Category Archives: Christian

The Shack: Is Seeing Believing?

Did you see the movie, The Shack?

The book just blew me away. Reading it a few years back, I marveled at the creative expression its author, William Young, used to tease out the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and their unique rolls in ministering to one of their beloved when tragedy strikes. The thing is, for me, reading is rarely believing. It may inspire me, but that doesn’t last long. But if you engage my other senses with sights, sounds, camera and action, things get real-er.

That’s what I was hoping for when I shelled out the small fortune to see The Shack on the big screen. And man, that scene at the lake didn’t disappoint. Even though I know what is coming, I am praying it won’t happen. And when it does, I feel it in every fiber of my body.

It’s amazing how this happens when we empathize with characters on the screen. Our bodies react physically as if it were happening to us. The tragic scenes evoke this for me; then I’m hooked. I’m right there with Mack Phillips in his rage, his pain, his depression, and his plight. This is no longer simply a story or a performance by an actor, it feels real.

Now, the tone is set for God, in three Persons, to do what only God can do. The novel did this magnificently. I’m expecting big things from the movie. I’m pulling for Mack and the transformation I know he has coming to him. With him, I sit at the crossroads of perhaps the #1 question we all have for God: why? Why, do you let terrible things happen? With everyone else in that theater, I’m waiting to be convinced by a good answer.

But honestly, I am not.

samworthington shackIt seems to me (and I’m no film critic) that main character, Mack Phillips, has reverted to human husband and father, actor Sam Worthington. And Sam, asked to forgive the unforgivable, just can’t. Who could? He delivers dialogue asking the right questions, demanding answers and explanations, and confronting God for the truth, all as I surely would. I believe him. But, in the pivotal moment, he tosses down his backpack (apparently symbolic for giving up the burden he is carrying) and complies. I just don’t believe him. His facial expression and his body language are just acting, way more like a teen tantrum than a surrender to God.

I’m so disappointed. I had hoped this movie – which had drawn accolades in pre-screening for Christian crowds – could reach would-be believers with the sure message that a compassionate and just God dearly loves them and can be trusted, even in the face of terrible injustice. I had hoped people on a spiritual quest for God would leave affirmed on their journey. Instead, it felt like the main character was still doubtful.

Thank you for the important reminder, Papa God, that we can’t just pretend to have faith and expect people to believe us.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” ~ Romans 10: 9-10

And… I guess we shouldn’t be relying on Hollywood to do the job we’re meant to do. If we don’t believe in our hearts before we profess with our mouths, we’re just actors, and all the world’s a stage.

Funny thing, when I googled Mr. Worthington, I found a brief interview he did about The Shack and his preparation for this role. He has a young family, and it is clear that the story cut him deeply. He also has a wicked-strong Australian accent. I felt a bit foolish falling for his portrayal as Mack Phillips, All-American dad. But that’s his job; actors are trained to trick us into believing in them.

God’s not like that, thank goodness. He/she/they are in the truth business.

Praying for Charlottesville

jeffersonstatue_04hr_utCharlottesville, Virginia,
l’il college town,
All the school year, full of UVA Wahoos,
going to football games, going to class,
going to pubs down at the Corner.
Just like everybody.

Come from Virginia and everywhere,
to Mr. Jefferson’s University,
to get a college degree and
to learn about life,
in the classroom and on the lawn,
from their professors and from each other.
The University in Virginia.

Charlottesville, Virginia,
Situated in the center, caught in the middle,
between north and south,
black and white,
slave and free.
Where combatants gather, Lee Statue
tempers flare
and the shouting starts.

“It’s my right to say what I want,” they say.
Unfurling words.
Words of unkindness,
words of disrespect,
words of damnation.
Words that pelt, pummel, and break.
More than rocks through a glass window,
words leave shards, lying on the pavement.

The war of words has come to Virginia.
We the people of the middle.
To Charlottesville, family home of a
man of great words. History remembers him.
Founding father.
Declaration author.
University benefactor.
Slave owner.

Charlottesville history sign

History belongs to no one.
The future belongs to someone.
Not you. Not me.
We.
We,
the People,
of the Middle.

Bold enough to see
that freedom is extended, as well as taken.
It’s not mine, if it’s not also yours.

chapel Charlottesville

If what I say hurts you,
I must strike that, not you.

Praying for Charlottesville …
Tender town in the center;
where the words
I pray for you
incline your heart
to pray for me.
In Thee,
We.

Everything Counts

If we knew this to be true,

Every event of life is an experience of spiritual formation. Every action taken, every response made, every dynamic of relationship, every thought held, every emotion allowed: these are the minuscule arenas where, bit by bit, infinitesimal piece by infinitesimal piece, we are shaped into some kind of being.

~ M. Robert Mulholland Jr. in Shaped by the Word

how then would we live?

When I separate my work from my play,
When I divide my private from my public,
When I include this but exclude that,
I miss part.

Everything counts in this game of life.
Our spirit is taking shape, as we let it.

If we knew this to be true, how then would we live?

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