A Phone Tree Book Club Feature: Letters from Ruby, Week 2
“…a deep physical and spiritual exhaustion…left him empty of nourishment he needed in order to nourish others. He was not gun shy like he had been in November after the horrible vestry meeting; rather, he was just absent even when he was present. And because he was simply going through the motions, he never delved prayerfully inside to see the bare pantry within…”
1) Josie Temple-Jones was a force to be reckoned with. She had a strong will and would not waver on the course she thought Calvin should take regarding his dating life. For safe and sensible Calvin, it was a bit much.
Question: When others (well-intentioned or not) try to determine your life course or try to push you in a direction that you feel uncomfortable with, how do you react?
2) As Calvin settled into his ministry, he became even more aware of his congregants. He recognized who they were and how they were – with each other and with him. He noticed some startling personalities and some gentle saints who very well could be “God’s secret agents.” Two people made an impression on him, in particular; Carl Sinclair and Ruby Redding left lasting marks.
Question: Does God want us to deal with aggressive bullies in the same way that He wants us to deal with tender-hearted peacemakers?
3) During Calvin’s outing with the dentist, he was annoyed that she had not asked anything about his life; instead she rambled on and on and on about her own.
Question: Are you so busy talking and thinking up what you plan to say that you fail to listen to the words or to find out the needs of others? What does this say about you?
4) Ruby wrote, “…the years have a way of taking the energy out of my enthusiasm. The years, experience, grief. Melancholy has tempered my enthusiasm, but it’s still there, underneath it all.”
Question: What do you perceive she was saying to Calvin in these simple words?
5) Time and time again, Calvin hit rigid barriers that were generally associated with traditionalism, church politics, and not-so-nice people and their harsh criticisms of what he was or was not doing. It affected him in a great number of ways. He was emotional, he was burdened, he was drained, he was lonely, and he was overwhelmed. Still, he was there to serve God and God’s people.
Question: How can you move past rigid barriers when dealing with God’s people?
6) The vestry meeting took a lot out of Calvin. As a result of what happened, he became disconnected from those who knew him most intimately. His sermons became “dry and academic, uninspired and uninspiring.” The Morning Prayer Group staged an intervention and prayed for him. The prayer requested many things, such as, “grant him the swift kick in the pants he needs to get up off the mat and stop feeling sorry for himself.”
Question: Have you ever been so stuck in feeling sorry for yourself that you needed someone else to give you a swift kick in the pants? Discuss.
7) The author did a wonderful job of showing Calvin’s humanity. He did not hold back in any way. In one passage, he highlighted Calvin’s inner thoughts so well. “…Calvin needed his Christmas Eve sermon to be memorable. He wasn’t sure where the need came from. Was it his desire to please the folks who had been disappointed with his performance before Thanksgiving? Was it to stick it to the folks who ran him out of the vestry meeting? Was it to try to snag people who only come to church on Christmas and Easter? Or was it for the greater glory of God?
Question: Why do you do the things you do? Do you do it for self, for others, or for the glory of God?
8) As we found out last week, Ruby was a well of inspiration and wisdom for the young Rev. Calvin. Calvin always found himself in her presence when he needed encouragement most. After his return from a holiday break, he forgot his position and his purpose. Ruby’s words to him regarding his being empty were profound. “…you’re attempting a task, but you’ve cut yourself off from the source you need to accomplish the task…this isn’t about you. It’s about God…about God’s energy, God’s enthusiasm, God’s faith…”
Question: In this thing called life, we tend to focus more on self rather than God. Instead of seeing life from a me-my-I perspective, shouldn’t we begin to see it from a He-His-God perspective? How would approaching life in this way benefit you?
9) The events, memories, tragedies, and blessings that come in our lives shape us. They mold our way of thinking. They influence the way we act and relate to people and things. They are moments “stitched together by God’s subtle presence.”
Question: How does it make you feel knowing that God is ever-present and aware of what goes on in your life at all times?
10) At the end of chapter eight, Ruby’s letter to Calvin speaks about how Whit helped her to reclaim her identity. She shared how in reading about Whit’s experiences, it helped her to understand that she to needed to have her own.
Question: Can you relate to what Ruby is saying in her letter regarding reclaiming her identity and having experiences of her own? (Reflect on Philippians 1:20-26.)
Reading Assignment for Week 3: Read chapters 9-12 . (Q & A posted on 5/20/14)