Sunday, October 7, 2007

Book Review: "When There Are No Words"

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

In his book, Charlie Walton shares his personal experience with grief. The book is written to those who have recently suffered the loss of a loved one. It offers those who are grieving an idea of "what they are in for", some practical advice for grieving, and some encouragement to "make it" as Walton has done.

Although the book is short, Walton manages to cover a broad range of topics associated with grief. Some of the topics that I can relate to include: the presence of family and friends, grieving in your own way, inaccurate and uncaring media, our tendency to cast blame and treat false theories as facts, and the value of hugs!

Walton also touches on some other topics that are more thought-provoking: how to handle guilt, why we should not judge each other, and the role that memories play in our pain. His advice on these is simple and straightforward, although I would like to see more on each of these topics.

One thing that impresses me about the book is its easy style. It is very easy to read, and Walton has a knack for keeping things simple and relaxed. This is especially impressive given the subject matter of the book.

This is a very good book for those who have recently lost a loved one.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Book Review: "If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad?"

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

This book was written by David Biebel and was originally published in 1989. It is written for people who are still hurting from loss which, as Biebel points out, includes just about everyone. Often, when people suffer, they have some difficulty reconciling their own hurt with their understanding of God (hence the title). Biebel offers some insight into his own struggles, and he explains that through his pain, his faith is stronger and he has grown closer to God.

Biebel makes a good case for "embracing" pain. Up until recently (say around 1900), pain was a normal part of our existence. Now, we as a society do everything we can to hide and suppress pain. We don't talk about our pain, because it is a sign of weakness. We have medicine and modern comforts to suppress our pain. There are several problems with this:
  • Jesus is a "man of sorrow and acquainted with grief". He suffered. How can we understand the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus without experiencing pain ourselves? How can we relate to Him?
  • Pain lets us learn our limits and learn to trust God. How can we learn to cling to, rely on, and trust in Jesus if we never suffer, if we are never pushed to the limits of what we can bear?
  • When we build our lives around something or someone other than Jesus, then how will God "break down" those walls without some suffering? He "disciplines every son that he loves".
Thus, experiencing pain and loving God can go together. We often treat these as contradictory. That is, when we suffer loss, it is easy to blame God. And when things are going well, we tend to thank God. Biebel makes a good case that we can and should continue to love and trust God even while experiencing pain. The pain will hurt, and we can know that God will work it together for good if we continue to trust Him.

These are all excellent insights.

There are a few minor things that I do not like about the book. First, it is written in a "lofty" language that is somewhat difficult to understand. For example, there are several latin phrases that I didn't bother to look up in the dictionary. Second, Biebel tends to treat Jesus as a peer rather than as God. Maybe he is right, but for some reason that does not set well with me. Third, the book is a little preachy.

On the whole, the good insights that Biebel offers far outweigh any of these. I appreciate how honest and open he is about his own struggles, and I am thankful that he took the time to share his insights with us. This book will help me accept the pain that I have experienced by reshaping my understanding of God. It will bring me closer to God which I believe is his goal.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Amber Hill Case

Sadly, there is a new case in the news that is similar to ours. According to news reports, a woman named Amber Hill (22) of Cleveland, Ohio, drowned her two daughters, Jannelle Cintron (4) and Cecess Hill (2). The Cleveland DA charged her with two counts of aggravated murder, and a judge set her bond at $2,000,000.

Here are some things that stand out to me about this case:
- By all accounts, Amber Hill is credited with being a loving mother who cared for her children. Everyone around her is shocked by her actions.
- Her boyfriend and father of the girls, Jamie Cintron, was found guilty in 2004 and 2006 of domestic violence against Amber Hill. They were apart for 6 months following the 2006 conviction, and they had only been back together for about one and a half months.
- Amber Hill called Jamie Cintron without calling the police. She did not try to hide her actions. She merely told him that the girls "are at peace" or "are resting in peace".
- Some reports state that she may have been suffering from depression. It is unclear at this time whether or not she was on any medications.

There are several reasons why this could have happened, including:
1. Amber Hill could have been seeking revenge against an abusive man.
2. Amber Hill may have rationally thought that her children were in danger, and she was trying to save them.
3. Amber Hill may have been delusional, and she was trying to save her children.

These are just a few possibilities.

One thing that stands out to me is the words that she spoke to Jamie Cintron when she called him. If she were seeking revenge or rationally trying to protect her children, then it seems to me that she would have said something like, "That will teach you!" or "Now you can't hurt them!". But instead, she said that they were "at peace". To me, that is not something that a rational person would say. She didn't seem to show much emotion. She didn't shout and scream. She just took the lives of her daughters and told their father that they were "at peace".

We will need to learn more about the facts of the case before drawing any conclusions. At this time, I'm leaning toward believing that she was delusional and falsely believed that she was saving her children.