Discussion Questions

Today’s sermon focuses on cultivating intuition and faith by letting go of the constant need for certainty.

1.       Within each of us there is a deeply felt need to figure things out, and to be in the know – to be able to explain life in logical terms. What is that something that you really wish you knew the answer to?
2.       Guidepost 5 for those who live wholeheartedly is a high tolerance and appreciation for the uncertainty of life. They are comfortable placing significant reliance on intuition and faith as valid ways of knowing. When in life have you experienced intuition in a powerful way? What can intuition do for us that logic and analytical thinking cannot do?
3.       What is the connection between the guidance of the Holy Spirit and intuition? Are they the same thing or different?
4.       Anne Lamott says, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely.” What do you think Anne means? Do you agree?
5.       How can certainty be dangerous? Self-serving? What does it look like to be confident in our faith, while also humble about how much we do not or cannot know?
6.       When in your life has your faith been deeply challenged? Why do you still believe in God? Are you comfortable believing in God even when you do not understand something about life?

  • 4. The Gifts of Imperfection - Joy and Gratitude25:50

Discussion Questions

This sermon explores Guidepost 2: Cultivating self-compassion – by letting go of perfectionism.

1.       Think of a time in life when you failed miserably. Tell us what happened, and how you felt. In what areas of life right now – work, relationships, spiritual, financial, home, appearance, parenting, etc.  – do you feel like you are most failing, or at least falling way short?
2.       Brené Brown asserts that failure can lead to blame, shame, and judgment – from others (external) and ourselves (internal). She suggests three principles, each grounded in Scripture, to help tame perfectionism. Number 1: Normalize Failure – by accepting that blame, shame, and judgment are an inevitable part of life. Do you think “shame resilience” is an important part of maturing as a person?
3.       Principle 2 is Practice Imperfection – in other words, recognize when we are feeling the pressure to be perfect and to choose not to care that we are not perfect. Are there areas in your life where you are paralyzed by a sense of inadequacy? How do you think Peter’s failure of Jesus at the crucifixion shaped him into one of the foremost leaders of the early church? What can we learn from his example?
4.       Principle 3: Cultivate Self-compassion. What does John 8:2-11 teach us about how God feels about us when we fail and how we should feel about ourselves in those times?
5.       Why is self-compassion so important for each of us and for the people around us? Can we “love others as ourselves” if we do not love ourselves well?

Sunday, November 1st – Cultivating Calm and Stillness

Sunday, October 4th – When Life Piles On

You may download audio files of sermons at this link.

Episcopal CHurch

Discussion Questions

Brené Brown is a renowned professor at the University of Houston. Her research specializes in “living wholeheartedly,” and this book identifies ten “Guideposts” or principles for how to live this way.

1.       Brené Brown reminds us that we live in a culture that tries to “dictate everything from how much we’re supposed to weigh to what our houses are supposed to look like.” What are some typical expectations placed on us if we want to measure up, fit in, and be liked in our community?
2.       Tell of a time you recently felt pressure to be or do something (large or small) that was not authentically you. What did you do? How did you feel?
3.       From our Scripture, Daniel and his friends found themselves under enormous pressure to conform. What kind of thoughts and feelings do you think Daniel experienced when forced into this de-culturalization program by the Babylonians? Looking back across your life, when have you felt under the most pressure not to be yourself? What happened?
4.       Regarding the cost of conformity, the statement was made: “If you’re not being true to your creation blueprint, you’re not being true to God.” Tell us something about yourself that God built into you to make you uniquely you. Why do you think God made you like that?
5.       How do we know the difference between characteristics that should be embraced as a beautiful part of our God-given selves versus characteristics that need to be resisted as weakness and overcome?
6.       Do you agree with Brené Brown that, “If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” Do you agree? Why or why not?
7.       In what aspect of your life right now do you need to practice being more authentic? What practical steps might you take?

  • 5. The Gifts of Imperfection - Mystery19:15

Join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. for Father John’s sermon by following this link. (Password, case-sensitive: GraceOP)

Go deeper. Join a mid-week discussion group each Wednesday at 1 pm via Zoom (Password, case-sensitive: GraceOP). Participation is open and you may join whenever you like.

Discussion Questions

This week the focus of the sermon is cultivating a resilient spirit.

1.       When was the lowest point in your life? How did you feel?
2.       Brené Brown found (to her surprise) in her research that spirituality is the foundation for resilience. Specifically, she identified three principles that seem to anchor those who have a high level of resilience. Principle 1: Resilient people possess a unique kind of gritty hope captured in the statement, “This is going to be tough, but with God’s help I can do it.” Wishful thinking, on the other hand, says, “I’m going to get through this and it’s going to be fun, fast, and easy.” What is something you wish you could get through fun, fast, and easy? Do you really believe you can “do all things through Christ who strengthens” you (Phil 4:12-13)?
3.       Principle 2: Resilient people have a perspective that says tragedy happens to everyone, but God will always make sure I have enough to get through what I’m facing. Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, “Time and chance happen to all.” What do you think this means? Does God protect people of faith from having to experience “time and chance”? If not, why bother to have faith?
4.       Principle 3: Resilient people lean into pain rather than try to numb it. Brené Brown says, “The most powerful emotions that we experience have very sharp points, like the tip of a thorn. When they prick us, they cause discomfort and even pain. Just the anticipation or fear of those feelings can trigger intolerable vulnerability in us.” Thus, we try to avoid the pain by numbing ourselves. What is your go-to numbing activity?
5.       Do you ever pray prayers of pain and lament/ Why might this form of prayer be especially important and powerful?
6.       Are you letting “pain pass through you” or seeking to avoid it? What are practical ways you could embrace the pain and let it pass through you?

Discussion Questions

This week we conclude by looking at Guidepost 9: Cultivating Meaningful Work – by letting go of self-doubt and a “supposed to” attitude.

1.       All of us want meaningful work in our lives. We want lives that count. Brené Brown offers three suggestions that can help us find a deeper sense of meaning in the work we do. Principle 1: Pay attention to your creation blueprint and follow it the best you can. Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 139:13 suggest that God knew us before we were born and dedicated us to a sacred purpose. Do you believe this? Why or why not?
2.       What are you really good at? What are you really passionate about? Are these your sacred purpose?
3.       Principle 2: Never get trapped in other’s expectations; only you and God can figure out who you were meant to be. Have you ever experienced pressure from your family (or other significant people in your life) to become something you were not? How did that affect you? How did you respond?
4.       How has our culture’s definition of “success” affected your career path?
5.       How would you complete the following sentence: To the best of my current understanding, my life’s most important work is ___________________.
6.       Principle 3: Don’t play it too safe; don’t be afraid to take a few flying leaps of faith during your life! At this moment in your life, do you feel yourself being called to take any flying leaps of faith? If so, what are you facing and feeling?
7.       When you get to heaven, can you imagine God giving you a big kiss and saying to you, “Thank you for being you!” Do you feel you are “being you”? Why or why not?

  • 2. The Gifts of Imperfection - Self-Compassion25:46

Sunday, October 11th – Cultivating Joy and Gratitude

  • 7. The Gifts of Imperfection - Calm and Stillness24:08

Sunday, October 25th – Self-Care & Discipleship

Discussion Questions

This week’s sermon focuses on Chapters 6 and 7: Cultivating Play and Rest – by letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.

1.       When you were a child, what was your favorite play activity?
2.       Our Gospel texts records Jesus “on vacation” from ministry for a while in Tyre and Sidon. How dose it make you feel to picture Jesus vacationing?
3.       Given the urgency of Jesus’ mission (literally, to save the world), why do you think he took time for rest and relaxation?
4.       From what we can tell in the Gospels, Jesus loved good food and good times with people. It’s part of a healthy balance between doing and being. It is part of discipleship to have good times. How are you doing with this aspect of your discipleship? Do you feel you are allocating enough time for play and rest?
5.       Has it ever occurred to you that you give God pleasure when you experience pleasure? How do you think it makes God feel when you fail to truly relish the gift of life? Is it a sin not to have fun?
6.       Brené Brown says that much of our inability to relax and enjoy life comes from our felt need to draw self-worth from “accomplishment and acquisition.” What are some practical ways you have achieved a balance between doing and being? Do you feel the need to simplify your life?

Sunday, October 18th – Embracing Mystery

Sunday, September 27th – Cultivating Self-Compassion

  • 6. The Gifts of Imperfection - Self-Care24:12

  • 8. The Gifts of Imperfection - Passion23:44

SCHEDULE

Sunday, September 20thThe Audacity of Authenticity
Sunday, September 27th – Cultivating Self Compassion
Sunday, October 4th – When Life Piles On
Sunday, October 11th – Cultivating Joy and Gratitude
Sunday, October 18th – Embracing Mystery
Sunday, October 25th – Self-Care & Discipleship
Sunday, November 1st – Cultivating Stillness
Sunday, November 8th – Pursuing Your Passion

Discussion Questions

This week we focus on cultivating joy and gratitude by letting go of fear.

1.       Think about a moment in your life when you experienced pure joy. Tell us what happened.
2.       We wish we could consistently live in a place of great joy, but then we are confronted with the stress of survival. In our Gospel passage, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life … can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-34). What do you tend to worry about? On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your average stress level in this season of life?
3.       When Jesus challenges us to be more like the birds and the flowers, what do you think he means in this passage?
4.       Most people think good fortune generates gratitude, but Brené Brown found just the opposite was the case in her research – that gratitude generates joy, which then generates its own unique kind of good fortune. Do you agree or disagree? Does gratitude really have the power to generate joy and better circumstances? If so, how does that work?
5.       Do you have a regular practice of gratitude? If so, what is it? If not, do you think you should? What gratitude practice might best fit you?
6.       The ancient Greeks said that the opposite of joy is not sadness, but fear – fear of scarcity, loss, etc. Fear consumes our joy. People become risk averse in order to minimize their losses. What’s the first thing that comes into your mind in answer to this statement: I don’t have enough __________. What might it look like to re-frame the foregoing statement through the lens of abundance, gratitude and sufficiency?

Sunday, November 8th – Pursuing Your Passion

Discussion Questions

Today’s focus is on Guidepost 8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness  - by letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle.

1.       Where is the quietest place you have ever been?
2.       Tell us about a really stressful experience you had lately. What happened, and how did you respond? What analogy would you use to describe what anxiety, anger, despair feels like?
3.       Brené Brown talks about a time when anxiety became crippling to her – it became a “lifestyle.” She saw that wholehearted people process stress differently. They were committed to a way of living where anxiety was a reality, but not a lifestyle – and they did this by cultivating calm and stillness. She advocates bringing “quietness to difficult situations.” James 1:19 says much the same. Do you agree that this is an optimal way to respond to provocative situations? Why or why not?
4.       Brené Brown emphasizes that calmness in provocative situations is a learned response that requires practice. How do we “practice calmness” in situations?
5.       “Stillness” is how we prepare beforehand to meet provocative situations with calmness, according to Brown. What is the best way for you to practice quietude?
6.       How does being still affect you? What are the benefits? Do you have a regular rhythm of stillness in your life? What does it look like?

  • 1. The Gifts of Imperfection - Authenticity21:39

Sunday, September 20th – The Audacity of Authenticity

  • 3. The Gifts of Imperfection - Resiliency.mp325:21