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Brother lives on his family ranch in Oregon with his four brothers, father and grandparents.  Even though Brother works hard on the ranch, he fears that he doesn’t have the heart of a rancher.  But when his father’s National Guard unit is called up to duty in Iraq, and his brothers are off at school, the responsibility for running the ranch falls to Brother.

This was a wonderful book, perfect for 4th-6th graders.  It’s an excellent example of how Christian values can be portrayed in literature without being preachy, overbearing or fake.  I would love to see the Christian community embrace Parry’s contribution to quality, significant juvenile fiction.

A true story about two very different men of faith. One was a Jewish rabbi, Albert Lewis, who grew up in the Jewish faith, and served as rabbi in the same synagogue from the time he became a rabbi, to the day of his death.   The other man, Henry Covington, was neglected as a child, lived a life of crime, yet ultimately sought forgiveness and became a Christian pastor to the homeless.

I’m struggling to find the words to express accurately how I feel about this book.  There are things about it that I love:

  • Albom honestly writes about his own faith, how it developed as a child, how it changed as he became an adult, and how he grew through his relationship with the rabbi and the pastor.  Albom’s feelings at the beginning of the book mirror that of many, no matter what their faith.  He describes it this way:

…by the time I graduated and went out into the world, I was as well versed in my religion [Judaism] as any secular man I knew.  And then?  And then I pretty much walked away from it.  It wasn’t revolt.  It wasn’t some tragic loss of faith.  It was, if I’m being honest, apathy.  A lack of need…I didn’t need to ask God for much, and I figured, as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone, God wasn’t asking much of me either.  We had forged a sort of “you go your way, I’ll go mine” arrangement, at least in my mind.                                                                                                                       pp.12-13

  • Albom writes about 2 men who are worthy of being written about.  Today, so many books are written about people who have done absolutely nothing with their lives except for becoming famous.  Rabbi Lewis and Pastor Henry were and are good men who have helped countless people in their own unique ways.  It’s refreshing to read about real people doing real good, not for fame or glory, but simply because it’s the right thing to do.
  • The book makes you think:  What are you doing with your life?  What is really important?  Where will you go when you die?  What do you think about people of different faiths?  How do you treat them?  Do you have hope in the present?  In the future?

While there are many positive things about Albom’s book, I can’t say that I loved it.  In spite of all the good things that Albom learned from the pastor and the rabbi, and in spite of all the personal growth that Albom shows, he didn’t acknowledge the only thing you really need to know about God.  Pastor Henry shared it with him, but somehow, Albom doesn’t see it.  At one point, Henry is talking about his past life and the sins he committed.  Henry says:

You can’t work your way into heaven.  Anytime you try and justify yourself with works, you disqualify yourself with works.  What I do here, every day, for the rest of my life, is only my way of saying, “Lord, regardless of what eternity holds for me, let me give something back to you.  I know it don’t even no scorecard.  But let me make something of my life before I go…And then, Lord, I’m at your mercy.”

pp. 220-221

Salvation is not earned, and it cannot be obtained through good works.  It is a gift from a merciful God, paid for through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. (Romans 10:9)  I’m going to say something that is not politically correct at all, but it is what I believe, based on the Bible:  Good people do not go to heaven.  People who believe in Jesus as their Savior go to heaven.

The ending of the book was just sad for me, and not because it ended with a funeral.  It was sad because I know that so many people will come away from reading this book more lost than ever.  They will have read a hopeful, inspirational story about two men, they will have learned about living a good life, about talking to God, about treating others with respect, about respecting traditions, and about thinking about someone besides themselves.  As wonderful as all of that seems, our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God.  Only Jesus can save.

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

07th March 2009

When Mackenzie’s daughter Missy disappears on a family camping trip, Mack has some serious questions for God.  Where was God when this tragedy took place?  Why didn’t God stop it from happening?  When will Missy’s abductor be brought to justice?  How can a loving God allow these things to happen?  But Mack never expected God to actually answer his questions.  God’s answers changed Mack’s life forever.

This is a book that Christians should read together.  It would be great for small group study or a book group.  Young’s portrayal of God is thought provoking, to say the least.  He blows away all stereotypes we may hold of an old, grey-bearded “Gandalf-type” God.  I’m not sure I agree with everything that Young says about God.  Certainly, I don’t think he gives the whole picture.  What Young does do well, is illustrate in a vivid way, God’s love for each precious human that He created.

For more info and some book excerpts, visit http://www.theshackbook.com