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The Shack By Wm Paul Young


glintofpewter
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Several of us have read The Shack. Let's talk about it.

 

1. How Many are interested?

2. How many need time to get a copy? I bought mine at ebay for $7 total cost. It took about a week.

 

3. Since it is fiction I suggest that we do a kind of lectio divina approach. Not four ways but but two:

 

1. Responses to the story.

2. Comments on the implied and stated theology.

 

I did not start underlining and dog-earing my book until Chapter 6. While we wait for everyone to get a copy or sign on I will figure out and send out the chapter groupings before we begin.

 

Dutch

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Bill,

 

I grabbed a big word but what I was thinking was these four ways to experience a story from the Bible.

 


  •  
  • what do you sense: touch, taste, smell, see, hear?
  • Who do you identify with in the story? What role would you take in the story?
  • What are some of the big ideas, concepts, learnings, in the story?
  • What should we do with our learning from the story?

 

 

The traditional meaning is In this Wikipedia entry the four traditional contemplative moments:

 

Lectio Divina has been likened to "Feasting on the Word." The four parts are first taking a bite (Lectio), then chewing on it (Meditatio). Next is the opportunity to savor the essence of it (Oratio). Finally, the Word is digested and made a part of the body (Contemplatio).

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lectio_Divina#The_Four_Moments

 

Lectio divina reminds me of JosephM's description of how he comes to understand of Scripture. Is that close, Joseph?

 

Dutch

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Lectio Divina has been likened to "Feasting on the Word."

 

Thanks for the explanation, Dutch. I've read "The Shack" and, for my part, I am going to try to refrain from discussing this book from a theological point-of-view. To be honest, that approach wouldn't work for me because I don't find the book to be a layout of theology. To me, it is about raw experience and emotion, things that don't fit well into "systematic theology."

 

So I'll try to contribute what little I can in the discussion from the perspective of "this tasted good to me" and "this was kinda bland" and "this just wasn't very tasty or filling." I don't want to try to argue to support or destroy the theology in the book, only to say what spoke to me and nourished me.

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We'll leave the theology for another thread.

 

The story of Missy's disappearance is, unfortunately, not unlike others too often told. It all happened during Labor Day weekend, ... C. 2

 

Let's start with the Foreword.

 

The contents of the tin that contains all that Mack cares about when he leaves home is interesting. I wonder what attracted Young to Lucas Easter.

 

Luscious Lucas Easter

 

It takes a second read for me to appreciate the humor. Like this twist on the usual cliche. At least I haven't heard it this way.

Mack likes to say that [his children] all got their looks from him, "'cause Nan still has hers."

 

My first reaction to the beating Mack received from his father was that Young chose an extreme event, but given recent headlines I guess it was not so extreme. Did I miss something? Varmint poison in the booze bottles but no mention of his father's death?

 

I wouldn't agree that Mack married up. Not from Young's description of Mack. Mack's portrayal is stereotypical in some ways but as I reread Mack is a complex layered character.

 

Mack seems used to reporting "truth" so that after his experiences later on he doesn't back down when people don't believe him.

 

And when he does talk, it isn't that they stop liking him--rather they are not quite so satisfied with themselves.

 

Like Saul Mack has already shown character that will be with him after transformation.

 

Humor?

Mack?

Nan?

Other?

 

Dutch

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A couple of my thoughts/questions from the forward:

 

1) What is it about religion that can make is such a force for evil in our world? Mack's father was a wife and child abuser and yet attended church regularly. What does this say about us as people? About the church?

 

2) Is it typical that people within religion find it easier to get forgiveness than to actually change?

 

3) Willie says that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing. This sounds good on the surface, but it doesn't sound good for people who pray directly to God for healing or for people that have suffered because of natural disasters, disease, and random bad luck accidents of life.

 

4) Have I reached the place, like Mack, where I am "at home in my own skin?" Do I make others feel "at home?" (Ouch!)

 

5) Do you think God is "the Great Interferer" with our lives?

 

6) Do you believe in "microwave" Christianity, the concept that one experience can forever change the course of our lives? Or are things much more complicated than that?

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Hooray! I just reread the forward. The forward of the book is the teaser, to get people to want to keep reading. I believe the humor is to show that this book will not be ALL serious. Readers will be wanting to know how someone like Mack gets through life after the atrocities visited upon him by his father. I noted in the intro that Young was trying to build rapport with people who consider themselves to be spiritual but not religious, but then, it was interesting that he created Mack as a seminarian. It seems like a way to engage people no matter where they are on their spiritual journey.

 

Interesting to compare Mack to Saul... I'll look for more on that.

 

The same paragraph stood out to me, Dutch, but the part I had highlighted was "The thing is, he usually makes uncomfortable sense in a world where most folks would rather just hear what they are used to hearing, which is often not much of anything." That is not my experience with those around me. You guys??

 

Bill, I think your questions are good and thought provoking. Here are my thoughts:

 

1) What is it about religion that can make is such a force for evil in our world? Mack's father was a wife and child abuser and yet attended church regularly. What does this say about us as people? About the church?

The church is open to all, and as such, is full of people who miss the mark. I think church needs to change to be less "anonymous." People need to deeply know each other and support each other at church, of all places.

 

2) Is it typical that people within religion find it easier to get forgiveness than to actually change?

I think getting forgiveness is easier than changing for all people, whether they are religious or not. But, I believe religion CAN (doesn't always) provide help/direction/strength for people once they want to change.

 

3) Willie says that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing. This sounds good on the surface, but it doesn't sound good for people who pray directly to God for healing or for people that have suffered because of natural disasters, disease, and random bad luck accidents of life.

Even if we pray to God for help in healing the hurts that have been caused by relationships, most of the repairs that are made are within our relationships to other human beings. For example, a friend who is an incest survivor is becoming more whole by ministering to others who have been through the same thing. As a more personal example, since I grew up with perfectionistic parents, I married a perfectionistic man with whom I've had to unlearn all kinds of angry conditioned responses and replace them with more loving ones. I think that Willie is not addressing the suffering that comes from natural disasters, disease, and random bad luck. He is talking about the wounding that comes from those who you expected to love you better than they did.

 

4) Have I reached the place, like Mack, where I am "at home in my own skin?" Do I make others feel "at home?" (Ouch!)

For me, not yet on both counts, but I'm feeling progress. :-) It is something worthwhile to consider...

 

5) Do you think God is "the Great Interferer" with our lives?

Nope. I consider God to be the great companion-guide in my life.

 

6) Do you believe in "microwave" Christianity, the concept that one experience can forever change the course of our lives? Or are things much more complicated than that

I missed the "microwave" reference. Can you tell me where that is, or should I keep looking?

 

I loved being part of the dedication. "...all us stumblers who believe Love rules. Stand up and let it shine."

 

A classy introduction to the story, that shows this will not be an "easy" book, but tries not to take itself too seriously.

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Thanks Janet for synthesizing our earlier posts.

 

 

Bill My earlier post was too hasty and ill-thought out. I apologize.

3) Willie says that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing. This sounds good on the surface, but it doesn't sound good for people who pray directly to God for healing or for people that have suffered because of natural disasters, disease, and random bad luck accidents of life.

I would support the idea that all healing comes through relationship. whether, one expected God to do it (all prayer is answered by humans someone said in another post.) or one was a victim of another's harmful acts. Survivors of disaster also need human relationships. People who pray directly to God have an interpretive lens through which they see God's answers. For those of us who can't or who have never seen through that lens it looks misguided and and silly - but that is the fact of interreligious dialog. The other is unfathomable to us.

 

When The Left Behind series of books was popular I led a Sunday School discussions with liberals who were sputtering, "Look, look at they said. We are not going to heaven." The response to that is, "Do you want to go to their heaven?"

 

I am a "microwave" if that is a Christian for whom one experience can transform their lives. Did one experience change all of my life? No, it changed part of it. Mine is a "mountain top - valley low" journey.

 

 

 

Dutch

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Did you want to talk about the story as story or did you want to engage in a dialog with the big ideas, the psychology, the theology, the worldview of Wm Paul Young as portrayed in this book?

 

Well, I'm just reflecting my thoughts about the story as Willie tells it. As I mentioned earlier, I don't want to debate as to why God is not literally a black woman. After all, we all know what he really looks like from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, right? :D

 

I'm just sharing the thoughts and questions that come to my mind as I read/re-read the book. Similar to what Mack says, no one here on TCPC needs to reply to my thoughts or questions, I'm just writing them for my sake. I know that this is religious fiction. But fiction still addresses big ideas, psychology, theology, worldviews, etc. So my posts simply express what is stirred in my heart as I read.

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The same paragraph stood out to me, Dutch, but the part I had highlighted was "The thing is, he usually makes uncomfortable sense in a world where most folks would rather just hear what they are used to hearing, which is often not much of anything." That is not my experience with those around me. You guys??

 

Painting with a very BROAD brush, I would agree. People seem to be the most comfortable in groups where they pretty much act and think alike, where the boat doesn't often get rocked. Religious denominations and political parties are often quite exclusionary and once you are on the inside, you hear pretty much the same drivel over and over again and you are taught to defend it. Side note: one of the reasons I left church is because I never heard anything new there, nothing that challenged me to grow. Everyone was comfortable with what they already knew and closed off to learning anything more.

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I would be frustrated with a church like that or people like that, too.

 

I don't want to derail this thread so I'll try to keep this short: I do visit my wife's church from time to time, Janet, just because I love her and enjoy being with her. But I find that I usually have to keep my opinions to myself while I am there. But last week...

 

They were discussing the early church as described in the book of Acts and how the leaders of the church were fighting over whether Gentiles must first become Jews (circumcision and law-observance) before becoming part of the new Christian church. The apostle Paul was adamant that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised nor did they need to keep the law in order to join the community. The class, lauding Paul as most conservatives do, almost hollered "Amen" in unison. So I mentioned that the Jewish leaders of the early church were not scoundrels nor "holier than thou" type Christians, they were simply trying to do their best to observe what God had said in the Old Testament. With no New Testament lying around, they believed that God had clearly spoken to them in the OT and said that any Gentile that wanted to become part of God's people MUST become circumcised. These Jewish leaders did not want to go against what was, for them, "the Word of God".

 

I gently asked the SS teacher, "Do you believe God is still speaking?" His reply, "Yes. God clearly speaks to us today." So I proded a little deeper: "What if God has spoken that women can now teach men?"

 

The class was split between laughing at the absurdity of my question and scoffing at such a notion. There were no "Amens."

 

I said, "This is EXACTLY the same struggle that the early church faced. You believe that God spoke through Paul once-for-all-time that women cannot teach men. They believed that God spoke through Moses and the prophets once-for-all-time that converts to Judaism must be circumcised and keep the law. Your reaction to the suggestion that the "Word of God" might change from generation to generation is the same thing that the early church experienced in letting "unclean" Gentiles into their gatherings."

 

No one approached me about my "insight" after the class. I'm sure I'll never be asked to teach there. ;) I rocked the boat. People give lip-service to the notion that God is still speaking, but when the message now differs from the message back then, it wouldn't take much prodding for them to start gathering stones. :lol:

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Thanks for sharing that story, Bill, and I don't think it was any kind of derailment. I experienced the exact same thing when I went to a Bible study at an evangelical church where they were putting down the Pharisees. I said, "Hello! We need to look at how we church folks are behaving like Pharisees. What are the things we do that make us feel we are better/closer to God than the outsiders?" Nobody wanted to think or talk about that.

 

Do we have any other takers on discussing The Shack? Or will it just be Dutch, Bill and I for now?

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I just reread Chapter 1. I liked how Young describes the experience of being snowbound. He does a great job of engaging us in the mystery of the "Great Sadness" and its connection to the note from Papa (and the further clue that Nan calls God by that name). I chuckled about how Mack feared the gossipy postmistress might get him included on the prayer chain :D One of my friends remarked to me that it turned her off that Mack was a fan of Bill Moyer. I didn't realize when I first read the book that the small tin box was the same treasure box Mack had had as a boy.

 

I think it's interesting when authors choose to put quotes at the beginning of each chapter.

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Bill Moyers and under his blanket with his picture of Missy - a man with a mind and a heart. I think Young is reinforcing that Mack is smart, independent, willing to tell truth even it means he is not accepted. I wonder if Bill Moyers is here to stretch conservatives. I think Young challenges conservatives in several places in the book.

 

A curious chapter. The ice storm leaves little doubt in Mack's mind that it was from Papa. And we have another statement about Mack's independence "raising his fist in opposition to the brute power of Nature and, in act of defiance, laughing in its face". I think Mack's strength and weakness are found here. I was trying for parallelism with Christ as the lens through which to understand the icy walk out to the mail box, but considering the conversation with Annie, the postmaster, I would nominate Dick Van Dyke to walk to the mail box and back in the movie. Pratfalls galore.

 

On page 18 in my book is a paragraph about the beauty of the ice in the late afternoon sun "... and for a brief moment its blazing splendor almost lifted, if only for a few seconds, The Great Sadness from Mack's shoulders. Nature alone is not enough . . then see at the end of chapter 14 where Sarayu heals Mack's eyesight for a brief time "Her touch was like ice."

 

Confluence of Paths - I don't get the title of the Chapter.

 

Dutch

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I had thought that the bump on the head during the ice storm occurred to add mystery about whether Mack was imagining all that is to come, but maybe it was just a smack upside the head from God. ;) Maybe Mack needed to be woozy to consider the possibility of the invitation being genuine at all. I think there is something symbolic to this happening in the winter - during a winter of Mack's life.

 

I had thought the "Confluence of Paths" title meant that Mack can go forward either way. Either he can choose to keep "keeping on" or he can meet Papa at the Shack. There is free will in that decision. The "Road Less Traveled" is to choose to involve God in our lives instead of settling for less. Maybe that is why the butchering of Frost's poetry appears at the beginning of the chapter.

 

Maybe we should be sensitive to potential spoilers for those who are reading this for the first time who might be looking in. Or maybe not. So far it seems like the three of us.

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Darn, I can't seem to find my book! I'll keep hunting.

 

The reflective "Time of Great Sadness" piqued my interest, wondering what happened in Mack's life. I found it interesting that this "dark night of the soul" was given a name, almost personified. I'll admit, I've never gone through what Mack has, but I still know the feeling of being alone, feeling isolated. As I read this chapter, I couldn't help but think of Jesus' cry from the cross, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" Interesting that he never received a reply. It's my belief that in our own "dark nights of the soul", when we often ask, "Why me?", we are really asking, "God, where are you?"

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“There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine.” Good line. Storms, literal and metaphorical, often make me want to, at the same time, retreat into safety and face the fury head on for the exhilaration of being alive.

 

Growing up in upstate New York, I well knew the damage that an ice storm can do – treacherous roads, downed power lines, car accidents, frozen water supplies. But at the same time, glimpsing an ice storm for the first time in the morning was like seeing the world stop turning. Time seemed to stand still. Nothing seemed to be moving, as if Father Time had himself fallen asleep. And nothing topped the joy of hearing the radio announce that our school was closed for the day!

 

“Papa.” Interesting that Mack had known God as “Papa” in the past, even though in chapter one Mack is ticked at Him. I’ve never known God as an intimate father figure. I’ve always wanted to. But, to me, God was always a judge, not a “daddy.” I envy people that enjoy a sense of closeness to God this way. It has never been my experience.

 

Mack’s accident. Though fictional, one of the reasons that I don’t believe in a God who protects, a God who saves, a God who is a deliver, a God who is a mighty fortress. God, as I conceive of God, doesn’t protect us whatsoever from the pains of life, whether it is falling and hitting our head or experiencing tragedies like the one that leads to Mack’s great sadness. God may enable us to endure hurt and grow from pain, but he certainly doesn’t seem to give a damn about protecting us from it.

 

“I’m sure God knows what he is doing. It will all work out.” A copout. Real life teaches us that things don’t always “work out.” People commit suicide. Children die of starvation or cancer. The belief that God is somehow behind all of this and “knows what he is doing” just doesn’t ring true for me. I don’t believe God is in control. In a way, I can admire that Mack still clings to his theistic faith. But Young writes, “the words brought him no comfort.” Typical Christianese. Sounds good. But doesn’t stand up to the truth of life experiences.

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