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Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

The Shack Attack

In Faintly Fiction on December 29, 2008 at 5:50 pm

I finished reading William Young’s The Shack a couple of days ago.  Before I get fully involved in the next book on my list, Hemingway’s  The Sun Also Rises, I want to pause and acknowledge my experience.  Young creates an experience of forgiveness and healing for his audience.  The author of The Message, Eugene Peterson, suggested that this book has ‘the potential to do for our generation what Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress did for his’.  Young’s work, while far from a direct allegory, does follow formulaic portrayals of faith.

The story centers around Mack, a father of four living in Oregon with his wife, Nan, a nurse.  In a tragic camping accident, Mack loses his daughter, Missy, to a serial killer known only as the ‘Little Lady Killer’.  In the wake of her abduction and presumed murder, Mack spends the next couple of years absent in his pain.  One day, he receives a note signed only by ‘Papa’, his wife’s intimate name for her Father God.  Eventually, Mack sneaks away from his wife and kids for a weekend at The Shack with ‘Papa’.

Mack attends the shack with suspicion of the note’s origin.  Was it the killer playing with his mind?  Perhaps a cruel joke by someone who knew the story?  Or perhaps there was some truth to God wanting to meet with him?  In either case, Mack accepts Papa’s invitation and goes to the shack, the presumed site of his daughter’s murder.  The story that ensues over the next couple of days challenges Mack’s concept of God’s person, His purposes in our lives, and His provision for Mack’s healing.

I enjoyed the interruptions to my normal ideas of God expressed in three persons.  For example, God (as the Father) reveals himself to Mack in an ‘unfamiliar’ way.  Although he does not appear in the same form throughout the book (the point being he is not confined to one form), for the majority of the book, he does not show up as ‘male’ or ‘caucasian’ for that matter.  The storytelling felt a bit forced, but I appreciated the newness of Young’s depictions of God.  Life never shows up as we may prefer.  The Shack provides a hopeful response to the tragedies faced in life.

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Interpretation

In Eclipse on December 19, 2008 at 2:32 pm

This morning, I watched the season finale of Heroes.  This marked the third running season of Heroes called ‘Villians’.  The entire season asked how the characters related to power given changing circumstances and events in their lives.  The notion of Good vs. Bad became very blurry as characters acted, in certain situations, as they thought they would never act – killing, lying, stealing, etc.

This notion of judging between good and evil was brought up in the Shack.  It is like putting ourselves in the judgment seat to determine what is good and bad for another – withholding/extending our love to them.  Quite the precarious notion when you think about it.  The ability to judge; the right to determine what is good and what is evil.  (Very much like the tree in the garden – knowledge of good and evil) We flirt with the idea of wielding the power to judge others based on their actions in certain circumstances.

There were two trees: a tree of life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  I could also say there are two trees.  I am given choice; whether for life or for standing in judgment.  How do we, as a culture, choose life or choose judgment?

Earlier today, I remembered how much I love writing sub-plots.  They are really just developments of stories that already are.  In college, I wrote a sub-plot for Romeo and Juliet based on the theme of Les Liaisones Dangereuses (a french novel) byPierre Choderlos de Laclos.  Sound like an English Major’s task?  Well, it was…and then some.  I never remember feeling so alive as when I interwove the two plots to create an entirely new effect for the reader (my then professor, Dragan, and his graduate student TA).  It made me think that my first book may actually turn into a sub-plot to an already popular story.  Quite the turn of events!

Paper Jam

In Speaking into the Silence on December 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm

About ten minutes ago, I was jamming some scissors down the paper cutter trying to clear the jam.  I had tried (as usual) to put a thick stack of down the paper shredder.  Apparently, it doesn’t like to eat all the paper at once.  Upon selecting my only other option (reverse), the engine came to a stand still.  In fact, it no longer makes the whirring sound then the motor is spinning.  Complete jam – I’m awarding you no points and may…I digress.

The scissors seemed the best alternative for plying out the pre-mulched kinks.  Then, my own ‘independence’ caught up with me.  It was like I was on auto pilot.  Tell me again, Father, what my life is like.  The creative process requires self-discipline…strangely enough.  I would tend to associate creativity with randomness, spontaneity, and a lack of structure.  But, on the contrary, creating art requires immense discipline (for me).   That is, it requires the discipline of my time, my energy, my mind, and at times, my finances.  I must be willing to ‘get in the chair’ everyday (as my distiguished colleague, Mr. Dugard, made me aware).

Today’s paper jam was a distraction, an inconvenience, an interruption to the routine I had set.  I have to be willing to let the papers remain unshredded (in the meantime) to focus on my writing.  Why, you might say, do the papers need to be shredded?  Well, currently, they are covering the floor in our spare room, my writing room.  I am responsible to dispose of them by the end of the day.

So, I am choosing to allow chaos in order to create structure.  (paradoxical, me thinks–I  sound like a cross between Shakespeare and Yoda)  I suppose I have to give up one kind of structure in my life (orderliness of room) in order to attain what I want most (orderliness of creativity, passion and, more directly, of writing).

Insomniac Journal

In Desert Faith on December 14, 2008 at 3:58 am

I have been lying awake for the last hour – mulling over changes in my life.  I am reminded of the lyrics from a song by Sara Groves: “But the places they used to fit me, cannot hold the things I’ve learned.  Those roads were closed off to me, while my back was turned.”  Stepping out with my writing has been frightful at times.  Mostly, the newness.  While I have more freedom to set my own schedule and organize my time, I gave up the regular connection and reassurance of co-workers in the office.  Rather than being accountable to co-workers for getting the job done, I am accountable to my word in finishing the book.  Sometimes sitting down to write can feel extremely lonely and isolating.  I am not saying that this is a bad thing, just entirely different than interactions in the office.  The ironic thing is I love that and yet it seems like a very difficult shift.

On the other hand, I am considering the future in light of new awareness with ACCD.  I cannot look at myself or others in the same way (those roads are closed off to me).  Though I tell myself I cannot go forward any more, I have found a way to put one foot in front of another and keep moving forward.  Right now, I would like to have my career path all packaged and organized; my attempt to control and be certain that what I hope for will actually come to pass.  My worrying is a fickle and even short-sighted attempt to maintain control over the uncertainty.  A promise is so much more than a manual.  Just as beauty is so much more than quantifiable traits.

History, Belief Systems and Pressing Onward

In Onward on December 12, 2008 at 12:24 pm

After writing a page and a half of my story, I wandered over to the magazine rack to explore some of the current titles.  A picture on National Geographic caught my attention; sandstone ruins set on a canyon rim peaked my interest.  Over the past few months, I felt an emerging interest in the Middle East.  Interest in languages, culture, deeper roots of Christianity (and religions in general).  I cannot help but notice a growing apathy toward Christianity in the western practice.  Authors such as Rob Bell and JR Woodward have begun exploring the depthful roots, which led to our current traditions and practices.

As it turned out, the article matching the picture highlighted the life and times of Kind Herod.  As the author was quick to point out, this was the same Herod said to have slaughtered hundreds of babies in attempt to kill the prophesied Christ child.  Accounted for in the gospel of Matthew, Herod appears to have been a very paranoid ruler.  The writer of the article recanted this biblical account by saying that Herod “was almost certainly not responsible for such acts.”

Though I felt mildly defensive, the irony of the writer’s claim struck me almost immediately.  The next few sentences of the article uncovered that Herod was responsible for the death’s of several of his family members.  (Certainly, this could not be the same man…)  But, before I get too far into my defensiveness another observation came to mind about myself.  When I want to believe something, I am prone to look for evidence to prove my rightness.  At an instinctual level, I think to myself, ‘what good is a person that wonders without any authority?’  (Somehow, authority comes from my rightness)  I hope you see the inconsistency.

The point is, people can look for evidence of what they already believe, rather than approaching evidence with wonder.  If I was convinced that a man named Jesus lived, died  and was of no consequence, then I am pretty sure I could establish evidence, however patchy, to support my claim.  Before disillusionment takes over this posting, I just wanted to make the observation that history requires faith.  History books have been written from different belief systems, values and backgrounds.

Onward.  Writing a book requires a certain amount of singularity of thought.  Though I am tempted to explore other languages, cultures and stories; I am compelled to stay true to the story I began.  Watching the first season of 24 has only added to my need for closure.  The writers are like modern torture artists; drawing out a slow death to the story.  My need for closure drives me to further episodes.

All that to say the story is coming along.  My wife has been a huge point of encouragement and grace as these initial days feel like a dramatic shift.  I would also thank all others whose words of encouragement, prayer and attitudes toward my writing have been a huge blessing.