(Review) The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis

The Problem of Pain

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper One. 1940. 1996. 2012.
Genre: Christian nonfiction.
Pages: 162.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Very good.

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Clives Staples Lewis (1898-1963)

 

“If God is love, He is, by definition something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” Page 33.

To read a C. S. Lewis book, I have to have my thinking cap on. His books are not the type to skim over. They are not the type to passively read. They require a particular skill: thinking. And I love to think. A friend recently told me, “You think to hard about things.” I chuckled. It is true. I love to think; and further, to think about the hard things in life.

Summary:
In brief, “The Problem of Pain” addresses suffering.
Why God allows suffering?
Why do bad things happen?
What happened to cause suffering?

My Thoughts:
This is a beautiful book. At first glance, that statement seems odd, out of place. We expect life to be pretty. We expect dreams and desires to be fulfilled. We want success. We want Christmas morning everyday. But life is complicated and it is messy. Life is filled with accidents, sickness, and people who break promises.
“The Problem of Pain” is a book of comfort. Not because Lewis makes me feel all warm and toasty. But he reminds me this life is not all there is, there is an eternal life beyond this temporary, transient life.

Some of my favorite quotes:

 

When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. Page 39.

But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Page 92.

And as to God, we must remember that the soul is but a hollow which God fills. Its union with God is, almost by definition, a continual self-abandonment-an opening, an unveiling, a surrender, of itself. A blessed spirit is a mould ever more and more patient of the bright metal poured into it, a body ever more completely uncovered to the meridian blaze of the spiritual sun. Page 156-157.

All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight. There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy. It does not exists for us, but we for it. Page 158-159.

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(Review) The Second Blast of the Trumpet, Book Two in the Knox Trilogy by Marie Macpherson

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Publisher and Publication Date: Knox Publishing. August 15, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: Ebook. 305 pages.
Source: Complimentary ebook copy from Marie Macpherson. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Very good.

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About the author:
Hailing from the historic honest Town of Musselburgh, six miles from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, Marie Macpherson (née Gilroy) developed a love for literature and languages from an early age. Brought up on the site of the Battle of Pinkie and within sight of Fa’side Castle, she was haunted by tales and legends from the past. Though she has travelled widely, teaching languages and literature across Europe from Madrid to Moscow, she has never lost her passion for the rich history and culture of her native Scotland.​
For more information please visit Marie’s website. You can also connect with her on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter.

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Summary:
“The Second Blast of the Trumpet” is the second book in the life of John Knox. John Knox was a zealous crusader for Reformation in Scotland. The time period is mid 1500s.
“The Second Blast of the Trumpet” is not a religious book. It is not spiritual in nature. It is not pro Protestant. It is a historical fiction piece about the man himself, John Knox.

My Thoughts:
•My favorite aspect of this story is I have a better understanding of Knox’s character. He had the gift of speech. He had a way of explaining the Bible in simple language for the common folk. He was a natural orator. He was passionate, strong-willed, pious, bold, dynamic, and vibrant. I also saw his weaknesses. I feel Knox has been portrayed as dimensional and real.
•I enjoyed reading about the complexity of the Bowes family. The relationship between Marjory Bowes and her mother was close. Marjory became the wife of Knox. One of my favorite lines from the book is, “Better to be an old man’s darling than a young man’s slave.”
•The committed love and passion between Knox and Marjory remained steadfast through the story. I loved their chemistry.
•Knox holds his own and has interesting conversations with people who do not share his views.
•”The Second Blast of the Trumpet” showed me the sights, sounds, and smells of this era. It is a descriptive story.
•The historical facts and people of this time were brought to life: King Edward of England, Lady Jane Grey, Mary Tudor, Bishop Gardner, John Calvin, and Mary of Guise.

(Reviews) Blue Nights, and South and West by Joan Didion

 

Blue Nights published 2011. South and West 2017. Both books published by Alfred A. Knopf.
Genre: Nonfiction.
Pages: Blue Nights, 208. South and West, 160.
Source: Both books are library copies.
Rating: Blue Nights excellent. South and West very good.

Blue Nights @ Amazon
South and West @ Amazon

I watched Joan Didion’s bio on Netflix recently. I’d heard of Joan Didion but I’d not read any of her writings. I read these two books back to back: “South and West,” and “Blue Nights.”

“Blue Nights” was written as a reflection on the life of Joan Didion’s daughter, Quintana. The book begins with the memory of Quintana’s wedding. Didion shares pieces of their lives. It is not a full biography but specific memories about Quintana. In addition, Didion addresses the changes that come from growing older. And, she ponders the loss of her husband.

“Blue Nights” is as real as it gets in writing about the hard things of life. Didion is straightforward. Her perspective is a mix of thoughts and emotions. She does not detach from the pain. However, as a writer she is able to put on paper a precise view of these memories. In reflecting, she wonders how she missed certain aspects of Quintana’s personality and emotional tangles. Didion is a deep thinker. She is a person who analyzes what she sees and hears, and is able to transfer to paper these thoughts.
“Blue Nights” has deeply moved me. While reading, I reflected on certain aspects of my own life. For example, the death of my parents. Pain is relative to all humans. And when we speak of those painful times there is a familiarity and a oneness. To lose a child in death, holds unspeakable horror in living beyond without them. What does the beyond look like? It is a strange land that we don’t want to live in.

“South and West” is two notebooks of writings from Didion’s life.
The first is a travel notebook. Joan, and her husband, John, traveled by car through the Deep South in the summer of 1970. The journey began in New Orleans, Louisiana. Joan and John lived in California. The South seemed a foreign place. Their journey lasted about a month. She records her views from the car window, conversations with the locals, foods they ate, and the atmosphere of the environment.
I enjoyed reading this piece. The Deep South from her perspective seems a foreign land. It seems frozen in time. The thought patterns and the voices of the people are remarkably different from her modern, sophisticated, sunny California.
The second notebook is titled “California Notes.” The writing is brief, 13 pages. It began as a Patty Hearst writing. The time period is during the trials of Hearst, 1976. What began as notes for one book later led to being used in another.
This piece is so brief the only thing I want to remark on is it gave me a view of Didion’s early life. Her youth is explored but in brief.

(Review) How To Let God Solve Your Problems: 12 Keys To Finding Clear Guidance In Life’s Trials by Charles F. Stanley

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Publisher and Publication Date: Thomas Nelson. 2008.
Genre: Christian nonfiction.
Pages: 160.
Source: Free copy from In Touch Ministries-a Charles F. Stanley ministry.
Rating: Very good.

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As you read through this book, I want to challenge you to alter the way you view life’s problems and trials. Instead of cowering in fear when difficulties come, step out in faith and trust God to deal with your circumstances. Page xi.

The above quote is difficult to digest when we’re going through a crisis!
To think beyond the storm we’re trying to survive, requires a strength and vision only the Holy Spirit provides.
How To Let God Solve Your Problems is not a pep talk book. It gives sound Bible teaching and applicable teaching.

My Thoughts on why I gave this book a very good rating:
•The book is encouraging. Early in the book Stanley encourages us not to give up and what may happen if we do.
•The definition of endurance; in addition, how endurance shapes our lives.
•Chapter two is titled, “The Test of Endurance.” In this chapter, five principles are given to help us not “turn away” and “give up.”
•Chapter three is titled, “God Has an Answer for Your Need.” Stanley gives reasons why “God allows problems.” One of these reasons is, “God allows adversity to touch our lives so that we will turn to Him.” Another reason is, “God uses adversity to purify us and prepare us for greater service.” I enjoyed reading this aspect as it reminds me of a larger purpose beyond the current suffering. God does not waste anything. God does not waste our sorrows, but uses the suffering to mold us and prepare us for a future purpose.
•Chapter Six is “A Change in Attitude,” and it builds on the aspect of God not wasting our sorrows.

God never wastes our sorrows. He has a plan in mind for every problem and frustration we face. Always remember, He is not the One who created the adversity, but He uses it to strengthen our faith and mold our lives so that we reflect His love and grace to others. It is in the hard places in life that we learn the deeper truths of God. Page 51.

•Chapter seven is “Solving Problems Through Prayer,” and it addresses problems I have: wanting to understand why the suffering is happening and how is God going to solve this problem. “Your job is to set the focus of your heart on obeying Him.” Page 71.
•Chapter eleven is “Reaching Your Full Potential.”

In times of training and brokenness, God targets specific areas in our lives that are hindering His purpose and will. He arranges the circumstances for our brokenness and also chooses the tools by which this will be accomplished. He also controls the emotional and physical pressure that is applied to our life. All of this is done in an effort to teach us how to submit to His will. Page 125.

Several stories from the Bible are used as illustrations: Adam and Eve, Joseph, Elijah, David, Paul, Samuel, and Jonah.