In a message a while back I mentioned a book that I was reading entitled The Shack. I first heard of this book at the Wineskins website. They were describing it as the little book that could. It was first published on a shoestring budget by Windblown Media. They spent less than $200 on advertising. The rest has been word of mouth. Boy, have they gotten their money’s worth. I called around to some of the local Christian bookstores to see if anyone had a copy, thinking that would be the best place to look. Then on a lark I called Barnes & Noble at MacArthur Center. At the time it was their #2 seller. Charlotte K. informed me that, last week, it was number one. So this book has really caught on. After reading it, I can see why. The Shack is a faith statement dressed up as a novel. And the faith that it articulates is inspiring and moving. The basic plot is as follows: Mackenzie (Mack) Philips’ youngest daughter is abducted and assumed murdered. In the midst of his anguish, Mack receives a mysterious note, supposedly from God, inviting him back to the supposed scene of the murder, a shack in the woods. He makes the difficult decision to return only to find that the shack has been transformed by the presence of God. Mack spends a weekend with God, Jesus and the Spirit. They serve him, they teach him, they change him. There is some critiquing to be done. The book is better as theology than as literature. The English Major in me was not always happy with the writing. And some will find the images he employs for God to be disturbing as well. That’s all I’ll say about that for now. I’m hoping that some of you will read it and send me an email or comment here on the blog. And let me be clear—I heartily recommend it. (I like that word. I don’t do enough things heartily.) It’s a quick read. It’s very moving and thoughtful. I feel sure it will challenge the way you think about God. It also bears some uncanny resemblances to our own Eric Harrell’s play, An Inch of Rope. Those of you who saw the play will not have any trouble seeing what I’m talking about. I think Eric’s play takes a daring step that Young’s book either misses or avoids. But I don’t want to say too much until some of you have read it. It would make excellent summer reading. Why not take it to the beach with you? I’m sure your kids don’t need you to watch them. There are plenty of highlighted sections I could share with you. Here are a couple on the concepts of trust and control. At one point, God says this:
“The real underlying flaw in your life, Mackenzie is that you don’t think that I am good. If you knew I was good and that everything—the means, the ends, and all the processes of individual lives—is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not always understand what I am doing, you would trust me, but you don’t.”Then later Jesus and Mack have this conversation:
“Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?” Again Mack stopped and thought. It was true. He spent a lot of time fretting and worrying about the future, and in his imaginations it was usually pretty gloomy and depressing, if not outright horrible. And Jesus was also correct in saying that in Mack’s imaginations of the future, God was always absent. “Why do I do that?” asked Mack. “It is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can’t. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn’t even real, nor will it ever be real. You try and play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try and make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear.”So there you go. Let me know if anyone out there decides to read it.