the shack a novel by william p. young

A Polish friend of mine has started a book club in Baku, and I am so grateful! It’s forced me to hop back on the reading wagon. I’m also more motivated to read carefully, think about a novel’s themes and context, and underline moving passages.

I’ve also discovered that my most popular blog posts are for my book reviews. It’s funny because after reading mind-blowing book reviews from the New York Times–they are my standard–my reviews come nowhere near theirs. Mine are short, quick, shallow and almost general because I refuse to put spoilers.

Our next reading assignment is on “The Shack” by William P. Young, and I would encourage anyone who is interested in God and/or spirituality to read this book. Yes, it is a Christian book, and it is a little American-touchy-feel-good-sappy, but it is entertaining and thought-provoking. It also forces readers to ask questions.

The novel is centered around Mackenzie Allen Philips, a devout father, who loses his youngest daughter, Missy. She is brutally murdered and found in an abandoned shack. As a result, Mackenzie becomes very depressed and angry with God.

Here’s why I think you should it read it–

1. The book emotionally hooks you in. The first third of the book tells the story of how Missy is kidnapped and brutally murdered. I’m a first grade teacher and I read the book during the Sandy Hook mass murder, which happened to coincide with an internal crisis. I completely related with Mackenzie’s “great sadness” and anger. He was a good father. A hero. He always tried to do the right thing. How could something so horrid, inhuman, undeserving, happen to his daughter and family? I cried for hours as I read through the first few chapters, which means that I imagined myself in Mackenzie’s shoes. I WAS RIGHT THERE! For a reader who has a mild case of ADD, I would say that Young is an excellent writer because he was able to make me fully empathize with his protagonist through the storytelling and dialogue.

2. It asks the age-old question–How can a God that is good allow suffering? Many people, including myself, fear suffering. If I don’t get what I want, am I still loved by God? If I am going through pain, why would a God that is good allow it to happen? The book offers interesting answers that will make you think.

3. It focuses on man’s relationship with God. Many religions around the world focus on ritual and doing good deeds. In the story, we see Mackenzie questioning God. Mackenzie is allowed to be angry with God. Sometimes people want to be the good “believer”. I’m using the word “believer” because I think this book can be read by anyone from any religion. Sometimes we are afraid of questioning God and shaking our fists at Him because, at least in my case, I want to be the “good Christian”. But when God invites us into relationship with Him and we say yes, sometimes, like any human relationship, we get upset and frustrated. The awesome thing with God is He is big enough to take our anger and this is depicted in the book.

4. William P. Young depicts God in an out-of-the-box way. Most of us picture our Heavenly Father as a man who takes care of us. The way Young describes God is in some ways almost laughable. (I won’t spoil it for you!) I also experienced an inner tension because of a gender stereotype that I grew up with.

5. The book ends with hope. Mackenzie’s circumstance didn’t change but his heart did. Young quotes Oswald Chambers at the beginning of chapter 18–Faith never knows where it is being led, but it knows and loves the One who is leading.

49_above the smog

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Photo taken from www.amazon.com

Photo taken from http://www.amazon.com

We’ve been using Stepping Up: A Journey through the Psalms of Ascent for the past few weeks in bible study. I highly highly recommend this book to any Christian woman who desires a deeper relationship with God. I also recommend that it be used as a bible study guide.

The workbook takes us through Psalms 120 to 134. It is an interactive book which asks you to read and study the bible, as well as discern how you can apply God’s word in your life. The book comes with a DVD where Beth Moore shares her insights into the Psalms of Ascent. Her talks are full of substance. You can tell that she studied God’s Word within its historical context.

Here is why I think you should read this book:

1. Beth Moore’s writing reads like a conversation. Her language is simple and engaging. I feel like I’m sitting right next to her as I read the book.

2. In spite of the simple language, the book is full of substance. I learned a lot about the historical context of the psalms of ascent, which made me understand God’s word in a deeper way.

3. It’s led me into a deeper relationship with God. I learned how to pray on my knees, face down, to my King of Kings. Somehow, this made me realize how awesome God is, and how worthy He is. I can’t explain in this in any rational manner. It’s an intimacy that you can only experience when you try it out. Once you see God s the King of Kings, everything, problems, negative emotions, all of it, shrink.

4. If you’re thinking of putting structure into your daily bible reading, this is the perfect guide. I’m the type of woman who needs structure to keep motivated and get things done. This book helped me read my bible everyday.