Tamar: When Sleeping with Your Father-In-Law is Righteous

  • What surprised you about Tamar’s story? What did you learn? What offended you?

  • What are liminal or transitional spaces in your life? Now and in the past?

  • When have you played the trickster to get what you needed? How do you feel about it? What were the consequences? Who are other people you’d consider tricksters?

  • What is not as it should be, in your life or in the world? How might you respond?

  • Design a knitting pattern to celebrate Tamar.

  • Try using the illustration of Tamar as an icon for meditation. Sit comfortably and relax your gaze. Allow your eyes to move over the image. Notice, distantly, what draws your attention, what loops your eyes make as they move across the image. What do you settle on? What disturbs you? Look into Tamar’s eyes in silence and feel her looking back at you. Breathe slowly and allow your emotions to bubble up—fear, loss, awe, confusion. Sit as long as you feel called to, then slowly come back to yourself. What was that like? What did you learn from Tamar?

  • What surprised you about Rahab and Bathsheba’s story? What did you learn? What offended you?

  • What/who did you identify with?

  • Did you say Rahab’s name out loud? Don’t lie.

  • What difference would it make to you if Rahab’s occupation as a prostitute were somehow definitively proven or disproven? Not just historically, but to this story and to your understanding of sin and redemption. Do you think the Israelite spies slept with Rahab? What difference would it make to their story and that of Israel’s conquest of Canaan?

  • When have you put everything you have and are on the line to help your family? Or a friend? Or even a stranger? What was that like? If you haven’t, what would it take to put you there?

  • Was Rahab’s helping the spies faith or work? Why? Why does it matter to you?

  • When was the first time you realized that your body was vulnerable? What was the most recent time you realized it?

  • How does this story change how you think of King David and of the centuries of people who hold him up as a great king? Does it change how you think of him?

  • Whose bodies are being used as pawns in a larger game now?

  • Find some markers or pens or crayons. Whatever you like to doodle with. Sit comfortably with the image of Rahab/Bathsheba in front of you.  (If you prefer, photocopy it first—you have permission to do it just this once…) Take a deep breath. Maybe another one. As you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, allow your mind to slow down, soften your gaze. Contemplate the violent and selfish desires of the world and in yourself. Use the markers or pens or crayons to doodle in the white space around her. When you are ready, begin to contemplate vulnerability and the blessings it brings. Contemplate the ways that you are strong and resilient. Doodle in her hair as you think of these things.

Rahab and Bathsheba: Who’s Naked Now?

  • How are you an outsider? Don’t stop at the obvious answers—dig deep.

  • How do you use that outsider-ness to change things? How do you use it as a defense mechanism?

  • How are you an insider? Again, don’t stop at the obvious.

  • How do you use that insider-ness to invite others in or to raise them up? How do you use it for selfish reasons?

  • There are threshing floors all over our lives—places where God comes near, where we are brought together with others we love or ones we come to respect: A Habitat house, where the studs on the insides of the walls bear folks’ signatures and words of love, bearing witness to the great number of people who have come together to shelter one family. Where are the threshing floors in your life? Both spiritually and, you know, sexually?

  • Who are the people you take care of? Who are you responsible for? How do you take care of them? And how do we take care of each other as a community—your church, your neighborhood, your country. To what lengths do we go?

  • What is a woman worth? How do you/we quantify a woman’s worth?

  • Try using the illustration of Ruth as an icon for meditation. Sit outside in a comfortable chair or on the ground if you prefer. Relax your gaze. Look at Ruth’s hair and face. Let her help you calm your breathing. When you’re ready, look up at a tree or a flower or a single leaf. Gaze at it as though it is an icon, as though it was created by God simply for you to appreciate. Look at its shape, its color, its movement. Sit as long as you feel called to, then slowly come back to yourself. What was that like? What did you notice?

Ruth: Who are You Responsible For?

  • What surprised you about Mary’s story?

  • What did you already know about Mary? Or what did you think you knew?

  • How important is it to you that Mary was a virgin or even that Jesus was sinless? Why? Go deeper into the side you don’t think is important (that is, if it’s not important to you, go deep into that)—what’s valuable in that perspective?

  • What does it mean to you that “God is all about enthusiastic consent”?

  • What would it mean to you to consider Mary as a prophet? What is she saying to you about your life with her Magnificat?

  • What has changed your life epically? A child? A job? How was it different from one moment to the next? How did you change because of it?

  • In this chapter, Mary asks, “What have you done, my boy? I can’t tell yet.” What has Jesus done so far?

  • What does it mean to hope?

  • Try using the illustration of Mary as an icon for meditation. Sit comfortably and relax your gaze. Rest your eyes on the center of the spiral in Mary’s belly. On your out-breath, let your eyes travel around the spiral and down her gown to the end of the line. Then breathe in and follow the line back to the center of the spiral. Follow this breathing meditation for as long as you care to. What do you notice?

Mary Theotokos: More than Meets the Eye