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The Shack – William P. Young

August 15, 2015

TShackThis book was all the rage in Christian (I was going to say ‘evangelical’ but it went wider than that) circles. I was very cynical about it until young members in the choir started enthusing about it and then an old and very liberal lady in the congregation spoke to me about it. So I sighed and read it and was pleasantly surprised.

It hadn’t helped that it was endorsed by leading evangelicals, including Eugene Peterson (The Message), J. John and that it had been derided as Heresy by Mark Driscoll.

Why did so many evangelical Christians have a negative reaction to this novel, given that evangelical Christianity has embraced C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia–this despite the fact that Lewis wove animism, Greek philosophy, and Roman mythology into his parabolic communication of Christian truth. Not to put too fine a point on it, but is it any more offensive to present God in the form of an African-American woman who cooks scones, than it is to present God’s Son as an animal which imparts blessing to children by licking them in the face?

The story is simple Mack’s young daughter is abducted and killed on a family camping trip. Obviously this changes his life and makes him very bitter to God. The book is about a weekend Mack spends with God at the invitation of God at the place where his daughter was killed. It seems a really risky subject matter particularly as fiction. The conversations between God in his three persons and Mack which form the main part of the book are hugely thought provoking and unsurprisingly rather moving.

The title of the book is a metaphor for “the house you build out of your own pain”, as Young explained in a telephone interview.

Serious complaints include: The Father is initially encountered as an African American woman – but as the book goes on, it seems to me to be fully justified and explained, if one would just give it the initial benefit of the doubt. If she reminded me of anyone, it was the Oracle in the Matrix movies.
A bit more worrying are the marks of the cross (stigmata) on the Father’s body. Is this verging uncomfortably close to the old heresy of Patripassionism which states that the Father himself suffers on the cross. If the point is simply that the Father is fully committed to the Son’s mission to make atonement on the cross (in defence against the charge of cosmic child abuse) then fair enough, I suppose.
Where does the church fit? Religion and institutions are in the book’s firing line, and rightly so, because in themselves, they always fail to help a person in the face of pain. But the book could have done more to show how God’s intention is to build a community through which he can work and dwell on earth.

The author claims: Everything comes out of that relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The imagery helps us grasp the immense beauty and significance of that relationship of the three persons who are one essence. I was trying to get away from that singular monad God of Plato who is unapproachable, unreachable, who watches us from distant heaven with a disapproving heart, and the Western En­lightenment idea of God, and go back to the Early Church evangelists — Irenaeus, Athanasius — and these guys who saw the incredible beauty of that relationship within God.

I liked the respect for non-Christian religions and their practitioners but did not like the way that politics was dismissed as irrelevant.

It’s an evangelistic tool for getting people to think about the big questions.

 Quotations:

What should you do when you come to the door of a house, or cabin in this case, where God might be? Should you knock? Presumably God already knew that Mack was there. Maybe he ought to simply walk in and introduce himself, but that seemed equally absurd. And how should he address him? Should he call him Father, or Almighty One, or perhaps Mr. God, and would it be best if he fell down and worshipped, not that he was really in the mood.

As he tried to establish some inner mental balance, the anger that he thought had so recently died inside him began to emerge. No longer concerned or caring about what to call God and energized by his ire, he walked up to the door. Mack decided to bang loudly and see what happened, but just as he raised his fist to do so, the door flew open, and he was looking directly into the face of a large beaming African-American woman.

“Thoughts tumbled over each other as Mack struggled to figure out what to do. Was one of these people God? … Since there were three of them, maybe this was a Trinity sort of thing. But two women and a man and none of them white? Then again, why had he naturally assumed that God would be white? He knew his mind was rambling, so he focused on the one question he most wanted answered.

“Then,” Mack struggled to ask, “which one of you is God?”

“I am,” said all three in unison. Mack looked from one to the next, and even though he couldn’t begin to grasp what he was seeing and hearing, he somehow believed them.”

“As she stepped back, Mack found himself involuntarily squinting in her direction, as if doing so would allow his eyes to see her better. But strangely, he still had a difficult time focusing on her; she seemed almost to shimmer in the light and her hair blew in all directions even though there was hardly a breeze. It was almost easier to see her out of the corner of his eye than it was to look at her directly.”

Mack was shocked at the scene in front of him. It appeared that Jesus had dropped a large bowl of some sort of batter or sauce on the floor, and it was everywhere. It must have landed close to Papa because the lower portion of her skirt and bare feet were covered in the gooey mess. All three were laughing so hard that Mack didn’t think they were breathing. Sarayu said something about humans being clumsy and all three started roaring again. Finally, Jesus brushed past Mack and returned a minute later with a large basin of water and towels. Sarayu had already started wiping the goop from the floor and cupboards, but Jesus went straight to Papa and, kneeling at her feet, began to wipe off the front of her clothes. He worked down to her feet and gently lifted one foot at a time, which he directed into the basin where he cleaned and massaged it.

“Ooooh, that feels soooo good!” exclaimed Papa, as she continued her tasks at the counter.

“No, it proves that Jesus is truly human. Although he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being. He is just the first to do it to the uttermost—the first to absolutely trust my life within him, the first to believe in my love and my goodness without regard for appearance or consequence.

He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone. . . .

Only as he rested in his relationship with me, and in our communion—our co-union—could he express my heart and will into any given circumstance. So, when you look at Jesus and it appears that he’s flying, he really is . . . flying. But what you are actually seeing is me; my life in him. That’s how he lives and acts as a true human, how every human is designed to live—out of my life.

‘… there are many reasons for that [revealing myself as Father], and some of them go very deep.  Let me say for now that we knew once the Creation was broken, true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering.’

‘When we three spoke ourselves into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human.  We chose to embrace all the limitations this entailed.  Even though we have always been present in this created universe, we now became flesh and blood.’

‘Have you noticed that even though you call me Lord and King, I have never really acted in that capacity with you?  I’ve never taken control of your choices or forced you to do anything…’

‘I am…  I am a verb.  I am that I am.  I will be who I will be.  I am a verb!  I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving.  I am a being verb… my very essence is a verb.’

‘You might see me in a piece of art, or music, or silence, or through people, or in Creation, or in your joy and sorrow.’

‘God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things- ultimately emerging as the read- and any appearances that mask that reality will fall away.’

…there are millions of reasons to allow pain and hurt and suffering rather than to eradicate them, but most of those reasons can only be understood within each person’s story…  Your choices are also not stronger than my purposes, and I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome.’

“Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established………Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation………Forgiveness does not excuse anything………You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness……”

“Each relationship between two persons is absolutely unique. That is why you cannot love two people the same. It simply is not possible. You love each person differently because of who they are and the uniqueness that they draw out of you.”
“Don’t ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak.”
“Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved.”

“I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.”
“Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.”
“Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive.”
“…if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will be the same again.”
“Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat.”
“All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can, and grow in loving people around you with the same love I share with you. It’s not your job to change them, or to convince them. You are free to love without an agenda.”
“Pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly.”
“So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it.”
“Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship.”
“Sometimes honesty can be incredibly messy”
“I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”
“Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
“Jesus?” he whispered as his voice choked “I feel so lost”

A hand reached out and squeezed his, and didn’t let go. “I know Mack. But it’s not true. I am with you and I’m not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly. You are not lost.”
“True love never forces.”
“Remember, the people who know me are the ones who are free to live and love without any agenda.”

Is that what it means to be a Christian?” It sounded kind of stupid as Mack said it, but it was how he was trying to sum everything up in his mind.

Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian.”

The idea struck Mack as odd and unexpected and he couldn’t keep himself from grinning. “No, I suppose you aren’t.”

They arrived at the door of the workshop. Again Jesus stopped. “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslim, Democrats, Republicans, and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some were bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraquis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”

Does that mean,” asked Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?”

Not at all,” smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but a the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
“You… were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around… Living unloved is like clipping a bird’s wing and removing its ability to fly… A bird is not defined by being grounded but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are defined not by their limitations, but by the intentions I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image. Love is NOT the limitation; love is the flying. I AM love. ”
“Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
“I don’t just want a piece of you and a piece of your life. Even if you were able, which you are not, to give me the biggest piece, that is not what I want. I want all of you and all of every part of you and your day.”
“Relationships are never about power, and one way to avoid the will to power is to choose to limit oneself- to serve.”
“Did I hear God call me an idiot? ”
“Anger is the right response to something that is so wrong. But don’t let the anger and pain and loss you feel prevent you from forgiving him and removing your hands from around his neck.”
“Love is not the limitation; love is the flying.”
“You cannot produce trust just like you cannot ‘do’ humility. It either is or is not.”
“So no, I’m not too big on religion…and not very fond of politics or economics either…And why should I be? They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?”
“If a rainbow makes a sound, or a flower as it grows, that was the sound of her laughter.”
“It (trying to keep the law) grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainly out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse. ”
“I am especially fond of you.”
“Evil is a word we use to describe the absence of Good, just as we use the word darkness to describe the absence of Light or death to describe the absence of Life. Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence. I am Light and I am Good. I am Love and there is no darkness in me. Light and Good actually exist. So, removing yourself from me will plunge you into darkness. Declaring independence will result in evil because apart from me, you can only draw upon yourself. That is death because you have separated yourself from me: Life.”
“In some sense every parent does love their children. But some parents are too broken to love them well& others are barely able to love them at all..”
“Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver…to release you from something that will eat you alive; that will destroy your joy and your ability to love fully and openly. Do you think this man cares about the pain and torment you have gone through? If anything, he feeds on that knowledge. Don’t you want to cut that off? And in doing so, you’ll release him from a burden that he carries whether he knows it or not–acknowledges it or not.”
“So, why do I have so much fear in my life?”
“Because you don’t believe. You don’t know that we love you. The person who lives by his fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe that I am good not know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it, you talk about it, but you don’t know it.”
“Don’t ever think that what my Son chose to do didn’t cost us dearly. Love always leaves a significant mark,” she stated softly and gently. “We were there together.”
Mack was surprised. “At the cross? Now wait. I thought you left him – you know – ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'” It was a Scripture that had often haunted Mack in The Great Sadness.
“You misunderstand the mystery there. Regardless of what he felt at that moment, I never left him.”
“How can you say that? You abandonded him just like you abandoned me!”
“Mackenzie, I never left him, and I have never left you.”
“That makes no sense to me,” he snapped.
“I know it doesn’t, at least not yet. Will you at least consider this: when all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?”
“You don’t play a game or color a picture with a child to show your superiority. Rather, you choose to limit yourself so as to facilitate and honor that relationship.”
“Responsibilites and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgement, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis for identity and value. ”
“If you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is an expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. The expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. ”
“Women, in general, will find it difficult to turn from a man and stop demanding that he meets their needs, provides security, and protects their identity, and return to me. Men, in general, find it very hard to turn from the works of their hands, their own quests for power and security and significance, and turn to me.”
“Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong use to make others conform to what they want.”
“I,” she [the Holy Spirit] opened her hands to include Jesus and Papa, “I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active and moving. I am a being verb. And as my very essence is a verb, I am more attuned to verbs than nouns. Verbs such as confessing, repenting, living, loving, responding, growing, reaping, changing, sowing, running, dancing, singing, and on and on. Humans, on the other hand, have a knack for taking a verb that is alive and full of grace and turning it into a dead noun or principle that reeks of rules. Nouns exist because there is a created universe and physical reality, but the universe is only a mass of nouns, it is dead. Unless ‘I am’ there are no verbs and verbs are what makes the universe alive.”
“You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness and give him over to me so that my love will burn from his life every vestige of corruption.”
just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means that I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”
“God is a verb”
“Paradigms power perceptions, perceptions power emotions.”
“religion is about having the right answers, and some of their answers are right… but i am about the process that takes you to the living answer… it will change you from the inside. there are a lot of smart people who are able to say a lot of right things from their brain because they have been told what the right answers are, but they don’t know me at all. ”
“Mackenzie, you cannot produce trust, just as you cannot ‘do’ humility. It either is or is not. Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved. Because you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me.”
“If you are able to judge God so easily, you certainly can judge the world. You must choose two of your children to spend eternity in God’s new heavens and new earth….And you must choose three of your children to spend eternity in hell…..
I am only asking you to do something that you believe God does. He knows every person ever conceived, and he knows them so much more deeply and clearly than you will ever know your own children…You believe he will condemn most to an eternity of torment, away from his presence and apart from his love.”

Mack: “I don’t want to be the judge…
I can’t do this.”

You suppose then that God does this so easily, but you cannot?”

This couldn’t be real. How could God ask him to choose among his own children? Even if Katie or Josh, or Jon or Tyler committed some heinous crime, he still wouldn’t do it. He couldn’t! For him, it wasn’t about their performance; it was about his love for them.

Mack: “I can’t, I can’t….Could I go instead?….I’ll go in their place…Could I do that?” He fell at her feet crying and begging now. “Please let me go for my children..I am begging you. Please…Please…”

-“Now you sound like Jesus…..That is how Jesus loves.”
“Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe & powerful.”
“I have moments that aren’t too bad, but there’s always something I’m struggling with, or feeling guilty about. I just figured I needed to try harder, but I find it difficult to sustain that motivation.”
“…humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions that I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image.”
“Don’t forget that in the midst of all your pain and heartache, you are surrounded by beauty, the wonder of creation, art, your music and culture, the sounds of laughter and love, of whispered hopes and celebrations, of new life and transformation, of reconciliation and forgiveness.”
“when I live in you, then together we can

“I am what some would say ‘holy, and wholly other than you.’ The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then call that God. And while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who I really am. I’m not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think.”
“Even though you can’t finally grasp me, guess what? I still want to be known.”
“Something in the heart of most human beings simply cannot abide pain inflicted on the innocent, especially children. Even broken men serving in the worst correctional facilities will often first take out their own rage on those who have caused suffering to children. Even in such a world of relative morality, causing harm to a child is still considered absolutely wrong. Period!”
“It is not the nature of love to force a relationship, but it is the nature of love to open the way.”
“It’s quite simple really. Being always transcends appearance-that which only seems to be. Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearances fade away until they simple no longer matter. That is why Elousia is such a wonderful name. God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things-ultimately emerging as the real-and appearances that mask that reality will fall away.”
“There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine. Snow or freezing rain suddenly releases you from expectations, performance demands, and the tyranny of appointments and schedules. And unlike illness, it is largely a corporate rather than individual experience. One can almost hear a unified sigh rise from the nearby city and surrounding countryside where Nature has intervened to give respite to the weary humans slogging it out within her purview. All those affected this way are united by a mutual excuse, and the heart is suddenly and unexpectedly a little giddy. There will be no apologies needed for not showing up to some commitment or other. Everyone understands and shares in this singular justification, and the sudden alleviation of the pressure to produce makes the heart merry.”
“Once you have hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you.”
“Perhaps there is supranatural: reason beyond the normal definitions of fact or data-based logic; something that only makes sense if you can see a bigger picture of reality. Maybe that is where faith fits in.”
“God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellect.”
“oh child”, spoke papa tenderly.”Don’t ever discount the wonder of your tears.They can be healing waters and a stream of joy.Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak.”
“I often find that getting head issues out of the way first makes the heart stuff easier to work on later.”
“…you are surrounded by beauty, the wonder of Creation, art, your music and culture, the sounds of laughter and love, of whispered hopes and celebrations, of new life and transformation, of reconciliation and forgiveness. These also are the results of your choices and every choice matters, even the hidden ones.”
“Through . . . lies you try to run your life and manipulate others. . . . Lies become an inhibitor in your relationship . . . .”
“Why would the God of the universe want to be submitted to me?’

Because we want you to join us in our circle of relationship. I don’t want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me.”
“Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.”
“those who are afraid of freedom are those who cannot trust us to live in them. Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control”
“Or, if you want to go just a wee bit deeper, we could talk about the nature of freedom itself. Does freedom mean that you are allowed to do whatever you want to do? Or we could talk about all the limiting influences in your life that actively work against your freedom. Your family genetic heritage, your specific DNA, your metabolic uniqueness, the quantum stuff that is going on at a subatomic level where only I am the always-present observer. Or the intrusion of your soul’s sickness that inhibits and binds you, or the social influences around you, or the habits that have created synaptic bonds and pathways in your brain. And then there’s advertising, propaganda, and paradigms. Inside that confluences of multifaceted inhibitors,” she sighed, “what is freedom really?”
“Mack was getting frustrated. He spoke louder, ‘But, don’t I have a right to…’

To complete a sentence without being interrupted? Not in reality. But as long as you think you do, you will surely get ticked off when someone cuts you off, even if it is God.”
“Creation has been taken down a very different path than We [God] desired. In your world the value of the individual is constantly weighed against the survival of the system – whether political, economical, social, or religious – any system, actually. First one person, and then a few and finally even many are easily sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another this lies behind every struggle for power every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The ‘will to power and independence’ has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal.”
“[…] love is much stronger than your fault could ever be.”
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
“I give you an ability to respond and your response is to be free to love and serve in every situation, and therefore each moment is different and unique and wonderful.”
“Why do children love to hide and seek? Ask any person who has a passion to explore and discover and create. The choice to hide so many wonders from you is an act of love that is a gift inside the process of life.”
“Marriage is not an institution. It’s a relationship. Like I said I don’t create institutions that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. So no I’m not too big on religion and not very fond of politics or economics either. And why should I be They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three”
“The person who lives by his fears will not find freedom in my [God’s] love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe that I [God] am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it, you talk about it, but you don’t know it.”
“You do understand,” she continued, “that unless I had an object to love — or, more accurately, a someone to love — if I did not have such a relationship within myself, then I would not be capable of love at all? You would have a god who could not love. Or maybe worse, you would have a god who, when he chose, could love only as a limitation of his nature.”
“Love always leaves a significant mark.”
“Truth will set you free. And Truth has a name…”
“And the Law that once contained impossible demands — Thou Shalt Not… — actually becomes a promise we fulfill in you.”
“Living unloved is like clipping a bird’s wings and removing its ability to fly.”
“In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while educated Westerner’s access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just in a book.”
“He was sick of God and God’s religion, sick of all the little religious social clubs that didn’t seem to make any real difference or affect any real changes.”
“The world in many ways would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled. There would have been fewer children sacrificed to the gods of greed and power.”
“Remember, that choosing to stay on the ground is a choice to facilitate a relationship, to honor it. You don’t play a game or color a picture with a child to show your superiority. Rather, you choose to limit yourself so as to facilitate and honor that relationship… It is not about winning and losing, but about love and respect.”
“Jesus picked up the conversation. “As the crowning glory of creation, you were made in Our image, unencumbered by structure and free to simply ‘be’ in relationship with Me and one another. If you had trully learned to regard one another’s concerns as significant as your own, there would be no need for hierarchy.”
“Your world is severely broken. You demanded your independence, and now you are angry with the One who loved you enough to give it to you.”
“Mackenzie, judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right.”
“The ‘will to power and independence’ has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal.”
“From the first day we hid the woman within the man, so that at the right time we could remove her from within him. We didn’t create man to live alone; she was purposed from the beginning. By taking her out of him, he birthed her in a sense. We created a circle of relationship, like our own, but for humans. She, out of him, and now all the males, including me, birthed through her, and all originating, or birthed, from God.”
“Be willing to re-examine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly.”
“Judging requires that you think yourself superior to the one you judge.”
“Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive.”
“mistakes are a part of life, and Papa works her purpose in them too.”
“I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing..”
“So why create the poisonous plants at all?” Mack queried, handing back the twig.
(Sarayu answers) “Your question presumes that poison is bad; that such creations have no purpose. Many of these so-called bad plants, like this one, contain incredible properties for healing or are necessary for some of the most magnificent wonders when combined with something else. Humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing.”
“Don’t ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes whey are the best words the heart can speak.”
“Emotions are the colors of the soul; they are spectacular and incredible. When you don’t feel, the world becomes dull and colorless.”
“Being always transcends appearance-that which only seems to be. Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearances fade away until they simply no longer matter.”
“Love is just the skin of knowing.”
“Transformation without work and pain, without suffering, without a sense of loss is just an illusion of true change.”
“Mack, don’t you see how filling roles is the opposite of relationship? We want male and female to be counterparts, face-to-face equals, each unique and different, distinctive in gender but complementary, and each empowered uniquely by Sarayu from whom all true power and authority originates.”
“Image and appearance tell you little. The inside is bigger than the outside when you have the eyes to see.”
“Remember that choosing to stay on the ground is a choice to facilitate a relationship; to honor it. Mackenzie, you do this yourself. You don’t play a game or color a picture with a child to show your superiority. Rather, you choose to limit yourself so as
to facilitate and honor that relationship. You will even lose a competition to accomplish love. It is not about winning and losing, but about love and respect.”
“Mackenzie, the truth shall set you free and the truth has a name; he’s over in the woodshop right now covered in sawdust. Everything is about him. And freedom is a process that happens inside a relationship with him. Then all that stuff you feel churnin’ around inside will start to work its way out.”
“To force my will on you,” Jesus replied, “is exactly what love does not do. Genuine relationships are marked by submission even when your choices are not helpful or healthy.”
“My life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to ‘be like Jesus,’ it means for your independence to be killed. I came to give you life, real life, my life. We will come and live our life inside of you, so that you begin to see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and touch with our hands, and think like we do.”
“oh my soul…be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions”
“You were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around.”
“Love and relationship. All love and relationship is possible for you only because it already exits within me, within God myself. Love is not the limitation; love is the flying. I am love.”
“So when you look at Jesus and it appears that he’s flying he really is…flying. But what you are actually seeing is me my life in him. That’s how he lives and acts as a true human how every human is designed to live-out of my life.”
“God’s voice has been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while the educated Westerners’ access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just a book”
“Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets. —Paul Tournier”
“Genuine relationships are marked by submission even when your choices are not helpful or healthy.”
“Nan is the mortar that holds the tiles of their family together.”
“Mack once told me that he used to speak his mind more freely in his younger years, but he admitted that most of such talk was a survival mechanism to cover his hurts; he often ended up spewing his pain on everyone around him. He says that he had a way of pointing out people’s faults and humiliating them while maintaining his own sense of false power and control. Not too endearing.”
“Mack likes to say that they all got their good looks from him, “…cuz Nan still has hers.”
“So why do I have so much fear in my life?” “Because you don’t believe. You don’t know that we love you. The person who lives by his fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it, you talk about it, but you don’t know it.” Mack looked down once more at the water and breathed a huge sigh of the soul. “I have so far to go.”
“Am I going crazy? Am I supposed to believe that God is a big black woman with a questionable sense of humor?”
“Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception—what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms—what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn’t make it true.”
“You love each person differently because of who they are and the uniqueness that they draw out of you. And the more you know another, the richer the colors of that relationship.”
“We are not three gods, and we are not talking about one god with three attitudes, like a man who is a husband, father, and worker. I am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely the one.”
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”
“I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking from the outside.”
“Since there were three of them, maybe this was a Trinity sort of thing. But two women and a man and none of them white?”
“There are times when you choose to believe something that would normally be considered absolutely irrational. It doesn’t mean that it is actually irrational, but it surely is not rational. Perhaps there is suprarationality: reason beyond the normal definitions of fact or data-based logic; something that makes sense only if you can see a bigger picture of reality. Maybe that is where faith fits in.”
“But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster.”
“Living unloved is like clipping a bird’s wings and removing its ability to fly.”
“Humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing.”
“am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely the one.”
“Judging requires that you think yourself superior over the one you judge.”
“says that he had a way of pointing out people’s faults and humiliating them while maintaining his own sense of false power and control. Not too endearing.”
“If you had truly learned to regard one another’s concerns as significant as your own, there would be no need for hierarchy.”
“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. —Albert Einstein”
“We routinely disqualify testimony that would plead for extenuation. That is, we are so persuaded of the rightness of our judgment as to invalidate evidence that does not confirm us in it. Nothing that deserves to be called truth could ever be arrived at by such means.”
“The God who is—the I am who I am—cannot act apart from love!”
“People are tenacious when it comes to the treasure of their imaginary independence. They hoard and hold their sickness with a firm grip. They find their identity and worth in their brokenness and guard it with every ounce of strength they have. No wonder grace has such little attraction. In that sense you have tried to lock the door of your heart from the inside.”
“Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being. —Jean-Jacques Rousseau”
“many folks try to grasp some sense of who I am by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then calling that God. And while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who I really am. I’m not merely the best version of you that you can think of. I am far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think.”
“No matter what God’s power may be, the first aspect of God is never that of the absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts himself on our human level and limits himself. —Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity”
“Consider our little friend here,” she began. “Most birds were created to fly. Being grounded for them is a limitation within their ability to fly, not the other way around.” She paused to let Mack think about her statement. “You, on the other hand, were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around.”
“So help me understand them,” pleaded Mack. “Not much to understand, actually. They just are. They are neither bad nor good; they just exist. Here is something that will help you sort this out in your mind, Mackenzie. Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception—what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms—what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn’t make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even”
“Freedom is an incremental process.”
“You are wise in the ways of real love, Mackenzie. So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing. Mackenzie, you love your children, whom you know so well, with a wonderful and real love.”
“Being always transcends appearance—that which only seems to be. Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearances fade away until they simply no longer matter.”
“dreams at night. Secretly, he began to make plans to travel to the shack the following weekend. At first he told no one, not even Nan. He had no reasonable defense in any exchange that would result after such a disclosure, and he was afraid that he might get locked up and the key thrown away. Anyway, he rationalized such a conversation would only bring more pain with no resolution. “I am keeping it to myself for Nan’s sake,” he told himself. Besides, acknowledging the note would mean admitting that he had kept secrets from her, secrets he still justified in his own mind. Sometimes honesty can be incredibly messy. Convinced of the rightness of his impending journey, Mack began to consider ways to get the family away from home for the weekend without rousing any suspicions. There was the slim possibility that”
“For now most of what exists in the universe will be seen and enjoyed only by me, like special canvasses in the back of an artist’s studio, but one day…”
“Growth means change and change involves risk, stepping from the known to the unknown.”
“there are millions of reasons to allow pain and hurt and suffering rather than to eradicate them, but most of those reasons can be understood only within each person’s story. I am not evil. You are the ones who embrace fear and pain and power and rights so readily in your relationships. But your choices are also not stronger than my purposes, and I will use every choice you make for the ultimate good and the most loving outcome.”
“Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.” “Actually, that’s a relief. I couldn’t bear to think”
“For now,” she replied tenderly. “Mackenzie, judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right.”

“Let’s pray that the human race never escapes Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere. —C. S. Lewis”
“does a soul good to let the waters run once in a while—the healing waters.”
“Jesus didn’t hold on to any rights. He willingly became a servant and lives out of his relationship to Papa. He gave up everything, so that by his dependent life he opened a door that would allow you to live free enough to give up your rights.”
“It’s simple, Mack. It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life. What we are doing right now—just doing this—and being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people, and life is all about relationships. You can’t build it. It’s my job, and I’m actually pretty good at it,” Jesus said with a chuckle. For Mack these words were like a breath of fresh air! Simple. Not a bunch of exhausting work and a long list of demands, and not sitting in endless meetings staring at the backs of people’s heads, people he really didn’t even know. Just sharing life.”
“You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms. That is a hard pill to swallow—choosing to live only in me. To do that, you must know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.”
“life inside you will appropriate risk and uncertainty to transform you by your own choices into a truth teller, and that will be a miracle greater than raising the dead.”
“The darkness hides the true size of fears and lies and regrets,” Jesus explained. “The truth is they are more shadow than reality, so they seem bigger in the dark. When the light shines into the places where they live inside you, you start to see them for what they are.”
“You have already proven yourself very capable, even in our short time together. And besides, you have judged many throughout your life. You have judged the actions and even the motivations of others, as if you somehow knew what those were in truth. You have judged the color of skin and body language and body odor. You have judged history and relationships. You have even judged the value of a person’s life by the quality of your concept of beauty. By all accounts, you are quite well practiced in the activity.”
“Emotions are the colors of the soul—they are spectacular and incredible.”
“Just because you believe something firmly doesn’t make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you see clearly. But even then, you don’t want to trust them more than me.”

see also https://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=4645&action=edit&postpost=v2

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