devozine

Mar/Apr 2018

Deadline: 06/15/2017

THAT’S NOT FAIR

  • How would our world be different if there were truly justice and equality for every person? If I could tackle one issue of inequality in our world, what would it be? Why?
  • When has someone I know been treated unfairly? How did it feel? What did I do? What do I wish I had done?
  • When have I taken the time to consider life in another person’s shoes? What would it be like to be a different race? to live in a different culture? to be the opposite gender? to have a different religion? How has this experienced shaped the way I see and treat others?
  • How have I responded to people who are different in color, race, culture, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental and physical ability, looks, body size, education, financial status? Did my actions help to break down the barriers and fears that lead to discrimination rather than fair and equal treatment?
  • When have I experienced laws, customs, systems, and institutions in our society engaging in discrimination? When have I joined in a movement to change the ones that encourage or perpetuate discrimination?
  • When have I been bullied by someone who had power over me or the ability to affect my future—a teacher? a coach? a pastor? an employer? Whom did I tell? Where did I find help?
  • When have I been a bully? Why did I feel the need to mistreat others or to put them down? Who is helping me to change my behavior? to see these people through God’s eyes?
  • How can I help to break the cycle of bullying and abuse? What anti-bullying efforts am I involved in that have been successful in standing up to and preventing bullying?
  • How do I feel knowing that many people do not have what they need to survive? How am I learning to be generous with what I have? How am I working for fair wages, respect, safety, and equal access to the necessities of life in the world or in my own community?
  • Whom do I know who is an advocate for these causes? How is this person’s work shaped and informed by faith? How has he or she inspired me to join the fight for equality?
  • When have I stepped outside my comfort zone to be in community with someone who is being mistreated? What opposition did I face? What did I learn from this experience?
  • When have I stood up against the mistreatment of women, immigrants, the elderly, other races, classmates who were being bullied, others? What gave me the courage to take a stand?
  • How did Jesus demonstrate the value of understanding persons who are different from us? How am I following his example in my daily life?
  • When have I discovered what it really means that all persons are loved by God and are one in Christ regardless of our differences? How can I be a healer of the wounds that discrimination, inequality, and exploitation have inflicted?
  • What does it mean to “do justice” and “love mercy”? How would my life change if I truly believed these two things were required of me by God? What would this challenge me to do about all that is unfair in our world?

WHAT OTHERS THINK

  • How much do I care about what other people think of me? How do their opinions influence my self-image?
  • How have I experienced the struggle to discover and claim my identity? What are the most critical values, messages, pressures, or persons that influence my self-image?
  • Who or what—friends, movie stars, magazines, clothing stores—shapes my opinion of my appearance? To which voices do I listen?
  • When have people judged me solely on my looks or my appearance? What assumptions do these people make about me because they don’t get to know who I really am beneath the surface?
  • How have I put myself down by comparing myself to others? Who encourages me to discover what is good about me?
  • Why do I think being popular is so important for teens? How have I felt pressured to do what it takes to be popular? When have I sacrificed my integrity in order to be popular?
  • In what ways do I compromise who I am in order to please other people? What has been the result? When have I had to decide between pleasing someone and doing what I thought was right? How am I finding courage to live a life that is pleasing to God?
  • When have I felt like a failure? Was it because of my own standards or someone else’s expectations? 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?
  • In what ways is my identity tied to my achievements? How am I learning that I am more than my achievements or failures?
  • What kind of person am I when I feel free to be myself? How is that person different from the person I usually seem to be? Who or what makes me feel that I the person I really am is not good enough?
  • What messages does society send that distract me from recognizing God’s image in myself? How do I respond to these messages?
  • Do I really love myself? Who or what is teaching me to love myself? How am I learning that I am a person of worth?
  • How have I learned to believe in myself? Who or what gives me the confidence to do this?
  • When have I believed in myself, although others doubted? How do I respond to teasing and put-downs? How do I continue to love myself even when I’m unpopular?
  • What does God say about who I am? What difference does that make to me? How have I found identity in Jesus Christ? How do others see Christ through me?

WHEN FAMILIES FIGHT

  • If I could resolve one conflict in my family today, what would it be? What might my role be in the resolution of conflict?
  • What do members of my family argue or fight about? How is conflict resolved in my family?
  • Am I a fighter, a pacifier, or a pushover? In my family, is it easy for me to stand up for what I believe, or do I prefer to remain silent for fear of rocking the boat?
  • Do my siblings or parents argue constantly? How do I feel about the people I love fighting with one another? How do I respond when others are angry? When has my behavior gotten me into trouble? When have I been able to bring peace to an angry situation?
  • What do I get so upset or angry about that I want to fight? How have I learned to deal with conflict in positive ways? to channel negative energy into creative outlets?
  • What do I fight about most often with my parents—not being understood or respected? rules I think are unfair? dating someone they don’t like? breaking curfew? bad habits? How have I learned to handle conflict in my family so that things don’t escalate into a fight?
  • When have I had the wisdom and courage to back off from a fight? How have I learned when to fight and when to work for peace? What tips can I give my peers about picking your battles?
  • How do I feel when I have ongoing disagreements with a family member? How do I seek to maintain the relationship? When have we had to seek help to resolve our disagreements?
  • When have I had a huge argument with a family member? Who or what helped us to work through our differences? to deal with the fallout from the argument?
  • What family feud caused my heart to break? Did I hold on to my feelings or let them go? Did I ask God for help? Who or what helped me to heal?
  • When has divorce torn my family apart? What got me through the tough times? When have I experienced the presence of God in the midst of the pain and anger of a divorce? What consolation did I find in scripture? in prayer? in Christian community?
  • What is the toughest part of being a blended family? How am I learning to see and accept my step-parent or step-siblings as family? How are we learning to live together?
  • When have I wanted to “get away” from family? How does time apart help us to get along? When have I used “taking a break from family” as an excuse not to deal with the issue?
  • When have I experienced the consequences of unresolved family conflict? How does my faith call me to work toward reconciliation with people I love?
  • When have I sensed God’s presence and love in the midst of troubling family times? How have prayer, meditation, and other spiritual practices helped us to resolve our issues?

CHANGED FOR GOOD

  • What changes am I facing in my life? How do I feel about those changes? How can I invite God to be at work in those transitions?
  • How am I learning to expect change as a part of life, perhaps even to enjoy change? When have I benefitted from a change in my life? When have I experienced change that energized or inspired me?
  • What things in my life would I like to change? Are there things in my life that I never want to change? Are there things in my life that God wants me to change?
  • How am I learning to be open to the changes God desires for me? When have I witnessed God’s power to change someone for good? Am I ready to be transformed by that love?
  • How have I been “in hibernation” over the winter? Could the less busy, less active, even boring parts of my life be spent in more positive ways? How might I be preparing for something? What practices might allow me to discover the gifts in me that are waiting to emerge?
  • When has a person or event completely changed my perspective or opinion on something for the better? What difference did this make in me? in my relationships? in living out my beliefs? How does my faith help me to be open to change? to being made new?
  • How does “having the mind of Christ” propel me into the world? How am I becoming a change agent for good?
  • What changes would I like to see in my community? in my nation? in the world? Who or what inspires me to want to do something meaningful for the good of others?
  • When have I discovered that volunteering or social action has made a difference in someone else’s life? in the environment? in my own life? in my relationship with God?
  • What situations in our world and in my community challenge me to change or grow in order to stand up for what is right? How have I found the courage to face these challenges?
  • If we learn to love by being loved, is it possible that my love can make a difference? How might my becoming a more loving person inspire change in others?
  • What has changed in me that allows me to love someone who is difficult to love or whom others think I should not love? Whose loving example has inspired me to grow? What is it about their courage or confidence that I would like to cultivate in my own life?
  • Are there times when I’ve let being young keep me from doing great things for God? How am I learning that God uses people of all ages to make a difference? How has this change in the way I see myself empowered me to step out of my comfort zone to do what I can?
  • How do the faith stories of other people—famous or ordinary, young or old, rich or poor, historical or biblical—give me courage to risk stepping out in faith to follow God’s call?
  • It’s one thing to know something with your head; it’s another to know it with your heart. If I truly believed that I am loved by God, how would that change my everyday life? How might that knowledge shape and change my view of and relationship with myself? others? God?

EXTRAVAGANCE

  • In what areas of my life am I extravagant? How has this affected my life and my relationships in positive or negative ways? In what areas of my life do I need to be more or less extravagant?
  • In what ways is my country or culture extravagant? How does this affect me and others at home? How does it affect people in other parts of the world?
  • Where does money rank on my scale of what’s important in life? What can money enable me to do for myself? for others? for God? What barriers might arise if I focus on having money?
  • Society screams at us to “buy and spend”—even if we don’t have the money. When has greed or consumerism gotten the best of me? What was it that I couldn’t resist?
  • When have I realized that I have too much stuff? How have I been able to get rid of my stuff, to overcome my greed, or to be content with what I have?
  • What am I extravagant about in a good way—helping others? dispensing kindness? praying for others? What other practices would I like to cultivate?
  • What does it mean to be generous? In what ways am I generous with my time, money, talents, love, and service? In what ways am I stingy? Who models for me a life of generosity?
  • In what ways is God generous to me? How does the practice of generosity bring me closer to God? help me to be the hands and feet of Christ?
  • When have I been lavished with loved? When have I experienced God’s love and grace at a time when I felt unlovable? Who are the people I can count on to love me no matter what?
  • In what ways does God demonstrate his love for us? How does God’s choice to become one of us, to become flesh and bones, reveal that God thinks we’re worthy of his love?
  • When have I doubted that God loves me? When have I been overwhelmed by God’s love even though I don’t deserve it?
  • When have I known without a doubt that I am loved? What difference did that make in the way I felt about myself? about others? about God? How can I touch the life of someone who feels unlovable by lavishing them with the love of Christ?
  • As a follower of Christ, how am I called to love extravagantly? What does this mean for the way I treat others, especially the poor, the oppressed, people on the margins, my enemies? How might showing them the extravagant love of God change the way I feel about them? the way I relate to them? the way I pray for them?
  • God came to earth to die for us. In what ways have I experienced this extravagant gift of love? How have I come to understand that God loves me with that kind of love? How am I learning to love as God loves?

TOO MUCH NOISE

  • How noisy is my life? What contributes to the noise—music, friends, laughter, fights, media, technology, social chatter, conversations, busyness, doubt, guilt, fear?
  • Am I energized by turning up the noise, or do I need space for silence and stillness? Is the noise or is the solitude an escape from something I don’t want to think about or talk about with others?
  • How do I deal with distracting noises in my life? How am I learning when I need to unplug? to stop talking and listen? What helps me to refocus?
  • What are the distractions in my spiritual life? How do I (or can I) take to heart Paul’s advice “to press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14)?
  • Who or what has distracted me from my relationship with God? When have I given in to the temptation? How have I learned to stay the course?
  • Why is it so hard for me to be a Christian in today’s pop culture? With what do I struggle most? What helps me to keep my focus on what’s really important?
  • How much do I depend on media and technology in my daily life? How do I use them—to learn new information? to relax? to be entertained? to express my opinions? to do my thinking for me? to escape from my life for a while? to practice my faith? When have they created barriers to growing in relationships or in my faith? In the roar of opinions being voiced each day, how do I decide which voice to listen to?
  • When have I heard the “voice of God” through media or technology? How am I learning to listen for God’s voice above all the noise? What habits or practices help me to discern God’s voice?
  • What noises or distractions keep me from listening to others or to God? What helps me to clear away those distractions? to listen more intently?
  • When has God gotten my attention and “distracted” my life? What have I learned about these godly distractions?
  • How does God usually speak to me—through prayer, scripture, or some other spiritual practice? through music or the arts? through a person or a special place? When have I asked God to speak to me? Did God respond? What was my conversation with God like?
  • How have I discovered that the art of listening is important for my faith journey? Who or what helps me to tune in to God’s voice? to discern between God’s voice and the voices of others?
  • How do I practice listening to God—through prayer? scripture reading? meditation? the discipline of stillness? Do I hear God in these times? What has God revealed to me?
  • How did Jesus listen to God? What can I learn from his example?
  • What steps can I take during the season of Lent to silence all the noise around me so that I can listen more clearly for God’s voice?

LOST

  • When have I felt lost? What happened? Would I describe it as being confused? wandering? feeling doubtful? ashamed? broken?
  • When have I felt so lost that even God could not reach me or solve my problems? What did I do? Where did I turn? Who or what helped me to find my way?
  • What faith questions do I wrestle with most often? Do I feel guilty about these doubts? Who or what has given me the space, the grace, or the courage to express my doubt? How do I encourage others to explore their doubts and to search for answers?
  • Does my faith shift according to situations or experiences in my life? When have life experiences led me to doubt my faith? to question my ability to believe in or to trust God? to wonder if God is with me? if God loves me?
  • When have I (or has someone I love) lost or given up on faith? Was it a gradual process or did it happen in an instant? Why did faith not seem to have the answers I (he or she) needed?
  • How have I found my way back to God? Did I choose to have faith again or did it come to me as a gift from God?
  • When has God found me when I didn’t even know I was lost? How have I experienced the unconditional love of God?
  • When have I experienced a spiritual drought in my faith journey? What happened to make me feel far from God? What was it like to be thirsty for God? Who or what supported me?
  • When have I supported someone who was “wandering in the wilderness”? How did it feel to watch this person struggle and thirst for God? How was I able to help?
  • How do I get back to God when I have wandered away? Where has God been when I’ve been far away? In these “desert” periods when my spiritual life is dry and boring, who or what reminds me of God’s unchanging love for me?
  • What Bible characters had a wilderness experience? What led them there? What brought them back to God? How is their faith journey similar to mine? What can they teach me about how to live by faith?
  • Jesus was drawn to the wilderness for 40 days after his baptism (Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13). Why did the Son of God have to experience a time of wilderness and temptation? How does this story prepare me for wilderness times?
  • When have I cried, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” When I’m spiritually or emotionally drained, what do I do? How have I found answers to my questions? a way to refuel or refresh?
  • In times when I have felt lost, did God bring something good out of the situation? Looking back, how can I see God working in my life or preparing me for what was to come?
  • Write your own prayer or poem or conversation with God explaining how you feel about being lost, wandering in the wilderness, or experiencing your “dark night of the soul.”

AMAZED

  • Where do I see God in my everyday life? What signs of God’s presence do I see in the world today? What is surprising to me about these encounters?
  • When have I experienced an “aha moment” with God or felt God reaching out to me in a new way? How have these God moments helped me to see things from a different perspective?
  • When have I been amazed by God’s showing up where I least expected God to be? Was this a gift or was it uncomfortable? What did I learn?
  • Where do I sense God’s presence or hear God’s voice in creation? What is God trying to say to me through the amazing world that God has created?
  • When has seeing something awesome in nature helped me to focus my attention on God? What do the changing seasons or the rhythm of nature teach me about life? faith? my Creator?
  • When has the amazing beauty of nature taken my breath away? How does being in nature help me feel closer to God? How do I feel to be one of God’s creatures when I witness the beauty God has created?
  • Where do I see the fingerprints of God in the world? How does God knock me out with wonder? Where do I have to look extra close to see God? How do I look for God in the unexpected?
  • When have I become aware of God’s handiwork in unexpected places—places that I may not have considered the “beauty” of nature?
  • When have I seen God in beauty? in the midst of destruction? How is it possible to see God in both? How amazing is that?
  • How does my own body reveal God to me? When have I been amazed by the ways that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”? What about my body makes me aware of and grateful for God’s creative power?
  • How has being amazed by God in the past encouraged me to practice the art of paying closer attention to God throughout each day? What everyday items or happenings remind me to focus on God? How have I intentionally used these reminders to prompt me to pray?
  • When has God overwhelmed me by giving me something much better than I had asked for or expected? How have I been amazed by God’s love and grace? When have I experienced the miracle of Easter as God’s most amazing surprise?

HIDDEN PAIN

  • What are the extremely painful things that I carry around inside that no one else can see—physical pain? mental anguish? broken relationships? regrets? failures? guilt? shame? grief? others? Why do I feel that I need to hide these things?
  • Why do I pretend to be so carefree and fun-loving on the outside when inside I am screaming? Why am I unable to trust anyone enough to talk about my pain?
  • In what ways am I my own worst enemy? Why am I so afraid to trust or to open up with someone else? Am I keeping my own pain hidden in order to be strong or to protect others?
  • What am I aching to talk about with someone who will listen and understand? How have I learned to trust that talking about my pain is the first step toward healing? Who is helping me to heal?
  • When have I kept secrets? Was hiding this information harmful or helpful? What type of secret am I keeping now? Is there anyone I can trust with these secrets? In whom do I confide?
  • When have I felt the relief of revealing a hidden secret? Who encourages me and gives me permission to be honest without fear of judgment? Who models honesty for me?
  • When have I wounded myself physically, mentally, or emotionally? Was it a conscious decision or an urge that seemed to take control of me? Where is God when I want to hurt myself? Where have I found the strength to fight? How has my faith community supported me?
  • When have I felt myself painfully separated from friends, from family, from God? How did I find my way through this “dark night of the soul”?
  • What have I learned through suffering? 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 this enabled me to open up to God about pain I have hidden for so long?
  • 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—to help him or her open up and find healing?
  • How has my pain helped me to get in touch with or to better understand the suffering of Jesus?
  • The psalms tell us that God knows us inside and out—that we can hide nothing from God. How does my faith in God give me courage to reveal my invisible wounds and to seek help?
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