Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Shack

As you can see from the sidebar, I'm promoting the book, "The Shack". There's been some controversy over this book (Check out Thunderstruck.org for other reviews.) One of those controversies is the fact that the book references God as a black woman, Jesus as a Jewish Laborer and the Holy Spirit as an ethereal Asian woman whose name in Sanskrit means "wind". There are those that have gotten all "het up" about the characterizations that I think they've missed the point.

Those characterizations are plot or literary devices.

You know? Plot devices? Like John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress"? C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia"? Literary devices. Characterizations designed to portray or convey a meaning, not necessarily an actual representation.

And if you've read the book it works.

(If you haven't... you can stop reading as I'm going to explain some things but will stop short of giving away the whole story. But I'd prefer you to read on as I wrote it and think it's a pretty decent analysis!)

The main character, Mack, must face his preconceptions of God, Jesus, The Spirit, love, hate, and forgiveness. To give him a jolt out of his "Great Sadness", the writer knocks the legs out of his preconceptions by describing God, who goes by the name "Papa", as a black woman. The image is very reminiscent of the Oracle in the Matrix movies even utilizing pop culture references like having God reply, "let me know how that works for you" when Mack makes a statement about how he should act or respond to the tragedy that brought on his "Great Sadness".

And what's wrong with that? What better way to shake one's preconceptions of God the Father by portraying Him as a black woman? Theologically correct? No. Literarily interesting? Yes. Our idea of God the Father is biblical. And it carries a bunch of baggage as well. We tend to super-impose the characteristics of our earthly fathers on our heavenly Father. Which for some people is a good thing, for many it's not. But, as the reader, it does get your attention in the same way it gets Mack's attention in the book.

And what about Jesus as a Jewish laborer? Dresses like one. Smells like one. Has dirt under his fingernails like one. We, in evangelical Christianity, tend to like our Jesus as the long-haired, fair-skinned, hippy-type peaceful saviour. Not that there's anything wrong with that but we also tend to forget that before His three year ministry claiming the good news of heaven, he was a carpenter. A blue-collar worker. His fingernails were probably dirty. He probably has a few nicks and cuts from the wood. His thumb was probably a little mashed from getting smacked by the mallet a few times. He probably didn't bathe but once in a while so he probably smelled of b.o., wood, sap and pitch. Not exactly the clean-cut 3-year Jesus we like to picture.

And Mack has a hard time reconciling this laborer who likes to build stuff with the man who hung on a cross. And I'd bet, so would we. Because it busts the image we have of what Jesus looked like. (Read the book...please...there is a wonderful scene where the Laborer Jesus and the 3-year Jesus are reconcile and the reader's eyes are opened through what Mack sees!) It shakes our conception of a man who walked around, was all holy, raising the dead, changing water to wine, healing the sick and preaching the good news. We see him in our mind's eye as we see him in the pictures from Sunday School or in the back of our bibles...clean, dressed in white, hair and beard immaculately combed.

And the one that plays upon the word "spirit" in the bible. The Holy Spirit. We think of spirits as ghosts, hence the Holy Ghost moniker as well. But to portray the HS as an ethereal Asian who's name is Sanskrit for wind...we just can't have that heathen name attached to the Third Person of the Trinity now can we! That's sacreligious! That's...that's...

That's a literary device as well. How do you picture the Holy Spirit? As a spirit! Right? And yet, the Holy Spirit is God as well. There's a couple of scenes in the book where Papa and Sarayu remind Mack that they, too, were there on the cross. They, too, died for man's sins. They, too, experienced all Jesus experienced. And that gives Mack pause. And it should give us pause as well to remember God is 3-in-1. And to shake things up more, Mack notices that when Sarayu, the spirit, hugs him, he can feel her! And it's not some cold draft like you hear and read about. It's warm.

The Shack. Literary devices. Preconceptions shattered. All to help the reader travel the same road, experience the same experiences the main character in the book does. Is it the bible? No. Is it good theology? I'll let the theologians argue that. What I do know is that the literary devices work. It made me look at God in a different way. It made me look at love and forgiveness and sacrifice in a whole new light. It made me cry and laugh and appreciate the gift of written word given to us by our creator.

So read the book; not with an open mind for that just makes it easier for your brains to run out. Read the book with a broad mind. Expand your conceptions of God and love, forgiveness and sacrifice. And if you can't, let me know how that works for you.


Monday, July 28, 2008

PTSD...I Have It.

Yup...here's the story why: Story.

So I had my first counseling session regarding the incident above. Which also directly related to the story I related Here.

Why did it take me 6 months to seek help? Typical bull-headed, male-ego reasons. Thought it was something I could just tough out. You know, "this kind of stuff happens in this industry" etc. Turns out, screwed my up more than I thought...no...more than I was willing to admit. Once I did, my wife told me I needed to seek help. I found the DSM on-line and looked up PTSD.

DSM-IV-TR criteria for PTSD

In 2000, the American Psychiatric Association revised the PTSD diagnostic criteria in the fourth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR). The diagnostic criteria (Criterion A-F) are specified below.
Diagnostic criteria for PTSD include a history of exposure to a traumatic event meeting two criteria and symptoms from each of three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing symptoms, and hyper-arousal symptoms. A fifth criterion concerns duration of symptoms and a sixth assesses functioning.

Criterion A: stressor
The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present:
1. The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.
2. The person's response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: in children, it may be expressed instead by disorganized or agitated behavior.

Criterion B: intrusive recollection

The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in at least one of the following ways:
1. Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions. Note: in young children, repetitive play may occur in which themes or aspects of the trauma are expressed.
2. Recurrent distressing dreams of the event. Note: in children, there may be frightening dreams without recognizable content
3. Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated). Note: in children, trauma-specific reenactment may occur.
4. Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
5. Physiologic reactivity upon exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event

Criterion C: avoidant/numbing

Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by at least three of the following:

1. Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
2. Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
4. Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
5. Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
6. Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
7. Sense of foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

Criterion D: hyper-arousal
Persistent symptoms of increasing arousal (not present before the trauma), indicated by at least two of the following:
1. Difficulty falling or staying asleep
2. Irritability or outbursts of anger
3. Difficulty concentrating
4. Hyper-vigilance
5. Exaggerated startle response

Criterion E: duration
Duration of the disturbance (symptoms in B, C, and D) is more than one month.

Criterion F: functional significance
The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Specify if:
Acute: if duration of symptoms is less than three months
Chronic: if duration of symptoms is three months or more

Specify if:
With or Without delay onset: Onset of symptoms at least six months after the stressor

(All that's marked in red is what led me to seek counseling.)

Soooo...I have PTSD. Wonderful. Now I have to deal with it. My counselor, who said he'd wished I'd contacted him sooner and, looking back, so do I, said I have to re-tell the tale over and over again. Talk about it with others. Go back and fly planes on nice, smooth days. Realize that I'm alive, no one died, I had the shit scared out of me, no one died, what I went through was most likely a one-time experience, I'm a good pilot, I didn't do this on purpose, I will survive.

So I'm talking about it here. I will talk about it with my wife tonight when she gets home. I'll try to talk about it amongst my aviation peers.

It's amazing sometimes what can shake us to the core. What can rattle us to our foundation. Most of us see it on TV or read about in the paper or hear about it from others and silently, almost reactively, thank God it wasn't them. "There, but for the Grace of God, go I" is the phrase that I used to say. Now it is I who has gone there and, but for the Grace of God and a mighty updraft, I'm still here. We never see it coming. Or if we do, we can dupe ourselves in a matter of seconds that it won't happen to me even as the we see the word "GREYHOUND" two feet away. I used to think I could handle anything. That death didn't scare me. I knew I was going to die and yet I didn't want to. I fought it. I had two lives that were my responsibility on that plane. Yet, in the back of my mind, I knew that if I died it would be okay I just didn't want them to feel any pain. I didn't want to feel any pain. But I didn't die. I'm alive. And shook up. But there is hope, always hope.

"Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved." - Psalms 55:22

I have that on a sticky note beside my computer. I pray it every day.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Things I've Learned That I Already Knew

I belong to a web forum for professional pilots called ProPilotWorld. During one of the conversations about where aviation was headed, one guy wondered if there was a light at the end of the tunnel. His "name" was Spudskier. "Occam's Razor" had this response...


There is no tunnel.

You are rafting down a long river. There are calm stretches of water where the scenery is gorgeous and the ride is peaceful and fulfilling. Sometimes these intervals of calm allow you to reel in many fish and savor the pure joy of just being on the river. You'll be Water Rat in The Wind In Willows. ("...believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing, half so worth doing as - simply messing around in boats!")

Other stretches are roiling Class IV rapids. You can't control where the river is taking you, or how quickly you'll move. You can try to steer from one side of the river to the other, but you might not be able to avoid all the rocks. Your butt will always get wet in the rapids, and during the particularly long stretches of whitewater, you'll find yourself asking, "Why the heck am I on this river!". You'll see others, in perfectly good rafts, go over falls that will destroy their rafts, and all their possessions.

My personal observations suggest:

1. The boats where everyone paddles together tend to do the best over the longest stretches of the river.
2. The paddlers who remain the most flexible don't get injured as badly when they hit the rocks.
3. Worrying about the rapids is sometimes worse than riding them.
4. It's a good idea to save as many fish as you can during the calm stretches.
5. It's possible to enjoy most of it if you can remember why you're on the river in the first place.

Good luck!

This got me thinking.

What have I learned recently that I already knew?

1. Never Get into Debt
- You don't need a boat and 3 cars
- You do need to plan
- You do need to take care of your family and home

2. You Can't Do Everything
- Pick something you like and stick with it
- You might not be any good at the those other things
- Some of those things might be good at but are just not called to do them

3. God Loves Me
- I don't deserve it but He chooses to look at me through Christ
- He shall never leave me forsaken
- He will provide my needs not so much my wants
- I may not be able to see the end of the journey but along the way I can know that God has not lost one yet

4. Wiener Dogs are Great Pets
- So are Beta Fish
- Gold fish, not so much

5. There will always be someone who is better off than you, worse off than you, smarter than you, dumber than you, older than you, younger than you, fatter than you, thinner than you, more righteous than you and less righteous as you
- Don't sweat it...they aren't you and you aren't them

I'm sure there are more.

On another note having to do with my post on WAITING, the lyrics of "More Power To Ya" by Petra have been rattling around in my head these last few days. Especially the part that goes, "good things come to them that wait but not to those who hesitate. So hurry up and wait upon the Lord..."

It's like I've decided to admit that I had blinders on and things I knew are being made known again. And I'm seeing them in a whole new light.

More later...


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A New Kind of Radical

Last month, the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22 which passed with a 2/3rds majority during last Novembers election. The citizens of the State of California stated that, in California, marriage was defined as a union between a man and a woman. Period. Simple enough. The people of the state spoke, the Governor, who's whole platform was working for "the people of California", agreed and signed it into law.

Then a bunch of radicals descended on the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the Proposition stating it was "unconstitutional". (Which is every radical's favorite buzzword whether it is constitutional or not!) So the Supreme Court, in defiance of the electorate and the Legislature and the Executive office in Sacramento, overturned the Proposition and California became the first state in the Union to legalize same-sex marriage.

This is not the first time someone tried to be radical about same-sex marriage. Gavin Newsome, Mayor of San Francisco, in a PR stunt, legalized same-sex marriage in San Francisco. Didn't last. Why? It was in violation of State and Federal laws. It was in violation of Proposition 22, a proposition who's verbiage had already been upheld earlier.

Radicals. Always trying to subvert and overturn the status quo. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes not so good.

Instead of being a radical who's always trying to ram their view, their morality, their pet cause down the throats of those who don't want it, why not try being a radical who's trying to change society for the better?

We need radicals who will buck the status quo and develop hydrogen powered vehicles without the exorbitant price tag?

Or a radical who develops a way to drill oil that is cleaner and more productive than before?

Or a radical who sees the possibilities of powering this country (and others) by using those previously mentioned drilling and processing ideas to free land instead of locking it down under the guise of protecting the beauty of the country?

Or a radical who says he or she will not take obscene profits but will allow society to use their ideas for the betterment of man instead of padding their portfolio?

What a radical idea it would be to see speculators not line their pockets by fueling the spiralling prices of crude oil and gasoline but instead channel that money into R&D so that another radical can come up with the aforementioned drilling and processing procedures?

How about a radical who, when someone offers an idea that is contrary to their pet idea; instead of taking it personally and castigating the bringer of new ideas, they shelve their own anger, consider what's being presented and take an objective view?

How about a radical who doesn't see opposition as a means of destroying their life but as a way of broadening their horizons?

How about a radical who, when presented with a product that represents Christian faith, says, "I don't care who it offends, it's a good product, it sells, we make money, we'll keep it!" instead of kowtowing to pressure from haters who threaten to boycott their stores. How about those same radicals not only putting up something wholesome in their stores but also taking down those Che Guevara t-shirts? After all, what's better for society? A God who becomes a man and give His life for all or a murdering communist??

We need a radical who instead of killing citizens of their countries that believe differently will make an effort to live in harmony with them.

We need a radical who will tell those who kill over religious, political and social differences that they will stand for the downtrodden and resist evil with all their might and at the same time, endeavour to change hearts and minds.

Is it radical to allow all humans, everywhere, to follow every whim of their hearts or is it radical to voluntarily restrict your freedoms for the greater good of yourself and your fellow human being?

What's radical? To laugh at that which your heart and mind tell you is wrong? Or to turn away and not submit yourself to perversion?

What's radical? To say nothing while evil goes on around you? To stand and stare not wanting to get involved? Or to jump in and possibly save a life? Save a soul? Save a child?

We need a new kind of radical. One that doesn't let professors brain wash them into thinking this country is evil. One that believes they can do any thing they put their mind to. A radical who won't give in to small-minded, petty arguments. A radical who will put aside their power and prestige. A radical who will allow that there may be someone smarter than you. We need a radical that will scream that we have the best and brightest here. That our system, while not perfect, is a damn sight better than most. We need radicals who aren't afraid of the past. We need radicals who look to the future with hope and optimism. We need radicals who not only think outside the box but are willing to look back in the box once in a while and take what works and make it better.

We need a new kind of radical who is willing to say to the bubble-headed bleach blonde who comes on at five and constantly degrades those who do good that they don't want to watch that anymore and are changing the channel.

We need a new kind of radical that puts aside their own leanings to report what they see and hear. To not consider "spin" being radical but being radical by not spinning the news.

We need a radical like those who came before us in this country.

The John Smith's.
The George Washington's and Thomas Jefferson's and John Adams' and Abraham Lincoln's.
The Roosevelt and the Reagan's.
The Wright Bros'. and the Lindbergh's and the Kelly's.
The Cessna's, the Piper's, the Beech's.
The Ford's, the Chrysler's, the Daimlers, the Buicks.
The Eli Whitney's, the Samuel Fuller's, the B.F. Goodrich's.
The Seward's and their follies.
The Goldwyn's and the Mayers'.
The Alan Shepherds, the John Glenn's, the Chuck Yeager's and the Gordo Cooper's.
The Dean Kamen's, the Steve Jobs', the Bill Gates'.
The Mom's and Pop's who open diners, and hardware stores and beauty salons and 7-11's.
The kid who sells lemon-ade on a card table in his front yard for 25 cents and is not afraid to do so because other radicals have seen to it that pushers, dealers, crooks, thieves and all-round bad guys don't come to their neighborhood.

A new kind of radical. He or she is in the mold of the old kind of radical. The ones that made this country great. The ones that stood against evil. The ones that nailed indictments on church doors. The ones who offered a life for life.