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The Shack January 31, 2009

Posted by phoenixhopes in Books, thoughts.

I read The Shack this week and, although this may surprise some people, I wasn’t impressed. I feel a bit guilty for that – I’ve heard such great things about it. Friends have raved.  I expected to be moved and really wanted to like it but it left me more annoyed than inspired.

I should explain… I’m not much of a follower. I mean I don’t think I’m anti-social, I like people just fine and have friends, have even been a member of groups, but I’m just not one to watch a movie or read a book simply because it’s the popular thing. In fact, I’m contrary enough that if something is “the thing” then I’m likely to set it aside. Snobbish of me I know, but I just don’t put much faith in bandwagons. This means that I’m often not quite up on the popular culture — and sometimes means that I don’t discover some great things until much, much later because my snobbishness got in the way.  I know there are blockbuster movies that are amazingly wonderful but I think that most blockbusters are simply the newest thing out there. I don’t use Oprah’s Book Club as suggestions for my reading list, but I’ve also read some good books and found out later she had recommended them.

So, The Shack… it seemed that the only thing I heard about this book was praise (well, except for the pastor who preached that no “good Christian” should read it because, gasp, God is portrayed as a woman and that will lead us all down the slippery slope to goddess worship. I wanted to ask him what he though about the verses in Psalms where it says that He covers us with his wings and ask if considering that word picture would lead to chicken worship but I refrained). So I resisted reading The Shack in large part because it was so well loved —  I just wasn’t going to hop on the bandwagon.  Like I said earlier, when I finally decided to read it I expected to be moved. This book is about a person with a deep hurt and, as a result, has a lot of questions for God. Hmmmm, sound familiar? Based on what I’d heard, I wanted to see myself and my relationship with God and experience some kind of catharsis. This is the kind of life-changing reaction to the book that I’d heard from others. Maybe I set myself up to be disappointed.

I didn’t hate the book, or think it was a bad story, I was just left a bit flat. Every good story has some underlying message, but the question is, which came first — the story or the message? While reading The Shack, I felt that the author had a message he was trying to proclaim and created the story to show a way to relate to God. I never felt that Mack had taken residence in the author’s mind and he had to put him to paper. Instead I felt that he had been moved considering how God wants to reach out to us at a very personal level and chose to create a story to explain those thoughts. 

There were definitely parts of the story that I liked. I loved the garden — the chaotically, beautiful, fractal mess of the garden and what it represented. The discussion about judgement made me stop and think (and, ironically, I wonder how this post fits in). Forgiveness seemed a bit too easy, although I did appreciate that God said even in the midst of forgiveness there still may be some appropriate, lingering anger. Although it’s been said a zillion times and can easily be cliche, I needed to be reminded that it’s not about rules but about relationship.

I don’t regret that I’ve given a few hours of my life to read The Shack or feel that my time was wasted, I just wasn’t as moved as I expected, and wanted, to be. What was your experience? What did I miss?


Saturday January 11, 2009

Posted by phoenixhopes in life.
1 comment so far

I was voluntarily snowed in yesterday. I’m not sure exactly how much snow we received in the past couple days but it was enough to be inconvenient. Eight inches at least, maybe more. The snow plows were busy and I’m guessing the roads passable but I chose to have a slow Saturday at home.

I slept in a little — late enough to feel indulgent but not so late as to feel lazy — and rescheduled my only outside obligation (the hair cut can wait another week). The past few weeks have been so busy, what with the Holidays from Thanksgiving to New Years, and all the other obligations of a busy life, I haven’t had a weekend that was truly my own in a very long time. I suppose this weekend isn’t fully my own either as I need to spend most of today logged into work but yesterday was the Sabbath I needed to recharge my batteries.

Most of the day was spent plopped on the couch. Knitting on  a couple of scarves — finished the scarf that was turning into a chore — boring yarn, simple pattern  (it served it’s purpose as mindless knitting to bring along to Christmas but the last quarter of the scarf turned into obligation rather than fun) and added 6″ to my cheap alternative to the Noro Two Row Scarf. I’m using cheap acrylic yarn but I love it anyway — it’s soft and smooshy, drapes like a dream, and is just plain pretty. I don’t think I’ll be giving this one away.

I worked on the stack of movies on the coffee table — Darjeeling Limited (a bit slow but worth the time), Surviving Christmas (Very funny), Princess Bride (the movie that never gets old no matter how many times I watch it) — and watched the food shows on PBS (I love Jaques Pepin). I didn’t even know the football playoffs would be on Saturday. I didn’t have a favorite so could cheer for both teams.

I didn’t cook much. The resident Teen Boy cooked bacon and I added omeletes about 3:00 and that was it. The rest of the day was spent grazing (although I did get all the dishes washed and found there actually is a counter in the kitchen)

The day ended at a reasonable hour curled in bed with The Gun Seller. Boy am I glad my kids recommended this book!

Today is not so free and I should already be attacking my ever-growing to-do list. The laundry has been started (yeah! no one else in the apartment building had already snagged the washer and dryer). The next thing on the list is to pull out the crockpot and start a batch of “clean the fridge soup” with the starring role in the mix going to some salsa-ish flavored turkey breast. Then comes the work obligation that will steal most of the day (not so much fun but it keeps a roof over our heads).

If I was one to make resolutions I would resolve to carve out more days spent relaxing and refreshing that inner me. I feel so much more ready to face the next few days after a day spent breathing deeply.

A Prayer for Owen Meany January 11, 2009

Posted by phoenixhopes in Books, reading.

I thought I knew what this book was about. I’ve seen the movie Simon Birch and knew it was based on A Prayer for Owen Meany and I figured the book would be a better telling of the story in the movie. After all, isn’t the book always better than the movie?

I was right, of course, the book was better. The book was better in the way that Thanksgiving dinner is better than a turkey sandwich and chips. Now, I happen to like turkey sandwiches, especially one with smoked turkey, sundried tomatoes and havarti cheese, but even the best turkey sandwich isn’t a feast that spreads across the table and onto the counters.

If you liked this movie (or even if you didn’t) read this book. It is so full of coming to grips (or never really coming to grips) with the huge events in ones’ life. Those things that happen to us, or around us, that affect us in such a way that it takes the rest of our lives to fully absorb the impact. It’s about losing faith in God and finding it again. About knowing,  and accepting,  one’s destiny.

I started reading this book in tiny bites during my commute on the train and ended up finishing it in great gulps late at night when I should have been sleeping. This will stay on my shelf to be re-read in the future.

A Fransciscan Christmas Blessing for Justice and Peace January 2, 2009

Posted by phoenixhopes in Holidays.
1 comment so far


May God bless you with discomfort…
at easy answers, hard hearts,
half-truths ,and superficial relationships.
May God bless you so that you may live
from deep within your heart
where God’s Spirit dwells.
May God bless you with anger…
at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people.
May God bless you so that you may
work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears…
to shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war.
May God bless you so that you
may reach out your hand
to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with
enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference
in this world, in your neighborhood,
so that you will courageously try
what you don’t think you can do, but,
in Jesus Christ you’ll have all the strength necessary.
May God bless you to fearlessly
speak out about injustice,
unjust laws, corrupt politicians,
unjust and cruel treatment of prisoners,
and senseless wars,
genocides, starvations, and poverty that is so pervasive.
May God bless you that you remember
we are all called
to continue God’s redemptive work
of love and healing
in God’s place, in and through God’s name,
in God’s Spirit, continually creating
and breathing new life and grace
into everything and everyone we touch.
Also approproiate for the new year. Found here