Healing Waters Leader Guide: A Bible Study on Forgiveness, Grace and Second Chances with Melody Carlson
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Healing Waters Leader Guide: A Bible Study on Forgiveness, Grace and Second Chances with Melody Carlson

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by Melody Carlson

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In this first study in the new Faith and Fiction Bible study series, popular Christian fiction author Melody Carlson draws upon her novels in the Inn at Shining Waters trilogy to invite women on an exciting journey toward healing. Using the stories, themes, and characters of the novels as a backdrop, much in the way that Jesus used parables, this 8-week study

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In this first study in the new Faith and Fiction Bible study series, popular Christian fiction author Melody Carlson draws upon her novels in the Inn at Shining Waters trilogy to invite women on an exciting journey toward healing. Using the stories, themes, and characters of the novels as a backdrop, much in the way that Jesus used parables, this 8-week study explores the need for forgiveness and mercy in our lives and the role that second chances and new beginnings play in healing our spirits and our relationships. Although reading the novels is not required to participate in the study, women may choose to read the novels in tandem with the study to enrich the overall experience. Through study of Psalm 103 and other Scriptures, women will:

-Gain new understanding and appreciation for God as the Lord who heals

-Recognize that God makes the journey with them, inviting them to experience divine love and mercy every step of the way.

-Walk the roads of forgiveness and grace, learning how to embrace these gifts for themselves and their relationships.

-Learn how to restore broken relationships and live in life-giving community.

-Celebrate the God who loves second chances and who is devoted to transforming and blessing us with surprises and new beginnings.

The Leader Guide provides 8 session outlines, complete with instructions and leader helps.

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Product Details

Abingdon Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Leaders Gu
Product dimensions:
7.80(w) x 9.80(h) x 0.20(d)

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Healing Waters

A Bible Study on Forgiveness, Grace, and Second Chances

By Melody Carlson

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2012 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-4955-1



The Journey to Healing

Getting Started (10 minutes)

• If your group is meeting together for the first time, have each person introduce herself by telling her name and something about herself (e.g., what she likes to do in her spare time; her favorite book, TV show, magazine; etc.). If your group has met previously, have each member share an area of her life in which God is challenging her right now.

• Take a few minutes to introduce the study. Explain that participants need to read and complete the readings for each week (found in the participant book) prior to the group session. Review the format of the group session (see introduction) and ask if there are any questions before starting.

• Open with prayer, asking God to bless your time together.

A Few Minutes With Melody (8-10 minutes)

Play the video for week 1.

Let's Talk About It (10 minutes)

• Melody talks about her inspiration for writing the Inn at Shining Waters, explaining that the story called to her like the river called to Anna. How does knowing about the matriarchal society of the Siuslaw Indians enrich your understanding of the novels?

• What is "calling" to you in your life? Like Anna, do you have any baggage, sadness, or disillusionment creating a need for healing or restoration?

• How does forgiveness play a role in the healing process?

• Melody explains how Anna struggles with accepting her Siuslaw Indian heritage, and how returning to her heritage opens the way for healing. Why do you think this is so? Are there aspects of your own family heritage you need to make peace with—to accept or embrace?

• According to Melody, how is the river a symbol of healing in the novels?

• What other points or insights from the video would you like to discuss with the group?

Diving In (25 minutes)

Read Aloud

This week we have been studying healing—how God actively heals our hearts and equips us with everything we need on the journey to healing. As we'll find in the Inn at Shining Waters Series, God's healing comes to us in many forms and in God's own time, but it does come.

• Have someone read aloud the story of the woman at the well, found in John 4:5–30.

It was a normal day for this woman who came to Jacob's well to draw water. Scholars theorize that she was an outcast and came to draw water in the heat of the day, at noon, long after the other women had left. Maybe she wanted to avoid the nasty glances and not-so-hushed gossip from the other women in the village. She wanted to go about her day in peace, but this day she went to the well unaware that her life was about to change. A Jewish man walked up and sat down, and he spoke to her. This surprised her; Jews and Samaritans hated one another and actively went out of their way to avoid one another.

But Jesus didn't avoid her. Instead, he looked her in the eyes. There was no anger or sarcasm in his voice, only a knowing look and words that penetrated her soul. That day God surprised her—with truth and an invitation.


• Have you ever been surprised by God? What happened, and what did that experience teach you about God?

Read Aloud

Jesus knew everything about the woman at the well. His question about her husband was an invitation to offer Him the hurts in her life.

• Have someone read aloud John 4:17-18.

This woman's situation may be nothing like ours, but it's not hard to see ourselves in her. Many of us have spoken half-truths and lies to ourselves and to others in order to cover up our pain. We've said, "It's no big deal. I'm over it. That was a long time ago." We are afraid to acknowledge how big and deep our hurts are for fear that we will be judged and rejected—that what we've done and what we've experienced are too much.

But it's not too much for God. Though we may be afraid to speak the truth to God, God already knows it; and God invites us to come just the same and drink of living water. God is not afraid of our pasts. God knows the depth of our sin and pain and wants us to run to Him for healing.

Like Anna in River's Song, we all experience loss in our lives at one time or another, but sometimes we don't know what to do with the strong emotions we feel. We may be afraid of our emotions, but God isn't. Throughout Scripture we see God comforting, reassuring, and healing the hearts and minds of those who love Him. When we are overwhelmed and confused, God is present and patient, diligently caring for us. God knows the extent of our pain and grief and how to lead us through it.


• How did Anna experience loss prior to returning to her old family home on the river?

• How did Jesus challenge the woman at the well to admit the hurts and failures in her life?

• How does acknowledging pain and hurt bring those things out of the darkness and into the light, where they can be recognized and healed?

• What often holds us back from exposing our pain and hurt?

Thoughts: Fear and pride can hold us back from sharing our pain—fear that we will be rejected or snubbed or seen negatively in the eyes of others. Maybe we're afraid to let go of hurts and pains that have been a part of us for a long time; maybe we're afraid of who we might be without our hurt and pain to define us; maybe we're afraid of exposing ourselves to accountability and correction.

• Why do you think it's sometimes hard for us to trust God with our hurts—to offer them up and ask for healing?

Thoughts: We like to be in control (or at least think we're in control). We are afraid of how God will respond to us. We are afraid even to acknowledge our pain.

Read Aloud

• Have someone read aloud Mark 9:14-27.

This father, dismayed and desperate, came to Jesus for help. We don't know what the man had heard about Jesus, but he most certainly believed that Jesus was an important man who had some ability to heal. The man said to Jesus, "If you can do anything, help us!" (THE MESSAGE). If—a small word filled with doubt and uncertainty yet full of hope.

The father was struggling, full of doubt and fear, and Jesus called him to believe. Then the father said: "I believe. Help me with my doubts!"(THE MESSAGE). This simple prayer from a helpless sinner is an acknowledgment that everything comes from God—even faith itself—and that God is the only one who can conquer our doubts and fear and help us believe His promises.

God isn't afraid of our questions and fears. God is big enough to handle them all. In fact, God is so committed to our healing and salvation that He sent his Son, Jesus, to earth. Jesus said, "Healthy people don't need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn't come to call righteous people, but sinners" (Matthew 9:12-13).

Jesus came for you—in all of your sinful squalor, in all of your doubt and self-reliance, in all of your inability to trust and to receive. Jesus came to make you whole, and He is able to do just that.


• Why is the father's statement—"I believe. Help me with my doubts!"—such a powerful one?

Thoughts: This statement acknowledges complete dependence on God, even for the gift of faith. The father had completely exhausted his own resources; he knew that he could not do anything to fix his son's situation. In his desperation, he admitted that he wanted to trust Jesus, but his own fear and doubt were getting in the way. His admission gave Jesus room to work.

• Have someone read aloud 2 Corinthians 12:9. How might trusting that "God's grace is enough for you" affect your daily life? How woud this affect your view of yourself? Your relationships with others? Your work?

Read Aloud

As we walk along this journey to healing, we no doubt need help and support along the way. Just as Anna had Hazel and Babette to encourage and support her, we have each other for the journey ahead—as well as other supportive people in our lives. In the coming weeks, we will explore how God has equipped us for this journey and how God sends others to walk alongside us and to support us and enrich our lives. What we'll find on this journey is that God gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

God listens to us. God understands our insecurities and fears and knows that sometimes we need others in our lives to help us along the way. In Colossians 3:15-16, the Apostle Paul says this:

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. (THE MESSAGE)


• Why do you think Paul instructed these early believers not to go off and do their own thing?

• Why is it important for us to walk in community with other believers?

Thoughts: God did not intend that we walk this journey on our own. God gives us other believers to encourage us, challenge us, keep us accountable, and remind us of the truth. God also wants us to enjoy one another and to reflect His love and kindness.

In Closing (5 minutes)

You will need: manilla envelope, slips of paper (one for each member), pens or pencils.

Ask each participant to spend a few minutes in silent prayer and to write on a slip of paper a situation or area in which she desires healing in her life. Have each individual fold her paper and write her name on the outside. Assure the group that these will not be read by anyone; rather, at the end of the study, you will return each piece of paper to its owner to see how God has responded to her need. When they are finished, allow individuals to share with the group as they are willing. Then have the women put their slips of paper into the manilla envelope and seal it.

As you hold the envelope, close in prayer, asking God to use this study to bring healing and a deeper knowledge of God to each and every woman. Pray that you will be encouraged and spurred on by one another, and that each woman will know she is not alone on this journey. Thank God for one another. Finally, ask God to hear the prayers of his daughters represented on the slips of paper you are holding.

Note: You will want to keep the sealed envelope with the slips of paper in a safe place until the final session; then return them to their owners in a closing activity.

If You Have More Time (30 additional minutes; use before In Closing)

Choose from the following:

• Invite participants to talk more about their expectations for this study. Discuss: What do you think it means to be healed? What do you hope to learn or gain from this study?

• In River's Song, Anna returns to her childhood home on the river and finds encouragement from the serene landscape, as well as the quiet constancy of the river. What physical places restore and revive your spirit? What places and spaces move you? During this journey to discover healing, where can you go for refuge and encouragement?

• Read aloud Mark 2:1-5, 11-12 and Galatians 6:2. Point out that we need other believers in our lives to fight for us, pray for us, speak truth to us, and walk with us. Discuss: Has there been a time in your life when other believers carried you through something or fought for you? How did that time in your life speak to you of God's love?

• Read Psalm 103, the foundational Scripture for this study, having a different participant read aloud one verse each until you reach the end. Ask participants to share the verses that they find most meaningful and explain why.



Discovering Forgiveness

Note: Forgiveness can be a heavy and complicated subject. As you discuss the topic for this group session, be sensitive to participants' emotions and responses. Don't be afraid of silence or strong emotions, but strive to maintain the most safe and supportive atmosphere possible for your group. This is not the time and place for airing grievances against others. If the conversation verges into gossip, gently redirect the group.

Getting Started (10 minutes)

• Ask the group one of the following questions:

• Are you reading River's Song? If so, what do you like most about it?

Which characters are you connecting with?

• Have you ever received a gift that you felt you didn't deserve? How did you react to that gift?

• Open with prayer, asking God to bless your time together.

A Few Minutes With Melody (8-10 minutes)

Play the video for week 2.

Let's Talk About It (10 minutes)

• What do you think Melody means when she says that forgiveness is something we need to breathe in and breathe out?

• Melody shares that Anna's relationship with Eunice is similar to her relationship with her mother-in-law. Do you have a "Eunice" in your life?

• Why is it important to understand what has happened in someone's life to make the person the way she or he is? How might coming to this place of understanding help the difficult relationships in your life?

• Melody sheds some light on Anna's struggle to forgive Eunice. What hinders us from forgiving others?

• How does forgiving someone bring healing not only to your relationship with the individual but also to your relationship with God?

• Anna's mother would say, "Forgiveness is the sweet fragrance of violets on the heal that crushed them." How would you explain the meaning of this saying?

• What other insights from the video would you like to discuss with the group?

Diving In (25 minutes)

Read Aloud

In the Inn at Shining Waters Series, many of the characters—including Anna, Eunice, Lauren, and Sarah—discover that embracing forgiveness and the freedom it brings transforms lives and relationships. This week we have been studying what it means to embrace forgiveness, both for ourselves and for others.

Before we dive into what it means to forgive others, we first must understand what it means to know we are forgiven. Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of God's glory." All of us—every human being on earth—have made mistakes and sinned against our God and those we love. But there is good news. Verse 24 continues, "But all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus."

Jesus' sacrifice allows us to receive God's forgiveness, and that forgiveness is so complete that the Bible says, "As far as east is from west—that's how far God has removed our sin from us" (Psalm 103:12).

It's not just that God forgives and forgets; when He looks at us, through the sacrifice of his Son, it's as if we never sinned in the first place. This is an amazing gift.


• How does it make you feel to hear the words of Psalm 103:12: "As far as east is from west—that's how far God has removed our sin from us"? Do you feel freed from your sins? If not, why do you think that's so?

Thoughts: Too often we believe the lie that we still have to earn our salvation and righteousness—that we have to add to what God has done in order to redeem ourselves. When we believe these lies, we give sin the power to keep a foothold in our lives and, though Christ's work on the cross has already freed us from our sins, we are still ruled by its guilt and shame.

• Have someone read aloud 2 Corinthians 5:17. What does this verse have to say about our status as believers in Jesus Christ?

• How does this new status free us to offer forgiveness to others? Thoughts: We are new creatures—we are no longer ruled by our sinful nature but have been given the righteousness of Christ. Because we have been so generously forgiven, we can forgive. We can draw on God's mercy and grace and extend the same to those who have hurt us.

Read Aloud

It often has been said that love is a choice, not a feeling. Though romantic, emotional feelings of love can sometimes be fickle, the choice to continue to love one another is often a deliberate one, a commitment to actively love even when it's not easy or convenient. In the same way, forgiveness is also a choice. When we are hurt and betrayed by someone, it's not likely that we'll be excited and eager to extend grace and forgiveness to him or her. Instead, it's more likely that we will have to make a conscious, deliberate choice to begin the hard, healing process of forgiveness.


Excerpted from Healing Waters by Melody Carlson. Copyright © 2012 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of more than 200 books, including Love Finds You in Sisters, Oregon, Limelight, the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series. Nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, Melody is also the author of Homeward, which won a Rita Award. Melody and her husband live in central Oregon.

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