My Holy Week Journal 2017: The Scriptural Stations of the Cross.

Welcome to my Lenten journal for Holy Week.  You are welcome to follow along and comment.

Our Lenten worship and activities this year were meant to be practical, “Make God Make Sense” and lead us to a breakthrough of God’s Spirit in a particular place.  This might be in our life or in the life of someone else.  One of our activities was a contemplative walk through the 14 “Scriptural stations of the cross.

This is such a rich experience and I am always shocked when it draws such a small crowd.  We non-Roman Catholics don’t have a lot of experience with this sort of practice and we cheat ourselves when we don’t try them.

The stations are a virtual pilgrimage with Jesus during the last week of his earthly ministry.  They date back to the fourth century when Christian pilgrims could actually go to Jerusalem and walk the footsteps of Jesus.

The emperor Constantine permitted Christians to worship openly in 313 after 250 years of persecution. In 335, he erected the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and processions of pilgrims came to walk the “Via Dolorosa” until the 7th century when it became too dangerous to make the trip.

These stations became a tradition that allowed this pilgrimage to be experienced at home. Centuries passed and the stations become more a part of church decor than a journey. The church divides many times and they become distinctly Roman Catholic. (Click on the images to enlarge them)

 

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One person wanted to  know how important it was to walk around the sanctuary looking at pictures.  These comments tell the real response to the Stations.

 

Many protestant churches did not use the stations because six of the stories were not specifically described in the Holy Bible.  In order to share the stations with all Christians, Pope John Paul II introduced the “Scriptural” stations in 1991.  These are both an option for Roman Catholics and an invitation for non-Catholics to worship through the stations.

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Notes from the Pilgrim’s reception book

The Meditative process is simple and effective. The journey has 14 stations that follow the scriptural story.  The “Pilgrim” pauses, reads the scripture and prays while experiencing that part of Christ’s story.

There is no rush.  There is no worry if people come behind you. You can take the stations at your own pace.  You can always sit and pray after you visit each

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lots of emotion from experiencing the story while reading it.

station and even return and reflect on a station that is especially meaningful.

 

At the end of the journey, we had reception book and a special hand made prayer cloth to take home.  These prayer squares, shown in the photo at the top, are crafted by the ” Cro-knitter” prayer ministry at our church.  Eac stitch is a prayer.

The stations aren’t meant to replace Bible study or any other means of Grace.  They provide a special moment and a new beginning.  This is a total experience and not just a mental one.  God’s Grace go with you as you find your new beginning each day  in Christ.

 

 

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Thanks to the many creative ministers at Cheatham Memorial UMC. In Edgewood Texas. 

 

 

My Holy Week journal 2017: Silent Saturday 

Welcome to my Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment. 

On silent Saturday Jesus laid in a grave waiting and grace became a buried treasure.  The only gospel scripture from Saturday is matthew 27:62-66 and tells of the trickery of the church leaders.

“62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”

On Saturday tradition is that Jesus descended to the dead (literally jail) on Saturday.  1 Peter 3:19-20 says, “After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits…”It’s cryptic but may refer to hell. Then again…

The full tomb wasn’t a problem.  The empty one changed the world. This frightened the church politicians but gave hope and purpose to the rest.

We aren’t totally sure what Jesus did but we know the faithful were in a locked room praying like their life depended on it. Well, it did.  Faith made them wanted men even though they didn’t fully understand what they had gotten mixed up in.

It would be this resurrection that would welcome them to rebirth and transform them.  This living resurrection would put the fire into their bones.  After meeting Jesus the next day they would be bold gospel warriors and not scared little bunnies. Scripture informs my life in a big way this Holy Week.

My silent Saturday was spent greeting twin grandsons that were born on Good Friday. Held in the womb instead of the tomb, they burst into our family and brought us all to life. We too are changed forever.  Life changed us with the power of birth and re-birth.  This is what we anticipate on Holy Saturday.  This is the gift that  excites to our very core.

While preparing for Easter I held the love of God in my Hands.  Looking at these two makes me passionate about my reborn and resurrected life.  I want it for them as desperately as I want it for myself.

As one friend said, ” how wonderful to be loved by someone so fresh from God. “. May your resurrection be as overwhelming and real as mine today.  Blessings to you as you prepare for Easter.

Pastor Alan

Holy Week 2017:Good Friday

Welcome to my Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment.  

On Good Friday Jesus died on the cross for us. The full reading is in John 18-19. its worth the time on this Good Friday to read it all and know our blessing.  Here are a couple of observations out of many that are running through my mind. 

“Into thy hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. ” psalm 31:6

“So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. 17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” John19:16-22

So why is it”good” Friday after all of that?  Used to be that any day observed as special by the church was prefixed as “good”.  So Monday of this week was technically “good” Monday. It is the outcome of the day and not this horror that we celebrate. 

 I am filled with wonder that Jesus would use the same words than the psalmist was led to use in his own moment of spiritual breakthrough.  

I am filled with wonder at how easy a crowd of believers could be whipped up ito a violent frenzy while the hard hearted Pilate was hard to convince. 

I am filled with wonder that those who knew more about the coming messiah than anyone would demand that his identity be changed.  They would not allow him to be king, regardless. Jesus and Pilate got it.   The crowd didn’t. 

So, here we are on the eve of our highest holy day. Do we get it?  Will we claim our identity as God’s child or will we allow the crowd to who why and why we are?  

As for me, I am going to decide what a Christian is by searching scriptures,  scrutinizing church tradition, filtering with my own experiences and Spirit led reason.  I am not suggesting a systematic theology class but a lifestyle of intimate reflection on God and the amazing life in Christ.  

We have a decision to make on this Good Friday.  Will the sad bureaucrats of television and social media define our King through our screen time?  Or, will we choose our King by a life of faith. 

The greatest proof of Christ is our life lived healthy, peacefully and boldly.  Today I will choose Jesus as King. 

Holy Week 2017: Thursday 

Welcome to my Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment.  


On Mandy or Holy Thursday, Jesus has home church with his closest and most trusted disciples.   Now we get to the more familiar parts of Holy Week. Studying through Monday- Wednesday  and reading all of Matthew 26 creates a perspective for today’s text. It was eye opening for me.  Hope it is for you too. Here is one thought among many. 

“7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table…26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body”… 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”

This is a story of immeasurable grace wrapped in abandonment, betrayal, cowardly back stabbing and abuse of power.  These acts are not done by the bad guys but by his friends and Sunday school teachers hiding behind the Roman’s skirts and pretending to do no harm. Knowing this, Jesus gave us all THE gift.  Communion.  Communion is both an ordinance of the church and a condition of the heart, binding us to Jesus. 

I love Holy Communion.  It is Jesus’ most intimate gift to His Church. Within it is mystery and a remembrance of all of God’s promises.  Within it is also our need for forgiveness.  As the original disciples took that first communion, one betrayed Jesus to death, the rest abandoned him as He completed his ministry to us.  I ne d the have given them today. 

I am confronting myself this morning. I have no judgement of you. I have forsaken Christ and walked apart myself. Even though my sins may seem mild, this is a day of decision for me. I must make the choice for Grace. 

 You and Me and we have a decision this Holy Thursday. Will we choose the bunnies and eggs and forsake the cross?  Will Easter be about new clothes and the annual trudge to church or will we embrace the gift of life that is the life in Christ. 


This is more than heaven or hell or choosing more acceptable sins. Will I, will we, choose to live larger, healthier life in Christ. 

That is what Maundy Thursday means.   In Christ’s offering on that Thursday so long ago we were given a way to connect and stay connected with God. We have to choose one way or another. We can’t not choose.  Today I choose Jesus. 

Holy Week 2017: Wednesday 

My Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment.  

On Wednesday Jesus taught the church professionals and took his closest disciples on a retreat in the mountains (Matthew 24-25).   To get the whole picture we should read Matthew 21-25.  Here is one thought of many for today.

Matthew 21:23-27 ” Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

So the temple “board of directors” looked the savior in the eye ask asked, “who do you think you are and who told you that you could say such things here in OUR house?” Jesus deftly turned the the question against them.  Jesus answers them by asking them who HE is and what is HIS authority.   Rather than discern an answer from God,  these scholarly believers looked for political answers. Rather than seeking to God, they worried about how things appeared to those looking at them.

At this moment  I am being asked the same question.  In Baptism, what authority do I give to Jesus over my life and why.   Today I will choose and so will you.  Who gets to set my standards and receive this authority? God by faith or humans by choice. 

Truth be told, I will submit to both. I give authority to my wife, doctor dentist, denomination and others. Yet, I am called  to put God first.  I must allow God to be the first and final filter.  This is not just theological but practical, not just hereafter but here and now.  Learning of God’s authority is not instant thing and will take some spiritual growth.  This process is the message of Holy Week. 

We start each day with a well intentioned parade, pass through many situations, and confront who we are. The question this Wednesday  is, “Who gets the final word in who we are and how we are?” Jesus was rock solid in his calling because he knew God had the final word. You and I can live with this solid footing too. 

Are your steps solid or slippery?  Perhaps a little of both. Jesus went on retreat. After this confrontation Jesus found time in the mountains away from the world to recharge with God. Find an hour today to pray.  Find a day this month.  Find a weekend this year and seek God.  

God is faithful to be found by all who do.  Easter blessings to you!

Pastor Alan. 

 

So this Holy Week thing?  How does it work?

Simply put Holy Week is a collection of scriptures that lead you to Easter.  God will lead you to your own breakthrough as you search them. How does this work?   There is no single right way.  Search these scriptures at your own pace and find yourself in them. Here is a help. 

Bible gateway dot com ( click here for that site) has assembled an infographic drawn from these scriptures to help us visualize our personal journey and have given permission to use it it worship. I have followed this route for my journey this year. 


In this article they also have a link to the 2015 Newsweek issue where this came from.  There is also a reference to the 2015 series AD produced by Roma Downing and Mark Burnett. 

A series of books has come from that mini-series that I find very interesting and helpful.  I understand that this show is coming soon to another cable network.  A series of books has also emerged from it.    I am currently reading “David Jeremiah’s “A.D. The Bible Continues : The Revolution That Changed the World” which follows this series. It is an excellent devotional read. 

God’s richest blessing to your Holy Week!  May Jesus come alive through his Word for you. 

Pastor Alan

Holy Week 2017: Tuesday

My Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment

On Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus taught his closest  disciples in words and through objects-including an uncooperative fig tree found in Matthew 21:19-22

“19 Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

It was a rainy and cool Holy Tuesday.  I got started early, studied a bit, prayed a bit and pondered my productivity that seems challenged in this story.  I even had a talk with a man from the “home office” about our attendance and such.   He wanted some numerical data to check on how a Conference program had done.

Our numbers are not dramatic but show we care about Christ and his people.  We are a faithful family at Cheatham and by any measure fruitful Tithes, attendance, new members are easily counted  but faith is more slippery.  Does my quiet day reflect spiritual in-productivity? Does living the usual “frog-in-the-blender” life make me more productive?  

Jesus did not curse this fig tree out of “hangry”meanness but to create a teachable moment.  This was a negative event that sought a positive outcome.   Jesus taught the power of faith over mere appearances and warned his closest friends to keep things real and God focused. This wasn’t a threat but a warning to judge carefully how success in the Christ-life is measures. 

The tree needed only to be what it was meant to be; which was fruitful-to feed those who were hungry. 

So it is with you and me.  Success is being willing and able to share your fruit. Hunger is present I all of those around. They might need  food, comfort, a listening ear  or other physical need.  Ultimately we will feed them through our bold faith in Christ using our spiritual gifts and resources.
In Jesus I am enough and have enough. In you too. Fruitfulness is more about willingness than our resources. It does not matter what others see, how many you have in the pews or how much is in the bank, the grace in you and in me is sufficient, And we always grow more as we share what we have. 

Pray with me this week. As you walk along take a deep breath and as you exhale say (silently or aloud) ” Jesus in you I am enough.”  Faith will come with enough to share.    Keep your eyes on Christ 

You have everything you need. Blessings to you this Holy Week. 

Pastor Alan.  

Holy Week 2017: Monday 

My Lenten journal for Holy Week. You are welcome to follow along and comment

On Monday, Christ cleansed the temple: Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”Matthew 21:12-13

Every Monday is holy but more so on the eve of Easter.  Last night was the full of the paschal moon, the moon of suffering.  I worked out  under its light and thought hard about the price the Christ paid for me.   Sunday’s worship melted into Monday’s work. 

My workday started late due to an errand and was spent cleaning up a hundred details and calls.  I got pretty lost pushing through the different projects  because each of them had a hassle.   Nothing big enough to but it just added to the drudgery.  My chest actually  hurts.  Nothing dangerous just the self imposed stress. I just want to go home.  And I finally did and reluctantly sat down to my “morning” devotions.  

This lessons hit home.  My “house” of prayer is cluttered with things that blind me to prayer and are robbing me of joy. The healing of a day comes as God sits with me on the porch in a thunderstorm.  Teresa is sewing and I sit on my bench in the first stillness of the day.  Jesus drives out the false thoughts as I watch  the rain press in new grass seed I tossed out just before the rain hit.  Rain splashed on the outside as grace soaks the inside. Prayer is indeed healing breath to my agitated soul.  I missed Jesus all day.  What a waste. Yet, how grateful I am as it is time to go in.

Blessings to you this holy Monday.  May you find God in your prayers, stillness in the noise and haste, and know the nourishment of time with God.   Check you tomorrow as I go through the week and we look forward to resurrection together.  

Blessings to your journey

Pastor Alan 

Fire, Shipwrecks and Serpents: Worship for Preparation and Easter

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You are invited to join our Cheatham Memorial Church family for worship!  This is a brief sketch of our Lent and Easter worship.  You can also follow us on Facebook and our website www.cheathamumc.net .  If you are in our corner of East Texas, don’t drive by, drive in.  We would be honored to show you our “Welcome Home”.   Here is our worship journey toward Easter

 We need a breakthrough.  In our hearts, homes and communities we need that breakthrough of awareness of God.  God is already at work in the parts of our lives that hold us spiritually hostage.  Have we intentionally sought God?  Have we taken personal responsibility for a breakthrough of Grace.  What we lack is the intimacy with God that is key to breaking the chains. 

For our part of the breakthrough, we will focus on three spiritual practices.  They are to GIVE-time talent or tithes, FAST-at least missing lunch on Wednesdays, and PRAY-specifically for that particular move of God we desperately want and need.   This is not a weight loss program nor manipulating God for a new car but a celebration of the living resurrection of Jesus!  God will provide direction and BREAKTHROUGH

Where is God moving in your life?  What is holding you hostage-habits, addiction, relationship, employment, finances fear, health, or other?

 

 The sermons are a 5 part journey through Acts . We will gather each Wednesday Evening at 5:30 for studies, centered on our Spiritual Gifts and practices.  We will have many of our traditions but our goal is to be prepared for a personal, walking around, and living resurrection. 

March 1: Ash Wednesday

Matthew 4:1-11  “The Desert Journey”. We are setting the stage for our Lenten preparation by meeting in the desert.  In the desert we are all on the same level and totally reliant on God.  The contest for the Christ’s will is the same temptations that we experience in our daily living.  Where will our BREAKTHROUGH come?  It starts with intentionally becoming more intimate with God. 

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 March 5:  The First Sunday of Lent , Lent Begins, Holy Communion Sunday

Acts 2:42-47  “A Community on Fire”

Pentecost started a spiritual fire in the homes and workplaces of the believers.  After the overwhelming breakthrough, the new “Christian” community responded by church worship, personal worship, prayer, charity, and fellowship.  Faith was for everyday living.  Where are we being led to take the Pentecost fire?

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March 12:The Second Sunday of Pentecost

Acts 6:8-7:3, 7:54-8:1  “Discipleship’s Cost

The walk with Christ is free of charge but very Costly.  What will we pay?  What riches will be receive?

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 March 19:  The Third Sunday of Pentecost- We will have a guest Preacher, Jesse Brannen

Acts 8:25-40  “Living Water Alive” (This is my study text for the series. 

We wear our baptisms and others find the living water for themselves. There is not shame in needing a guide!  In our words, ways and relationships, we will share our water with others. 

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 March 26:  The fourth Sunday of Lent

Acts 9:1-31”The New Transfiguration

Paul’s conversion mirrors the Christ at the mount of Transfiguration.  Where did God meet you on the road.  Where is the road before you headed? 

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 April 2: The Fifth Sunday of Lent  Holy Communion

Acts17:16-31  “Knowing the Unknown”

God is made known to us with the images and experiences of daily living.  God is shared with those who live with and around us.  It is not accidental that we have the story in the exact way we need to share with those around us. 

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 April 9:  Palm Sunday: with a reading by a child at the beginning, A Children’s Play, Special Music, Procession of Palms!

Matthew 21:1-11 read by a young person or persons and possibly using the “Voice” version  as a format. 

Acts 28:1-23  “The 29th Chapter of Acts”

Help me read the 29th chapter of acts!  Oh wait, you must write it first.  The Holy Spirit is writing it through you! Thank you Terry Teykl-Check out his book here!

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April 10-15:  Holy Week

We will focus our attention on a Good Friday ,“7 Final Words Service, with several speakers .  We will also offer a prayer Labyrinth and a time of praying through the Scriptural Stations of the Cross.  Pat and are  using the stations with Children’s Church. We will plan further use of the art work throughout the church. 

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April 16: Easter Sunday

 

Easter Sunday will be tradition rich with special music, breakfast at 8:30, Easter Eggs by age group at 9:00 and rousing worship! Watch for further details on the CMUMC Website

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Finding Faith in Film….

The film “The Shack” opened last night and my wife and I treated it as a date.  The book was quite a phenomenon 10 or so years ago, used for sermon illustrations, group studies and attention from the churched and un-churched alike.  I read it back then and saw the value in it but didn’t really get into it.  My wife and many church members hung on every word in this book and quoted it frequently.   We seldom go to a movie theatre and have never gone to an opening night but Teresa planned to see “The Shack” with great anticipation.  The theatre was packed with a diverse crowd.  Teen agers with their date sat with adults of all ages.  It was a family crowd and did not seem to be just the obligatory church groups.  The responses ranged from laughter to sobbing and even cheers.

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Knowing God with he intimacy of Mom’s Kitchen

 

The Shack is beautifully filmed with a solid cast, fantastic music and special effects.  Hidden in this film is a parable of the Christian Gospel wrapped around every question that regular people long to find answers but often lack the courage to ask.  Questions of the Holy Trinity, Evil,  freewill, forgiveness, being judgmental, the limits of love, grief, and the life of faith are asked, struggled with and illustrated.  It’s long, almost 2 1/2 hours, but is engaging to the end.  Sam Worthington, Radha Mitchell, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw  and the rest were witnesses to the acting craft and cultivated an amazing chemistry.  It was campy at times but the film is larger than just entertainment.  All of the cast were great but Octavia Spencer is intense and funny.  She is how I want God to be-struggles and all.

The story is a parable, framed around an abused child that married and is living an apparently ideal life.  Active in church, married to a loving and beautiful wife, living the suburban home with the three perfect children, “Mack” has it all.  His relationship with God is forced and dependent on his wife’s salvation.  He is going through the churchy motions.  At a family campout the youngest daughter meets a sickening and evil end in an old shack in the middle of the wilderness.  Mack and his family go into an emotional and spiritual free fall.  Nearing the bottom of his resolve this dad receives a mysterious note in the mailbox inviting him to meet “Papa”, his wife’s name for God, at the shack.  His meeting with God is painful but leads him to resolve hatred and answer the questions of our existence.  The movie ends well by being a step in a family’s journey and not merely a happy ending.

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The Holy Trinity never looked like this in Sunday School

 

 

The portrayal of the Holy Trinity is a bit cartoonish and predictable but warm and nourishing.  The characters deal with the complexity of hate and the frustration of mystery.  The issues of judging and loving an undeserving enemy meet grace and redemption.  In one scene, “Jesus” answers  Mack’s questions about church and the many earthly expectations of life with, “Religion is just too much work.  I am not interested in  having prisoners but having friends.” There are occasional denominational agenda in some of the answers. However, a God’s eye view is offered in them rather than human rationalizations.

One key to enjoying this movie is remembering that it is a MOVIE and a parable.  The Shack is not a source of doctrine but a teaching lesson on the majesty of living in and through God. The Shack provides a starting place for answering the difficult questions in many lives. We in the audience still have to ask the hard questions and expect God to answer in truth and not in bumper sticker aphorisms.

This is a good and moving film.  I would not take my very young children due to the nature of the little girls’ murder and the beating given to Mack by his earthly father.  I would take churchy people, especially youth aged and up, those new in their faith, and those critical of church and Christianity.  This movie has a valuable message and is faithful in delivering it in a thought provoking way.

For more information and the source of the photos used, go to www.theshack.movie/