devozine

Jan/Feb 2019

Deadline: 04/16/2018

OUR HURTING WORLD

  • When have I encountered the pain and suffering in our world? Who or what was causing this pain or inflicting this suffering? How did I react?
  • How do I respond emotionally to the pain or suffering I encounter in my family, community, or world? When have discovered that emotions that are typically considered negative—anger or grief—can be channeled into positive responses of empathy and compassion?
  • In what ways do teens today experience pain or suffering? In what ways have I suffered? What have I learned through their suffering or my own?
  • What are the most painful things in my life—regrets? failures? physical pain? mental anguish? broken relationships? How have I learned to deal with pain or suffering? How do I cope with pain when there is no relief? How do I cope with suffering over which I have no control?
  • How have I found healing even in the midst of pain? How has pain and suffering brought me closer to God? When have I been able to look back upon a painful time and see that God was at work to bring healing in that situation?
  • What does it mean to me that Jesus suffered too and understands what I am going through? How has my pain helped me to get in touch with or to better understand the suffering of Jesus?
  • How do I deal with the pain of others? When have I found that the pain and suffering I have endured has equipped me with the strength and sensitivity to be there for someone else in a healing way? to act for justice and healing in our world?
  • When have I discovered that my words or actions hurt someone else deeply, even if I had no idea I had caused this pain? What did I do to reconcile the relationship? Who has been honest enough to help me see the things I do to cause pain? Who has pointed out the gifts in me that I could use to ease the pain of others?
  • What can we as teens do about pain and suffering? How are teens I know involved in helping to relieve the suffering of the world?
  • How have I discovered that tears can be a gift—either as a way to release hurt and pain or as a way to invite others into our pain so that they can walk with us and offer comfort?
  • When and how have I experienced God in the midst of my pain or suffering? What does my faith have to say about my response to pain and suffering—in my own life? in the world?
  • When have experiences of pain and loss brought good into my life? When have I been able to look back upon a painful time and see that God was at work to bring healing in that situation?
  • How has God used modern medicine, physicians, and therapists as a source of healing—physical, mental, or spiritual—in my life? in the life of someone I know? in the world? How can I partner with God to be a source of healing to others?
  • What can I learn from the Bible about how to understand and to respond to pain and suffering? What does the Book of Job say? What does Jesus say in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John? What can the biblical picture of Christ as the suffering servant teach me about dealing with pain in my life, in the lives of those I love, or in the lives of all those whom God loves?
  • How does my faith enable me to pray for and to stand with those who are suffering? How can my quiet presence bring comfort and peace?

SUCCESS NOW

  • What does success mean to me? What do my parents define success? What about my friends? my faith community? How does the world define success? How does God define success? How are these definitions alike? different? What is behind these various understandings of success?
  • Do I see success as future-oriented or as an ongoing process? What would it mean to me to be successful now? What would it take for me to consider myself successful by the end of 2019? If I were to answer that question annually over time, what difference could it make in the way I view success? the way I see myself?
  • What do I value? How do I show others what I value?
  • Do I have to have every new thing? Are my decisions shaped more by need or greed?
  • Where does money rank on my scale of what’s important in life? What value do I place on money—now and for the future?
  • How do I view money in relation to my career? Do I hope to earn a certain amount of money in order to be seen as having status or being successful or because of what it would allow me to do? Do I value having money because of what that says about me or because of the security and stability it offers?
  • How has having money (or not having it) influenced the ways in which I am accepted?
  • What can money enable me to do for myself? for others? for God? How can I use my money—even now—to help those in need? What is it that truly makes one rich?
  • In what ways am I pressured to make the grade, to make the team, to achieve more, to be and do more in order to be or to appear successful? Does this pressure come from me? others? my church? society? God? How do I cope with the pressure?
  • When has the pressure to succeed led me to focus more on making straight As than on following my passion or planning ahead for a good career? What happens when I fail to succeed? Who has taught me to measure success by setting concrete markers to reach rather than judging by each success or failure along the way?
  • Do I think teachers, parents, and society in general expect too much of young people? In what ways is it hard to live up to the expectations others have placed on me?
  • Do the ends justify the means on the ladder of success? When have I compromised my integrity in order to be successful in the eyes of others?
  • When have become stressed out by trying to be successful? What type of success am I trying to achieve? How would following God’s definition of success alter my life?
  • Who in my life is an example of true success? What have I learned from this person?
  • When at first I don’t succeed, do I try again? When have I felt like a failure? What did I do? What lessons have I learned from failure?
  • In what ways is my identity tied to my achievements? How am I learning that I am more than my achievements or failures? What are God’s dreams for me? What difference does it make to claim my identity as a child of God?
  • What does it mean to me that Jesus came to give us abundant life? How does my concept of success fit into this idea? How am I learning to find a balance between work and play? How do I relax and recharge—body, mind, and soul? What habits, practices, or exercises help me live life to the fullest?

BEHIND YOUR BACK

  • When have I been the subject of gossip? How do I feel knowing others are talking about me behind my back? How do I respond?
  • How has social media and the Internet “ramped up” the gossip feed? When has the ease or anonymity of gossiping online tempted me to post something I wouldn’t say in person?
  • When has a rumor hurt me? How did I deal with it and learn to move on? What did I learn from this experience that might help someone else who has fallen victim to the gossip feed?
  • When have I been a target of the “mean girls” (or guys) at my school? What did I hear about what they were saying about me in private? How did they treat me fact-to-face? Who or what gave me courage to stand up for myself in the face of their taunts and bullying?
  • How do I deal with friends who are controlling, manipulative, two-faced, or back-stabbers? When have they sucked me into their negative behavior? How am I learning to set healthy boundaries in these relationships?
  • What sorts of things (good or bad) do I feel pressure to do or be in order to be accepted by my peers so they won’t talk or laugh about me behind my back?
  • How do I deal with the pressure always to perform well in school? When I receive a better grade than a friend does, do I keep that to myself, or do I rub it in?
  • When has the need to make the grade in order to get into the college I want and to win scholarships driven me to take all AP classes, to sign up for extracurricular activities, to be involved in my church and community, and to volunteer in my spare time? When has this gone beyond doing my best to an intense competition against classmates or even cheating on a test to get a good grade? How did I decide to draw the lines about what I will and won’t do?
  • When have I reached a breaking point in the effort to get good grades? How did that affect my relationships? Did my achievement issues ever become a topic of conversation behind my back?
  • Am I naturally a competitive person? If so, in what areas am I most competitive—sports? games? grades? artistic ability? looks? relationships? social media likes? Have I learned to I keep my competitive nature at a healthy level, or do I strive to be the best at all costs—no matter who gets hurt?
  • When I compete with my siblings or friends, how does it affect our relationships? When has this kind of competition been good for us, encouraging us to do our best? When has it become unhealthy and mean-spirited, damaging our relationships? What did I learn from the experience?
  • Who or what has taught me the importance of winning? of losing? How do I feel about the old saying, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”? How am I learning to be the encourager instead of the rival? to play as part of the team instead of for my own glory?
  • When have I been involved in a rivalry? How did I feel about that experience? What made it stressful? motivating? challenging? overwhelming?
  • Does my rival know that I consider him or her a rival or competitor? How is that healthy? unhealthy? What have I learned from my rival or competitor? When has a rivalry brought out the best in me or in the way I relate to others?
  • How did Jesus deal with those who spread rumors about him behind his back? How am I trying to imitate Jesus’ words and actions when this happens to me? to someone else?
  • What role does faith play in tempering my need to be the best? Is it enough to know that God loves me for who I am rather than how I compare to someone else? How does God help me to control the urge to put others down so that I look good or to cope with the pressure to do well without harming myself or my relationships?

DIGITAL DISCIPLINES

  • How can technology be used to glorify God? What devices do I use to grow in faith and to reach out to others with God’s love?
  • Where have I encountered God online? How do I invite others into those sacred spaces? How do I attempt to create holy ground on my phone or my social networks?
  • How do I form connections and bonds online? When have my online friends been a blessing? How have they supported me in tough times and celebrated my good times? How do I seek to encourage or build up others online?
  • How are young people today using technology for good? How are youth practicing or living out their faith through apps, texting, social networking, or the Internet?
  • What are some of my favorite apps, hashtags, or websites that connect me to God or that serve as a spiritual retreat or a source of encouragement for me? What about them helps me to connect deeply with God, to stretch my understanding of scripture, or to live out my faith? What makes these places sacred to me?
  • What apps do I use to help me deepen my relationship with God? How do these apps encourage me to stop and spend time with God in prayer, conversation, or reflection?
  • What apps do I use to help me dig deeper into scripture? Which apps help me to find Bible reading plans that outline ways to read the entire Bible in a year or two or three? to understand the history and purpose behind a particular book of the Bible? to explore particular themes that run throughout the scriptures? How do they help me see that scripture applies to my life today?
  • What apps do I use to help me live out my faith? In what ways to they challenge me to step out in faith and in service to others?
  • How do I use technology to remind myself to pray or to read my Bible? Are there certain sounds on my devices that call me to prayer? Do I set my alarm early to create space in my day for God? Do I designate space for God on my calendar so that I don’t fill that time with other things? Do I set reminder notifications—just in case?
  • What apps have introduced me to spiritual practices, such as a finger labyrinth, a daily devo, a prayer challenge, a Bible reading plan, the practice of lectio divina or centering prayer, ways to share my faith, 30 days to change a habit, and so on? How are these practices changing my life, my focus, my relationships?
  • What apps allow me to create a playlist of songs that usher me into the presence of God? that remind me to give to God my worries, disappointments, failures, and pain? that lift my spirits when I am down or express my joy when life is good?
  • How do I use technology in church to grow closer to God? When have I use a Bible app on my phone to read the scripture for worship or in youth group? When has my youth group agreed to text prayer requests and responses to one another? How do my youth leaders keep in touch with me during the week through technology?
  • How can I utilize technology to share my faith? What messages do I post on my social media to encourage others—scriptures? inspirational quotes? my own faith story?
  • How can I use technology to expand the reach of ministries and organizations that are important to me? When have I volunteered my time and talents to create content or visuals for a favorite ministry or charity?
  • When have I been tempted by apps or social networks while trying to spend time with God on my phone or laptop? Does digital access to prayer and Bible apps help or hurt my spiritual practice?
  • What practices have I adopted to create sacred spaces on my phone? For example, do I pray for Facebook friends who post certain status updates? Do I text, tweet, or post scripture verses or prayers to my friends? Do I bookmark sites that invite me into devotional time, prayer, or practices?
  • How do I use technology to strengthen my walk with God? to share my faith with others? How do I use it to encourage others in their faith? When have I experienced real Christian fellowship online?
  • How does God connect with me through technology? Do my techie habits create barriers or open me to God?

TRUE HUMILITY

  • What does it mean to me, as a teen, to be humble? How do I feel about people that I consider humble?
  • Whom do I know that models a life of humility? What has this person taught me about being humble?
  • How does a person cultivate a humble spirit? Is humility a quality that I see in my own life? How am I learning to practice healthy humility?
  • In what situations do I find it most difficult to be humble? When have I learned humility the hard way?
  • How have I learned to say, “I don’t know” when I don’t know something? Who has helped me to be OK with not knowing everything or with admitting that others may know more than I do? How have these humble attitudes affected my relationships?
  • When have I encountered someone who is “haughty” or “arrogant”? How did they treat me? others? How did I react to their behavior? How am I learning when is it best to let rude comments slide and when is it important to speak out?
  • How do I feel when I encounter arrogance? What have I learned about the feelings that might be behind a person’s arrogance? How does this help me to respond lovingly?
  • When has my pride gotten in the way so that I responded to someone with arrogance instead of humility? Who has helped me to see that I don’t have to “swallow my pride” but that it’s OK to be proud of certain things as long as I do it in a humble way?
  • Around whom do I tend to be most arrogant? Am I rude or impatient or painfully sarcastic to people whom I consider to be “beneath me”? Who has been honest enough to confront me about my arrogance? Was I able to hear them and to change?
  • When have others been snotty to me? How am I learning to respond in a humble and loving way that diffuses the situation?
  • When has someone’s arrogance changed my relationship with that person? What did I do, if anything, to restore the relationship? to encourage the other person to change?
  • When have I seen arrogance displayed in the church—for example, one church feeling or acting superior to another, snobbish cliques in youth group, youth group or church members acting up because they didn’t get their way? How did this behavior affect the life of the church?
  • How does my faith shape the way I treat people? As I seek to become more humble, how am I learning the importance of showing respect?
  • Why do I think that humility is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23)? When have I felt God’s Spirit helping me to act out of a spirit of humility?
  • What does it mean to me that Christ, the son of God, chose to be humble and obedient to God’s will? What can I learn from his life about true humility?

WELL FED

  • What do I need in order to be well fed? As a teen, how am I trying to build healthier eating habits and to take more control of my decisions about diet and nutrition?
  • How does what I eat influence who I am? When have I experienced my diet affecting my mood? my actions? my spiritual life? What does God have to say about being healthy—in body, mind, and spirit?
  • What gives me energy for life—a healthy diet? exercise? a positive outlook on life? my relationship with others? my relationship with God? a combination of these?
  • How are my eating habits affected by my busy life? When have I been sucked into the fast-food culture? How am I learning to healthy choices so that I am well fed?
  • How do my friends influence my eating habits? How do I influence theirs? In what ways do we sabotage or support one another’s attempts to eat healthier?
  • How am I discovering that I need spiritual as well as physical nourishment? What does it mean to me that Jesus Christ is the bread of life? the living water? What does it mean to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6)? What are the hungers of my heart? What practices feed my spirit?
  • To whom do I turn for guidance about being healthy and well fed? What habits or practices have I discovered that strengthen all of me—my body, mind, and spirit?
  • If I were to take seriously the idea of honoring my body by being well fed, how would my lifestyle have to change? How might this change my awareness of those you have little to eat?
  • When have I witnessed real hunger? Was it in a faraway place or in my own community? What did it move me to do?
  • Do I know anyone who is truly hungry? Do I know this person by name? What is the person’s story? What teens do I know who don’t have enough to eat? What is life like for them?
  • Who are the people in need of food in my community? How have I been involved in feeding hungry people? What did I learn from this experience about our common need to be well fed? Does the knowledge that others are hungry change the way that I eat or live?
  • How are hungry children in my community affected on weekends and breaks when they don’t have access to a daily meal (or two) provided for them at school? How can I help fill the gap?
  • Who has taught me by example how to relate to those who are hungry in my community? How am I learning to demonstrate God’s grace in the way I care for people who are hungry?
  • When have I experienced hunger? What circumstances led me to be without food for a period of time? What did I do? How does this help me to identify with those who hunger for food?
  • When have others stepped up to help me or my family when times were tough and we had little food? Was I able to receive their help? What has that taught me about giving and receiving?
  • Do I believe that Christians have a special calling to feed the hungry? What does scripture have to say about ensuring that all are fed? When have I really given myself to meet the needs of others? When have I seen the face of God in those I serve?
  • How does the knowledge that many people in the world face hunger every day affect my faith? my image of God? How does my faith offer me strength and hope in the face of this global issue? How can I become part of the solution even if I can feed only one person at a time?

TRUE OR FACT?

  • What does truth mean to me? to my generation? What value do I place on knowing what is true?
  • Where do I turn to find out what is really true? Whom do I trust to tell me the truth? Who helps me to differentiate between fact and truth?
  • How have I come to see that what we believe to be true can be shaped by what we have experienced? Who or what gives me courage to search for truth beyond my own experience?
  • Some things are ultimately true; some are true depending on one’s point of view. How am I learning to discern what is true? What happens when my truth is different than someone else’s?
  • Where have I found truth? When have I discovered truth in literature—that story can embody truth in a deeper way than the facts in a newspaper? When have I found sacred truth in secular art forms?
  • Who helps me to unpack biblical truth and to understand how it can be a guide for my life? What classical or biblical quotation really speaks to me about truth?
  • How do I truly know something? Which do I tend to trust more often—facts or faith? When have I found truth in the mystery of faith?
  • Where do faith and science intersect? When have I seen them complement each other? When have I seen them clash?
  • In what ways does my belief in science shape my faith? In what ways does my faith shape my understanding of science? What issues would I challenge the scientific community to accept on faith? When have I wanted scientific proof before I could believe?
  • Do I believe that faith and science can co-exist in harmony? When have I moved beyond the science vs faith argument to see that both offer truth? that together they may offer deeper truths?
  • How do I share my faith with or live out my faith around people who believe that science and faith are polar opposites? When have I discovered that we share common ground even though we disagree?
  • What does the Bible say about truth? How do I try to live by that truth so that what I say and what I do are the same?
  • How am I encouraged to speak the truth? Since people are not always rewarded for speaking the truth (think of the prophets!), what makes me willing to take the risk? to choose to be vulnerable? When have I found that being truthful was painful? When has it brought healing?
  • What does it mean to “speak the truth in love”? When have I been told the truth in love? What difference did that make in my ability to hear the truth being spoken to me? How am I learning to speak the truth so that people can hear it?
  • What has my relationship with God taught me about the importance of speaking the truth, even when it’s tough to do?

THE NOMINEES ARE . . .

This theme will be published the week of the Academy Awards in January 2019. But instead of giving awards to celebrities, we would like to publish a week of your stories about ordinary teens or youth workers—or everyday people—whose lives and deeds you would like to honor. Please tell us what award you feel the person or group should receive and why. Be creative!

Here are some possible award categories that might spark an idea:

  • Best in a Leading Role
  • Best Supporting Friend
  • Best Story Line
  • Best Movie or Video
  • Song Of The Year
  • Best New Artist
  • Best Soundtrack For Mission Trip
  • Best New Friend
  • Best Old Friend
  • Best Duo or Group
  • Best Role Model
  • Best Prayer Partner
  • Hospitality Award
  • Most Compassionate Servant
  • Positivity Award
  • Most Christ-like Award
  • Youth Worker of the Year
  • Behind the Scenes Award
  • Most Inspiring
  • Being There Award
  • Best Director of a Skit
  • Best Props or Set
  • Top Chef
  • Best Driver
  • Best Drama
  • Best Youth Group Photo Bomb
  • Best Youth Group Flash Mob
  • Most Hilarious Mission Trip Moment
  • Most Memorable Mission Trip Moment
  • Best Fundraiser
  • Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Add your own!

HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

  • Why are boundaries important, even necessary, to my life? How does setting boundaries help me to feel safer? healthier?
  • When have I experienced the need for boundaries? How do I feel when there are no limits? When did I learn the hard way that I must set boundaries for myself?
  • Who sets my boundaries? How do I decide where to set the boundaries I have control over? Who is teaching me how to set healthy boundaries?
  • What boundaries have I set for myself with others—family, friends, the opposite sex? Why? Do I feel that these boundaries are respected and supported?
  • When have I had to set boundaries with a difficult person in my life? with a friend who smothered or took advantage of me? Was I able to change the dynamics in our relationship so that it was healthy for both of us? If not, how did I decide whether or not to break off the relationship?
  • When have I had to draw the line with a friend who asked me to keep a secret when I felt that not sharing it could be harmful to him or her? How did I manage to stand my ground in a loving way?
  • How do I set boundaries on the time I spend with family, friends, school, church, God, and myself? When I have overcommitted myself, how did I negotiate with those to whom I had promised my time and talents? When has my life felt out of bounds? What did I learn about my need for boundaries?
  • When have I set boundaries for myself in relation to stuff? money? intimacy? How have these boundaries given me discipline for my life? What is challenging about having these boundaries? What is freeing?
  • What is my responsibility for setting sexual limits in dating relationships? How do I make clear to person I’m dating the “my body, my rules” boundaries I have set? Who has taught me that I have the power to say NO? that I deserve a dating relationship based on love and respect?
  • What boundary-setting practices, set by myself and/or by my parents, have helped me to stay out of potentially dangerous dating situations? Would I recommend these practices to other teens?
  • When have I struggled with lust? porn? the pressure to have sex in order to be popular? How have I learned to draw the line in this over-sexualized culture where the media exploit the fact that sex sells?
  • How does my faith help me to set and keep these boundaries in place? What is difficult about this? What takes practice? How do I know when I have set healthy boundaries? How do I feel when I maintain these boundaries? How does setting these boundaries help me to be a better friend or family member?
  • What boundaries does God place on me? How have I learned the importance of respecting God’s boundaries?
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