Monday, November 16, 2015

The King's Curse - Book Review

King Henry VIII was never a favorite monarch of mine. I really do not believe he reformed the church do to Scriptural conviction, but more out of convenience. He desperately needed an heir and the Catholic Church was in the way. His father's greatest fear was that his line would die out and I am sure that fear was passed on to his children. In the book "The King's Curse", I just hate Henry more. He was a despicable man. The story is told from the view point of Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury. Her father was the brother of Edward IV. This book is excellent! Philippa Gregory, the author, really captured the constant ebbing and flowing of fear and peace that was the reign of Henry VIII among those that may be a threat to the throne. No body was safe with him, not even his own children. Even though I knew how Margaret died, the book still gripped me and I anxiously waited the ending. This book was a great book and one of my favorites that Ms. Gregory has written. This book is the last in the series of the Cousins' War Series.

To the Christian: The Reformation is in its infancy during this era. The struggle between tradition and Scripture was almost at its boiling point. Margaret Pole is Catholic and I do feel sorry for her because  Henry's "reform" utterly destroys the practices that have been a part of her faith for centuries. It brings homelessness and destitution to the monks and nuns that have spent their lives in cloister. I believe he does these atrocities not in the name of God, but to satiate his power hungry ambition. During this time, Henry burns at the stake William Tyndale, a man that translated the Bible into English, so that all may partake and read Scripture.

There is no explicit content in the book.

You can buy this book here

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lamentations, Poetic Pain

Lamentations is only 5 chapters long, but the imagery in those chapters is brutal. Restlessness, women boiling and eating their children, bones breaking and flesh rotting, crying so much that bile pours out of his mouth, children dying of hunger, fainting babies and it goes on and on. What despair!! All these consequences because warning after warning came from Jeremiah and the people did not heed! Jeremiah warned the people of Israel to turn from their wicked ways. To stop the idolatry, the prostitution, the filthy and abominable sins they were committing; but they didn't. And because they didn't take Jeremiah seriously it was as if they were not taking God seriously. Lamentations is a small book of graphic imagery of the harvest Israel has reaped. In the middle of the book the prophet does speak of the hope of God's faithfulness and mercy. And eventually it does come, but the present state of Israel is haunting. In the midst of all this horror Jeremiah knows the punishment is just (1:18) and that God is in the right to bring this turmoil on His people.

But even when all seems lost these verses appear to comfort:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are
new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (3:22-23)

For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not
afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men (3:31-33

After this moment of reprieve from the devastation Jeremiah again begins to speak of how the people of Israel have behaved and he explains why they suffer so much.

The book ends reminding us who is on the Throne and who truly is in control (5:19). And the last verses hope for restoration.

To the Christian: In the middle of our pain or our trial - regardless if it is the Lord disciplining us or refining us - we do have hope. We also have no other option but to trust His Sovereignty and His wisdom in using our circumstance for our good. He is a good Father. He is merciful. He is compassionate, even if our eyes are swollen from too many tears or if our throat is raw from crying in despair. Child of God, do you not know that He sent His Son to die for you, to pay the debt you could not pay, even though there was nothing in you that pleased Him? We are bound to spend eternity with Him, and these trials will come to an end one day. And there will be no more tears, or cries of despair. None. Death will be swallowed up. We have that hope. And in the end if that is all we have, then it is more than enough.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Queen's Vow - Book Review

I will admit that I do not know much of Queen Isabella. I knew she was a warrior queen and that her youngest daughter, Catalina married Henry the VIII of England. I also knew that she promoted the Spanish Inquisition and the forced exile of the Jews. She also fought the Moor and expanded her kingdom with the marriage to Ferdinand and through war with the "infidel". So needless to say, I went into this book with my own biases of this queen. When I thought of Isabella of Castile, I thought of a strong powerful monarch in her own right; but after reading this book, I really didn't get that out of her. She seems to have minded Ferdinand and her religious leaders more than what she wanted to. In the book, she really doesn't want to begin the Inquisition, but Ferdinand and Talavera (her confessor) coax her into it. She really doesn't want to force conversion of the Jews, but again she is influenced to do so. She really doesn't want to throw out the Conversos (Jews that have  converted to the Catholic faith) but again she does so against her moral judgement. It's like the author wants you to like her and think of her as a tolerable monarch, but because of circumstances, she had no other choice but to do the dirty work of the Church. I really believe Isabella knew what she was doing to her people and did so in the name of God. I believe she (like all monarchs of that time) thought of herself as anointed by God to do His will and that will was to bring reform, holiness and obedience no matter the cost.  I believe she brought order and fear to her people. 

Unfortunately, in this book, she didn't seem to have too much depth. She seemed more tame that what I had imagined her to be. She seemed more agreeable than strong-willed. She seemed out of her league in war and looked outright stupid in a particular war scene in the book. 

I do not know how historically correct this book is, but my romanticized view of a strong, independent warrior queen was really broken with this book. Isabella's best friend Beatriz and even King Enrique IV's wife, Juana seem to have more spirit that Isabella herself. 

Even the cover of this book is disappointing. Isabella was a blonde with blue eyes - a true Tratamaran, but in the cover of the book she looks more French or Moorish. Overall, I really didn't like the book.

To the Christian: Thankfully, this book leaves a lot to the imagination when it comes to sexual encounters. There are slight references to homosexual pedophilia, but nothing at all vivid. There is adultery and children born out of wedlock. The intimacy between Isabella and Ferdinand is not vulgar or graphic. There are no bad words. 
                                     Reading this book strengthens my belief on how important it is to read the Bible and obey it and to properly interpret it. So much pain could be averted if we just did what it said. Isabella didn't need to force conversion on anyone to win God's favor. God is our Potter and He does with His creation what He wishes. Isabella and the Church tried in vain to do the work of the Holy Spirit. Nowhere in the Bible are people forced to conversion by other people. God does that work and turns a  heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Not one disciple brought harm to his enemy. On the contrary, Jesus showed them to pray for your enemy and do good to those that hurt you. She did a lot in the "name of God", but it wasn't the God of the Bible. While reading the book, I remember thinking, "Where did you get that from Scripture, Isabella"; "no, that's not what that means at all!". Isabella and her Church didn't interpret Scripture correctly and allowed their own biases to twist Scripture. In an age of so much information, we have no excuse to "not know better".