| dead man walking |

boy, do i really want to start blogging again? i’m not sure i’m as opinionated as i was last time around. religion, politics – yes, they still raise some hackles in me at times (though i’m not really sure what hackles are…). perhaps the best reason to get this going again is to pay the small fee and be able to stick songs out here for my adoring public (all one of them … *me*) to enjoy.

so, were i to get this going again, what would i write about re: politics? i dunno – i drank my way through the 2012 election, and was surprised on the backside to see that obama had won. can’t say that my vote helped him, since i didn’t vote – but i did have propaganda clearly displayed at my office; maybe i influenced a vote or two. i have very much enjoyed going to youtube and watching the clips from fox news showing all the absurdity that happened as the verdict was becoming clear – especially around the point where ohio was called in obama’s favor. very funny. and gratifying.

i remain an obama fan. and i remain opposed to the tea party. and most republicans. i still support the health care plan, but let it be remembered here that i thought at the time that it was a bit of an overreach. but i’m cool kicking in a few extra dollars if it means people without insurance get insurance. the fear of the expansion of “big government” is overblown – if you really fear this, start with dismantling the military-industrial complex. don’t want to do that? didn’t think so.

so what about religion? boy, i don’t know. someone gave me a “jesus calling” devotional book which i read every morning, but i fear i read it almost as a horoscope foretelling the events of the day. i still battle my demons – and, to be frank, at times i don’t bother battling them. the family situation is much less than desirable, and it’s clear that i have had a large hand in making it what it is. but we’re here at another crossroads – tentatively starting a new job on the 17th of februrary. always a lot of anticipation with that – and a feeling, a real feeling, that somehow God is orchestrating all this and i am right where i’m supposed to be.

still, there’s some interesting stuff on the religion front. i’ve come across a lot of end-times videos on youtube, and have been listening to people like zen garcia, tom horn, and derek gilbert – plus dr. future, though he’s off the air now – and reading books by peter goodgame. the interesting thread that ties all these folks together is an (over)emphasis on the statement Jesus makes where the last days will be “as it was in the days of Noah.” it’s easy to say, well, there will just be rampant disregard of all things God in the last days, but they go further: they make a reference to the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6, and tie everything back to angels and aliens mating with human women. yep, not kidding. but, i’ll tell you: it’s quite surprising how a lot of the bible makes more sense when you see two distinct bloodlines – one from adam and eve that remained untainted through Jesus, and the second from eve through – get this – Satan – running through scripture. killing “all the men, women and children” makes a bit of sense if this is the progeny of the devil; election, too, comes to mean a bit more, and removes some of the blood from God’s hands. still, it’s all a bit far-fetched, but fun to read. two books to recommend by peter goodgame: “red moon rising” and “the return of the antichrist”. the former is pretty straightforward end-times analysis; the latter seeks to prove that Nimrod will return from the abyss as the antichrist in the last days.

i remember writing here years back that i had gotten to the point where i no longer believed in a second coming. i’m still not convinced there will be one. a cyclical universe that expands and collapses ad infinitum demands its due. don’t know, and don’t care to obsess over it.

now, about work. i have become an agile software development junkie. at cox, i was a stickler for sticking to a waterfall process with appropriate gates and criteria for entry into and exit from phases. now, i’ve gone 180 degrees in the other direction. i’ve gotten my scrum master certification (CSM), will be getting my scrum product owner certification (CSPO) next week, and by the end of March should have my scrum professional certification (CSP). i feel like i’ve gotten a second wind in my career and, in terms of the work itself, actually enjoy what i do. so if anyone reading this needs someone to freelance and help transition a team from waterfall to agile, let me know. in the words of leonard cohen, “i’m your man.”

anyway, i’m back.


| just resting |

i am cleaning house a little here at ol’ mikerucker.wordpress.com … hope to have things back up and running after the holidays.

everyone here at this fine blog hopes you and yours have a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a genuinely ducky holiday season.

leaving my review below of the shack up for any lost visitors since it’s far and away the most popular post on the blog. will likely add all the pieces of my review of the reason for God back up soon, too.

see you in 2011!

note to the visitor:
you’ve clicked a link to the most clicked-on link of my blog; welcome. however, four out of five people surveyed, with nothing better to do with their lives than search the internet’s four billion navel-gaving blogs, said that my navel, more than any other, has the most lint. obviously, with that information, you’ll want to check out other content here. i’m almost sure of it…

i can’t believe i’m starting another book review the day after finishing my love-is-a-many-chaptered-thing review of The Reason for God. but here i am, baby – signed, sealed, delivered…

i’m yours.

the book of interest this go-round is William Young’s The Shack, published in 2007 by Windblown Media. it is a book that has had no small amount of attention within the Christian reading community. most readers are affected positvely by the story, but then split into two camps based upon the way the book handles a number of theological questions.

and, make no mistake about it: while The Shack is a work of fiction, it’s real raison d’etre is to shine light on questions of God and things of a spiritual nature. however, while the book is obviously written with a certain agenda, it only occasionally tries to disparage any opposing views. instead, it chooses to put out answers and ideas for certain theological questions we’ve all wrestled with and let the reader decide their validity himself.

the story centers on a man named Mack (short for Mackenzie). while taking his kids on a camping trip one weekend – about four years prior to the time setting for the bulk of the book – an accident occurs involving two of his kids, who capsize a canoe in a lake. Mack sees it happen and rushes to the lake, and is able to use his lifesaving skills to rescue his trapped son and pull him to safety. Mack and the gathered crowd are understandably relieved and very grateful for his timely action and the rescue of both kids.

meanwhile, back at the ranch … another of Mack’s kids is meeting a crueler fate. Missy, who Mack had left coloring at a picnic table as he rushed to the lake, is abducted by a guy we ultimately learn has the moniker “Little Ladykiller.” he has repeatedly abducted small girls at various parks and campgrounds – and none of the girls has ever been found alive. his calling card is a little ladybug pin that he always leaves at the scene of the abduction, adding an additional dot to the back of the ladybug each time he takes another young girl.

Missy winds up being the fifth dot. bloody stains are found at an old shack (hence, the title) well off all park trails.

after this horrible incident, Mack develops inward anger towards God – “how could you let this happen?!” – and himself – “it’s my fault – i left her there alone.” Mack ultimately names this dark, angry world he inhabits The Great Sadness, and it sucks the life out of him for nearly four years.

the story in the more recent present – and the timeframe in which the majority of the book takes place – begins when Mack, iced in alone at his home during a winter storm, takes on the elements to retrieve the daily mail. the only item in the box is a typewritten note that reads,


It’s been awhile. I’ve missed you.
I’ll be back at the shack next weekend if you want to get together.


‘Papa’ is the name that Nan, Mack’s wife, uses to refer to God. because Mack could never live with himself if he didn’t go as the note requests, he borrows a friend’s SUV and heads back to the scene of the crime for the weekend. he figures that, if the note turns out to be from Missy’s killer, he will at least get an opportunity to settle the score.

and, if the note turns out to be from God, Mack has more than a few things he wants to say to Him.

Mack leaves on Friday and retraces the weekend camping trip route, and arrives to find the shack much as he left it, complete with Missy’s blood stains. of course, God is nowhere in sight, so Mack goes into a rage inside the old shack, screaming at God and attempting to break anything he can get his hands on. slumping against a wall, he ponders suicide while holding the pistol he brought along with him. deciding against this solution, he drifts off to sleep. awakening a few minutes later, and realizing that he still is alone, he tells God that he’s through with Him, and heads back through the snow to his car.

on his way back up the hill to where he left the SUV, Mack encounters God, though not in a way he expects. a rush of wind overtakes him, and Mack watches as the wintry landscape is melted away and replaced by a vibrant, colorful spring, with flowers, birds, grass, incredible smells and even more incredible beauty. heading back to the shack, Mack sees that it has been transformed into a cozy cabin, complete with a fireplace from which is coming a peaceful, steady plume of smoke.

Mack walks to the cabin door. reaching up to knock, he is startled as the door swings open, and standing there to meet Mack is none other than Papa himself.

well, kinda…

Papa, at least in this initial incarnation, is a large, lively, smiling…

black woman.


Mack, obviously, is taken aback, but soon learns that Papa has a name – Elousia – and is none other than the Father of the Trinity. and in the course of the next few minutes, Mack meets Jesus – an unassuming, rather homely but muscular carpenter with a big jewish nose, arm scars, and a toolbelt; and the Holy Spirit, a somewhat transparent, Asian-looking figure named Sarayu.

on queue, Jesus grabs the OT scrolls, Papa grabs His Gideon’s pocket NT, a dusty Strong’s Concordance and what looks like a well-read copy of Conversations with Me, and Sarayu flitters about ready to provide guidance as the four of them discuss Reformed theology and how the resurgence of Calvinism in Baptist churches is a sure sign that the end times are coming.

ok, not really. 🙂

what happens over the course of the book are little scenes where Mack meets with one or more of his Guests, faces the loss of Missy, heals the relationship with his own father, forgives Missy’s killer, finds her body (with Papa’s help), gives her a proper burial, and gets a glimpse of what a restored creation will look like. the conversations cover many questions that the reader will likely find himself wanting to ask just as they are addressed by the three Characters of God. Mack’s eyes are opened to Who God really is, and he is able to cast off The Great Sadness and head back to the real world as the weekend comes to a close.

one final twist awaits. as he is driving home, Mack is hit by a drunk driver. the SUV is totalled, and Mack winds up in a coma for four days. when he comes to, he can only remember bits and pieces of his time with God. further, he learns that the accident happened on Friday – the day he left home to drive up to the shack – and not on Sunday, the day Mack believed he was driving back home. slowly, however, his memory comes back, and he returns to his “normal” life a changed man.

that’s the story, and i’m sticking to it.

in part two of this review, i’ll dig into the theology that Papa, Jesus and Sarayu lay out for Mack.

links to opposing viewpoints:

tim challies’ The Shack: Unauthorized Theological Critique (2 stars at amazon.com)

. tim challies’ review at challies.com

. . an episode of al mohler’s radio program

. . . mein kampf

. . . . the communist manifesto

. . . . . glenn beck’s common sense

. . . . . . anything by sean hannity