- Have you been to Iran or any Muslim country?
- When the girls’ flat was first ransacked, what stood out as a warning sign for their future treatment?
- The testimonies of these two Christian girls were described early in their story. What part of the girls’ testimonies had the most impact on you?
- The first time the interview/interrogation occurred with Mr Rasti he accused them of reading a distorted version of the Bible. He mentioned another ‘correct’ version was on sale in Iran. Have you heard this sort of objection before?
- What sort of women were in prison in Evin Jail and how was it run?
- How would you describe the legal proceedings in the girls’ case? What processes were deployed to deny the girls freedom?
- The book is dedicated to a girl called Shirin. Why was she in jail and what happened to her?
- A question as to whether God could see the plight of the prisoners, and why he seemed to do nothing about it was raised to the girls. How did they answer this?
- What privileges were the girls denied while in prison? How did they respond?
- What or who sustained the girls in one of the darkest, most dangerous places in the world? How did the girls react when they found out the world was praying for them and agitating for their release? Are there any lasting lessons for us to learn from these girls’ endurance and faith?
Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh knew they were putting their lives on the line. Islamic laws in Iran forbade them from sharing their Christian beliefs, but in three years, they’d covertly put New Testaments into the hands of twenty thousand of their countrymen and started two secret house churches.
In 2009, they were finally arrested and held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, a place where inmates are routinely tortured and executions are commonplace. In the face of ruthless interrogations, persecution, and a death sentence, Maryam and Marziyeh chose to take the radical―and dangerous―step of sharing their faith inside the very walls of the government stronghold that was meant to silence them. In Captive in Iran, two courageous Iranian women recount how God used their 259 days in Evin Prison to shine His light into one of the world’s darkest places, giving hope to those who had lost everything and showing love to those in despair.
- Agnes describes her early life to Toti the Pastor. What do you think had the greatest influence over her character? Mistakes of her mother? Her foster parents? Her hard life as a servant? Guilt from the deaths she has seen?
- Both Toti and Margret heard Agnes’ story but each responded differently. Do you think the author made their interactions seem genuine?
- The sisters, Steina and Laurga, worked side by side with Agnes. Do the attitudes of the girls remind us of our attitudes towards prisoners, the homeless, asylum seekers or the non-believer?
- Natan is a shadowy figure until Agnes paints a picture of his desires for wealth, seclusion, abandonment and harassment including sexual abuse. Do you see the girls, Sigga and Agnes, as slaves or prisoners of their own desires for grandeur and their need for love?
- The farm life in Iceland was incredibly harsh. What part of the servant’s life made you most conscious of your own privilege?
- Iceland was a Christian country in 1828. The laws required criminals to receive spiritual counsel in order to prepare them for meeting their Lord. Do you envisage Toti could develop a pastor’s heart? Was the law able to be mercifully carried out?
- Are there any points in the story that concerned you?
- Did the ending give a clear picture of why these two ‘criminals’ should not be buried in consecrated ground?
- The landscape and the poverty seemed to be very much in the forefront of the story. What effect did they have on Agnes’ position?
- Was Agnes deserving of death?
In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of two men.Agnes is sent to wait on the farm of District Officer Jon Jonsson and his family, who are horrified and avoid Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant reverend appointed as Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the summer months fall away to winter, Agnes’s story begins to emerge. And as the days to her execution draw closer, the question burns: did she or didn’t she? Based on a true story, Burial Rites is a deeply moving novel about freedom and the ways we will risk everything for love. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, and asks: how can one woman endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others? Google books
- Rifqa’s mother allowed her to use nail polish in secret. ‘I knew once I was old enough to pray I would not be allowed to use it anymore’ says Rifqa. Are there aspects in Australian Christian families which reflect this thinking? Were there forbidden things in your family which you were allowed to do as a child? (e.g. drink beer, tell lies, say rude words)? Is lenience a form of grace or a failure to instil good habits?
- When Rifqa suffered an injury how did the family respond? How do we cope with disability in our families?
- Early in her story Rifqa reveals she was sexually abused by a distant uncle. Rather than blame the perpetrator the family seemed to blame her. Later, similar responses seemed to come when violence caused bruising and absenteeism. Is this behaviour a defence mechanism or a product of a family history of abuse over generations, perhaps even cultural acceptance of violence?
- The difference between boys’ and girls’ upbringing was/is very marked in the Muslim family. Are there similarities in the Christian home?
- Rifqa was fascinated by the prayers of Christians. Have you ever experienced that fascination? Do you pray with visitors in your own home?
- Though Rifqa’s mother was an excellent cook and spent many hours preparing food, the family never ate together. Do you think eating together is important? How is it possible in this day of crammed activities to make this happen?
- When Rifqa met Angela what struck you as surprising in that relationship?
- What stood out to you when Rifqa became a Christian in secret?
- What emotions did you experience when Rifqa ran away from home?
- When Rifqa was confined to a Juvenile Detention Centre, an awful foster home, then suffered terminal cancer, did God’s plan seem to be for harm rather than to “prosper” her? Jer 29:11
Rifqa Bary grew up in a devout Muslim home, obediently following her parents’ orders to practice the rituals of Islam. But God was calling her to freedom and love. He was calling her to true faith. He was calling her to give up everything. Leaving Islam for Christianity cost her more than she imagined but gave more than she could have dreamed. Hiding in the Light is the story of Rifqa’s remarkable spiritual journey from Islam to Christianity. It is also the untold story of how she ran from her father’s threats to find refuge with strangers in Florida, only to face a controversial court case that reached national headlines. Most of all, it is the story of a young girl who made life-changing sacrifices to follow Jesus-and who inspires us to do the same. Teens and young adults will be moved by Rifqa’s story of standing up to religious persecution, literally giving up everything to follow her faith.
- The authors use words like – brave, rebel, perfect, battles, permission and reinforcements. Do any of these words resonate with you regarding your life?
- Of the 4 ‘P’s, do you think of yourself as suffering from one in particular?
- Why is standing up for your own needs presented as Brave? Who are your bullies?
- Which of the 12 ways did you think of applying to your life? Have you tried it?
- The Rebel type discovery quiz was an eye opener. Did you discover something new about yourself?
- “Mistakes are good, struggle makes you smarter” – a phrase by Daniel Coyle, is chosen to challenge our thinking of what is normal. What did you think about this?
- The four personalities listed after the quiz, present some definite responses to all the battles we encounter. What personality did you find yourself inhabiting, and where did it lead you in your Braver Living process?
- Were you challenged by the fun quiz?
- “I can’t throw it away; I might need it someday” talks about our 21st century dilemma. Were you confronted by the words hoarder, clutter, excess supplies and stuff!? Do I hear you rush to justify those sentimental stacks?
- The format of this book includes quizzes, suggestions, plans and instructions to combat our weaknesses. Was it helpful to see yourself exposed and vulnerable, in order to see that change could happen? Would you recommend this book to any friends or family?
12 Ways to stop trying harder and start living braver
Do you know a woman who works her heart out but never gets anything “just right”? Who feels like she falls short of being the Christian wife, mother, daughter, and friend she longs to be? Sound like anyone you know? Perhaps even the girl in the mirror? If so, Cheri Gregory and Kathi Lipp have good news for you. You’re not a bad person. You’ve simply been obeying some really bad rules for far too long, rules that promised paradise but misled you into perfectionism, people-pleasing, and procrastination prison. But you don’t have to stay stuck in discouragement and resentment. Escape is possible. Rescue is waiting. This sassy self-help guide offers been-there-felt-that, girlfriend-to-girlfriend empathy and experience that will help you tell the difference between reasonable rules and bad rules; identify the bad rules you need to break; and discover biblical wisdom to overcome the bad rules in your life. As you stop trying to measure up so that others will be impressed, you’ll experience what it means to “let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.” Google books
- Which characters do you relate to in this novel? Why?
- To whom was Lorry referring to when he sent the message “Recalled to Life” from the coach?
- Are there passages in book one that present the times in a graphic way? Can you share one?
- How is the inter-relationship of Darnay, Dr Manette and Lucie developed, and what techniques does Dickens employ to add to the suspense of the story?
- What made the most impression on you as you read about Roger Cly’s funeral?
- When Jerry Cruncher went fishing at night where did he fish?
- What changed Jerry’s opinion of his wife’s ‘flopping’ after spending 15 months in Paris during the Revolution?
- A “loadstone” is a piece of magnetite that attracts iron or steel, and is used in marine navigation, or something that attracts strongly. What was Darnay’s Loadstone Rock and where did it take him?
- Lucie Manette was an unchanging character, always calm and kind. Do you think she was the good to Madame Defarge’s evil in the story?
- How do you see the last days of Sydney Carton when he was repeating the verses about the Resurrection and the Life?
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, deals with the major themes of duality, revolution, and resurrection. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in London and Paris, as economic and political unrest lead to the American and French Revolutions. The main characters in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities — Doctor Alexandre Manette, Charles Darnay, and Sydney Carton — are all recalled to life, or resurrected, in different ways as turmoil erupts. See www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/t/a-tale-of-two-cities/a-tale-of-two-cities-at-a-glance