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COMMON TOPIC FOR DISCUSSION: Does the proper name, “MacKenzie Allen Phillips”, have any particular meaning to indicate why the author might have chosen this name for his protagonist? Why might the author want his protagonist to be called by “Mack”, his preferred name, by those close to him rather than by his proper name? (7) What is your proper name and does it have any particular significance? (Clan/Tribe/Nationality/Work/Relationships) Do you also have a preferred name that those close to you use?

Read Jn 10:1-5. In your communion with God, do you address God by his or her proper or preferred name or some special name? Do you experience God also addressing you by name? If God addresses you by name, is it by your preferred name or proper name or is it more relational like “my son” or “my daughter“. If you do not hear God addressing you by name, does that say more about how well you are doing or not doing as one of his sheep or about how well he really knows you as your Shepherd? If you do not hear God speak your name, are you sure that you are personally following Jesus and not just your idea or someone else’s idea of Jesus?


FORWARD. (7-13)

*What is in Mack’s tin box and does he control the contents or do they control him? If you kept a tin box what would be kept in yours? (8)

*Are you saving treasures or unfinished business or perhaps treasuring unfinished business and how is that working for you? (8)

What obligations do you feel you owe your family of origin if any and what, if anything, does your family of origin owe to you? (8-9)

What are your favorite topics to talk and is it OK if it is not about God and creation and why people believe the way they do? (10)

*Do most people have a love/hate relationship with religion and what would the church be like or could it exist without religion? (10)

How do you determine what is real and what is true for you and how do you best communicate the most meaningful aspects of your inner reality to those closes to you or is that important? (12)

Is it realistic to expect others to affirm your inner reality given their experiences will always differ to some degree from yours? 12)

If you wish, please share any personal experiences that have totally changed the melody of your life. (12)

When you risked sharing those experiences before did you feel affirmed or did some seem agnostic or judgmental? (12)



*Can we draw close to God or God to us without triggering our own unresolved issues and opening our spiritual wounds? (16)

If experiencing physical pain numbs spiritual pain, how might people in spiritual pain be more prone to accidents or addictions? (18) Do we really find compensation in every trial or are there some trials so severe that we just never find any compensation ? (19)

Why do you think that others perceived that Mack needed a fix to get through church and not find it uplifting to his soul? (19)

To what extent should we expect confidentiality when sharing or confessing (Ja. 5:16) to church leaders and members? (18 & 20)

*How do you help others in spiritual pain like Kate if you still have your own unresolved spiritual pain issues like Mack? Do we have to resolve our own spiritual pain first to help others or can we be a “wounded healer“? (21)

Have you experienced unhelpful faith statements from others or the pulpit while in spiritual pain and why do people make them? (22)

What comforting faith statements can you make that might help others in spiritual pain that you really believe? (22)

How was it helpful for Mack or not to put the note in his small tin box and also hold the picture of a little girl? (22-23)

*If we really have confidence in God (1 Jo. 5:14-15) will He always listen to our prayers (21) and give us rest? (23)



Besides a random ice storm and times of physical pain, are there better ways to intentionally get respite from spiritual pain? (24)

How did Missy’s treasure box differ from Mack’s (26)

Is the Indian princess story a good analogy of the redemption story provided through Christ and do both seem like legends? (29-31)

What does it mean to be rich in all the ways that manner? Can you lose those riches? If so are they more or less valuable? (29)

How best do you explain a loving God and the act of redemption, that can also appear, at least to a child, to make God mean? (31-32)

*In the most tangible way when do you experience God’s presence and how best do you experience God’s presence in church? (30)


*Like Mack and Nan, in what ways might your view of God be shaped by your relationship with your parents? (37-38)

Knowing that none of us gets out of this life alive, how might you see your relationship with God differently in the face of death than when you feel like you are on top of the world? (37)

Assuming that you have worked through your own relationship with God, how important is it to help others with limited life expectancy to think of their relationship with God and whose job is it to do that? Do you feel qualified to do it? (37)

*Have you had seemingly insignificant actions or events change your life and if so did God seem to be involved and if so how? (40-41)

In looking at what Mack said to Emil to alleviate his guilt and fear, in what ways do you think what he said was or was not helpful? What else could Mack said or have done differently to help Emil alleviate his guilt and fear or should he have said anything? (42)

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