Thursday, March 25, 2010

put a rock in your mouth!

Fun with spiritual disciplines:

“Put a rock in your mouth!”

My retreat at St. Meinrads has had some interesting twists and turns. I am trying to deeply engage stillness, silence, and solitude amongst other things. In doing this I wanted to share an interesting practice I have experimented with that comes from one of the desert fathers [Monks from the 3rd-6th centuries]

While practicing silence keep a stone in your mouth to remind you of your vow. In fact keep two stones on you at all times.

One is a smooth small stone that is easy to keep in your mouth. Think of this smooth stone as the type that David used to slay goliath. If your heart and mind are focused on God and his goodness, this is the stone to keep in your mouth as a reminder of how His presence is smooth and strong and can give you the strength to slay the Goliath’s of your life.

The second stone is for when your heart wanders towards evil. This is when you take the other stone and put it into your mouth. It needs to be larger than the first and rough and porous. It represents the discomfort of leaving Gods presence. It is also a reminder of how your heart and mind have not yet been smoothed over by the presence of the Holy Spirit. This stone humbles us, and it hurts. It makes you wish that it had remained a long time under the rushing waters of a stream and gotten smooth from the consistent flow of the waters. Get it? To be drowning in God’s presence and to have the rushing waters of His word and spirit makes us smooth inside.

And it works…trust me.

But a few notes:

1. Stone number 1 needs to not be so small you might swallow it. I nearly did this. Also, don’t sleep with it; even though the monk I read about did this for 3 years I just know this would be a ridiculous way to die…or…just bizarre trying to explain to an EMT.

2. Stone number 2 needs to be abrasive. It reminds us of our abrasive thoughts and how they become abrasive and abusive words in our mouths. And it needs to be big enough to really get our attention and be annoying to work around. You should really, really, really want to spit it out. As such it is a great motivator to reconnect with Gods peace instead of our rage.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Number 1

Sent from my iPhone and soon from an iPad

Saturday, March 13, 2010

when in wonderland...

Absolem, a hookah smoking 3 inch caterpillar in the new “Alice in Wonderland” movie asks Alice a simple but profound question:

Who are you?

After a brief dialogue 2 different times, he gives her 2 interesting retorts.

“You are certainly not nearly Alice”

And on the 2nd occasion

“You are almost Alice”

How about you?

Are you certainly not nearly who God made you to be; or perhaps you are now almost who you were designed to become.

As you are spring cleaning this year perhaps it’s time to throw away the you, that is not nearly at all who God intended you to be. Perhaps it’s time for people to see you becoming almost who God wants you to be.

What’s standing in the way? What things need to be forgotten, thrown out, and set aside. And what things need to be yearned for, fought for, and raced after.

For this is NO dream you can pinch your way out of. You must face and fight for your future. Beneath who you have become, is always lurking who you were made to be. And every now and then you simply need to be reminded of that, or else the world will steal your identity and make you a robot, a caricature, and an imposter of yourself.

Friday, March 5, 2010

By Wayne Jacobsen, collaborator on The Shack

We knew it would happen eventually. Frankly we thought it would happen far sooner and in far greater quantity than we have seen to date. But we knew The Shack was edgy enough to prompt some significant backlash, which is why so many publishing companies didn’t want to take it on at the beginning.

I never thought everyone was going to love this book. Art is incredibly subjective as to whether a story and style are appealing. I have no problem with a spirited discussion of some of the theological issues raised in The Shack. The books I love most are the ones that challenge my theological constructs and invite a robust discussion among friends, whether I agree with everything in them or not in the end,. That is especially true of a work of fiction where people will bring their own interpretations of the same events or conversations. I never view a book as all good or all bad. It’s like eating chicken. Enjoy the meat and toss the bones.

What is surprising, however, is the hostile tone of false accusation and the conspiracy theories that some are willing to put on this book. Some have even warned others not to read it or they will be led into deception. It saddens me that people want to use a book like this to polarize God’s family, whether it’s overenthusiastic reader thrusting it in someone’s face telling them they ‘must read’ this book, or when people read their own theological agendas into a work, then denounce it as heresy.

If you’re interested, read it for yourself. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you. If it helps convey the reality of Jesus to you, great! If all you can see is sinister motives and false teaching in it, then put it aside. I don’t have time to give a point-by-point rebuttal to the reviews I’ve read, but I would like to make some comments on some of the issues that have come up since I’m getting way too many emails asking me what I think of some of the questions they raise. I’ll also admit at the outset, that I’m biased. Admittedly, I’m biased. I was part of a team with the author of working on this manuscript for over a year and am part of the company formed to print and distribute this book. But I’m also well acquainted with the purpose and passions of this book.

What do I think? I tire of the self-appointed doctrine police, especially when they toss around false accusations like ‘new age conspiracy’, ‘counterfeit Jesus’ or ‘heresy’ to promote fear in people as a way of advancing their own agenda. What many of them don’t realize is that research actually shows that more people will buy a book after reading a negative review than they do after reading a positive one. It piques their curiosity as to why someone would take so much time to denounce someone else’s book.

But such reviews also confuse people who are afraid of being seduced into error and for those I think the false accusations demand a response. Let me assure any of you reading this that all three of us who worked on this book are deeply committed followers of Jesus Christ who have a passion for the Truth of the Scriptures and who have studied and taught the life of Jesus over the vast majority of our lifetimes. But none of us would begin to pretend that we have a complete picture of all that God is or that our theology is flawless. We are all still growing in our appreciation for him and our desire to be like him, and we hope this book encourages you to that process as well. In the end, this says the best stuff we know about God at this point in our journeys. Is it a complete picture of him? Of course not! Who could put all that he is into a little story like this one? But if it is a catalyst to get thousands of people to talk about theology—who God is and how he makes himself known in the world—we would be blessed.

This is a story of one believer’s brokenness and how God reached into that pain and pulled him out and as such is a compelling story of God’s redemption. The pain and healing come straight from a life that was broken by guilt and shame at an incredibly deep level and he compresses into a weekend the lessons that helped him walk out of that pain and find life in Jesus again.

That said, the content of this book does take a harsh look at how many of our religious institutions and practices have blinded people to the simple Gospel and replaced it with a religion of rules and rituals that have long ceased to reflect the Lord of Glory. Some will disagree with that assessment and the solutions this book offers, and the reviews that do so honestly merit discussion. But those who confuse the issues by making up their own back-story for the book, or ascribing motives to its publication without ever finding out the truth, only prove our point.

Here are some brief comments on the major issues that have been raised about The Shack:

Does the book promote universalism?

Some people can find a universalist under every bush. This book flatly states that all roads do not lead to Jesus, while it affirms that Jesus can find his followers wherever they may have wandered into sin or false beliefs. Just because he can find followers in the most unlikely places, does not validate those places. I don’t know how we could have been clearer, but people will quote portions out of that context and draw a false conclusion.

Does it devalue Scripture?

Just because we didn’t put Scriptural addresses with their numbers and colons at every allusion in the story, does not mean that the Bible isn’t the key source in virtually every conversation Mack has with God. Scriptural teachings and references appear on almost every page. They are reworded in ways to be relevant to those reading the story, but at every point we sought to be true to the way God has revealed himself in the Bible except for the literary characterizations that move the story forward. At its core the book is one long Bible study as Mack seeks to resolve his anger at God.

Is this God too nice?

Others have claimed that the God of The Shack is simply too nice, or having him in humorous human situations trivializes him. Really? Who wants to be on that side of the argument? For those who think this God is too easy, please tell me in what way does he let Mack off on anything? He holds his feet to the fire about every lie in his mind and every broken place in his heart. I guess what people these critics cannot see is confrontation and healing inside a relationship of love and compassion. This is not the angry and tyrannical God that religion has been using for 2000 years to beat people into conformity and we are not surprised that this threatens the self-proclaimed doctrine police.

One reviewer even thought this passage from The Shack was a mockery of the true God: "I'm not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation...." That wasn’t mocking God but a view of God that sees him as a demanding, self-centered tyrant. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself as the God who would lay down his life for us to redeem us to himself.

The words, “I don’t want slaves to do my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me,” are simply a reflection of John 15:15. Unfortunately those who tend toward legalism among us have no idea how much more completely Jesus transforms us out of a relationship of love, than we could ever muster in our gritted-teeth obedience. This is at the heart of the new covenant—that love will fulfill the law, where human effort cannot.

Does it distort or demean the Trinity?

One of the concerns expressed about The Shack is that it presents the Trinity outside of a hierarchy. In fact many religious traditions think they find their basis for hierarchical organizations in what they’ve assumed about the Trinity. To look at the Trinity as a relationship without the need for command and control is one of the intriguing parts of this story. If they walk in complete unity, why would a hierarchy be needed? They live in love and honor each other. While in the flesh Jesus did walk in obedience to the Father as our example, elsewhere Scripture speaks of their complete unity, love and glory in relating to each other. Different functions need not imply a different status.

This extends in other ways to look at how healed people can relate to each other inside their relationship with God that defines authority and submission in ways most are not used to, but that are far more consistent with what we see in the early believers and in the teaching of Scripture. It is also true of many believers around the world who are learning to experience the life of Father’s family without all the hierarchical maintenance and drama that has plagued followers of Christ since the third century.

People may see this differently and find this challenging, if only because it represents some thought they have not been exposed to before. Here we might be better off having a discussion instead of dragging out the ‘heretic’ label when it is unwarranted.

Does it leave out discussions about church, salvation and other important aspects of Christianity?

This is some of the most curious complaints I’ve ever read. This is the story about God making himself available to one of his followers who is being swallowed up by tragedy and his crisis of faith in God’s goodness over it. This is not a treatise on every element of theological study. Perhaps we should have paused in the story to have an altar call, or perhaps we should have drug a pipe organ into the woods and enlisted a choir to hold a service, but that was not the point.

Is this a Feminist God?

The book uses some characterizations of God to mess with the religious stereotypes only to get people to consider God as he really is, not how we have reconstituted him as a white, male autocrat bent on religious conformity. There are important reasons in the story why God takes the expressions he does for Mack, which underlines his nature to meet us where we are, to lead us to where he is. While Jesus was incarnated as man, God as a spirit has no gender, even though we fully embrace that he has taken on the imagery of the Father to express his heart and mind to us. We also recognize Scripture uses traditional female imagery to help us understand other aspects of God’s person, as when Jesus compares himself to a hen gathering chicks, or David likens himself to a weaned child in his mother’s arms.

Has it touched people too deeply?

Some reviewers point to reviews and people who have claimed it had a transforming effect on their spiritual lives as proof of its demonic origin. Please! How absurd is that? Do we prefer books that leave people untouched? This book touches lives because it deals with God in the midst of pain in an honest, straightforward way and because for many this is the first time they have seen the power of theology worked out inside a relationship with God himself.

Does The Shack promote Ultimate Reconciliation (UR)?

It does not. While some of that was in earlier versions because of the author’s partiality at the time to some aspects of what people call UR, I made it clear at the outset that I didn’t embrace UR as sound teaching and didn’t want to be involved in a project that promoted it. In my view UR is an extrapolation of Scripture to humanistic conclusions about our Father’s love that has to be forced on the biblical text.

Since I don’t believe in UR and wholeheartedly embrace the finished product, I think those who see UR here, either positively or negatively are reading into the text. To me that was the beauty of the collaboration. Three hearts weighed in on the theology to make it as true as we could muster. The process also helped shape our theologies in honest, protracted discussions. I think the author would say that some of that dialog significantly affected his views. This book represents growth in that area for all of us. Holding him to the conclusions he may have embraced years earlier would be unfair to the ongoing process of God in his life and theology.

That said, however, I’m not afraid to have that discussion with people I regard as brothers and sisters since many have held that view in the course of theological history. Also keep in mind that the heretic hunters lump many absurd notions into what they call UR, but when I actually talk to those people partial to some view of ultimate reconciliation they do not endorse all the absurdities ascribed to them. This is a heavily nuanced discussion with UR meaning a lot of different things to different people. For myself, I am convinced that Jesus is someone we have to accept through repentance and belief in this age to participate in his life.

Throughout The Shack Mack’s choices are in play, determining what he will let God do in his life through their encounter. He is no victim of God’s process. He is a willing participant at every juncture. And even though Papa says ‘He is reconciled to all men” he also notes that, “not all men are reconciled to me.”

Is the author promoting the emergent movement?

This guilt-by-association tactic is completely contrived. Neither the author, nor Brad and I at Windblown have ever been part of the emergent conversation. Some of their bloggers have written about the book, but we have not had any significant contact with the leaders of that movement and they have not been the core audience that has embraced this book.

That said I have met many people in the emergent conversation that have proved to be brothers and sisters in the faith. While I’m not nuts about all they do, a lot of the statements made about them by critics are as false as what some say about The Shack. They do deeply embrace the Scriptures. As I see it they are not trying to re-invent Christianity, but trying to communicate it in ways that captures a new generation. While I don’t agree with many of the conclusions they’re sorting through at the moment, they are not raving humanists. I have found them passionate seekers of the Lord Jesus Christ, who are asking some wonderful questions about God and how he makes himself known in us.

Does The Shack promote new age philosophy or Hinduism?

Amazingly some people have made assumptions about some of the names to think there is some eastern mysticism here, but when you hear how Paul selected the names he did it wasn’t to make veiled references to Hinduism, black Madonnas, or anything else. It was to uncover facets of God’s character that are clear in the Scriptures.

It’s amazing how much people will make up to indulge their fantasies and falsely label something to fit their own conclusions. Some have even insisted that Mack flying in his dreams was veiled instructions in astral travel. Absolutely absurd! Has this man never read fiction, or had a dream? Just because someone screams there is a demon under that bush, doesn’t mean there is.

* * * * *

We realize this would be a challenging read for those who see no difference between the religious conditioning that underlies Christianity as it is often presented in the 21st Century and the simple, powerful life in Christ that Jesus offered to his followers. Our hope was to help people see how the Loving Creator can penetrate our defenses and lead us to healing. Our prayer is that through this book people will see the God of the Bible as Jesus presented him to be—an endearing reality who wants to love us out of our sin and bondage and into his life. This is a message of grace and healing that does not condone or excuse sin, but shows God destroying it through the dynamic relationship he wants with each of his children.

We realize folks will disagree. We planned on it. We appreciate the interaction of those who have honest concerns and questions. Those who have been captured by this story are encouraged to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so and not trust us or the ravings of those who misinterpret this book, either threatened by its success, or those who want to ride on it to push their own fear-based agenda

sherwood's comments here:

a funny / odd reality is that the same sort of hyper vigilant criticism could easily be used on CS Lewis the Chronicles of Narnia especially the final book. Pilgrims progress, Dante's inferno...all narrative prose breaks down as imperfect representations of truth. Lewis's writings are the most interesting because they are nearly cannonized by evangelicals. Art cannot be judged with the same lens we judge an excel spreadsheet of facts...or doctrine. And while all writings could and should be open to some correction or critique the sort of condemning witchhunts and anti-grace lynch mobs that follow some blogs are completely off target with Jesus COMMANDS to love, and even to offer corrective teaching IN LOVE. So while there may be some heresy floating around in some of this fiction I can ASSURE you there has been a least an equal amount of defiant-rebellion / sin in those that have defied Christs orders to love in how they have handled this brother.

1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind...

Why Happiness Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be

Photo: Happiness ain't all it's cracked up to be
Happiness seems to make people more selfish, research suggests.

The Founding Fathers liked happiness so much they considered pursuing it an inalienable right – but maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Happiness seems to make people more selfish, the latest in a series of revelations suggesting it changes how you think – and not in a good way.

Psychologist Joe Forgas at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, who has led many of these studies, suggests that happiness's negative effects all stem from a cheery mood's tendency to lull you into feeling secure. This makes you look inwards and behave both more selfishly and more carelessly.

"People in a positive mood generally rely more on their own thoughts and preferences, and pay less attention to the outside world and social norms," says Forgas.

To probe the effect of happiness on selfishness, Forgas and his colleague Hui Bing Tan put 45 students into good or bad moods by giving them positive or negative feedback on a "cognitive test" that they had taken. In fact the test was a fake and did not measure cognition, while the feedback bore no relation to their performance.

Caring, Sharing

After using a questionnaire to establish that the volunteers really were happy or sad, Forgas and Tan gave each one 10 raffle tickets for a A$20 prize. The students could choose between sharing some of their tickets with another, hypothetical student or selfishly keeping them all.

On average, those who had been praised kept more raffle tickets.

In a second experiment, Forgas and Tan used film clips to set the mood. Half of a group of 72 students were treated to a 10-minute clip of the British TV comedy Fawlty Towers, whilst the other half endured a passage from the gloomy film Angela's Ashes.

After taking another mood questionnaire, this time the students were shown pictures of a buddy they could share their raffle tickets with – with the intention of making the idea of sharing more vivid than the case of a hypothetical student. Again, the happy students were less likely to share.

Forgas's explanation is that happy people focus more on their own desires. "Positive mood is in a sense an evolutionary signal, subconsciously informing people that the situation they face is safe and non-threatening," he says. This encourages people to rely more on their own thoughts and preferences, with selfishness the result.

Grumpiness or sadness, on the other hand, produces more vigilant, outward-looking thinkers. "A negative mood produces a thinking style that is more detailed and attentive, and pays more attention to the demands of the external environment," says Forgas.

I've Forgotten Why I'm Happy

This latest finding adds to a wealth of data suggesting that being happy isn't all it's cracked up to be. In previous studies, Forgas has found that happy people are less able to develop a persuasive argument, more gullible and worse at remembering objects in a shop window than their unhappy fellows.

Happy people are also more likely to be influenced by stereotypes, says Forgas: in another study, happy non-Muslim Australians were more likely to make snap negative judgements about – and even to shoot – computer images of people in traditional Muslim dress.

Ed Diener, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, points out that we shouldn't forget the benefits of happiness, which he says include "better health, social relationships and citizenship". But he adds that "it is wrong to say that it is always good to be happy".

Optimum Happiness

Robert Cummins, a psychologist at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies, says he "loves" the research. "It is so very refreshing to hear an alternative to the view that happy is good, and more is better."

"High levels of happiness generate openness to new experiences and gregariousness, but they also generate a lack of attention to detailed information and recklessness," says Cummins. We all need to behave like this occasionally, he says, but not when we are confronted with a potentially dangerous situation. "Low levels of happiness generate introspection and the careful processing of information, where choices must be carefully made."

A happy person "may well benefit from lowered mood while engaging in a task involving detailed information processing", adds Cummins.

In another study, he asked Australians to rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 100. The most common rating was 75. He suggests that this might reflect 75 per cent of our potential happiness, which may be an optimum level: enough to enjoy the benefits, but not too much


blogger templates | Make Money Online