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  • Release Date: January 30, 2009
  • Publisher: Bethany House
  • Pages: 294

Tender Grace Discussion Questions

1. Audrey has dropped out of life because her husband has died. She feels as dead to the world as he is. She is overwhelmed with the desire to have her old life back, identifying with Tennyson’s line, “The tender grace of a day that is dead will never come back to me.” Besides losing a loved one, what other circumstances make us wish to have our old life back?

2. Audrey’s anesthetizer of choice is hours of television watching. She panics if her allotted time for recording reaches fifty hours. How else do people choose to disengage from life rather than deal with their problems?

3. On page 35, Audrey briefly ponders the verse she had read earlier: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” It’s important to see that God blesses us in so many ways, even in hard times, but Audrey says, “When you’re emotionally dead, you don’t see. You don’t want. You don’t need. You don’t care. I wish I could see and embrace and rejoice in the blessing instead of hating this post-Tom existence.” Can you recall ways God has blessed you, specifically as well as generally, when you were going through a difficult time?

4. After reading John 3:17, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him,” Audrey, taking the verse slightly out of context, applies the verse to her situation and says “Satan is the accuser. God is in the saving business” (50-51).  Then she wonders: “Did he put Tom’s Bible in front of me and insist I bring it along? Has he eased me into situations where I must engage life outside the walls of the home Tom and I built with such love?” Do you believe God is that intimately involved in our lives? Could/would he have done such a thing? Can you think of a time you thought he intervened and “saved” you in one of the distresses of life?

5. Audrey has arrived in San Antonio, although she has “dreaded going where (Tom) hasn’t gone or seeing what he hasn’t seen.” That is only one thing Audrey has dreaded about going on without Tom. What are other things she mentions or alludes to along her journey that have grieved her? What other things, things Audrey doesn’t mention, are grieved by those who lose a loved one? Is there any good to come from contemplating such sad questions? If so, what might that be?

6. Audrey says she has “an irrational fear of cab drivers.” One of her real fears, of course, is going on without Tom. Do you have an irrational fear and is there a story behind it? What is one of your real fears?

7. One Sunday Audrey gets lost, trying to find a church, and ends up not going because among other things, she’s “downright mad.” She also says, “My spirit was woefully unfit for worship”  (65). Are there times we attend church with spirits “unfit for worship”? Is that possible? If so, what besides anger might bring such an indictment against us?

8. After Audrey’s “crash” at the top of the Tower of the Americas, she reads a verse in John that makes her say: “Doing God’s will is the last thing I’ve been concerned about lately.” Then she says, “Or is it? Perhaps his will for me right now is to learn how to live without Tom, to learn to live with what is left, to somehow quit mourning “the tender grace of a day that is dead” and instead embrace and celebrate “the tender grace of a day,” each one a gift from an immanently good God” (pp. 69-70). We often have a narrow and clichéd idea of what God’s will is for us at any given time. Besides overarching concepts like Matthew 22:37-40, Ecclesiastes 12:13, and Micah 6:8, contemplate and discuss what God’s will for you might be in your present circumstances.

9. Audrey says she has to admit that it isn’t easy to “transcend the physical” and care about spiritual things, which are more important and lasting. Give examples of how the spiritual is often eclipsed by the physical. Or give examples of how, in the reality of our every day lives, the physical seems to be more important than the spiritual.

10. Audrey says, in reference to Jesus feeding the 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish and collecting what was left over: “In God’s economy, it appears nothing is wasted. Could that include the nothingness of my last fifteen months? Could that mean a flat tire, or even a warning ticket? Could it mean a frightening clerk or a friendly one? An Indian sculpture or a grieving mother? A cowboy from Nazareth?” She only asks the questions, but the implied answer is, “Probably so,” though she doesn’t speculate how. How might those things have been used by God? What has happened in your life lately that God might use? How?

11. Audrey has a group of four verses that are her “sheep to count” when she can not sleep (102): “I will fear no evil, for you are with me”; “It is I; don’t be afraid”; “I am with you always”; “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Do you have a verse you would add to those? Or can you put together a group of verses that could be your “sheep to count” when you can not sleep?

12. Audrey says she has told Tom that she plans to learn how to play the violin in Heaven, that she’ll be practicing in the far northwest corner and that since she’s a slow learner, he might not want to come back there for the first 10,000 years. It is speculated that we’ll be very busy in Heaven—creating, learning, experiencing, enjoying. What would you like to learn or create or experience or enjoy in Heaven?

13. When Audrey encounters the girl in the hallway of her hotel in Amarillo, she wishes she had done more to show her God’s love. She takes advantage of opportunities for that later in her journey. Can you recall a situation when you reached out to an individual that needed to know “God is near”? How were you able to do that? Can you recall a specific incident when you let that opportunity get away from you?

14. Audrey says that for her husband Tom “seventy times seven” wasn’t an incredulous number”; “it was love’s concession.” She thought she was very good at forgiving, but when Andrew contacts her, she is forced to question that. Many people find forgiveness not to be hard until they have to do it. Have you ever found it hard to forgive someone? Why? And if you have managed to forgive something difficult, more difficult than what Audrey had to forgive, how did you do it?

15. When Audrey is at Willa’s, she says, “I don’t know why I hesitated to come to Phoenix. Willa is fun and considerate, and the best friend anyone could have.” In their long friendship, what has Willa done or said that supports Audrey’s assertions?

16. As Audrey sits talking to Andrew, she thinks this: “I’ve been into reality for a very long time now. I’ve seen fantasy destroy perfectly satisfactory realities.” Is she right? How common is it? What is the remedy for it?  17. Were you surprised by Audrey’s choice to be only loving friends with Andrew? How did you feel about her encouraging him to reunite with his wife? Was this a good choice? Why might someone else have chosen differently? What did she lose? What did she gain?  18. Audrey thinks her favorite prayer will likely be “I love you, Lord” (217). Do you have a favorite or recurring prayer? What is it?  19. Audrey recalls a time Tom helped “one of the least of these.” Later she herself attempts to do that, though she makes something of a mess of it. She calls her attempt to help “bumbling” and “humbling,” but she smiles when she hears in her heart: “You did it unto me” (Chapter 20). Can you recall a time you helped or tried to help “the least of these” and sensed God’s pleasure?  20. In gratitude for what God has done for Liz and Vernon, Audrey builds an altar of palm branches and watches the sun set. If you were sitting on the beach with an altar of palm braches, for what would you give thanks?  21. Audrey believes reading the book of John is as responsible for her recovery as making the trip (267). Can reading God’s word really make such a difference in a life? Do you have a specific example of a time it changed someone’s life so dramatically?  22. Audrey leaves Zack in San Francisco, and when he e-mails her and asks if she’d like to spend time together when he’s in Missouri, she writes: “I’m pretty sure I do. Call me.” Do you think Audrey and Zack will continue to be friends? Do you think they’ll get together some day? Does it matter? Do you wish the outcome of their relationship had been revealed?  23. Can you think of something in the last week or month that could have made you exclaim, like John and Audrey, “It’s the Lord!”? Did you think to give him thanks?

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