devozine

Mar/Apr 2019

Deadline: 06/12/2018

HANDLE WITH CARE

  • What motivates me to take care of the Earth—a sense of personal responsibility? the belief that I am a partner with God in creation? a concern for future generations?
  • Who has taught me the importance of promoting the gentle, loving care of our world? How can I motivate others to adopt a lifestyle of loving and caring for the world around us?
  • Why do I feel that I have responsibility for caring for the Earth? What is my responsibility to future generations as far as the environment is concerned? How do my actions show respect for those who come after me?
  • How have I begun to realize that there is a mutual relationship between my life and the world? What difference does it make that I am in relationship with the Earth rather than being a resident or sojourner on the Earth? How do I see my connection to nature? to the land? to all of creation?
  • Who has modeled for me an intentional focus on earth care? How has this person taught me to respect the Earth and to be involved in taking care of our planet? How do I model a lifestyle of earth care? In what ways do I encourage others to get involved in caring for creation?
  • How does my lifestyle affect the environment? What is my carbon or ecological footprint? In what ways am I trying to reduce any negative effect my life may have on the environment? How have I discovered that one person can make a difference?
  • What simple earth-care projects with long-term effects am I participating in? What practices have I adopted that help me care for the Earth? Are they easy or difficult? How have these practices changed my lifestyle? How have they helped me to better appreciate God’s creation and my place in it?
  • What does my dream for a beautiful and healthy environment look like? What can I do to raise awareness of the importance of caring for our environment? to influence those who have the power to make needed changes?
  • How has the misuse or abuse of the world’s resources by previous generations affected my life? my generation? What challenges will my generation need to face in order to sustain the Earth for future inhabitants?
  • How have I experienced the consequences of individuals or industries ignoring and abusing our planet? What recent catastrophes have been caused by abuse of the Earth? What can I do about this?
  • How am I becoming an advocate for human life and the natural world? What environmental issues am I passionate about—availability and assess to clean water? protection and preservation of public lands? reversing the effects of climate change? How can I be a part of the solution to these global problems?
  • What does it mean to me that God created me to be a steward or caretaker who handles with care all that God has made? What would change if I thought of this task as my calling?
  • When have I failed to be a good steward of the earth God has given us? What happened? Can the damage we have caused through the years be redeemed? How can I be an advocate for change?
  • How do I live out my faith by caring for the environment? How have I grown closer to God through caring for creation? How do I see caring for the Earth as a way of loving others?
  • What does the Bible say about our call to be involved in redeeming, taking care of, and sustaining our world? How have I accepted the challenge? What is holding me back?
  • How will I incorporate earth care into my Lenten practices? How will I encourage friends and family to join together to live out our role as caretakers on Earth Day (April 22) and beyond?

 

START FRESH

  • When have I felt I needed a fresh start? Why?
  • What would it mean to me to have a second chance in life? How would I do things differently?
  • When has a change or transition in my life—moving to a different school or city, changing my group of friends, getting a do-over in a relationship or for a mistake—allowed me to start fresh? What did I decide to change about myself or about the way I interact with others this time around?
  • What stories or examples of people who have made a fresh start in life have inspired me? How?
  • When have I experienced someone giving me permission to start fresh? How did this empower me to make changes that I had been unable to make?
  • How have I experienced starting fresh in my relationship with parents? friends? God? When have I allowed others a fresh start in a relationship with me?
  • When have I really needed to ask for forgiveness? to offer forgiveness? Why is it so hard to say, “I’m sorry”? to say “I forgive you”?
  • When I have needed a fresh start, how have others offered or withheld the forgiveness I needed? In what ways has God given me a 2nd chance, even when I didn’t deserve it?
  • How do the people in my life react when I mess up? Who has shown me a glimpse of God’s grace and forgiveness? What difference does this make in how I see myself? others? God?
  • What things do I need to forgive myself for in order to start fresh? In what ways have I resolved to change myself for the better?
  • When have I struggled to forgive myself? Who has helped me to believe that I am forgiven? What did he or she do or say to help me believe this?
  • When have I confessed—admitting my mistakes and apologizing to God or others for my words or actions? Did I ask for forgiveness, or was it offered freely? When have I felt cleansed and freed by God’s forgiveness—able to start fresh? When has forgiveness been difficult for me to accept?
  • How often do I reflect on the value of and need for confession in my relationship with God and others? How have I made (or can I make) this a Lenten practice?
  • Who in my life has hurt me the most? How was I finally able to forgive them? What did it feel like to give them a 2nd chance? to allow myself a fresh start?
  • When have I experienced a broken relationship in need of reconciliation? How has reconciliation happened in my life? What does it mean to be reconciled to another person? to God? What does it mean to be called by God to the ministry of reconciliation?
  • When have I faced a situation in which I felt incapable of forgiving someone? Who helped me move toward reconciliation? How did the act of forgiving change our relationship? How did it change me?
  • How has forgiving others or being forgiven myself been a turning point in my life?
  • How did Jesus react to people who needed to change their ways and start fresh? How was he able to see people as they were and still love them? How can I practice this kind of love and forgiveness?
  • What do I think Jesus was feeling or thinking when he said from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”? How have these words given me a 2nd chance?

 

HAPPILY SINGLE

  • Why is being in a dating relationship so important to teens today? Who or what influences the way I feel about dating? Do I ever feel pressure to date because everyone else is?
  • How do I feel about myself when I don’t have a date? When have I felt that I wasn’t complete without a boyfriend or girlfriend? How have I learned to see myself as a whole person, not defined by any particular relationship? How am I learning to be OK with being single?
  • What’s the big deal about having a date—image? companionship? acceptance? trying out different relationships as I decide what I’m looking for in a spouse? feeling that someone cares for me? How am I discovering that these things can also be found in non-dating relationships?
  • What role does my faith play in choosing whether or not to date? in how I feel about myself as a single person?
  • What have I learned about healthy ways to say no, to take myself out for a date, to be happily single? How has being intentionally single made a difference in the way I choose my friends? How can I use this time to build strong friendships that will grow with me into the future?
  • What has spending time with my friends taught me about myself? others? God? acceptance? love? pain? forgiveness? faith? trust? having fun? commitment? being a good friend? cultivating close relationships? balancing the required give-and-take? engaging in deep discussions that feed our souls? How will these qualities benefit me whether or not I choose to date or to marry someday?
  • How do I feel about group “dating”? When have my friends and I enjoyed doing things as a group of friends and not as a group of couples?
  • What is the difference between loving and being in love? As a single person, what kinds of love have I experienced with parents, siblings, friends (guys & girls), spiritual friends, God? How is each one important? How has loving and being loved shown me God’s love more clearly?
  • When have I had a good friend or best friend of the opposite sex who was just a friend, with no romantic involvement? What was good about this relationship? What were the drawbacks? Why is it important to me to have a friend of the opposite sex who understands where I am coming from, who really listens and is honest with me, whom I can trust and confide in, who cares about me, and whose company I enjoy? When have I been this kind of friend to someone else?
  • When do I seem to be most lonely? As a single person, how do I deal with loneliness? Does it make me want to start dating again? to be more intentional about scheduling time with other people? to spend more time with God?
  • How am I learning that it’s OK to be alone at times? that I need time alone in order to rejuvenate and to be able to give my best self to others and to God? Who or what help me to be content when I’m alone?
  • How has God guided me in making the decision to be single? helped me to become comfortable in my own skin? to enjoy my own company? to be happily single? to be my best self? How does God help me to find a healthy balance between spending time with others, with myself, and with God?

 

LENTEN PRACTICES

  • How have I discovered the importance of having a spiritual discipline during Lent? What are some creative Lenten disciplines or spiritual “habits” that I have practiced that have these been helpful to me? How have these practices brought me closer to God? How do they help to prepare me for Holy Week and Easter? for living out my faith?
  • How have I learned to practice being with God so that it becomes a habit? How have I experienced God through habits of prayer? silence? journaling? worship? fellowship? Bible study? singing? mission? What do I miss about my time with God when, for whatever reason, I get out of the habit?
  • What do I want to get in the habit of doing? What do I want to get out of the habit of doing? What will this require of me? What one thing in my life would I like to change for 40 days in order to see how it changes me? What spiritual discipline will I commit to practice for those 40 days to see what difference it makes in my relationship with God and others?
  • When have I taken time to practice being silent? When has the experience of silence been positive? negative? surprising? challenging? How have I experienced God in times of silence?
  • Why am I always in a rush? What am I trying to accomplish? What am I missing? When have I experienced the value of leaving the rush of life and getting away for a while? During Lent, how will I practice slowing down and savoring life?
  • How have I discovered that daily devotional time is important? What do I do during my devotional time with God? What influence or impact has spending regular time with God had in my life? What happens when I get out of my regular devo routine?
  • When do I take time to reflect on my day and where God was present in it? How has learning to review the “highs and lows” of my day helped me to be more aware of God’s presence during the day? What has engaging in this ancient Christian practice (Prayer of Examen) taught me?
  • In what ways have I tried to jazz up a boring or nonexistent prayer life? When has tapping into something creative—finger painting, knotting yarn, making music, coloring mandalas, working with color or clay, using a finger labyrinth—enabled me to offer a more sincere prayer?
  • When have I used my creative gifts as a way to pray for someone else—knitting a prayer shawl, praying in color as a form of intercessory prayer, performing a liturgical dance as part of worship? How have these prayers helped me to reflect the love and comfort of God?
  • What prayer practices that involve my whole body—walking a labyrinth, walking prayers, body movement, sign language, dance, or exercise—have become meaningful to me? How are my prayers different when I use more than my mind or my mouth?
  • When have I prayed to God through physical work, like building a Habitat house or working in a community garden? How have these experiences helped me begin to understand prayer as work and work as prayer?
  • What other practices or techniques have helped me grow in my prayer life—writing letters to God, intercessory prayer, praying through the day, praying the hours, using prayer beads, praying for my enemies, centering prayer? What prayer practice would I recommend to other teens and why?
  • How am I learning to make Bible reading a habit? What practices accompany my reading of scripture—journaling, praying, listening to music, researching biblical history and characters?
  • What exercises or prayer practices (praying the scripture, lectio divina, others) help me to listen for God’s word to me through scripture? to make the connection between scripture and my everyday life? How does digging into God’s word daily help me to understand and internalize scripture so that it finds a home in my heart and shapes who I am becoming?
  • When have I tried to see myself in a Bible story? When has God invited me into a story? With which character did I identify? How did visualizing myself as part of the story help me to make a connection about my life or a decision that I needed to make?
  • When have I become aware that millions of people around the globe face critical issues, such as clean water, bloodshed, hunger, displacement, slavery, and disease? During Lent, how might I begin to take steps to tackle these global issues? How can I pray for and with those who are facing these crises? What prayer rises in me when I go to God with the struggles and challenges of the world?

 

CAN’T EVEN

  • Am I a negative person? How do my friends and family respond to my “can’t do” attitude?
  • When do I say, “Can’t even!” to escape dealing with too many choices, rules, or unrealistic expectations? When is this response my way of ending a conversation? What is it that I don’t want to deal with?
  • When is it easy for me to have a negative attitude? When have I wondered, What is the point? I can’t even do this! How have I handled these times?
  • What are the sources of negativity in my life? How do they affect me? How do I try to curb their effects? What spiritual “antidotes” to negativity have I found?
  • How do I react when I am around negative people? Do I plan a quick exit, become more negative myself, or seek to bring a positive spirit into the encounter? Do negative people bring me down? How do I react to persons who are negative about things I care about?
  • Do I tend to hold grudges against people whose lives seem too easy, who seem to accomplish every goal they set? How does holding grudges affect my attitude? my life?
  • When has a good friend been honest enough to tell me that my negative attitude was getting old? How did this help me to change?
  • When have I taken time to reflect on my “can’t even” attitude and how it affects my life and my relationships? What did I learn? What, if anything, did I decide to change? How am I trying to cultivate an attitude that honors God and reflects my faith?
  • How am I learning to look for “the bright side” in difficult situations? Whom do I know who tries to see the good in every situation? How does this person inspire me to be more positive?
  • Who or what helps me to stay focused on my blessings when I feel defeated or unable to meet my goals? Who models for me the importance of cultivating a grateful spirit? How has practicing gratitude helped me to be more positive even in tough circumstances?
  • Where do I turn when I’m in a negative place? What practices or scripture passages encourage me? How do they help to lift my spirits?
  • When has a negative outlook kept me from seeing the good or sensing God’s presence in my life? What difference did that make? Who or what helped me to look back and discover God’s hand at work in this situation?
  • What steps am I taking to become more positive about life? my abilities? my future? How can I encourage others to be more positive?
  • When have others expressed gratitude for my presence in their lives or for something I have done for them? How has their gratitude helped me to become more positive and hopeful?
  • When have I taken time each day to reflect on the things I can do and for which I am grateful? How does this benefit my spirit? How does it change my perspective on life? How am I trying to honor the pain and difficulty of tough circumstances while trying to live with a “can do” attitude?

 

MY SECRET LIFE

  • When have I kept secrets? Was hiding this information harmful or helpful? What type of secret am I keeping now?
  • What secret am I keeping about myself or my family? Why am I afraid to share my secret with another person? with God? What do I think would happen if I confided in someone?
  • What secret am I keeping out of shame? Do I keep secrets about failures, sexuality, abuse, addictions, self-injury? Is there anyone I can trust with these secrets? Why do I feel that I need to hide them?
  • When have I kept an entire part of my life secret from those closest to me? How did this affect me? my relationships? If the secret got out, did I tell it, or did they find out? What happened?
  • When have I kept secret that I was hurting myself physically—cutting, abusing drugs, purging? Where was God when I wanted to hurt myself? How have I sought and found help?
  • When have I kept secret that I was addicted—to food, exercise, drugs, alcohol, gambling, porn, the internet, or another person? How have I discovered that this cycle can be broken? Where have I found the strength to fight?
  • Why do I do things I know I will regret or that I will need to hide from others? When have I gotten in trouble with the law or done something that would damage my own reputation or integrity?  What were the consequences? Whom did I hurt or disrespect in the process? Who supported me during this time? Who held me accountable for my actions?
  • When have I felt myself painfully separated from friends, from family, from God because of my secret life? How did I find my way through this difficult time?
  • Why do I pretend to be so carefree on the outside when I am screaming on the inside? What am I aching to talk about with someone I trust to listen and understand? How am I learning to trust that talking about my pain is the first step toward healing?
  • When have I felt the relief of revealing a secret? Who encourages me and gives me permission to be honest without fear of judgment? Who models honesty for me?
  • When have I looked back over my life and discovered that my secrets have kept me in a downward spiral? that my destructive choices had put distance between God and me? What was my aha moment? How am I learning to admit my mistakes and accept responsibility for my actions? to ask for forgiveness and to forgive myself?  How am I working to rebuild my relationship with God?
  • When have I been so trapped in guilt or anger or embarrassment that I was unable to see that anything good could possibly come from that situation? How did I discover that God is big enough to forgive me? that confession could help me to move through guilt and shame toward grace and forgiveness?
  • The Psalms tell us that God knows us inside and out—that we have no secrets from God. How does this make me feel? How does my faith in God help me to think about secrets in a new way?

 

QUESTIONS FOR GOD

  • What questions do I have that only God could answer—playful questions (Why did you give penguins feathers?) as well as serious ones? How do I think God would answer my questions?
  • What are my faith questions? Which ones are important enough to struggle with until I find answers? During Lent how will I hold these questions in prayer or talk about them with someone I trust?
  • When have doubt and questions helped me to grow deeper in faith? Are there some questions that I may never get an answer to? Is that OK?
  • Who helps me to ask the right questions? to search for answers? to live faithfully when the answers are not clear? When has not having an answer allowed me to sit with a question long enough to experience more deeply the mystery of God?
  • What are my big faith questions? (What’s the meaning of life? Why was I born? Why must I die? Does my life matter? What should I believe? How could God possibly love me? Is one religion closer to the truth than another? Why is there hate? war? pain? violence? Where can God be found? How do I know what God wants for my life? Is it OK to question?) How have I begun to find answers? Which ones would you like to hear other young people attempt to answer?
  • Who is God? How have I experienced God at work in my life? in the world? Who does scripture say God is? Do these images of God fit with my experience? When have I struggled to feel God’s presence? to trust God’s word? How has my understanding of God changed over the years?
  • Who is Jesus? How do I experience the presence of Christ in my everyday life? What questions do I have about Jesus? If I could sit and talk with Jesus, what would I ask him?
  • Who is the Holy Spirit? When have I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in my life? How do I sense the Spirit’s presence and guidance? When has the Spirit been an advocate for me? prayed for me when I could not find the words?
  • What is God’s will for my life? How do I listen for God’s direction? What am I hearing? How have I discerned that this is a process, that I don’t I have to have an answer before I can follow?
  • When have I cried out to God, “Why?” or “Why me?” or “Why do bad things happen, especially to good people?” Does God understand our pain? When I cry, does God cry too? What makes God cry? How am I learning to trust God even when I don’t understand why things are happening?
  • When has articulating a “Why?” question prompted me to search for an answer? to work to make a difference in the outcome of a difficult situation? When have I asked “Why?” on behalf of others? How have I been a part of the answer to their problems?
  • At what points in my life have I questioned whether God was with me and cared for me? When have I felt God’s presence so clearly that I had no doubt God was with me? How has this experience given me the strength to get through times when God seems absent?
  • How am I learning to be honest with God about the hard questions of life? When has grappling with God over a certain issue strengthened my faith? When has it left me feeling empty and alone? What can I learn from Jacob’s experience of grappling with God in Genesis 32:22–32? Am I willing to search for truth if it involves pain as well as blessing?

 

LAUGHTER IS CONTAGIOUS

  • Why do I love to laugh? When was the last time I laughed so hard it hurt? Who was I with? Why were we laughing?
  • When have I gotten the giggles in worship? How did others on the pew with me also get tickled, even those who had no idea why I was laughing? What’s makes laughter so contagious?
  • What has God made me laugh by surprising me with an aha moment or letting me see the humor in the world? How often do I enjoy God’s gift of laughter?
  • What tickles my funny bone? Who or what can always makes me laugh? When I need a good laugh, what do I do or to whom do I turn?
  • What is it about life that causes me to giggle? to belly-laugh? to roll on the floor laughing? When have I experienced the joy of laughter that becomes contagious and has everyone laughing?
  • Who is the comedian in my family? What hilarious things does he or she do that gets my whole family laughing? How has he or she taught me the benefits of laughter, even in tough times?
  • What childhood story or embarrassing moment makes me laugh at myself? When have I discovered the importance of being able to laugh at myself?
  • When has my youth group done something really funny at camp or on a mission trip?  How did humor help to bring us together? When have I witnessed the presence of God in an extremely funny episode in my group?
  • Why do I think a sense of humor is important? What is it about people who have a great laugh or a good sense of humor that I find attractive?
  • With whom do I feel comfortable laughing out loud? How does being able to laugh out loud together affect our relationship?
  • The Bible says “a cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). When have I discovered the healing effects of a side-splitting laughter? How do I use humor to make others feel better? Can humor, then, be a ministry?
  • When can humor be negative, especially if it becomes contagious? When have I gotten a laugh at the expense of someone else? When have I experienced laughter as a painful put-down? How have I learned the difference between laughing at and laughing with someone?
  • Do I have the ability to make others laugh? How have I used this gift? How have I learned to reflect my Christian faith even while joking around?
  • Create a cartoon or comic strip (1-4 frames) that gives a humorous twist to a life experience, a verse of scripture, a Bible story or character, a faith question—you get the idea! Draw the cartoon (as neatly as possible) with speech bubbles or captions, and send it to devozine. If possible, include a scripture verse and a reflective element—prayer, quote, journal idea.
  • When have I discovered humor—even belly laughs—while reading the Bible? Which biblical stories or characters are funny? What do I imagine that Jesus and his disciples laughed about?
  • How do I experience God through laughter? How have I experienced God’s sense of humor? What difference has it made in my life or my faith that I can laugh with God?

 

AGAINST THE ODDS

  • When have I felt the odds were against me? What did I do? How did my faith in Christ help me to take a risk and to face the situation?
  • When have young people felt the need to go against the flow to make a statement or to bring about change (Joan of Arc, student protesters in Tiananmen Square, Zach Hunter, Malala Yousafzai)? How have they inspired me to believe that we live in a day when one person can inspire thousands of others with an idea or can activate a network of people to make a real difference?
  • When have I felt God calling me to go against the flow or to stand up for what I believe? Who was I up against? Did I ever want to give up? Who or what kept me going? To whom did I turn for guidance and strength?
  • When have I felt as if I couldn’t go on and then somehow found the strength and courage to keep going? What made the difference? How am I learning that persistence pays off? What have I been able to accomplish by not giving up? How has my faith helped me to press on no matter what?
  • When have I felt that I was facing great odds all by myself? Did I feel like giving up on God? Who helped me to keep the faith? How did I find courage in scripture or prayer? When have I sensed God telling me, “Hold on! I’ve got your back.” What did this teach me about trusting God? How do I feel knowing that God will never give up on me?
  • When have I experienced fear, pain, addiction, guilt, betrayal, grief, confusion, or doubt? How have I made it through these struggles? What has God taught me as I depended on God in difficult times?
  • When has my family struggled to make ends meet? How have other people stepped up to help when the odds were against us? What did I learn from this experience?
  • How am I or are young people I know experiencing the pain of racism and prejudice? How as a Christian can I take a stand against these acts of discrimination?
  • When have I found the courage to do something I would never have thought possible? How was my faith the source of my courage or strength?
  • Who or what has helped me to cultivate a courageous spirit? to be courageous in spite of my fears? In what circumstances have I been able to display true courage?
  • When have I had to be brave for someone else? Where did I find the courage to take a stand for someone else, especially if it was risky or unpopular?
  • When has someone I know or know about overcome incredible odds? What has this person inspired me to do or be? What biblical characters had to overcome adversity in order to do God’s work? What can I learn from their stories about taking the risk to answer God’s call?
  • How does the Easter story empower me to go against the odds? What does it mean to me that in Christ, God defeated death itself—and that God did it for me? How does knowing that all things are possible with Christ give me hope and courage to face even the greatest odds?

 

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