Book Discussion Guide: Wisdom In The Waiting

Book Discussion Guide For Wisdom In The Waiting by Phyllis Tickle

Tomorrow is our Boxed Lunch Book Club at church, and I have been working on quotes and questions for our time together.  I am looking forward to chatting over lunch about the spring stories in Phyllis Tickle’s Wisdom in the Waiting. Here’s the discussion guide.

Book Club Discussion Guide for Phyllis Tickle’s Wisdom in the Waiting or the previous edition of this book, Final Sanity.

Feel free to answer questions from the discussion guide in the comment section, especially if you were hoping you could make it tomorrow, but find yourself in another town skiing, seeing a concert or throwing a party!

1. The first chapter of this book weaves together the story of Rebecca’s lost quilt and Sam Jr.’s palm frond.  Can you share a similar memory of either you or your child losing a precious “blankie” or stuffed friend?  Can anyone share past experience with palm fronds?

2. Here’s a quote from chapter 2,

All of us who arrive at spiritual maturity do so by moving through a progression of faiths and comprehensions.  In much the same way, all of us who now walk had first to move through a fairly unoriginal progression of motor skills before we arrived at our walking.  In effect, what the spiritual process leaves most of us with is a veritable pantheon of early gods and codes, discarded in our maturity, but essential to our growth–gods and understandings, that led us to Easter in the first place.

How has this progression of faith played out in your own life?

3. Concerning Beelzebub on The Farm in Lucy, the author writes,

Old Beelzebub’s smoke and of Sam’s smudges, which granted the children the grace of unstudied knowing and a direct but mysterious connection with seasons and solstice.  Stonehenge and Beelzebub became portals for them, just as the original Stonehenge and tales of Beelzebub had been for the ancients.  And just as a closet had, once upon a time, been for me.

What knowledge do you have from portals of your childhood?

4. Quote from chapter 3:

Like all parents of many children, Sam and I have spent our fair share of time hiding in the bathrooms of our various houses.  Some of my most credible thoughts certainly, have come in those midnight tubs when everyone and everything, including the last of the hot water, had gone away for the day.

What were your hiding places when your children were young?  Or what are they now?

5. Religion keeps earth time in Final Sanity, Ch. 6.

I can remember many summers now; it is the singular advantage of years that one can do so.  And I remember that once summer comes, I spend it wallowing in the easiness of it–the excess of its fruits and vegetables, the companionship of summer’s constant sounds as the hum of the insects and of the rototillers give way in the evening to the croaking of frogs and the raucousness of the katydids.  I remember also how I would begin early, in that green time of Ordinary Time, to dread the stillness of the coming cold, to fear the weariness of winter menus, the bitterness of breaking open pond water for thirsty cattle, and the packing of lunches–interminable lunches–for reluctant children on their way to school.

But now, years later, it is Lent once again, and for one more snow I can luxuriate in the isolation of the cold, attend laconically to who I am, what I value, and why I’m here.  Religion has always kept earth time.  Liturgy only gives sanction to what the heart already knows.

What are your special sentiments towards spring, summer, fall and winter?

How does religion keep time in your life?

6. In the chapter entitled, On Just Such A Morning, Phyllis Tickle writes:

It was all too much for me, and I was at last seduced.  I went out into the farmyard, adding, as I went, its frolic to my prayers.  Of these things, too, worship is made.

Think of a time being in nature inspired you to worship your Creator.

Similarly, the author says in the chapter, Dance of the Fireflies

And, alone on this first night of the fireflies and caught in the whirlwind of their lights, I know that Job’s story is true.  Mine eye seeth thee and I repent before such grandeur.

Before what grandeur do you repent?

7. Of her heirloom hyacinths, she says,

So Great-grandmother’s hyacinths bloom in dozens of yards each spring, making a chain of connection across the southern United States and nearly two hundred years.

What serves the same purpose of the hyacinths in your family?

8. On spring and faith,

The spring comes so quietly in the country–so without announcement–that I walk into it morning after morning without knowing until abruptly, on some perfectly ordinary day, I think, It’s warm! And realize that I have already been jacketless and easy in my kingdom for several such mornings.  Faith is a bit like that, I suspect, quiet and without announcement till it, too, seeps into our clothing and our decisions and only at the last into our consciousness, till it, too, cuts us loose form chores and clothes and the awkwardness of ice underfoot.

How is your faith like spring?

9. In chapter 14, the author recounts how her mind conceived death and heaven as a child,

What had me by the hair of my spiritual head, on that Lent, was that I could not find any way out of existence that was acceptable, that did not, with its awesome pallor, suck the joy out of the young days I had in hand.

What are your earliest memories/impressions of death and resurrection?

Can you think of other spiritual understandings that you had as a young child that might be silly to you now?

In later life I would regard the distress of those moments and of that Lent in general as the labor pains of the soul, which always precede new instruction and new stages of union.

What do you regard in your life as “labor pains of the soul?”

Afterward, being eleven, I walked, rather than ran, out to the hallway at the end of the narthex.  The Christ in the window was still pale, but I could have sworn, in that late November light, that he winked at me from his place above the landing.  Whether he did or not really doesn’t matter, of course.  What matters is that at eleven I thought he did, and it was the beginning of a long and consuming relationship between the two of us.

What marked the beginning of your relationship with Jesus?

10. How has reading these stories enhanced your Lenten season?

Do you have your own spring memories to share?

See other discussion guides from our book club.

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