A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN

by Brian D. McLaren

Hardcover, 2004




A confession and manifesto from a senior leader in the emerging church movement. A Generous Orthodoxy calls for a radical, Christ-centered orthodoxy of faith and practice in a missional, generous spirit. Brian McLaren argues for a post-liberal, post-conservative, post-protestant convergence, which will stimulate lively interest and global conversation among thoughtful Christians from all traditions.In a sweeping exploration of belief, author Brian McLaren takes us across the landscape of faith, envisioning an orthodoxy that aims for Jesus, is driven by love, and is defined by missional intent. A Generous Orthodoxy rediscovers the mysterious and compelling ways that Jesus can be embraced across the entire Christian horizon. Rather than establishing what is and is not "orthodox," McLaren walks through the many traditions of faith, bringing to the center a way of life that draws us closer to Christ and to each other. Whether you find yourself inside, outside, or somewhere on the fringe of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy draws you toward a way of living that looks beyond the "us/them" paradigm to the blessed and ancient paradox of "we."… (more)


Zondervan/Youth Specialties (2004), Edition: First Edition, 304 pages

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½ (317 ratings; 3.7)

User reviews

LibraryThing member SamTekoa
"McLaren is a self-described follower of Jesus Christ. In his book he journeys through many of today’s Christian churches. He is both frustrated and hopeful in what he sees. He is both free with praise and criticism. However, foundational to it all is his commitment to the unity he sees that we
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should and must exhibit as true followers of Christ. He might make you angry but my guess is he will always extend his hand in fellowship and genuine love. If your frustrated with many of your experiences in church but needing encouragement in your spiritual life this is a good book to read.

Make no mistake; McLaren is one who states his belief in Jesus Christ as Savior. However, he quickly moves to that of Lordship and what he believes that should look like. Much of what he argues for is for Christians to acknowledge the distinctive and wonderful gifts that each tradition brings to the table. This is very important and sadly lacking in Christians today as we present ourselves to an unbelieving world.

McLaren is very much left of center in his politics. He claims not to be all that nice of a person. However, he believes that Christ is in the business of changing him and also requiring that he become nicer. He is a genuine proponent of a mature, vigorous and at times somewhat naive unity in Christ; a unity that is much deeper than doctrinal agreement, a unity that lifts up Jesus Christ while showing deference and the need to keep as a goal our requirement for a personal position of humility.

McLaren is not an Erasmus, Chesterton, or Lewis, but he does get it right on how we on a personal level should genuinely treat one another. If you don’t get that right as a Christian you just don’t get it."
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LibraryThing member stephendr
A book that has the potential to do untold damage to orthodox Christianity.
LibraryThing member bsanner
Seeking to move beyond denominational distinctives, McLaren asks what is valuable in particular Christian traditions. Chapter 1, “The Seven Jesuses I have known,” highlights this approach by speaking to the different emphases of traditions McLaren has experienced. The following chapters offer a
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smorgasbord of Christian values, as seen in unique, sometimes seemingly contradictory, traditions. McLaren’s work values paradox and charity, but at times could be charged with cafeteria-style faith, which choices what it likes, sometimes overlooking the associated negatives. Good discussion starter A-
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LibraryThing member Soultalk
I might have given this a better review the first time I read it. I love McLaren's desire to question the status quo. But, like many questioners, he erodes many foundations with his inquiries and replaces them with absolutely nothing. This isn't entirely a criticism; deconstruction is the first
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step for any important movement. But in hindsight it seems like the Emergent movement was all about deconstruction and didn't really provide an alternative.

That said, I found myself often highlighting and writing the word, "YES" boldly in the margins. I appreciate McLaren but a good chef doesn't just bad mouth the food of others, he provides an alternative dish.
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LibraryThing member Mutesa
Presents a self-perception of himself as a kind of postmodern subject that transgresses the borders of orthodox religious denominational labels. He does this within the context of presenting an 'emergent christian' solution to the problem of the church's response to a new demographic of young,
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disaffected (prospective) christians. Controversial, but something mainstream christians could learn lots from
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LibraryThing member jesposito
A very helpful example of employing both continuity and change as we allow the Spirit to lead us somewhere genuinely new, while still relying heavily upon the faithfulness of our traditions.
LibraryThing member juliandavies
McLaren examines orthodox Christianity and shatters the myths of it being exclusive and judging. He repositions the good news of Jesus of Nazareth in such a way that the Kingdom of God appears as a welcoming place, not as one that has its doors locked tight.
LibraryThing member kcozonac
A basic introduction to the Emergent church. Interesting ideas, thought-provoking. However, like the Emergent Church movement, it lacks clear theology, depending rather on warm fuzzies of can't we all just get along?
LibraryThing member pulpexploder
This book summarizes and expounds on every major movement in the Christian faith, up to and including the Emergent movement, and goes into what we can learn from them, both good and bad. Recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about the breadth and diversity of Christian spirituality.
LibraryThing member jaygheiser
One of the forwards suggests that this book could be the equivalent of Luther's 95-point theses for the emerging church. I'm not qualified to comment on that, but its a provocative starting point for a provocative book. For those of us who feel that the organized church has polarized into two
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unbalanced entities, picking and choosing limited parts of the good news of Jesus Christ, this book offers a middle path. You are never sure the extent to which McLaren emphasizes to make a point, but I urge readers to have an open mind.
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LibraryThing member jd234512
We need this voice in this messy body we call the body of Christ(catholic church). In this book, he speaks of the different denominations/ideologies involved within Christianity and speaks to how each one is very important and has it's place within faith. The uniqueness of these different groups is
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beautiful in that it allows us to see the many facets that encompass faith. Surely embracing each other's differences and appreciating them is the start to a reconciliation that is so necessary for us to truly be effective and live up to what Jesus had in mind.
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LibraryThing member oataker
This is a very helpful book, he seems to be reacting to many of the difficulties we feel with Christian belief at the beginning of the 21st century. He starts by describing how he has benefited from various different brands of Christianity he has been involved with, but more usefully he then
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reports on the way the contrasting views show up each others deficiencies.
One underlying and contentious idea is that the faith is not static but does change as history goes on. The priorities of TULIP give way to the five principles of the fundamentalists. The "unchanging gospel" is not as stable as we thought.
He warns us about the dangers and misunderstandings that can results from the way we use some words, judge, father, king, about God.
He reckons our main enemy is the reductionist ideology of modernism, no doubt that's why he is so accepting of post-modernism! By the end of the book he has almost abandoned cross cultural evangelism, or at least he would repudiate any pushy, forceful version of the gospel.
I think his version of the gospel appears a bit feeble - Gods love to us and to all of creation- but there is an awful lot to be learned for the modern church in this book.
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LibraryThing member ericbradley
The title being based from G. K. Chesterton's classic Orthodoxy, McLaren in this work writes in a series of short chapters what he finds appealing in each Christian tradition. I think it gets to be a bit fluffy and that McLaren knows very little about many of these traditions and may actually stand
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in some opposition to them if he were more knowledgeable, but I really enjoyed the thesis and attempt.
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LibraryThing member chriskrycho
McLaren really made his course clear here: headed down the lane of pluralism and an abandonment of Biblical authority. So why two stars? Because his opening picture of the different Jesuses he sees in the different streams of Christianity was very good.
LibraryThing member gdill
I knew going into this that McLaren has been pegged with a lot of red flags. The bad publicity alone piqued my curiosity and therefore I wanted to see for myself what the issues were. From my perspective there wasn't any glaring unorthodox views that has caused me to toss the book aside or label
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McLaren a heretic as so many have done. I have agreed in most part with McLaren's views about salvation. I also like how McLaren draws on the strengths and weaknesses of all the different traditions of the Christian faith and encourages us to come together on our strengths rather than part ways on our weaknesses. I was struck by his assessment regarding the hermeneutics of Scripture. We have an inerrant and infallible Scripture, but we have errant and fallible men who interpret them. Therefore, nobody can lay claim on the proper interpretation of Scripture. I also liked how McLaren expanded upon Calvin's acronym of TULIP. He didn't replace it or redefine it, but interpreted it in such a way that becomes more generous rather than exclusive. A few things I disagreed with McLaren on was some of his church history. It seemed his history of the Anabaptists and Reformed traditions were a bit off on some points. I was taken a bit back about his incessant apologies for the masculine use of God throughout the book. Why the apology when Scripture alone utilizes the masculine pronouns? Furthermore, McLaren devoted an entire chapter to being "green" which I take issue with. Sure, let's be good stewards of the earth, but let's not allow our stewardship of earth and nature take precedence over our care for people. Chopping down a few trees so people without homes can now have a place to live doesn't make me any less generous or compassionate than someone who nurtures our earth's resources. McLaren lost me when I got to the "Why I Am Emergent" chapter. A lot of new jargon I did not understand, but some of which I did. Even though he was trying not to sound pluralistic, he really is. Personally, I find nothing wrong with being pluralistic in our theological beliefs. It is my hope that most Christians are pluralistic, primarily in their distinctives and secondary issues. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I was somewhat disappointed with the fact that McLaren spent most of the time describing what a generous orthodoxy is not, but little time on what it is. It seems only the last and final chapter was dedicated to defining this generous orthodoxy. And perhaps the best definition I found is this:

"To be a Christian in a generously orthodox way is not to claim to have truth captured, stuffed, and mounted on the wall. It is rather to be in a loving community of people who are seeking the truth on the road of mission and who have been launched on the quest by Jesus, who, with us, guides us still." (page 333).
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LibraryThing member erlenmeyer316
I’ve been digging into some books by Christian thinkers who have generally been frowned upon in the stream of Evangelicalism that I’ve grown up in. I’ve found it to be a very enlightening and convicting experience on many levels. That’s certainly that case again with A Generous Orthodoxy by
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Brian McLaren. Unlike Rob Bell, whose book Love Wins I also read this year, Brian was always a no-no author. Rob was #farewelled from my old evangelical circles, but McLaren was never even welcome. I expected that I would find him relativistic and full of fun, but ultimately thin platitudes, but was I pleasantly surprised.

I think Brian is definitely one of the most forward thinking Christians I’ve encountered and one who will not be pigeonholed with one label — which the subtitle of this book (Why I am a missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished Christian) expresses very well.

The book is separated into two broad sections including an introduction/warning called Chapter 0.

You can tell that the introduction was probably written last and (I think) reveals Brian’s introverted nature and also a great deal of his discomfort/uncertainty in sharing the ideas he expresses in the book. It warns the reader multiple times that they must be open minded and not looking for a list of rules or a closed case on orthodoxy. I think he was acutely aware of how this book would upset and challenge those with a black and white, “small view” of God and McLaren uses “Chapter 0” to give them ample opportunity to return the book. There is also with a humility that permeates this chapter (as with all of this book) that reminds them that he is not offering up any new ideas of his own. Quoting G.K. Chesterton, McLaren says

“I am the man who with utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before…I did try to found a heresy of my own and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered it was orthodoxy.”

The first section of the book begins by chronicling the movements of Brian’s spiritual life from fundamentalism, through the Jesus movement, to the charismatic church, into evangelicalism, and finally to where he was at the time of writing the book (2004). He let’s the reader in on the good things he has learned at each stop and also what things were stifling, uncomfortable, or troubling. He spends a good deal discussing the “Seven Jesuses” that he encountered through those spiritual rest stops and how each one revealed an important truth about Christ. Brian is clearly thankful and gracious towards each vision of Jesus he received stating that without each of the different revelations, his view of God would be incomplete. He then guides the reader into some more spiritual questioning based on the “Seven Jesus” he just described. Some questions focus on the nature of God as revealed in Jesus v.s. the nature many of us have been presented by the church. He also asks questions about what the church is, what salvation means, what atonement stories exist, etc…, letting the reader come to their own conclusions about how “full” their view of God is.

The second section of the book digs into each label listed in the book’s subtitle (Why I am a …) and takes the reader through the good, bad, and ugly of each one, encouraging them to see it from a new perspective and integrate it into their own spirituality. This section is the real meat of the book and the section I found the most healing, soothing, and challenge. I won’t go into detail about each section here as I plan on writing more in depth about each one in future posts, but suffice to say they were excellent.

I found Brian to be full of grace, generosity, and thoughtfulness. He never attacked any person or was flippant towards any theological stance or belief system. His perspective on many of the labels challenged the straw men that readers may consciously or unconsciously hold against them and encourages them to humbly reconsider their biases and false pretenses.

There was a quote from Roman Catholic missiologist Vincent Donovan that was used multiple times in the book and it truly captures the heart of Brain’s Message in A Generous Orthodoxy.

“Never accept and be content with unanalyzed assumptions, assumptions about work, about the people, about the church or Christianity. Never be afraid to ask questions about the work we have inherited or the work we are doing. There is no question that should not be asked or that is outlawed. The day we are completely satisfied with what we have been doing; that day we have found the perfect, unchangeable system of work, the perfect answer, never in need of being corrected again, on that day we will know that we are wrong, that we have made the greatest mistake of all”

This book came at a wonderful time for me. I am struggling with my spiritual past and future. Wondering if I’m questioning certain things too much or moving too far from the beliefs I used to hold. I often alternate between anger at the past “me” and the institutions I was involved in and fear at the new me and new “me” I’m moving towards. The words and ideas of this book calmed the storm in many ways and let me know that this path has been walked before. It didn’t blithely confirm or smooth over my current attitudes, but challenged me to face up to my own failures and often hateful, unfair attitudes. It didn’t didn’t stand in firm condemnation of me either, but reminded me that my spiritual life is a journey and unfinished one….this is just a moment in time. I look forward to sharing some more of about those things in my future posts about this book, but I hope that you will be encouraged to pick a copy of A Generous Orthodoxy, read it, and experience the good things Brian McLaren has to offer those seeking better ways of following Jesus.
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LibraryThing member SueinCyprus
I resisted reading this for a while as it looked rather 'heavy'...but having read McLaren's pseudo-fiction trilogy, I was interested enough to try it. Well worth reading, in my view. It starts with an overview of the author's journey in faith, from flannelgraph pictures at Sunday School through
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teenage doubts, the 'Jesus movement', through different views of Jesus, beginning with the Conservative Evangelical one, and moving outward, to embrace more and more viewpoints, before considering the idea of a 'generous' orthodoxy, open to all, encompassing much.

After outlining his impressions and experiences with different flavours of Christianity, McLaren then outlines why he considers himself to be missional, Biblical, Contemplative, and so on, including his understanding of more controversial terms such as Calvinist, Charismatic, and even Liberal/Conservative. It's all good stuff, based on solid Biblical foundations, infused with the wisdom of tradition and a great deal of rational thinking. Wisely, he does not touch on current 'issues' over which the church is sadly divided, but emphasises instead the message of Jesus, and the importance of demonstrating God's love to the world, seeing the Kingdom of Heaven as now, rather than simply trying to focus on eternity as so many seem to.

There's a lot of wisdom in this book, and a great deal to think about. Definitely recommended, particularly for those who have already written off McLaren due to his sometimes controversial actions (albeit based on love).
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LibraryThing member keylawk
In this classic of the Emergent Church pantheon, Brian McLaren presents his famous analysis of the Seven figures of Jesus which he has known: Conservative/Protestant, Pentecostal/Charismatic, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Liberal Protestant, Anabaptist, and Jesus of the Oppressed.

With two
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Forewords, one by Phyllis Tickle, and one by John Franke. No Index.
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LibraryThing member smallself
To talk about someone clearly less important than Jesus, I’ve heard Christians before talk about Bob Dylan—‘serve somebody’—but it’s always, before, been in this very dishonest way. That is, they always make it sound like Dylan was trying to turn you into a Republican! I guess that’s
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all religion can be, right! But Brian McLaren makes it clear that it’s not Caesar that is Lord, not worldly authority, not national authority, yes, not *American* authority! Which is very true to the Dylan song he references, which says that all people must decide to “serve somebody”, *regardless of their class*. That *could* be a Republican message—at least I sure bloody *hope* it could be!—but it’s certainly not *exclusively* a Republican message.... not a registered trademark.

Anyway McLaren is a great guy; he’s very humble, which isn’t what you expect from religious people, or even intellectuals of any kind—or people in general, when you come right down to the ugly truth, right. McLaren is very conscious of the enormity of his task and the limitations of his resources, which makes him a lot easier to trust. I don’t know if I’m equally dependent upon the Lord, although my conscious mind in a moment of calm shudders at the imagined possibility that I might not be. I am far more confident of grace than I am of myself; people all work at something, whoever they are, but when you try to work for God, what you “get back” is always more of a gift than anything else, since there’s no.... having control, I guess, or anything like that.

But I drift. McLaren’s a great guy. There’s a reason why people go to him for book reviews/blurbs. He’s like Papa Haydn for his own little subculture.
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LibraryThing member beanbooks
You may not agree with him but it's worth reading. Good writer. We can all follow his example in how he conducts himself and the tone he models for dialogue.
LibraryThing member goosecap
The first time I read this book I wanted to be a Christian but I was afraid it would make me a bad person; now I’m re-reading it and I’m the core constituency nerd sharpening the axe. I can’t say exactly what did it. It wasn’t all Brian, obviously. Some of what he approves of (if Lesslie
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Newbingin weren’t so smart I’d say he watches television; maybe he watches German television) or wrote himself (I am an Essene, Brian. They’re the best Second Temple faction. Just accept it. Don’t make me use a Jedi mind trick on you) is just…. Whatever. But we already know how I sometimes feel about Richard Rohr (very annoying). He was one of the first for me, besides Emmet Fox. (Emmet is okay, but so reticent. So reticent to speak, and not always about the most important things.) Richard’s like, Don’t let those fools use the Jedi mind trick on you. This side of the coin isn’t real, and the other side of the coin isn’t real, but the side of the coin. The side of the coin is real. Just give it to me if both sides of the coin are a lie. *pulls back* This is my lunch! And that’s what I do, but especially the popular fawned-over version can be annoying to listen to. Television drama. And Jack, obviously the only reason I’m not pissed at Jack is what he came through, you know. He’s a bloody-minded man, whose father was a wandering Aramean who went into Egypt with few people. Considering that, Jack’s a great guy. He really is.

Anyway, second time through ‘Generous’ was good; letting go of angst of not having credentials. William Temple’s ok sometimes, Richard’s a priest (although he’s still just a priest and not a sort of Father Priest he is to people in their hearts), and so on. But scientists forget to laugh at Emmet because they think he’s a bad joke, Brian is a preacher without credentials, and Jack was a man without the right credentials in an age of specialists. A lot of people with credentials can’t do much of anything meaningful, and don’t want to.

Brian also said that the link between charismatics and contemplatives is joy, although they find it differently. I don’t listen to pop or vocal music unless I’m strapped down and it’s the radio—not I, myself. (I know that the transition I’m about to do would make a charismatic shiver in the depths of the Spirit; I’m sorry in advance.) I also don’t look at certain pictures anymore, maybe I’ll get around to reading Elle magazine or something and sometimes a crappy, crude story can be nice, as good stories are never really about the act itself. (I don’t see anything wrong with the hand itself, just certain…. well.) It doesn’t preoccupy me much, but occasionally life intrudes into my thoughts. (*Kant in the shower, cleansing himself from being outside the air conditioning*). I work at HomeGoods, though, where beautiful people shop, and it almost annoys me, not a strong annoyance like you get with Richard vs the Wandering Aramean, (although thinking about crackers can be annoying, one of these days I bet I’m not gonna even *think* what (even in a fair place) I couldn’t say, you know….), but a weak sort of displeasure that I’ve been noticing people again. I don’t want to get married. I don’t want anything but church, meetings, and books. So why notice people? Then Brian starts talking about noticing consumer objects (home goods, hahaha) or whatever, trees, birds, nature, without buying or owning any of it, but just feeling a joy. So there’s a sort of non-possessive noticing that can bring joy. That’s what I’ll have to practice.

[Aquinas: Animals aren’t just things because they’re living things, and humans aren’t just animals because they’re rational animals, but in a sense humans are animals and animals are things, since human is contained within animal and animal within thing. (paraphrase)]

I can’t let the fools monopolize *every* kind of optimism.

Schopenhauer: This life should never have been.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: The flowers are beautiful.
Schopenhauer: The flowers are beautiful.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: The Essenes are the best Second Temple faction.
Brian: *from another room* No they’re not!

…. But Brian’s right when he says that much of modern liberalism (for me: mostly the kind that says, We Don’t Talk About, XYZ, ABC, and LMN, and so on, because life is a waiting room. Run along and play. But remember: Hitler had a sense of purpose in this life!) is a sort of chemotherapy for the cancer of racism (etc) that could save a life, but which is extremely unnatural and destructive.

Brian: I thought you didn’t like me! I thought I made another enemy!

I’m just trying to remind myself that we’re two different people. I was social distancing.

…. Young Hitler: *mumbles* If I buy a bit less bread today, I’ll be hungry, yes; but I’ll be that much closer to going to the Vienna Opera House.
Robot Liberal: *grabs Hitler’s money and shoves him some bread* Go and play. Go and play. Ha ha ha. Ha ha ha.
Young Hitler: *bitterly takes up bread* Robots don’t know how to laugh.

Brian: Just keep including. It’s all human. It’s all human. Nothing human is alien to me. Jesus loves it all.
Space Alien: I feel excluded.
Brian: Oh my god. The things I have to put up with.

…. When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ll have no less days to sing God’s praise, orthodoxy’s just begun

Brian: *sleeping* Z, oooo
Brian’s Dog: *sleeping* Harumph, oooooo

Until next time, sweet prince.
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