Tales for the Masses
Connecting Scripture to Everyday Life
The stories in Tales for the Masses connect the everyday life of readers to the deep themes of Scripture - Love, Awareness, Forgiveness and so many more. People have told Dcn. Tim, "This story's about me! How did you know?" Totally unchurched folks have asked "Why hasn't anyone ever spoken to me like this?"
Written from the heart, just for you, Dcn. Tim has reflected on his life as a hospital chaplain, combat vet, husband, business owner, friend neighbor and deacon to help you see the ways God writes the story of our lives together with us.
The book's available from the publisher
Discussion Questions for “Tales for the Masses”
The original Tales for the Masses did not include discussion questions for the stories. As it emerged, people wanted to use it for group and individual reflection purposes and expressed a desire for discussion starters. The questions below are intended to fill that need. They are, of course, not the only questions one might ask, but hopefully they can stimulate discussion and perhaps suggest other observations to people. May your reflections be filled with blessings!
Murphy the Grump
1. What do you imagine it might feel like to be in a lifeless relationship?
2. What causes might there be for lifelessness, and what might it take to inject life back into a relationship?
3. What would prayer be like for people in and around such people?
4. What would it take for a person to become open to resurrection?
Katie and the Spirit
1. What does the word ‘spirit’ suggest to you?
2. Consider your own visible and invisible constituents. What do they describe about you?
3. How would you like to be known?
1. Have you read and understood all the instructions? Describe the experience in loving detail.
2. What advice would you give to people who haven’t read the instructions?
3. The story doesn’t say what my brother did when he graded the students’ work. What do you think he did? What does that say about your image of God?
Mickey the Impressive
1. What’s most impressive about you? Of what are you most proud, and why?
2. What is it about the distractions in life that leads us to drift away from what’s most important?
3. Some people are afraid to love. Why do you think that might be?
1. What’s going on with people who view what’s simply their duty as an imposition?
2. If you were to give trophies to people, who would they be and for what would the trophy be awarded?
3. Describe some trophies in your own life. Would anyone consider you a trophy? Why? (Hint: you are)
1. What or who do you hate? Why is that?
2. Why might people fear freedom?
3. Why might others deny or restrict such freedom in others?
4. What is the cost of choosing not to embrace the freedom of the Children of God?
Are You Going to be Saved?
1. What is salvation?
2. Is salvation an outcome or a process, in your opinion?
3. What is the difference between a wish and a hope?
Alice and the Bean
1. Why do you (or don’t you) go to church?
2. What’s the biggest similarity between you and God? The biggest difference?
3. In what ways might you be like a garden?
The Maltese Falcon
1. Describe something in your life that seemed insignificant yet turned out to have great value.
2. Reflect for a moment on the treasures you have in your life. Can others see them?
3. What might cause us not to see the real value of a person or object?
1. Have you had an experience of being bullied or intimidated? Describe it, allowing yourself to reveal the feelings that arise as you do so.
2. In this moment, what is the foundation of your identity and sense of self-worth?
3. What do you think the roots of bullying are?
1. How valuable are you to other people? What do you think is the basis of your worth to them?
2. What is most valuable to you? Why?
3. Make an honest list of your values. Does the amount of time you spend on the people and activities associated with each of them reflect their position on the list? If you’re not pleased with what you see, what might have to change?
1. Describe in loving detail what has been done for you in your life.
2. What have you done for others?
3. What have you allowed God to do for others through you?
1. Please look at the video on YouTube ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttkBP2XDZvE )
2. Read Micah 6:8 and describe how this story fits in.
3. What is mercy? If Jesus had been there, what do you think he would’ve done?
Monsters Under the Bed
1. What monsters are hiding under your bed?
2. Of what are you most afraid?
3. How does God console us?
1. Why do you think poor, homeless or otherwise marginalized people are overlooked?
2. Have you ever mistreated or ben mistreated by another person? How did that feel?
3. How do we feed one another? What’s the most important item on the menu?
1. Consider a rebellious period in your life if you can recall one. What was the issue on the surface, and what might the deeper issues might have been?
2. What does you “bad Emily” side look like? How do you find out about it? How does that make you feel?
3. Is denial ever a good thing, maybe in the short term?
Vinnie and the AC
1. What does it feel like when you do something you know is wrong?
2. What are some of the stories we tell ourselves to rationalize our actions?
3. Look at the very short YouTube video The Black Hole. Likely, you’ll be amused, but also ask yourself what the message might be. Why do you think no dialog was necessary?
1. Do you wear or carry anything that visibly advertises your faith in Jesus?
2. What can kill faith?
3. Some people wish to die a quiet death, perhaps even in their sleep. What would you like your last few moments on Earth to be like? How does your answer make you feel?
Tommy and John
1. What are some simple ways you can demonstrate your faith to your friends? What does it feel like when you do so?
2. St. Francis of Assisi used was heard to say “Preach always. If necessary, use words.” How does that phrase strike you?
3. What makes a demonstration of faith appealing to others? What is at the root of that appeal?
1. Relate a love story in your life. How did you come to know it was all about love?
2. Every mass we attend is another chapter in a love story that God is telling us. Consider the mass from that perspective and explore in words how that is so.
3. The 16th century mystic, John of the Cross, said that silence is God’s first language. Speaking from your own experience, what are some of love’s unspoken ways?
Tim at IBM
1. Describe a time when you found out that something worked completely differently than the way you thought it did. How did that experience make you feel?
2. What’s your initial reaction to an “expert?” Do you suspect we look at God that way sometimes, too?
3. What’s your approach to turning an enemy into a friend? Does Jesus ever play a part, implicitly or explicitly?
1. Does suffering have a purpose, in your opinion? If you believe it does, what might that purpose be?
2. How do you console people who are suffering?
3. What might the purpose of anger be in suffering?
1. Have you ever experienced gratuitous, unconditional love? What was that like and how did it make you feel?
2. What is your understanding of the events of Good Friday? Consider both what the Church teaches and the ways in which God has spoken to you individually?
3. What is meant by “merit?” By whose merits do we receive the gift of eternal life?
1. When have you done something gratuitously kind and utterly unselfconsciously good for someone? Some call this “paying it forward.” What would you call it?
2. What’s it like to be on the receiving end of such kindness?
3. What do these two stories tell us about the way love works? What do they tell us about God?
Tommy and his Dad
1. Have you ever lost your job, or suffered a similar loss? Describe that experience and how it made you feel. Did it seem as it God was with you?
2. How do people who love help one another in situations like this?
3. What blessings are embedded in suffering like this? What can help us see them?
Trip to Hawaii
1. The story ends with a phrase suggesting that the way we treat anyone is the way we treat everyone. Do you think that is so? Why or why not?
2. What does it feel like when your friendly overtures are rebuffed? What are some healthy ways to absorb that?
3. In what ways do you think famous people are like us? Unlike us? What do those observations tell us about how God might expect us to treat one another?
1. Describe the best and worst teachers you’ve had. What’s behind those descriptions?
2. Aside from teachers, to whom else might the advice “love your xxxx.” Apply?
3. What’s it like when there is no love?
Loving the Wrong Way
1. What does the story tell us about being loved the right way and the wrong way? How can you spot the difference?
2. Psychologists speak of “attunement,” a condition in which who I really am encounters who you really are, responds to you, cherishes you. It’s positive, encouraging and life-giving. Based on insights the story may have given you, how might attunement figure in the story of love?
3. It would seem there are depths to the experience of God. Describe moments in your life where you’ve “gone deep” with God.
1. If you’ve owned a pet, please relate a story about it that reminds you of something about God.
2. What are the “bread drawers” in your life? What is it of which you cannot get enough?
3. Explore our commonality. What do you have in common with others who are with you now, or who have read this book and the Scripture that underlies it?
The Best of Neighbors
1. When have you taken a risk to confront a person? What did that feel like?
2. How do you go about correcting people?
3. How does it feel to have been corrected? Discuss the feelings in detail.
1. The story asserts that divorce affect an entire community, not just a family. Do you agree with this?
2. What advice would you be likely to give to children from a family in which there had been a divorce?
3. How can the church community best minister to divorced people, their children, their families and the wounded community?
1. When have you done something completely on trust? How does that feel?
2. What prevents us from trusting?
3. In what ways is your experience of God’s wisdom different from your experience of human wisdom?
Learning from the Pros
1. Who is your favorite saint? Why?
2. What does it mean to intercede?
3. Do you pray “to” saints or “with” saints? What does your response tell you about your perceived proximity to God and the saints’?
1. What thoughts go through your mind when you contemplate your own personal mortality?
2. Can you imagine what your particular judgment will be like?
3. Who is our harshest judge? Seriously, when are you going to cut that out?
Get Out of Jail Free
1. Can you describe a time when you needed a “Get Out of Jail Free” card? What was it like, whether you got one or not?
2. How does God work through other people? How does the Spirit become manifest in life?
3. How has someone helped you find the words you could not find on your own?
1. This miracle actually happened. The chapel at the old John Dempsey Hospital was built as a direct result of the work of everyone who had witnessed it. When have you experienced a miracle, not necessarily of this magnitude, in your life?
2. What in your opinion, is a miracle?
3. Fr. Thomas Keating used to decline to call God “God,” preferring Infinite Possibility instead. Do you see a connection between Fr. Thomas’ preference and the phenomenon of the miraculous?
Dave and the Football
1. Evil unchallenged is evil unleashed. What are some of the best ways to challenge evil?
2. What would you have done of the football had been handed to you?
3. Why do we forgive?
Gifts of the Magi
1. How can a gift express more than words? Chat about some of your favorite gifts and what it was that made them special?
2. What’s gift-giving like for you? What’s the best part?
3. What do you think the very best gift of all is?
Do it Your Way
1. Are you convinced that God has a plan for you?
2. What inclines us to want to do it our way?
3. What are the obstacles to collaboration with other people? With God?