Discussion Questions for Jan Richardson: Stubborn Hope
1. The Reverend Jan Richardson has a different idea of what it means to be blessed than the #blessed images we see on social media. What does it mean to be blessed in your worldview?
2. The word blessing, in the English language, shares a root with the word blood. It has a toughness, an ordinariness, a hope for wholeness to it. How have blessings been shared like blood in your life?
3. Jan reads a poem called Blessing the Body in which she begins, “This blessing takes one look at you, and all it can say is holy. Holy hands, holy face, holy feet, holy everything in between.” How does this blessing, perhaps, invite you into a space where you’re not sure you believe every word it speaks?
4. Grief is an experience for which there are few good words—and plenty of bad ones. After Jan unexpectedly lost her husband, Gary, she turned to writing blessings as a way of articulating the awfulness. When have you been at a loss for words? What helped you start to give voice to the desperation?
5. Kate calls Jan’s Blessing for the Brokenhearted a stubborn blessing. What about hope feels stubborn to you? What imagery, sound, or feeling does it conjure? How are you, like the sparrow, a testament to its presence?
6. “Grief is full of hidden rooms and some of those rooms hold explosives and some of those rooms hold treasures,” says Jan. Part of grief’s invitation is to figure out how you’re being called to move in the broken, threshold places. If you’re in grief’s house right now, what room are you in? Describe its layout, if you can, including the space you inhabit. What is grief’s invitation to you in this dwelling?
7. Grief time, Jan observes, happens in gooey, mushy, fifteen-minute increments. Do you remember a time in your life when you were living in such small segments? What kind of mercy did you find in the slowness?
8. One of the fears of grief is that we’ve lost not only the person we loved but also ourselves in the process. This is one of the core questions Jan asks in her new book, Sparrow. Who am I when the person who has known me best in all the world is gone? Have you ever asked this question before? What was the answer?
9. Others often hope we’ll move on quickly with our grief. But there is no moving on, Jan says. Instead, there is only the ongoing invitation to live, even if we’re no longer able to live in this world only. How (or where, perhaps) are you responding to the invitation to live in this moment?
10. At the end of the podcast, Kate tells a story about a man who needed a tricycle to remember who he was and what he had lost. What’s one thing you can do today to remind yourself of who (or whose) you are?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate & Jan’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?