Jesus Creed

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The Shack

posted by xscot mcknight

This is the most intelligent review of The Shack that I’ve seen: Derek Keefe really does get what this book is.
The Shack



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jon

posted July 29, 2008 at 1:11 am


I just bought the book a few hours ago! I’m not into novels I should say but the buzz around the book makes me curious. Thanks for directing us to this review.



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Peggy

posted July 29, 2008 at 1:13 am


Scot,
Thanks for the link to this excellent review. I totally agree that Derek Keefe really gets it.
How very refreshing, having heard a great many persons make fools of themselves — especially the ones who do it without even having read the book — and tragically miss the opportunity Derek highlights: to engage with those who resonate with the spiritual issues covered but are repelled by how they have experienced these issues (or others) with the Church.
I’m going right now to put this link in my blog. I just wish I knew how to do the whole “trackback” thing…. :(



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Ted M. Gossard

posted July 29, 2008 at 2:01 am


Yes, it is a good review. I think both Ben Witherington and John Stackhouse do a good job as well, trying to see it in a good light with some constructive critique. But this puts it in its best place.
It hit me as astoudingly good in some ways. And we need to see it, as one older godly pastoral friend said, as a starting place for conversation, true conversation with others.



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Diane

posted July 29, 2008 at 5:24 am


I understand that Derek is generously and appropriately viewing the book as a work of fiction rather than as a theological treatise, but, not having heard of The Shack, I found myself reading the review and wondering what on earth in the book is theologically suspect or would make one “cringe.” Can anyone who has read the book provide a couple of examples? The book sounds very intriguing, especially to one who often deals with people who’ve been burned by conventional Christianity.



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Deborah

posted July 29, 2008 at 6:26 am


I have read The Shack, and have recommended it to a number of folks. I find it theologically rich…offering many opportunities for further conversation. I can’t wait to have a Bible study based on this book!



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Andie Piehl

posted July 29, 2008 at 6:36 am


I can get this one on my Kindle, so I make actually get a novel for a change. I’ve see it mentioned in several places lately, but I haven’t really paid much attention to it because I don’t usually read novels.
Thanks, Scot.



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Ken

posted July 29, 2008 at 7:54 am


I’m working my way through the book right now and plan to lead a discussion at our public library on it. Having worked in Christian publishing before, most religious fiction is trivial or trash. I would rather have the people in my fold engaging the issues of evil and goodness/justice of God, the persons of God in the Trinity in a book, rather than reading flatly written knock-offs of popular literature, baptized with a few words about God, Jesus and rules.



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Dan B.

posted July 29, 2008 at 7:57 am


I appreciate Derek’s review as well. In many ways that was the take I put on the book to my congregation and formalized in a newsletter article. The book is great as a piece of a spiritual journey, a conversation starter, something that can help people talk to God and listen to his answers to the wounded. That’s what the book is primarily about and because it did this well, I recommended it. At the same time, I noted that there were some significant theological problems.
Diane #4- there are many different things a person could point to- e.g. he seems to put down written revelation in the Word and emphasize over and above this personal experience, in working to make God personal he sometimes loses a hold on the transcendent, there are some especially confrontational passages on the nature of the Trinity and whether or not there is a hierarchy within the Trinity. These are just a few of the issues of which a person should be aware.
Because of this and because I realize that people absorb theology from these kind of sources very easily, I’ve recommended that our members read it in community. There’s a book club here that will be reading it and I’ve invited the rest of our church to check in with a blog series I was going to begin in August on the topic at the blog I coauthor with another pastor (www.faithemergence.com).
Thanks Scot for bringing up this important topic



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Rick

posted July 29, 2008 at 8:03 am


Deborah #5-
I have not read the book, but have read many reviews of it. A common theme of the reviews, including the one Scot linked to, is that people should read it as a book of fiction with some theology (perhaps even some unorthodox theology), rather than as a deep theological book/”treatise”.
With that in mind, and since you have read it, what do you mean by it being “theologically rich”?



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ChrisB

posted July 29, 2008 at 8:32 am


There seems to be a huge divide over this book — you either love it or hate it. Those two groups seem to have the same disconnect that appeared when DaVinci Code and The Golden Compass were in the news — one side (the “love it” group) say it’s just fiction (so certain theological problems aren’t a big deal); the other side seems to think fiction influences us far more most people realize.
CS Lewis would, I think, fall into the second group. His fiction was written, he said, to “baptize the imagination” — to introduce concepts into the minds of the readers, get them into their subconscious, so that they would be more receptive when they encountered them again later.
If what he proposes is possible, then fiction can be a dangerous thing — maybe moreso than non-fiction because people approach fiction with their shields down (if I can borrow from sci-fi a bit).
Is this true? People seemed to have a lot more trouble with DaVinci Code than Misquoting Jesus. Not a lot of evidence, but it’s something to think about.
If the second group is right, then we should be concerned about the alleged (I haven’t read it) theological problems in the Shack. If they’re not, then it’s just fiction.



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John W Frye

posted July 29, 2008 at 8:37 am


Scot,
Thanks for the link to Keefe’s review of THE SHACK. You’re spot on about it being intelligent (in contrast to those who freak out about the book). I enjoyed Young’s story as a fictional story. I think the harsh critics tend to read only in terms of systematic theology categories. We can guess somewhat accurately about who reacts negatively to an egalitarian (perichoretic) Trinity, to an openness to open theism, to a 100% down and dirty human Jesus, and to a revulsion of “organized religion/Christianity.”



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Aaron Perry

posted July 29, 2008 at 8:48 am


I agree with Scot that this review is spot on. He has captured the spirit of the book and how it can (and will) be used to good ends by God.



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theonlypj

posted July 29, 2008 at 8:49 am


I’ve got a 5 year old daughter…don’t think I can stomach ‘The Shack’ just yet!
You tell me
PJ



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Dave

posted July 29, 2008 at 9:34 am


I highly recommend Ben Witherington’s review: he has a generous spirit, yet underscores some areas where the book could be tightened up some.
I agree that we must be sensitive to genre. The Shack is not a systematic theology, but neither was Pilgrim’s Progress, yet no one finds any of it objectionable. Fiction need not be a systematic theology to maintain its biblical integrity.



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Kristie B

posted July 29, 2008 at 9:34 am


Well, I definitely fall into the category of people who believe fiction influences us greatly – my own faith has been shaped more than I can say by writers like George MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien, L’Engle, and others. And I, for one, loved The Shack. I loved it precisely because the God and the universe depicted in it reminded me so much of the God and the universe that I have encountered (in different ways, of course) in my other favorite fictional writings, perhaps particularly those of MacDonald and L’Engle. I think these writings open our eyes to a very big God and a big marvelous universe, where (whether we humans realize it or not) there is a great redemptive drama playing out all around us, guided by a God who is both with us and beyond us, but always for us. Though there were a couple points in The Shack where I thought “hmm, I’m not sure I’d go that direction” – overall I found it thought-provoking and enriching and I was moved to thanksgiving and worship of the Triune God at numerous points. I’m recommending it to everybody these days.



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Nancy

posted July 29, 2008 at 9:37 am


PJ: Ummm…probably not. You’ll pin your 5 year old’s face on Mack’s daughter and that could be a bit traumatic, especially if you find you really “enter into” a story.



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Deborah

posted July 29, 2008 at 10:46 am


Rick #9
I do come from the theological beliefs of the perichoretic co-activity of the Trinity. Each unique persons but also in perfect communion/community with each other. I don’t see the Trinity having a heirarchy. As I read The Shack I saw the Trinity in radical community with one another…modeling how we, as the Body of Christ, should also live.
Also, when I read in Genesis that God created man and woman in his own image, and I look around and see people with many different physical characteristics, then I don’t have a problem with God the father appearing in form as both a woman and a man. I can appreciate that in the Shack, the Trinity met “Mack” where “Mack” was…”Mack” had significant father issues, so God the father was an African American woman for part of the book, and as an older man in another part of the book.
Chris #10 I will grant that this is a work of fiction, and the greatest kingdom building benefit may be if it is read in Christian community, but in no way would I compare this novel with The Golden Compass, which was specifically written to combat Christian thinking and belief structures. I hope that you will read it -



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Jennifer

posted July 29, 2008 at 11:02 am


MarkO has a good review of it too. One thing I didnt know before reading his review is that The Shack is self-published and had been turned down by several publishers (who must be kicking themselves now).
http://www.ysmarko.com/?p=2823



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Peggy

posted July 29, 2008 at 11:39 am


ChrisB #10,
Anything that engages the imagination has “dangerous” potential … think Jesus and his parables! Lewis, Tolkien, L’Engle, MacDonald … all of the great creative writers understand that it is precisely because “the shield is down” (long time Star Trek fan, here) that the Holy Spirit can slip past some significant barriers.
Of course, it is a two-edged sword … but I think it is always better to call folks to learning how to wield the sword than fearing to pick it up.
If any book challenges one’s thinking, it is good to ask God to help us think better and discern within a diverse community (like those of us here at McK’s “One T”) than to run for cover.
Back in February I read The Shack and wrote the post in the following link:
http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/2008/02/abis-book-recommendation-shack.html
The core of my thoughts are in this paragraph:
“This is THE novel of the Purple Martyrdom. Period. Each and every human being who has been wounded, broken, depressed, rejected, grieved … have I missed anyone? … who has felt guilty, needed forgiveness, been angry, harbored grudges, longed for justice to be meted out …got everyone yet?… how about those who are lonely, who feel unloved or unworthy, who cannot forgive someone, who feel lost, who are defined by their pain and suffering. Well, I think you get the idea that everyone could benefit from reading this book. But it will cost you.”
Some of you might also be interested in Frank Viola’s review (posted yesterday) as well:
http://frankviola.wordpress.com/2008/07/28/short-book-review-of-the-shack-by-william-p-young/
I think every Jesus Creeder would find something of benefit in this book … and might think of a handful of folks who need to hear the single most important message Young communicates to everyone with ears to hear: when it comes every single Eikon (all of us are cracked, remember), God’s heart says … “Oh, I’m especially fond of that one….”



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Peggy

posted July 29, 2008 at 12:04 pm


Diane #4,
Sister, you need to get this book and read it… 8) because I can’t wait to hear what it says to you!



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Diane

posted July 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm


Hi Peggy,
Ok, I just ordered the book girlfriend! I’ll let you know what I think.



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Peggy

posted July 29, 2008 at 1:23 pm


Yipee! 8)



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ChrisB

posted July 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm


Peggy said: If any book challenges one?s thinking, it is good to ask God to help us think better and discern within a diverse community …than to run for cover.
The thing that makes this dangerous in fiction is that people readily absorb the ideas and aren’t asking God to help them or even trying to think critically because it’s “just” fiction.
I’m not poo-pooing the book — I haven’t read it — but I see the danger people are pointing to, namely that readers will absorb some very bad theology without realizing it. People here often downplay the importance of right-theology, but what you believe does affect how you live.
If the theology in this book is … off, people are right to sound the alarm — if for no other reason than to increase the chance that people will read it critically and not just absorb it.



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John Frye

posted July 29, 2008 at 4:18 pm


ChrisB (#23),
The theology of THE SHACK is not “off”–many evangelicals hold the views that the book presents; it’s just not the *status quo*, dominant theology that prevails in the right-wing segment of the church.
John



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Peggy

posted July 29, 2008 at 6:06 pm


Thanks for the push-back and the back-up, John.



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Gwen Cline

posted July 29, 2008 at 10:55 pm


Hello,
Though I loved the story, alarms went off in my head as I read Papa God was cooking breakfast which consist of bacon of all things!
Can someone explain why God would cook bacon when he doesn’t want us to eat this meat. God has said it is like smoke in his nose!
Thank you,
Gwen Cline



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jeremy bouma

posted July 30, 2008 at 7:10 am


so scot…when are we going to get YOUR review??? :)
-jeremy



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randy

posted July 30, 2008 at 7:19 am


pain always has the potential to push us beyond our inadequate conclusions. those who have not experienced its depths may struggle to understand the words that attempt to reconstruct what once was sufficient.
i appreciate the grace & patience that derek keefe extends to this book… and to those of us who sometimes feel jilted by those who draw God in meticulously thick boxes.
seems to me that his is the posture of mindful love.



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Karl

posted July 30, 2008 at 8:54 am


I agree with Jeremy #27! Ben Witherington and John Stackhouse have weighed in; Derek Keefe has offered a brief, intelligent summary of what the book is but without really doing a thorough review. When are we going to hear what Scot McKnight thinks of The Shack?



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mariam

posted July 30, 2008 at 1:11 pm


At Peggy?s recommendation I picked up a copy of The Shack and read it sand gave it to my daughter. She hasn?t read it yet and I am thinking she may not be ready. She is still a long way from coming to terms with her own sexual abuse, self-destruction and the possibility of a God who allows children to be raped. The book made me cry because Mac’s journey from despair and anger to healing and forgiveness (for himself and for his “enemy”) resonated so strongly with me, even though I found Young?s portrayal of the Trinity, to be honest, a trifle goofy. It is not how I would imagine God ? but surely that is the point. We are told that we can never see the face of God and live ? and yet we have seen the face of God. We are told God created us, male and female, in his image. In the OT God appears as a cloud, a pillar of flame, a dove, a wrestler, a mighty and unspeakably glorious King on a throne – his visage obscured by seraphims and cherubims, a small tricky pagan sort of ?god?, a tribal chieftain, a jilted and heartbroken lover, an angry judge, a stern and punishing patriarch, a loving father, an aloof and capricious sovereign willing to allow the torment of the most faithful of his servants, simply to prove a point to a rival – and in the fullness of time as a simple carpenter?s son of humble origin and dubious (to his fellow Jewish villagers) paternity whose closest associates are the poor, the outcast and sinners. Who would have thought God would present Himself in such a humble and unattractive guise? Where is the majesty, the certainty, the pure holiness, the thundering judgment? As to the face of God, Jesus tells us that when we are kind to the ?least? of his children we are being kind to God and when we abuse or ignore the ?least? of his children we abuse God. God cannot reveal to us the eternal and infinite fullness of His person because we are small and mortal. He can appear to us in a variety of forms that we can understand so that we can communicate with Him. He tells us that he is incarnate in the least of His children and that the ?pure in heart? shall see Him. I have no problem believing that God might reveal himself as a jolly black woman, a homely Jew, an oriental wisp of a girl, to communicate with one of the least of his suffering children, who has been unable to imagine a loving and caring God.
As to theology, Chris is right. Theology (or worldview) is important because it informs our actions. It affects how we view others, how we treat others, whether or not we are responsible citizens, how loving we are. If our view of God is of a God who is angry, judging, punishing and cruel, whose sovereignty is more important than any other aspect of him and our view of humankind is that they are completely wicked and deserving of punishment, than that will affect how we behave, view and treat others. If it cause us to be humble, caring, loving and moral (and it works that way for some people) it is good theology. If it causes us to be smug, self-righteous, judgmental, cruel and uncaring it is a very bad theology. If our view of God is of an all-embracing, universalist, loving, forgiving and healing father and that causes us to be loving, forgiving, kind and obedient (because we love Him so much) then THAT is good theology. If it causes us to be careless, self-indulgent, smug, self-righteous, lazy and immoral (because we think that it doesn?t matter what we do ? God is like some sort of weak-willed, indulgent, blinded by love mother) that THAT is bad theology. Good theology produces good fruit ? bad theology produces bad fruit. God presents himself to us in a variety of way because one-size theology does not fit all.



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Peggy

posted July 30, 2008 at 2:36 pm


Okay, McK… seems to me that Jeremy and Karl have called you out, bro. ;) And while we’re at it, what about a word from Kris??? 8)
Gwen #26,
I think we have to remember Acts 10 and Peter’s “unclean meats” vision…. The OT food laws are no longer binding.
Mariam, #30,
Thank you for the update…continuing to pray for you and your daughter and family–trusting that Papa will find a way to reach your daughter in her ;) own good time.
And you’ve got it right: “God presents himself to us in a variety of way because one-size theology does not fit all.” May we all be encouraged to let God out of the tiny boxes we have constructed for them! 8)
You make a great point to ChrisB’s thought! “Good” theology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. “Good” theology can be twisted and spun into terrible evil. And “good” theology should be open and free enough that the Holy Spirit can reveal truth about God to the great diversity of Eikons out there…. Theology is a tool to show us what God is like…it is NOT God.



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Scott Johnson

posted July 30, 2008 at 5:00 pm


My wife is only two chapters away from finishing it. She has throughly enjoyed the book. From her perspective, it has opened her eyes to the fact that when you really get down to it, God really is in love with people. It seems to me that God has gotten a bad rap, mostly because we in the church are famous for mixing the old covenant with the new covenant. The end result of course is powerless living! Why because the old Testament preached that it was all based on my behavior and the new testament says it is all about what Christ did for us.
Bottom line of The Shack is of course, relationship. God is all about connecting with His kids. I am sure that the book will touch people in a lot of different ways.
Scott Johnson
http://ChristianWorshipers.com



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Dianne P

posted August 1, 2008 at 11:46 am


Great discussion. I’ve been immersed in a Spanish class for the past few weeks (one semester in 5 weeks – good grief – with this post middle-aged brain), so I’ve been away from JC for a bit.
First, I should be repenting (though not yet) that I am puffed up with pride over the fact that a week ago I ripped the referenced review out of my just-received CT magazine and took it to my pastor, who is planning to do a sermon on The Shack. Of course I pay attention to half a dozen things a week, while Scot seems capable of paying attention to half the world, yet I’m still filled with sinful pride that I actually got to something before I saw it on JC.
Second, I printed out this post so I could read and eat my oatmeal at the same time. As I got to the bottom of a page and just started to read the opening lines of one comment, I smiled to myself and thought “that must be Mariam”, and of course, I turned the page, and it was. That really cool thing happened a few more times (Chris B, Peggy, John Frye, others). It’s so nice to have come to know and appreciate your comments over time. This is such a great place. I visit other blogs, but this is the one where I “live”.
Third, and finally, ahhhh, The Shack. Loved it. Agree with many here that the quality of writing could certainly have benefited from some professional editing, but I can also appreciate that in light of the whole “turned down by publishers” and “self-published” thing. The writing/editing thing bothered me far more while I was reading it, but that issue fades with time as my memory enjoys the power of the story itself.
For me there are two super-highlights (with sincere apologies for the cliche hyperbole). I was blown away by his development of the nature of love and relationship sans hierarchy. I read BW3′s review and was a little surprised at his discussion of this, his insistence on the hierarchy in the trinity concept. I felt that I was reading Grudem, not BW3, but that’s a bunny trail. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend it.
The second super-highlight is the whole judgment thing in the cave with Sylvia. Transforming for me, though it does leave the question – in what way WILL we be judged at the end of the day?
His development of both of these points helped me to flesh out and better understand my discomfort in evangelical churches. IMHO, too quick to impose hierarchy in a “power over” way and judgment (of others, that is). Mariam, I echo your #30 well-written comments on this. These are the two sections that I especially want to visit again and again.
Aside from these two specific sections, the over-arching benefit of this book is to prod us to expand our thinking about God. Does that take us to places that the Bible does not specifically point to? Yep, maybe so. But how do we reconcile those spaces where personal experience and scripture don’t quite line up/lock up perfectly? Mind the gap.



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Dena Brehm

posted August 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm


I read “The Shack” in May of ’07, when it was being promoted by word of mouth, one friend to another. We’ve since purchased several cases, and pass the books out to others. Nothing I read in “The Shack” was revelational to me, for God’s been whispering those very things into my heart for the past five years. However, it was a beautiful confirmation to see those same whisperings echoed in the conversations between God and Mack.
I know Paul Young, and consider him a dear friend. He’s been much-maligned by many, who are, indeed, proving his point about the religious/Phariseeical spirit that lurks in what we call church. Those who strongly object to “The Shack” reveal what it is that they’re defending.
I wanted to comment on one thing in this otherwise well-written review: “I see a formerly troubled soul who’s made peace with God about his past, but is still not at peace with the church. I’d love to see the book become an occasion for open conversation with ‘spiritual but not religious’ folks burned by church experience.”
Yes, Paul has made peace with God. But he’s not lacking in making peace with church — it’s just that he sees church quite differently than what the religious manmade system has morphed it into.
Church is not a place to go, or an organization to join, or a building. Church is people — the folks who know, love and follow Jesus… Church is our identity — it’s who we ARE, not where we go. The buildings, the denominations, the rituals and the institution have nothing to do with what Church really is.
Paul is definitely at peace with the Church. May we all become so at peace with who we are, and see the religion for what it is.
Shalom, Dena
“The unanswered questions aren’t nearly as dangerous as the unquestioned answers.”



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Anonymous

posted August 1, 2008 at 12:46 pm


End of Week Round up | Byrnesys Blabberings

[...] Here is a well balanced review of The Shack, I still haven’t read it, though I tried to poll some thoughts on it a little while back. I think this CT writer is right to say we shouldn’t look for a systematic theology in a novel intended to be fiction. HT: Jesus Creed [...]



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Peggy

posted August 1, 2008 at 3:55 pm


Welcome back to the One T, Dianne P! 8)
I loved the scene in the cave, too. (But I think you’re talking about Sophia, … not wanting to burst your pride bubble too soon ;) ) I love the whole play on words with Sophia meaning “wisdom”….
“Mind the gap.” Indeed!
I just loved the number of times I laughed out loud at the warm interaction between Papa or Jesus or Sarayu and Mack. It was so “normal”. :)



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Dianne P

posted August 1, 2008 at 6:47 pm


Gracias Peggy. I just now came home so I was able to be puffed up with pride for most of the afternoon before I realized my Sylvia/ Sophia gaffe – far more time than I deserved.



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Peggy

posted August 1, 2008 at 9:53 pm


Dianne P…LOL 8)



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