new brother at the hospital.

I also remember being buckled into the front seat of his sports car later that year. It was just the two of us, and he slid the passenger seat as far back as it would go so my car seat wouldn’t put me too close to the air bag. Daddy drove us up and down the mountain while the trees and rock blurred around us. The engine revved when he hit the gas to glide up the hill.

Fourteen years later, my dad went over the contents of the truck’s console before I drove it by myself for the first time the next day. He left some pennies and dimes in change, just in case I ever needed them. He left the gold medallion representing the patron saint of travel. He had kept it in his car since he started driving. This time, he thought I might need it. I touched the dingy gold where it rested in the console, then closed the cover.

This past week, I bought my first car. Daddy went over all the details with me and made sure everything was signed in my name. Then it was time to transfer my belongings from the family truck to my new crossover. I left the patron saint in the truck, but I transferred the angel charm I had bought after I called him in a panic one night when I made a wrong turn. I was going to leave the change, too, but my dad scooped up the pennies and left them on my bed that night. I dropped the change in the bottom of my new console so I could carry a little bit of my dad’s provision with me every day.

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In Honor of Mother’s Day

Sunday night at small group, the leader asked us to share a memory of our mothers.

The question had pestered me for a week, ever since I had decided to write my first blog post in a year for my mother. How could I summarize a lifetime in 300 words or less? What single memory did justice to the unconditional love that got us through any situation?

I think I gave myself an impossible task. But as I filtered through snippets of memories, I remembered her room-filling laugh that echoed wherever she found a friend. I remembered her warm arms wrapping around my shoulders and rocking me when I felt empty and alone. I remembered the numerous phone calls when I felt like my insides would swallow me, and she would say, “Breathe,” until the world felt a little smaller.

I remembered all the gooey chocolate chip cookies she would bake when we had emptied the house of our usual desserts. I remembered the smell of coconut and pineapple steaming out of her bathroom to remind her of her “happy place” at the beach. I remembered the heat of a bowl of popcorn when she would mix it with M&Ms and mini-marshmallows for movie night.

Of course, there were moments when one’s sideways comments would make our heads fill with fury. We made each other cry at times, and not the happy tears that followed a scribbled note or a small bag with an uplifting quote on it. But I also remembered my mother praying with me, and I remembered her faith that God always knew what was best for me, even when I didn’t quite believe it myself.

So I decided that I could not distill my mother into a single representative memory. She was too much a part of everything around me for that.