Review: A Grief Observed

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know why I put off reading this book for so long. The intensity of the subject of grief is something that both calls me closer and repels me. But I’m so glad I read this book, most of it in one sitting. I’m really glad I read the foreword by Madeleine L’Engle and the Introduction by Jack’s stepson, Douglas Gresham.

So many books about grief are written to give the bereaved something to do. Ten steps to take, stages to watch out for, prayers to pray, or other well-intentioned advisories. This is not that kind of book. Lewis takes us on a journey of grief, not hiding the times when he later admitted he was wrong. He doesn’t edit in such a way that we miss the flow of his feelings at the loss of his beloved wife. In the intimate confessions of trying to make sense of the pain of loss, Lewis invites us into his private world. There, those who have suffered the death of a loved one will find a companion along the way.

In the intertwined reflections of grief, Lewis grapples with the reality of God and how difficult it is to make sense of a Good God when suffering immense pain. I appreciated these reflections and that he did not run away from them as a Christian writer and philosopher.

I would recommend this book to those unafraid to explore their own feelings about grief, knowing that there are no answers. There are no magic good deeds and no clear path forward that alleviate the pain of loss. Lewis is much too honest to approach grief in that way.

The opening words of his book are well known:

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”

Thus begins an expression of grief that is both in depth, and succinct.

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Expect An Answer

King Herod liked being popular and the more he persecuted the Christians, the more the Jews liked him. James, John’s brother, had already been put to death with the sword. God’s people held their breath as they continued reaching out and living for Christ, even as the dark clouds of persecution covered the land. The bad news came with swiftness as they learned that Peter had been arrested and given a death sentence.

There’s power in Act 12:5 when it says, “…but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” There’s a great testimony to the power of God in a praying church.

While they were praying, God was answering. Peter was led by an angel out of the jail and he made his way to Mary’s house. The Bible says, “…many people had gathered and were praying…” (Acts 12:12).

An unsuspecting servant girl stepped into the pages of history as she asked who was at the door before she opened it. Hearing Peter’s voice, she was filled with excitement and joy and ran to tell the others that he was at the door (leaving him outside). Rhoda didn’t find a receptive audience to her message. In fact, they were so resistant to the message that they surmised that it was his angel outside, and not Peter himself!

Thankfully, Peter kept on knocking and when they finally let him they were astonished! He told them what had happened and he crept away into the night.

The lesson is plain, but awfully challenging. Expect God to answer! Ask Him for what you think you need. Beseech Him on the behalf of others. Never doubt for a minute that He is going to answer. In fact, look for it. Don’t leave the door closed on your blessing, let it in! Thank God for it.

Perhaps what we need are a few more Rhodas among us to provoke us into believing in a God who rescues prisoners and listens to the petitions of His people. Expect an answer!

Review: Love to Pray

Love to Pray: A 40-Day Devotional for Deepening Your Prayer Life by Alvin Vandergriend

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alvin VanderGriend’s little book LOVE TO PRAY is an excellent resource approaching prayer from a variety of perspectives. It has eight sections with five devotional readings in each. VanderGriend attempts to help us see prayer as more than a religious activity, but as accepting an invitation from God to come into His presence where we are warmly welcomed.

I loved his definition of prayer: Prayer is the conversational part of the most important love relationship in our lives, our love relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This is a rich devotional resource I’m sure I will return to again in the future. I want to grow in prayer. I want to love to pray … and VanderGriend has given me excellent perspective to see prayer as an ongoing conversation with someone who loves me deeply, and with whom I can share my whole heart.

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Review: The Journey Toward Wholeness

The Journey Toward Wholeness: Enneagram Wisdom for Stress, Balance, and Transformation by Suzanne Stabile

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Enneagram is an immersive approach to personality discernment that is aimed at personal transformation. The approach is about so much more than just 9 ‘types’ or ‘numbers’. Stabile goes deeper into the Enneagram in this book, talking about Triads and Stances, going into detail for each number, offering practical suggestions for wholeness. She shares personal stories in each chapter that help us understand more fully the concepts and the pathways toward bringing up repressed centers of intelligence.

I’m not an Enneagram expert, only having read a few books and talked about it with a lot of people. But this book gave me some clarity. Still, I can see there is much to learn – mostly about myself. As I read through the information about each number I could identify with some of each … and it caused me to question my own orientation toward my number. I thought maybe I was wrong. But then I read the chapters that related to my number and I knew that there was so much to identify with that I am correct.

Now that gives me some soul work to do…. as Stabile says often … to know what is mine to do, and what is not. Highly recommended. Oh, Enneagram 9w1.

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When Children Have Grown Up

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Note: Erma Bombeck’s newspaper columns and books are irreplaceable in American humor and insight. I found this article in my files and wanted to share it.

One of these days you’re going to shout, “Wy don’t you kids grow up and act your age?” And they will. Or, “You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do and don’t slam the door.” And they will. You’ll straighten up the boys bedroom, neat and tidy. Bumper stickers discarded, spread tucked and smooth, toys displayed on the shelves, hangers in the closet, animals caged. And you’ll shout out loud, “Now I want it to stay that way.” And it will.

You’ll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn’t been picked to death. And a cake with no finger traces in the icing. And you’ll say, “Now there’s a meal for company.” And you’ll eat it alone.

You’ll say, “I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No pantomimes. No demolition crews. Silence. Do you hear?” And you’ll have it.

No more plastic table cloths stained with spaghetti. No more bed spreads to protect from damp bottoms. No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps. No more clothes pins under the sofa. No more play pens to arrange the room around. No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent. No more sand on the sheets, or poppy movies in the bathrooms. No more iron patches or wet knotted shoe strings or tight boots or rubber bands for pony tails.

Imagine lipstick with a point on it. No baby sitter for New Year’s Eve. Washing only once a week. Seeing a steak that isn’t ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap. No PTA meetings. No car pools. No blaring radios. No one washing her hair at 11:00 at night. Having your own roll of transparent adhesive tape. Think about it.

No more Christmas presents out of toothpaste and library paste. No more sloppy oatmeal kisses. No more tooth fairy. No more giggles in the dark. No knees to heal. No responsibility. Only a voice crying, “Why don’t you grow up?” And the silence echoing: “I did.”