Small Church March 12, 2023

Conversation Guide for March 12, 2023

You will hear two epiphanies today—one read aloud from Scripture, and one from someone in your group OR the one you can read aloud from Johnny Cash, supplied below. 

*Also, for those who may have missed it, Kim distributed small nails at All Church as a reminder to be attentive to opportunities to “suffer with” others in our daily lives—in other words, to practice compassion with those we encounter. This is the second of three practices we invite you to try during Lent this year, inspired by Cap’s core values. The first one was related to practicing ‘presence’.

Opener (Pick One)

Lenten Practice Check-In:  What has it been like to practice presence or compassion during Lent so far?

Share a consolation and desolation from the past week.

Read aloud several times Psalm 40 from The Message


Discussion Questions
(Pick a few)

  • What stands out to you from this psalm? What questions do you have?
  • Do you think the Psalmist has had an ‘epiphany’? If so, how would you summarize it?
  • Read again vv 1-3 of the psalm, and then v 17. How do you reconcile these two very different parts of the prayer?
  • What phrase of this psalm could you make your own prayer right now?
Personal Story
Someone from your group can share their epiphany story, or read aloud the story from Johnny Cash.

Discussion Questions
(Pick a few)

  • What resonates with you from this story?
  • What would you say was Cash’s epiphany?
  • How do you reconcile Cash’s miraculous experience of sobriety in the cave with ‘sobriety’ remaining a struggle for him?
  • What connections do you make between the two stories you heard today?




 “A Burning Ring of Fire”

Johnny Cash grew up in a Christian family. In adolescence when his mother first heard his now-famous bass voice, she told him it was a gift from God.

When Cash started writing music and performing, he wanted to sing gospel music but his producer, Sam Phillips, thought that there wasn’t enough money in it.

In the late 1950s, while he was touring, Cash took his first amphetamine, and he liked the effect. It made him feel energetic and it banished his shyness. But the longer he took the pills, the more pills it took to get the same rush. The drug binges started taking up more and more of his life, and when he was sober the withdrawal symptoms were ghastly.

After taking thousands of the pills, he felt that the drugs had separated him from his family and from God. His career was suffering also. He started canceling performances, and when he did perform the drugs made his throat dry and affected his voice. When friends warned him that the drugs could kill him, he got angry and told them that he could handle it. But he eventually reached a point where he felt “barely human” and was convinced that he had wasted his life.

One day he decided to end it all. He drove out to a group of caves on the Tennessee River with the intention of getting lost in the deep caverns and never coming back. He crawled farther and farther back into the cave system and finally stopped when the batteries on his flashlight failed. Then he lay down to die.

As he wrote later, “The absolute lack of light was appropriate, for at that moment I was as far from God as I have ever been. ” Cash thought that God had abandoned him. But he hadn’t. Cash “felt something very powerful start to happen to me, a sensation of utter peace, clarity and sobriety. I didn’t believe it at first. I couldn’t understand it. How, after being awake for so long and driving my body so hard and taking so many pills–dozens of them, scores, even hundreds–could I possibly feel all right?

“The feeling persisted, though, and then my mind started focusing on God.”

In Nickajack Cave, Cash became convinced that God was in charge of his life. He knew that he wanted to live, but now wasn’t sure whether he could escape the caves. But he managed to slowly crawl out of the cave, where he found his wife and mother looking for him outside. Over the next weeks Cash went through a very painful period of withdrawal, experiencing horrible nightmares and hallucinations. Through all this he was supported by his family who “formed a circle of faith” around him.

Sobriety remained a struggle for Cash, but, trusting in God, he took it one day at a time. Commenting on his song, “Won’t Back Down,” Cash said, “I believe in God. And he’s been the power, the nucleus, and the very soul of my work.

And it’s a positive force that will never be denied in my life and in my heart. “

as told by Johnny Cash to Sharon Gallagher

To end your time, let some phrases from Psalm 40 guide your prayers for one another, or use this part of Psalm 46 from “Psalms for Kids”

If the ground starts to shake, 
if the mountains break into pieces
and fall into the sea,
if the waves grow big as giants,
I’m not scared.

God is with me.

God provides a safe place
for me to hide.

Download Psalm 46 Colouring Page