The Shack by Paul Young

Mack’s father was a vicious alcoholic elder – beaten for two days when 13 – he left home – worked his way around the world – sending money for mum to grandparents – ended up in a seminary in Australia. When he had had enough of theology and philosophy he returned to Oregon – made peace with mum and his sisters and married Nan (a nurse). Mack is a thinker and doer who doesn’t say much unless asked directly – seems to be some sort of alien – often making uncomfortable sense – a way of pointing out people’s faults and humiliating them. His favourite topics are all about God and creation and why people believe what they do – he has a love/hate relationship with religion – unsure about a God who seems to be distant and aloof.
Jon is newly married; Tyler is working on a masters; Josh and Kate are still at home; then Melissa.
The Great Sadness occurred seven years ago – almost no conversation for almost two years! Then three years ago …

A Confluence of Paths
Trapped in his own home by snow or freezing rain – a respite from routine – a sense of freedom. He went to the mailbox during the afternoon. It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together. Papa (Papa was Nan’s favourite name for God which expressed her delight in the intimate friendship she had with him). The accident returning to the house – he had hit the back of his head – waiting for Nan to return and patch him up. Unable to get home – Kate unapproachable! The note was confusing!

The Gathering Dark
The weather changed overnight. Mack wondered if the note was a cruel joke. The Great Sadness was Mack’s constant companion – weighed down with despair.
A wonderful evening at the campsite with the three children. The princess who chose to die to save her people! Kate wanted to know if it was a true story – a legend? Kate wanted to know if Jesus dying was a legend. “Is the Great Spirit another name for God?” “How come he is so mean – making Jesus die on the cross?” “Will God ever ask me to jump off a cliff?”

The Tipping Point
Nan worked with patients with terminal cancer – helping them to think through their relationship with God in the light of their own death. Nan has a very close relationship, but Mack wasn’t comfortable with ‘Papa’. Nan had a very close relationship with her own father!
Mack was content – it had been a good time!
The last morning in the canoe – Kate waved the paddle and lost her balance – Josh didn’t surface – finally Mack was able to flip the canoe and resuscitate Josh. The owners of the canoe were so apologetic!

The Great Sadness
The ladybug pin! Mack knew more than he should have been allowed to – Tommy Dalton! Nan took Josh and Kate home. Sam Wikowsky! The military looking truck in the forest. No body but Missy’s blood soaked red dress!
Later a memorial service with a small empty coffin. Mack tried to emerge from his own pain and grief, at least with his family – they had lost a sister and daughter, but it would be wrong for them to lose a father and husband as well. Kate disappeared into a shell – building a fortress around her heart!
It was as if something had died within her and was slowly infecting her from the inside, spilling out occasionally in bitter words or emotional silence. It took Mack some time to let himself off the hook even a little bit (it’s so easy to get sucked into the if-only game – the slippery slide into despair).
Three and a half years later Missy was officially presumed to have been murdered.
The tragedy had increased the rift in Mack’s own relationship with God, but he ignored this growing sense of separation. Instead, he tried to embrace a stoic unfeeling faith – that didn’t stop the nightmares! The bad dreams were becoming less frequent, and laughter and moments of joy were slowly returning, but he felt guilty about these.
Mack couldn’t escape the desperate possibility that the note just might be from God after all (he had been taught in seminary 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.
Despite his anger and depression, Mack knew he needed some answers. He was sick of religion and all the little religious social clubs that didn’t seem to make any real difference or affect any real changes.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
The note dominated Mack’s thoughts. There were three possibilities – it was either from God, a cruel joke or something more sinister. He began to make secret plans to travel to the shack the following weekend. “I’m keeping it to myself for Nan’s sake” he reasoned! To acknowledge 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.
Mack was wondering how to get Nan and the children away, when Nan suggested a visit her sister and family – brother in law was a child psychologist. Nan was surprised at Mack’s enthusiasm!
Nan was taking the van. Mack asked if he could borrow Willie’s four-wheel drive! Mack showed Willie the note from Papa. “Wait, you aren’t thinking this is really from God, are you?”
“I’ve got to go, or it will drive me nuts for ever. We are losing Kate and that’s killing me. Maybe what happened to Missy is God’s judgment for what I did to my own dad. I just don’t know”.
Willie had expected that Mack would want to go on his own and brought a gun and ammunition. Mack hadn’t touched a gun for thirty years – and he knew that using violence to solve a problem always landed him in a bigger problem.
Willie was surprised at what Mack was taking. “I just thought I’d cover my bases – be prepared for whatever happens – or doesn’t”.
Willie wanted to know what Nan thought of the trip. “I didn’t tell her” “I didn’t lie to her”.
“You didn’t tell her the whole truth”.
“What do you think God looks like, if he even bothers to show up”? Mack had visualised God as a really big grandpa with a long white flowing beard.
“Well if he does show up, say hi for me, and tell him I have a few questions of my own. And Mack try not to piss him off”.
Mack left early Friday morning – frequently fighting the temptation to go home – knowing he was driving straight into the centre of his pain, the vortex of The Great Sadness that had diminished his sense of being alive. The inner compulsion to press on was irresistible. He left everything in the car to hike the mile or so to the shack, but went back for the note and his favourite picture of Missy, and then the gun. It was a difficult track and it looked as if it might snow. He was scared by a badger. Then he stared at the shack that looked dead and empty and then seemed to transform itself into an evil face looking straight back at him and daring him to approach. Ignoring the rising panic he carried on! “Hello, anybody here?” Feeling bolder he stepped completely across the threshold and stopped. It was still afternoon and stepping into the main room his eyes were drawn to the faded bloodstain still clearly visible near the fireplace. Tears began to well up in his eyes, “I’m so sorry, honey”.
Finally his heart exploded releasing his pent up anger, “Why did you let this happen? Why did you bring me here? Of all the places to meet you – why here? Wasn’t it enough to kill my baby? Do you have to toy with me too? In a blind rage he grabbed the nearest chair and flung it at the window. It smashed in pieces. He picked up one of the legs and began destroying everything he could. “I hate you”. In a frenzy he pounded out his rage until he was exhausted and slumped to the floor next to the bloodstain. “God, you couldn’t even let us find her and bury her properly. Was that just too much to ask?”. “So where are you? I thought you wanted to meet me here. Well, I’m here, God. And you? You’re nowhere to be found! You’ve never been around when I’ve needed you – not when I was a little boy, not when I lost Missy. Not now! Some ‘Papa’ you are”. The Great Sadness tightened around him. He felt the gun and thought about suicide – killing himself would be one way to strike back at God, if God even existed. But what about Nan and the children? He was so exhausted he just wanted to lie down and freeze to death.
Mack was tired of trying to find God. If God wanted him, God would have to come and find him!
He tore up the note, and a weary old man stepped off the porch with a heavy heart and started to hike back to the car. Then the sudden rush of warm air and the whole scene changed – he was gripped with terror as if he had opened up Pandora’s box. The shack had been replaced by a sturdy and beautifully constructed log cabin, with smoke coming from the chimney in the late afternoon sun. There was the sound of laughter. It was a wonderful; sight but … he shook his head … it was still there. Then there was a new dilemma – how should he address God? But his anger returned. He decided to bang loudly and see what happened – but before he could the door flew open and he was looking directly in the face of a large beaming African-American woman who engulfed him in her arms and lifted him clear off the ground like a little child.
“It’s okay honey, you can let it all out … I know you’ve been hurt, and I know you are angry and confused. So go ahead and let it all out. It does the soul good to let the waters run once in a while – the healing waters”. Mack felt the presence of a love that was warm and inviting. “Not ready? That’s okay, we’ll do things on your terms and time”.
There was the small distinctly Asian woman who collected tears. Then there was the Middle eastern man dressed like a labourer complete with tool belt and gloves, wearing jeans covered in wood dust. He embraced Mack and kissed him on both cheeks. The Asian lady seemed to lift a huge weight from his shoulders – hugging him without really hugging him.
“I am the housekeeper and cook. You may call me Elousia … but you could call me what Nan does – ‘Papa’. “I try to keep things fixed up around here. I enjoy working with my hands although, as these two will tell you, I take pleasure in cooking and gardening as much as they do”
“And I am Sarayu, keeper of the gardens, among other things”
“Which one of you is God?” “I am” they said in unison.

A piece of П
Mack was offered the chance to go fishing – but “you gotta clean what you catch”
“Am I to believe that God is a big black woman with a questionable sense of humour?”
“You’re not supposed to do anything,” said Jesus. “I am working on a wood project in the shed; Sarayu is in the garden; or you could go fishing, canoeing, or go talk to Papa” (but don’t go because you feel obligated – that won’t get you any points around here).
Mack had difficulty saying ‘Papa’ – maybe because he’d never known anyone he could really call Papa. “If you let me, I will be the Papa you never had”.
“If you couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I trust you to take care of me?”
“I know what a great gulf this has put between us. I know you don’t understand this yet, but I am especially fond of Missy, and you too”.
Mack wanted to believe her and slowly some of the rage began to subside.
There is a need to get head issues out of the way first – it makes the heart stuff easier to work on later … when you are ready.
“This weekend is not about reinforcing religious stereotypes”. “We knew that when Creation was broken that true fathering would be much more lacking than mothering. Both are needed but an emphasis on fathering is necessary because of the enormity of its absence”.
Papa is not interested in prisoners – the fact that we are curious does not reduce our freedom to leave.
There are so many influences in our lives that work against our freedom including our own experiences. Freedom is an incremental process.
“The Truth will set you free – he’s over in the wood shop right now covered in sawdust – everything is about him. Freedom is a process that happens within a relationship. Then all the stuff we feel churning around inside will start to work its way out.
“We were there together” (the scars on the wrists). “Regardless of what Jesus felt at that moment, I never left him”
“When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?”
“Remember that the story didn’t end in his sense of forsakenness”
We were created to be loved. To live as if we are unloved is a limitation. Living unloved is like clipping a bird’s wings and removing its ability to fly. Pain clips our wings, and if left unresolved for very long, we can almost forget that we were ever created to fly in the first place.
God lives in a state of perpetual satisfaction – without an ounce of arrogance to spoil it. Mankind was created to share in that, but then Adam chose to go it on his won, as we knew he would, and everything got messed up. “We entered the middle of the mess – that’s what we have done in Jesus”.
“When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God we became fully human. We also chose to embrace the limitations that this entailed”.
“Although by nature Jesus is fully God, he is fully human and lives as such. While never losing the innate ability to fly, he chooses moment by moment to remain grounded. Immanuel, God with us, or God with you”
Jesus is fully God but has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out his relationship with Papa, living in the very same manner that Papa desires to be in relationship with every human being. Jesus is the first to live his life trusting absolutely Father’s life within him.
When Jesus healed and performed miracles, “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”. That is how every human has been designed to live – out of Papa’s life! Humans are not defined by their limitations, but by the intentions that Papa has for them.
“Who would want to worship a God who can be fully comprehended? Not much of a mystery in that!” “I am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely the one. If I were simply One God and only One Person, then you would find yourself in this Creation without something wonderful and essential, and I would be utterly other than I am. We would be without love and relationship. All love and relationship is possible only because it already exists within Me, within God myself. Love is not the limitation; love is the flying. I am love”
If Papa didn’t have someone to love – if Papa did not have such a relationship within himself, he would not be capable of love at all. The God who is cannot act apart from love.
We may be sorry that Jesus and Father had to die, but they think it was worth it!

God on the Dock
The bowl that Jesus dropped – Sarayu said something about humans being clumsy and they all started laughing! A fullness of love! “You can’t share with one of us without sharing with all of us”.
When playing with a child we choose to limit ourselves in order to honour and facilitate that relationship – and maybe even lose a competition to accomplish love and respect.
“When you tell us about your children we limit ourselves out of respect to you. We are not bringing to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes”.
Maybe we should choose to limit ourselves in order to serve – maybe the infirm and the sick, the old and the young, or even caring for the other who has assumed a position of power over them.
A time of devotion when Jesus reached across the table and took Papa’s hands in his, scars now clearly visible on the wrists. He kissed Papa’s hand, looked into his eyes, “Papa, I loved watching you today as you made yourself fully available to take Mack’s pain into yourself, and then give him space to choose his own timing. You honoured him, and you honoured me. To listen to you whisper love and calm into his heart was truly incredible. What a joy to watch! I love being your son”.
What Mack was witnessing was something simple, warm, intimate and genuine – this was holy!
What about the excitement and expectancy of looking at the stars?
Jesus never gets tired of it. The wastefulness of Creation! He created it as the Word, before the Word became flesh. Now he sees it as a human.
Mack felt more comfortable around Jesus – more real or tangible. Jesus as the best way to relate to Papa or Sarayu. To see Jesus is to see them! Sarayu as the wind. Elousia – El – the Creator – ousia – ‘being’ or ‘that which is truly real’ – the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being.
That leaves us where we were always intended to be – in the very centre of his love and purpose.
To what extent do we know Jesus, rather than an icon?
Jesus chooses to live moment by moment fully human, while Sarayu, my Spirit, restores the union that was lost long ago – it’s Papa’s miracle! Creation can then once more be fully indwelt by spiritual life, but it requires a very real dynamic and active union to exist.
What place laughter, fun and hugs? Music?
Mack suddenly felt guilty about enjoying himself, about laughing, and even in the darkness he could feel The Great Sadness roll in and over him. He felt lost but was assured that he wasn’t!

A Breakfast of Champions
The author refers to ‘flying dreams’ and how Mack saw the face of Missy screaming ‘Daddy’, her red dress visible for just a few flashes before she was gone – and waking up struggling in the mud. The emotions didn’t go away – the nightmare was back. Where was he?
“Dreams are sometimes important – a way of opening up the window and letting the bad air out”
Mack knew this was an invitation to unlock the door into his terrors, but he wasn’t ready.
“I have no favourites, I am just especially fond of him” – and none that she is not especially fond of!
But she gets mad, just like any parent – doesn’t like the choices that are often made – but anger is always an expression of love.
“I’m not asking you to believe anything, but I will tell you that you’re going to find this day a lot easier if you simply accept what is, instead of trying to fit it into your preconceived notions”
“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”
Mack had always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders and being obedient, but didn’t really know how the Holy Spirit fitted in.
“We are a circle of relationship not a chain of command!”
“Humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that people could work or live together without someone being in charge” “Once you have a 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, that destroys relationship rather than promoting it”
“When you chose independence over relationship, you became a danger to each other. Others became objects to be manipulated or managed for your own happiness. Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong use to make others conform to what they want”
Mack wondered if Papa used it to restrain evil.
“We carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them. Creation has been taken down a very different path than we desired. In your world the value of the individual is constantly weighed against the survival of the system whether political, economic, social or religious. The ‘will to power and independence’ has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal. It is the human paradigm. It is like water to fish, so prevalent that it goes unseen and unquestioned – hopelessly trapped even while completely unaware of its existence”
We were made in the image of God, unencumbered by structure and free to simply ‘be’ in relationship with Jesus and with one another.
“People are likely to use you, but we are not asking you to do it with others, we’re asking you to do it with us. That’s the only place it can begin. We won’t use you. We want you to join our circle of love. It is hard to understand but everything that has taken place is occurring exactly according to this purpose, without violating choice or will”
“How can you say that with all the pain in the world, all the wars and disasters that destroy thousands? And what is the value in a little girl being murdered by some twisted deviant? You may not cause those things, but you certainly don’t stop them”
“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. 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”
“People centre their lives around things that seem good to them, that will neither fill them nor free them. They are addicted to power or the illusion of security that power offers. When a disaster happens … they either become softened towards me or bolder in their independence”
Mack questioned the incredible cost – all the pain and suffering! He suggested that it all sounds like the end justifies the means, even if it costs billions of lives.
“You really don’t understand yet. You try to make sense of the world in which you live based on a very small and incomplete picture of reality”
“You cannot produce trust just like you cannot ‘do’ humility. It either is or it 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”
Mack said, “I don’t know how to change that”
“You can’t, not alone. But together we will watch that change take place … our relationship is not about performance or you having to please me. You cannot find the way through guilt or condemnation or coercion, only through a relationship of love. And I do love you”
Mack couldn’t imagine any final outcome that would justify all this.
“We’re not justifying it. We are redeeming it”

A Long Time Ago, in a Garden Far, Far Away
Mack was taken to a special and beautiful plot in this incredible garden that she said needed clearing before Mack planted something special there the next day. Mack was exhausted. “It’s not the work, but the purpose that makes it special”
Human beings are so blind to their place in Creation having chosen the path of independence – but it won’t be that way forever. Why do children have a passion to explore and discover? So many wonders have been hidden!
Freedom involves trust and obedience inside a relationship of love.
Human beings have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil without truly knowing.
They were clearing the roots of these wonderful plants so that they wouldn’t harm the seed that was going to be planted.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil!
How do we determine whether something is good or evil? It’s pretty subjective and usually based on how it affects us personally – we become the judge – and our thoughts change with time – and there are millions of us all determining what is good and what is evil! No wonder there are wars!
The choice to eat of that tree tore the universe apart, divorcing the spiritual from the physical.
We need to give up our right to decide what is good and evil.
“Evil is a word that we use to describe the absence of good, just as darkness is the absence of light, or death is the absence of life. Evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to good and light”
There is no future in independence. We don’t have any rights. “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 the door that would allow you to live free enough to give up your rights”
The garden they had been clearing – which Mack said looked a mess – was his soul.

Wade in the Water
Encouraged by Jesus to walk across the lake – but he hesitated.
Where do we spend most of our time in our imagination? Very little is spent in the present. We may look back, but our imagination of the future is almost always directed to fear of some kind – with Father absent – it’s our attempt to maintain some control – which we can never do! Do we really know the love of God?
The view across the lake was staggering – as was the waterfall – but imagine what it would be like without war! The earth is sued and abused – with very little thought for their own children who will follow. “We could take the earth back, but then the story would end before it was consummated”
Jesus never takes control of our choices or forces us to do anything, even when what we are about to do is destructive or hurtful to ourselves or others. It’s all about submission – which is not about authority or obedience but about relationships of love and respect – that we have been invited into.
Most men find fulfilment in achievements (usually based on knowledge?), while most women find it in relationships.
The need for men to give up their own ways and return to Jesus, while women in general, find it difficult to turn from a man and stop demanding that he meets their needs and provide their security.
“Women turned from us to another relationship, while men turned to themselves and the ground. The world in many ways would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled, but it still wouldn’t be enough”
“I came as a man to complete a wonderful picture. We hid the woman within the man, so that at the right time we could remove her from within – and create a circle of relationship like our own – she out of him – and now all males, including me, birthed through her, and all originating, or birthed, from God” “We wanted fully equal and powerful counterparts, but your independence with its quest for power and fulfilment actually destroys the relationship your heart longs for.”
It comes back to power and how opposite that is from relationships.
Just like love, submission is not something we can do, especially on our own.
To ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” is just not a good idea!
The life of Jesus was not meant to be an example to copy.
Being a follower of Jesus is not trying to be like Jesus, it means that our independence needs to be killed. The need to let Papa live within us, so that we begin to see with his eyes, to hear with his ears, and to think as he thinks.

Here Come Da Judge
Some parents are too broken to love their children well.
Mack didn’t love any one of his children the most. He just loved each of them differently – they were unique – especially fond of each one!
“But what about when they don’t behave or make what you consider to be poor choices or embarrass you in front of others?”
What they do might affect Mack’s pride, but not his love for them.
“Many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it”
Mack recognised that much of his love for others was pretty conditional.
“This is a time for honesty and truth. You don’t believe that Father loves his children very well do you? You don’t truly believe that God is good, do you?”
Mack was thinking of Missy, “I don’t believe that God loves all of his children very well”
“Why don’t you sit here?”
“Not only are you here because of your children, but you are here for judgment”
Mack began to panic – he felt guilty – his failures loomed large – being judged before he was dead – what if I repent? Mack was to be the judge. He had judged many throughout his life – the actions and motivations of others (as if he really knew the truth about them). He had judged history and relationships. He realised that he had often jumped to conclusions about others from the way they impact us – a self-centred view of the world around him.
“Judging requires that you think yourself superior over the one you judge”
Mack was being called to judge God and the human race. “There must be at least a few who are to blame for so much of the pain and suffering. What about the greedy who feed off the poor of the world? What about the ones who sacrifice their young children to war? What about the men who beat their wives without cause? What about the fathers who beat their sons for no reason but to assuage their own suffering? Don’t they deserve judgment? … And what about the man who preys on innocent little girls? Is that man guilty? Should he be judged?
“Yes! Damn him to hell”
“What about his father, the man who twisted his son into a terror, what about him?”
“How far back do you go? The legacy of brokenness goes all the way back to Adam. What about him? Why stop there? What about God? God started this whole thing. Is he to blame? Isn’t this where you are stuck – that God cannot be trusted?”
Mack was then asked to choose two of his children to spend eternity in God’s new heavens and new earth, and three to spend eternity in hell.
“I’m only asking you to do something that you believe God does”
Mack kept saying he couldn’t do it. Finally he asked if he could go instead, and was told that he was now sounding like Jesus! Mack had judged his children worthy of love!
Mack could understand Jesus’ love but God was another story! Maybe Mack’s understanding of God was wrong. Was that why he was drowning in his sorrows? God doesn’t punish.
“He doesn’t stop a lot of things that cause him pain. 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. Nothing is as Papa desires it. Right now your world is lost in darkness and chaos, and horrible things happen to those he is especially fond of”.
“Then why doesn’t he do something about it?”
“He has already. Haven’t you seen the wounds on Papa too? He chose the way of the cross where mercy triumphs over justice because of love. Would you prefer that he had chosen justice for everyone? Do you want justice?”
But Mack still didn’t understand why Missy had to die.
“She didn’t have to. This was no plan of Papa’s. Papa has never needed evil to accomplish his good purposes. It is you humans who have embraced evil and Papa has responded with goodness. What happened to Missy was the work of evil and no one in your world is immune from it”
There is a better way – we need to return from our independence and embrace Papa’s love in the midst of pain, instead of pushing him away with our self-centred perception of how we think the universe should be.
It is the recognition that we need help that can be the start of the journey home!
The picture of seeing Missy through the waterfall – with Missy knowing he was there without being able to see him.
(Sophia – the personification of Papa’s wisdom – finding anyone who will listen to her – part of the mystery surrounding of Sarayu)
“This life is only the anteroom of a greater reality to com. No one reaches their potential in your world. It’s only a preparation for what Papa had in mind all along”
Unable to get to Missy – the ay Missy wanted it – she would have liked to have had her mother here too. For the other children this would be a dream – a vague memory – some in greater detail than others.
Mack wanted to know if Missy had forgiven him – but there wasn’t anything to forgive – Mack had been saving his son – Mack was the only person in the universe who thought he had been to blame!
Mack then sees Missy running off into the arms of Jesus.
“Judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right”

In the Belly of the Beasts
Mack suddenly realised that something was missing – The Great Sadness was gone – as if it had been washed away by the mists of the waterfall. He wondered who he would be now that he was letting all that go – to walk into each day without the guilt and despair that had sucked the colours of life out of everything.
“Is any of this real? Far more than you realise”
But Mack still had one question, “I keep thinking of her, alone in that truck, so terrified …”
“She was never alone, I never left her, we never left her for an instant”
“Did she know you were there?”
“Not at first, the fear was overwhelming and she was in shock. She had no idea what was going to happen. She was more concerned about you and the other kids, knowing that you couldn’t find her. She prayed for you, for your peace. She was so brave”
Tears flowed freely from Mack but this time it was different. He was no longer alone. He had a shoulder to lean on!
“The darkness hides the true size of fears and lies and regrets. The truth is they are more shadow than reality, so they seem bigger in the dark. When the light shines you see them for what they really are”
We are all lost in the darkness to differing degrees. Sometimes as a kid trying to survive, it’s safer with the crap inside. We grow up on the outside but inside we are still the kid in the dark cave surrounded by monsters – and we keep adding more!
“Some people try all kinds of coping mechanisms and mental games. But the monsters are still there just waiting for a chance to come out! You need to learn to live loved. It’s not an easy concept. You have a hard time sharing anything. The need to ‘re-turn’ to Papa and then we come and make our home inside you, and then we share – a friendship that is real – not merely imagined. We’re meant to experience this life, your life, together, in a dialogue, sharing the journey. You get to share our wisdom and learn to love with our love and we get … to hear you grumble and gripe and complain”
Mack wondered why Jesus hadn’t told him about Missy earlier, perhaps a year ago.
“I’ve been talking to you for a long time but you couldn’t hear until now. It was all preparation. You have to take the time to prepare the soil if you want it to embrace the seed”
Mack wanted to know if he was seeing Heaven when he was seeing Missy.
The final destiny is a new cleansing of this universe.
The picture of the pearly gates and gold stuff is a picture of Jesus and the woman he is in love with – the church – individuals who together form a spiritual city with a living river flowing through the middle, and on both shores growing with fruit that will heal the hurt and sorrows of the nations. The city is always open and each gate is made of a single pearl (Jesus)! Pearls are the only precious stones made by pain, suffering and – finally – death!
We can’t build that church – that is the job of Jesus! A mystery we can’t begin to understand!
Much that is done in Jesus’ name is contrary to his purposes!
The creation of institutions is an occupation for those who want to play God!
Marriage is not an institution – it is a relationship!
“Religion, politics and economics – the trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. They prop up the illusions of security and control. People are afraid of uncertainty, afraid of the future. These institutions, structures and ideologies are all a vain effort to create some sense of certainty and security where there isn’t any”
Mack was reminded of saving Josh. “It’s extremely hard to rescue someone unless they are willing to trust you”. When we begin to sink we need to remember who is in charge!
We don’t know how to change things – we are not being asked to – that is Sarayu’s job and she knows how to do it without brutalising anyone. The whole thing is a process not and event! It is not our job to change others or convince them. We are free to love without an agenda!
We can have the freedom to be inside or outside all kinds of systems and to move freely between and among them. Together with Papa we can be in it and not of it! Beware of judging others. We need to find ways to love and serve others. It is those who know Jesus who are free to live and love without an agenda!
“Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian”
“I have no desire to make people Christians, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved”
Do all roads lead to Jesus? “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you”

A Meeting of Hearts
“Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colours”. Mack had totally misunderstood. “Jesus came to show people who I am, and most people only believe it about him. They still play us off as good cop / bad cop most of the time – especially religious folk. When they want people to do what they think is right, they need a stern God. When they need forgiveness, they run to Jesus. But we were all in him. He reflected my heart exactly. I love you and invite you to love me”
Life is full of building blocks – Papa will never give up – and is never frustrated or disappointed when we don’t respond positively – it’s all about building bridges. It’s not about feeling guilty. Guilt never leads to freedom. The best it can do is to make you try harder to conform to some ethic on the outside and not on the inside.
Most of us are survivors – no shame in that. When life hurts lies are one of the easiest places for survivors to run – a sense of safety – a place where you only have to depend on yourself – but it’s a dark place – a fortress – but a fortress needs walls – so we build some – the justification for our lies – like doing something to protect someone you love, to keep them from feeling pain – whatever works just so we feel okay about the lies (like not telling Nan about the note).
“The truth is, Mack, the real reason you did not tell Nan was not because you were trying to save her from pain. The real reason is that you were afraid of having to deal with the emotions you might encounter, both from her and from yourself. Emotions scare you. You lied to protect yourself, not her!”
“Such a lie is unloving. In the name of caring about her, your lie became an inhibitor in your relationship with her, and in her relationship with me. If you had told her, maybe she would be here with us now. You don’t know what would have happened because you were so busy protecting Nan”
“So what do I do now?”
“You tell her. You face the fear of coming out of the dark and tell her, and ask for her forgiveness and you let her forgiveness heal you. Ask her to pray for you. Take the risks of honesty. When you mess up again, ask for forgiveness again. It’s a process, honey, and life is real enough without having to be obscured by lies. I can work beyond them. But that doesn’t make them right and doesn’t stop the damage they do or the hurt they cause others”
“What if she doesn’t forgive me?”
“That is the risk of faith. Faith doesn’t grow in the house of certainty. Perhaps she can’t or won’t, but my life inside of 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”
Father forgave us a long time ago – ask Jesus!
How often have we tried to lock the door to our hearts from the inside?
The consequences of our selfishness are part of the process that brings us to the end of our delusions, but it’s not as simple as that. All evil flows from independence, and independence is a choice. But without choice the world as we know it would cease to exist and love would have no meaning. Love that is forced is no love at all.
We mustn’t forget that in the midst of all the pain and heartache we are surrounded by beauty and the wonder of Creation, art, music and culture, the sounds of laughter and love, of whispered hopes and celebrations, of new life and transformation, of reconciliation and forgiveness. Every choice matters – even the hidden ones.
“You demand your independence but then complain that I actually love you enough to give it to you”
“My purposes are always and only an expression of love. I purpose to work life out of death, to bring freedom out of brokenness and turn darkness into light. What you see as chaos, I see as fractal (irregular geometric repeating shapes?). All things must unfold, even though it puts all those I love in the midst of a world of horrible tragedies – even the ones closest to me (Jesus). One day you folk will understand what he gave up”
“Creation and history is all about Jesus. He is the very centre of our purpose and in him we are now fully human, so our purpose and your destiny are forever linked. You may say that we have put all our eggs in the one human basket. There is no plan B”
“Through the death and resurrection of Jesus I am now fully reconciled to the whole world. Reconciliation is a two way street and I have done my part, totally, completely, finally. It is not the nature of love to force a relationship, but it is the nature of love to open the way”
Mack realised that he didn’t understand reconciliation and was scared of emotions! Men are idiots!

Verbs and other freedoms
Mack wandered down to the lake; saw the canoes and hesitated! The thought of taking one out energised him for the first time in years. He spent a couple of hours with a real sense of peace, and even sang a few songs, just because he wanted to! K-K-K-Katie … you’re the only one that I adore.
He shook his head as he thought about her – so tough but so fragile – he was no longer surprised how easily tears could come to his eyes. Then he realised Sarayu was there – always there whether Mack realised or not! “I know that now, but how will I hear you?”
“You will learn to hear my thoughts in yours”
“What if I confuse you with another voice? What if I make mistakes?”
“Of course you will make mistakes; everyone does, but you will begin to better recognise my voice as we continue to grow in our relationship”
“Emotions are the colours of the soul; they are spectacular and incredible. When you don’t feel, the world becomes dull and colourless”
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 re-examine what you believe. The more you live in the truth, the more your emotions will help you to see clearly. But even then, you don’t want to trust them more than me”
“The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. It is a picture of Jesus. While words may tell you what God is like and even what he might want from you, you cannot do any of it on your own. You cannot live the righteousness of God on your own!”
Relationships are a whole lot messier than rules, but rules never give you answers to deep questions of the heart and they will never love you.
“Religion is about having the right answers and some of the answers are right. But I am about the process that takes you to the living answer and once you get to him, he will change you from the inside. Many have right answers, but they still live wrong!”
“My ability to communicate is limitless, living and transforming, and it will always be tuned to Papa’s goodness and love. Look for relationship – a way of coming to be with us”
Mack was envious of the carefree but respectful conversation and wondered what it would take to share that with Nan and even maybe with some friends. He knew he would tell Nan everything – but she might not believe him!
Mack wanted to know why Papa loved him when he had nothing to offer. Jesus said, “It should be very freeing to know that you can offer us nothing, at least, nothing that can add or take away from who we are … that should alleviate any pressure to perform”
The suggestion that the Ten Commandments were given to show us that we couldn’t be righteous by following the rules – only Jesus was able to do that. The law no longer has any power to accuse or command! Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence – a way of trying to keep control – a way of judging others and feeling superior. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse. Responsibility and expectation are just another form of rules we are no longer under!
“Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive. 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. Because I am your ability to respond, I have to be present in you. If I simply gave you a responsibility, I would not have to be with you at all. It would now be a task to perform, an obligation to be met, something to fail”
“Let’s use the example of friendship. 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 expectancy of being together, of laughter and talking. That 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. But what happens if I change that ‘expectancy’ to an ‘expectation’ – spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend”. “Or the responsibilities of a husband, or a father, or employee, or whatever” added Mack, “I would rather live in expectancy”
“But if you didn’t have expectations and responsibilities, wouldn’t everything just fall apart?”
“Only if you are of the world, apart from me and under the law. Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis for identity and value. You know well what it is like not to live up to someone’s expectations”
Papa has no expectations and is never disappointed. He does have a constant living expectancy and has given us the ability to respond to any situation and circumstance in which we may find ourselves – it’s not a question of priorities, Papa wants all of us with Jesus at the centre of everything!

A Festival of Friends
Mack was to be given a gift for the evening of being able to see a bit of what Papa saw – perched on top of a small hill under a brilliant moonless night sky. The wonders of nature! The ability to see each other in light and colour and respond accordingly. Each relationship is unique – unable to love two people the same – the uniqueness they can draw out of you – the more you know another, the richer the colours of that relationship. The troublemaker – Mack’s father – was focused on him – and Mack became the little boy wanting his daddy, and for the first time he was not afraid, “Daddy, I’m sorry” – a song of reconciliation from the children, especially from those who had suffered the greatest. Somehow Mack was already known and loved here. Amid pandemonium Jesus emerged and walked the path that opened up for him into the centre of Creation – some were crying out words of love, others just stood with hands lifted up. Many of those whose colours were the richest and deepest were lying flat on their faces. Tonight the universe was as it was intended. “Mack, I’m especially fond of you”. As the curtain was drawn across his eyes Mack felt a loss and a longing, and even a little sad, until Jesus came alongside and took his hand to let Mack know that everything was as it should be.

A Morning of Sorrows
Mack was going to need a father today. The pack, the pick and the shovel! The small red arc on a tree! “Forgiving your father yesterday was a significant part of your being able to know me as Father today”
“There was no way to create freedom without cost. I knew that my Creation would rebel, would choose independence and death, and I knew what it would cost me to open a path of reconciliation”
Papa was about to show Mack something very painful. Today was to be a healing trip to bring closure to this part of the journey, not only for Mack but for the others as well. Mack knew that Papa wanted him to forgive that son of a bitch who killed Missy.
“Mack, for you to forgive this man is for you to release him to me and allow me to redeem him”
“Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It’s about letting go of another person’s throat”
Papa knows everything. Forgetting for him is a choice. “Because of Jesus there is now no law demanding that I bring your sins back to mind. They are gone when it comes to you and me, and they run no interference in our relationship. But this man too is my son. I want to redeem him”
“You don’t have a relationship with this man, at least not yet. Forgiveness does not establish a relationship. In Jesus, I have forgiven all humans for their sins against me, but only some choose relationship. Forgiveness is an incredible power … when Jesus forgave those who nailed him to the cross they were no longer in his debt, or mine”
Forgiveness is to release us from something that will eat us alive; that will destroy our joy and our 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 will release him from a burden that he carries whether he knows it or not – acknowledges or not. When you choose to forgive another, you love him well”
Mack didn’t love him.
“Not today you don’t. But I do, not for what he has become, but for the broken child that has been twisted by his pain. I want to help you take on that nature that finds more power in love and forgiveness than hate”
Forgiveness does not require us to pretend that things never happened! Forgiveness does not require us to trust the one we have forgiven! But if they do 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. And sometimes that road may even take you to the miracle of a fully restored trust.
There are times when we need to let it all out! It’s not easy!
Mack wanted to know if it was okay if he was still angry. “Absolutely! What he did was terrible. He caused incredible pain to many. It was 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. You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second, but the third day will be less and each after, until one day you will realise you have forgiven him completely. Then one day you will be able to pray for his wholeness and give him over to me …”
The recovery of Missy’s body – now Sarayu’s gift made sense.
“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”

Choices of the Heart
Jesus’ workshop was the sanctuary of a master craftsman! The masterpiece of art in which to lay the remains of Missy with beautiful carvings representing her life including all the family. Her body was placed carefully in the box. The perfect place had been prepared for her body by Sarayu and Mack.
Sarayu drew out her bottle and poured a few drops of the precious collection on the rich black soil. Wherever they landed flower burst forth instantly. Then looking at one pearl in her hand Sarayu dropped it into the centre of the plot and immediately a small tree broke through and began unbending itself – growing until it burst into blossom and bloom. She turned to Mack, “It is a tree of life, growing in the garden of your heart”
They returned to the cabin. On the coffee table sat a glass of wine and a loaf of bread.
“We are especially fond of you, you know. But here is the choice for you to make. You can remain with us and continue to grow and learn, or you can return to your other home, to Nan and to your children and friends. Either way, we promise to always be with you; although this way is a little more overt and obvious”
Mack asked about Missy. It was not an easy choice.
Sarayu interrupted Mack, “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 ever be the same again”
Mack said he would go back, but he didn’t think that anyone would believe his story.
Sarayu had a final gift for Mack to take with him for Kate. “Kate believes that she is to blame for Missy’s death”. It was so obvious but Mack couldn’t believe that it had never crossed his mind. Now he had to go back, even if it was only for Kate.
Jesus suggested that Mack might like his little tin box back.
“Actually, I don’t think I’m going to need it anymore. Can you keep it for me? All my best treasures are now hidden in you anyway. I want you to be my life”
“I am” came the clear and true voice of assurance.
Without any ritual or ceremony they savoured the bread and shared the wine and laughed about the strange moments of the weekend.
Mack had nothing to pack. He changed and returned to the living room. The three were gone – there was a cup of coffee – no chance to say good-bye. He was exhausted. The myriad of emotions had taken their toll and he drifted off to sleep. He woke up cold and sore from lying on the floor. Everything was as it had been two days earlier; even the bloodstain near the fireplace where he had been sleeping. He went back to the car. His drive back to Joseph was uneventful. He grabbed a bite to eat and tried unsuccessfully to phone Nan. He was anxious to get home to his family, especially Kate. He was lost in thought but pulled through the inter section when the lights turned green – and was hit by the other driver who had driven through a red light!

Outward Ripples
At some point Mack finally understood that he had been unconscious for almost four days. Nan had made it clear that he had a lot of explaining to do later. Nan wasn’t speaking to Willie for letting Mack have the Jeep to let him go the Shack. It was when Willie asked Mack if God was there that it all began to come together. He gave the message to Willie, “Tell him that I’m especially fond of him”. Willie was fighting hard for control, “I gotta go. You’ll have to tell me about it later”!
It seemed strange to Mack that he would get in an accident right after spending a weekend with God. The seeming random chaos of life, wasn’t that how Papa had put it?
Then he heard Nan say that the accident had happened on Friday night!
Nan had trouble being patient and attentive, but the vividness and depth of his memories touched her resolve to stay objective. There was life in what he was telling her and she quickly understood that whatever had happened had a greatly impacted and changed her husband.
Her scepticism eroded to the point where she agreed to have some time alone with Kate even though Mack’s unwillingness to tell her why made her nervous.
Kate had always believed that it was her fault, and that her parents blamed her. She had no idea how to respond. The next time Mack awoke, Kate was asleep next to him on the bed. Nan had been able to help Kate work through some of the pain. Nan leant across and whispered, “I believe you”. Mack nodded and smiled, surprised by how important that was to hear.
Barely a month after he was discharged from hospital, he and Nan called Tommy (now the deputy sheriff) about the possibility of a hike back into the area behind the shack. Even after hearing the story of Mack’s weekend, which he chalked up to the dreams and nightmares of a still grieving father, he agreed to go back. They followed Mack – a two-hour hike – and when Tommy was convinced at what they were opening up, he made them stop. On the return trip Tommy listened again to Mack’s story, this time with a new openness. He also took the opportunity to coach his friend on the best ways to handle the grilling he would soon be getting. Even though Mack’s alibi was flawless, there would still be serious questions.

Mack now lives life with simplicity and joy. He’s become the child he was never allowed to be, abiding in simple trust and wonder. He embraces even the darker shades of life as part of some incredibly rich and profound tapestry.
If anything matters, then everything matters.
And one day, when all is revealed, every one of us will bow our knee and confess in the power of Sarayu that Jesus is the Lord of all Creation, to the glory of Papa.

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