devozine

Nov/Dec 2018

Deadline: 02/01/2018

HEAL THE HATE

  • When have I felt hatred for someone else? Did anything this person had said or done warrant such intense emotion from me? How did I respond? How did I deal with my feelings?
  • While interacting with another person, have I ever thought or yelled, “I hate you!” Were my feelings appropriate or had my emotions escalated way out of proportion to the situation? What did I learn about my ability to cope with anger? Who is helping me learn how to diffuse my anger and to resolve conflict peacefully?
  • When have I excluded or mistreated people who look different than me? have different religious beliefs and practices? come from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds? How am I learning to interact with and respect those who are different from me? What helps me to be open and loving in these situations?
  • When have I been in a situation in which I am the one who is hated for being different? How did I feel? act? How has that experience helped me to examine the way I treat others?
  • What does Jesus say about differences among people? How might the world be different if we healed the hate and accepted one another—differences and all? if we treated others as we want to be treated?
  • Whom do I consider my enemies? Why? What would it take for me to love these people? What does Jesus mean when he says, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who hate you”? When have I tried this? How has loving my enemies changed the way I feel about them? relate to them? pray for them?
  • When have I or has someone I know been the victim of a hate crime? What was it about us that other people hated or refused to tolerate? How am I working to help people see that all lives matter—that we all deserve respect and dignity, no matter what our differences?
  • When have I participated in a peaceful protest against the effects of hateful opinions or actions? How did others respond to our protest? Did we raise awareness, bring others to the table to resolve the conflict, or encounter even greater resistance? How did we seek to respond with love and peace?
  • Who has been for me a model of tolerance, love, and peace? What have they taught me about building bridges and restoring dignity? What community or national leaders have inspired me by seeking to heal the hate among people and nations, by loving their enemies, by working for peace and respect? How am I living this out in my little corner of the world?
  • What walls of hatred am I hiding behind? From whom or what do they protect me? What do they prevent me from doing or experiencing? When have I had the strength to break down a wall of hatred? How have I learned that reconciliation requires more than knocking down the walls?
  • Where have I seen walls being torn down and bridges being built to bring people of the world together? What risks do people take to build these bridges? to cross them? When have the benefits been more than anyone imagined?
  • In what relationship have I taken the risk to build a bridge across some lingering hurt, fear, or hatred from the past? What building blocks were required—healing? forgiveness? trust? patience?
  • What does Jesus mean when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers”? What does it mean to me that Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace”? How can I help to bring peace on earth? What can one person do? How can I be an instrument of God’s grace and peace in my family? in my relationships? in my school? in my community? in my nation? in the world?
  • How do I, as a follower of Jesus Christ, respond to the violence and hurt caused by hatred of others? What role can love play in healing hatred? What kind of active stand can I take in the name of love?

 

GONE TOO SOON

  • When have I lost a sibling or friend I thought was far too young to die? a parent who died unexpectedly or before I was ready for life without him or her? What feelings did I experience? What questions did I ask? What answers did I receive?
  • When has my life been affected by a friend’s suicide? What was most difficult for me to handle? Why do I think so many young people feel that suicide is the only way to deal with their problems?
  • Why do I think some young people choose to commit suicide online? Are they so hurt that they want others to hurt as well? Are they hoping for attention they have never had? How can I help people who feel this way see that they have options other than ending their own lives?
  • When have I or my friends been affected by drive-by shootings or school shootings? How do I deal with the senseless violence that takes the lives of so many young people these days?
  • When have I watched a friend or family member struggle with a terminal illness? In what ways did I struggle with them—denying the inevitable? questioning God? In what ways was I able to help? How did I help them find peace and courage in the face of death? Who or what helped me to gather the courage I needed?
  • What have I learned from being present with someone who is facing death? What wisdom can I share with other teens about the gift of being present with a loved one who is dying? about the stages of grief they may go through? about how to handle the memories that crowd in on special occasions and holidays?
  • When have I been afraid to talk to a person who was dying? What did I miss by not saying goodbye? by not sharing what I appreciated most about him or her?
  • What have I learned by having to face my own death? What am I learning about “dying well”?
  • What questions do I have about what happens after we die? How do these unanswered questions make me feel about death? With whom do I feel comfortable asking these questions? How do I talk to God about my concerns and fears? What answers have I received that make it easier to face death, especially death that comes too soon?
  • How is my grief different when I have lost someone too young or too soon than when I have lost someone who has lived a long and full life? How is it the same? Who has helped me learn to grieve in healthy ways? Who has allowed me to cry? to scream? to ask why? to remember and celebrate? Who has been there for me? How have I helped to support others in their times of grief?
  • When has the pain of loss paralyzed me? When has it kept me from giving my heart again? How have I learned that loving is worth the risk of losing the ones we love?
  • When has God been my rock in a sea of grief? What does it mean to me that God knows how it feels to suffer? to die? to grieve? to lose a loved one? How does it make me feel to know that Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus?
  • When have I felt abandoned by God in my grief? Who or what helped me to see that God was with me through it all—that God was crying and grieving with me? How am I learning to give God my feelings of anger, denial, agony, and uncertainty?
  • How do I honor the memory of someone who died too young? What things do I do to help me and others work through grief? How do the memories of this person continue to comfort me and to enrich my life?

 

LIFE IN PIECES

  • When have I felt my life being shattered into pieces because of a broken or toxic relationship with a friend, a loved one, or God? How was I able to restore or let go of the relationship and move forward?
  • When a relationship ends, how do I handle it? Do I hold on or let go? Do I seek healing, or do I hold on to my anger? How do I relate to God in these times? What have these broken relationships taught me about love? betrayal? compromise? forgiveness?
  • When have I had a broken heart? What caused my heart to break? How did I feel? react? Who or what helped me to heal? to claim responsibility for my part in the brokenness?
  • When have I built walls to protect myself or to keep out others? Why? How can I tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy walls? Is there a time and place for barriers or protective walls?
  • When have I seen a wall become a bridge to a better relationship? Why was there division? What enabled the wall to crumble? Were we able to become more together than each of us could be on our own?
  • When have I crossed a bridge to a new place or chapter in a relationship? How did this help me see that I have more strength than I realized? that God’s presence in tough times means more to me than I thought?
  • When has a friendship drained me all of my energy? How did trying to be a friend to that person only make things worse? How has dealing with high-maintenance friends affected my other relationships?
  • How do I deal with friends who are controlling, manipulative, or deep into drama? who are two-faced, mean-spirited back-stabbers? who exhibit risky behavior? When have I felt a need to fix them? When have they sucked me into their brokenness? How am I learning to set healthy boundaries?
  • When have I stuck by a friend who is difficult to love? How am I learning to be friends with someone who is really annoying, frustrating, or challenging—whose life is in pieces? What do I have to overlook, forgive, or seek to change in them? in me? Who has loved me when I was broken and unlovable?
  • How do I know when it’s time to let go of a toxic friendship? Who or what has helped me to take a break from a broken friendship or to let it go completely when boundaries are continually crossed?
  • When have I been unable to let go of a broken relationship? What holds me back? Who has given me courage to take the first step toward healing? Who walks with me along the journey?
  • When has letting go allowed healing and goodness into my life? When have I been able to look back upon a time when my life was in pieces and to see that God was at work to bring healing in that situation?
  • When have I been an instrument of healing? How have my relationship struggles enabled me to understand what others are going through and to offer healing and wholeness as they seek to let go of the brokenness?
  • What examples of broken relationships do I find in the Bible? How do these relationships mend or end? What does this teach me about my own relationships?
  • Do I expect relationships to last forever? Why? Are there any relationships that I can count on forever?

 

WONDER

  • When have I been able to see the world with child-like wonder? How did I feel? respond? How am I learning to open myself to the child within me?
  • What does it mean to me that Jesus felt it was important to spend time with children? that he instructed us to have the heart and faith of a child? What have I learned from children about practicing curiosity? What would it take for me to experience God’s world as a child?
  • When has a child taught me an important lesson about life? about myself? about God? How have I learned to be open to the profound lessons that children teach in such simple ways?
  • When have I spent time observing the ways children seek to understand how people interact or how the world works? What about their natural curiosity inspired me to look at things differently?
  • Where do I see God in my everyday life? What is surprising about this? How often do I stop and enjoy the surprise? What changes in me when I do?
  • Do I see God most often in ordinary events or in spectacular happenings? When has God surprised me by showing up where I least expected God to be? by giving me something much better than I had asked for or expected? How do I respond to these gifts that leave me breathless with joy?
  • How do I see God revealed in the wonders of creation? When have I experienced the awe and presence of God in a new or powerful way outdoors? How did this cultivate within me a curiosity to know more about the intricacies of nature?
  • When have I found myself in awe of God’s handiwork, especially in places that I hadn’t expected to see God or beauty? How has this inspired me to make a practice of looking for God even in unexpected places? of seeing the sacred in the ordinary?
  • How have God’s surprises helped me to see things from a new or different perspective? How am I learning that being a child of wonder requires an open mind and a healthy imagination?
  • When have I experienced a different style worship that opened me to the wonder and mystery of faith? How did I respond? How does music help me to enjoy and to express the wonder of life and faith?
  • What does it mean to worship God? How do my favorite ways to worship allow me to experience and to express awe and wonder? my reverence for God?
  • What are examples of God surprises in the Bible? How is the miracle of Christmas a God surprise?

 

(dis)content

  • Do I constantly want to buy the next big best thing? What influences my desire for certain fashions, tech, and stuff? When I can’t have the things I desire, how do I exhibit my discontent?
  • How do I understand the scripture passage that says to “ask, and it will be given you . . .” (Matthew 7:7–11, NRSV)? How does this affect my expectations about what things I should have? How do I feel when I don’t get what I want? How does being discontent affect my attitude? actions? relationships? faith?
  • What is it that I want most out of life? from my relationships with others? with God? If I could have three wishes, what would I ask for? If I could keep only five of the items I own, what would they be? Why?
  • Society screams at us to buy and spend, even if we don’t have the money. When has consumerism gotten the best of me? What was it that I couldn’t resist? What steps am I taking to avoid the lure of “having it all”?
  • What have I discovered about getting what I want? When have the things that I want gotten in the way of what God wants for me?
  • How have I learned the difference between happiness and contentment? How am I learning that “stuff” doesn’t bring true happiness? How have I been able to get rid of my stuff, to overcome my greed, or to be content with what I have? When has this led me to care for others who may not have what they need to survive? How am I learning to be generous with what I have, no matter how little or great it is? What role has my faith played in this change?
  • When have I felt truly content? Has contentment been a constant quality of my life or a string of fleeting moments? How does seeing this pattern shape my definition of contentment?
  • Am I content to be content, or do I need constant excitement in my life to prevent getting bored? Do I need a balance of contentment and discontent to keep me striving and growing even when I feel at good about my life?
  • How are my culture’s definition of contentment and my spiritual definition of contentment similar and different? Where do I stand when these definitions clash?
  • Are there times when I shouldn’t be content, when I should push against things that are not OK? When has contentment become complacency in my life?
  • When has the sense of contentment in my life come from within? from outside of me as a gift? When have I been content with who I am, what I am doing, and what I am contributing to others and to the world?
  • When my life seems out of kilter, what is it that I long for? How have I found a sense of peace and contentment that lasts, even in the more chaotic times of my life?
  • How have I experienced God’s presence during times of contentment? What part does my faith play in my attaining a sense of peace and wholeness—God’s shalom? What would it take for me to say, “It is well with my soul”?
  • In what ways is God generous to me, even though I don’t deserve it? How am I learning to respond to God’s generosity to me by “paying it forward”¾by being generous to others?

 

DEPRESSION

  • How have I learned to recognize the difference between loneliness, sadness, “the blues,” and the deeper struggle with depression and despair? What warning signs do I recognize in myself or others?
  • When have I felt really depressed? What was going on in my life that triggered or contributed to my depression? What did I do to try to pull myself out of those difficult times? Where did I turn when I couldn’t handle it on my own?
  • When I have struggled with depression, how did I feel? Was it difficult or easy to admit to myself that I had a problem? Who or what helped me to reach out for help?
  • To whom do I go for help when I am depressed? Who or what has enabled me to name my depression? to get help? to recognize the symptoms of depression? to discover what triggers or exacerbates my depression? to explore what diet, exercises, or spiritual practices help me to manage my depression?
  • How does being depressed affect my mental, emotional, or spiritual health? How do holidays or special anniversary dates affect me? What is it about the winter season that seems to deepen my depression? What have I learned that helps me to face these times?
  • How have I been able to help others because of my own experience with depression? What can I share with my peers about the importance of asking for help? of being diagnosed and treated for depression?
  • When has my life been affected by a depressed family member or friend? How did his/her illness affect me? How did I balance being there for him/her with protecting my emotional health?
  • Why do I think depression is becoming more prevalent in society and among young people today? Who or what helps or hinders young people who decide they need to seek help?
  • What activities have helped me climb out of depression? What role does my faith play in helping me be released from the power of depression?
  • What part has my faith and my relationship with God played in dealing with depression? How have I received help and support from my faith community during times of depression?
  • When have I gone to a Blue Christmas or a Longest Night of the Year service (Dec 21st)? What prayers, songs, or scriptures spoke to me during that service? How did acknowledging my pain and depression with others in my faith community help to carry me through the holidays?
  • What scriptures do I lean on as I continue to fight depression? How do these passages encourage me? What other practices or resources help me to battle this disease?
  • How do I experience God’s presence (or absence) when I am depressed? When have I discovered that God understands our deep sadness? What helps me to trust that God is with me, even when I don’t feel God’s presence?

 

LIGHT OF THE WORLD

  • What power does the image of light have for me? What meaning does it hold for me?
  • When have I experienced light shining into the darkness of my life? Who or what was the source of this light? How did it draw me toward healing and wholeness?
  • When have I been overwhelmed with grief, confusion, doubt, questions? When have I felt as if I were surrounded by darkness? Who or what helped me to make it through?
  • When have I struggled with my faith? What or who caused me to doubt what I believe? Did I lose my faith, or did I find my way out of the darkness of doubt? Where have I seen the light of Christ shining in my life during times of doubting and trials?
  • When have I felt spiritually and emotionally drained? When have I cried, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Was I able to find the light of God’s presence in these times?
  • In what areas of my life do I need light, illumination, or understanding? How am I seeking to find the light? What gives me hope?
  • When have I searched for God’s light but failed to find it? What gave me the courage to keep going, or did I give up?
  • When has God’s light flashed into my life when I wasn’t even aware of the darkness around me? What has been my Damascus Road experience? How did it change me?
  • When have I used candles as symbols of God’s presence? When has candlelight helped me to experience or to understand God’s “light in the darkness”?
  • When have I used candles during my devotional time or as a part of my prayers for others? How does the light help me to focus on God in the busyness of life? to hold others in the light of God’s healing love?
  • How do I understand and live out the biblical words: “You are the light of the world”? How do I see my faith as a way to “let my light shine”? In what ways is my life a light to others?
  • What does it mean to me this Christmas season that the light of Christ “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”? What practices can I begin during Advent and Christmas to allow the light of Christ to shine into my life and through it to others in the year ahead?
  • Christ is the light of the world. How will I welcome the light into my heart and home this Christmas? How will I seek to shine the light of Christ into the dark corners of the world?

 

POWER OF WORDS

  • When have I witnessed or felt the power of words—spoken words, written words, song lyrics? What did they move me to think, to feel, or to do?
  • What words spoken by famous or ordinary people have inspired me? How do I use my words to encourage and inspire others?
  • Whose verbal testimony or life story has strengthened my faith? Whose words or story offers me an example of how I’d like to live my life? Whose words or story do I think my peers need to hear?
  • What words do I use to tell my faith story? When have I recognized that words in my story match those within another person’s story? within God’s story? How does this intersection of words and stories allow me to see myself and others as a part of God’s story? When has God used my words or my story to bring others to faith?
  • Why is it wise to think before I speak? When have I said something that I later regretted?
  • How have I learned that words can hurt a person more than sticks and stones? When have I been the recipient of hurtful words? How did the power of these words affect me?
  • When have I realized that words can offer powerful affirmation? When have I received encouraging words when I needed them most? When have I used my words to encourage another person?
  • When have I learned the hard way that words can hurt or heal? What role does my faith play in the language that I choose to use? How have I learned to control my tongue?
  • How do I feel when someone smears my name? How do I feel about the use of bad language—swear words, 4-letter words, derogatory words? When people use slanderous or hateful words, what kind of power does that give them over me? Or does that power depend on how I respond or receive those words?
  • How do I feel about taking God’s name in vain? Do I respect and honor God’s name, or do I throw it around carelessly? What power do I find in respecting God’s name?
  • Not all 4-letter words are bad. What are my favorite 4-letter words, such as love, hope, life? How do I try to live out these 4-letter words?
  • What is the power of God’s word in my life? How have I allowed the words of scripture to find a home in me, to become part of me so that my words and my life reflect God’s word?
  • Just as God spoke us into being and breathed life into us, scripture is God-breathed, the living Word. It is not finished but alive and fresh. It continues to be spoken and breathes life into all who hear it. What am I inspired by the power of God’s word to create, to bring to life, to shape?
  • This Christmas, what does it mean to me that the word became flesh, that Jesus Christ is the living “in the flesh” word of God? How has the incarnational nature of God helped me to understand more about who God is and how much God loves us?

 

CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD

  • What are some unique Christmas traditions from around the world that are especially meaningful to me? When have I convinced my family to adopt one of these traditions as our own, such as the Twelve Days of Christmas or Las Posadas? Why did I feel that it would enhance our Christmas celebration?
  • What have I learned about the ways various countries celebrate the coming of the Christ child? understand the colors and symbols of Christmas? tell the stories of Saint Nick? Why do I think people have come up with so many ways to celebrate God’s gift to us in Christ?
  • When have I experienced Christmas in another country or culture? How did this celebration help me to welcome Christ in new ways?
  • What Christmas traditions and celebrations do I look forward to each year with my family? my friends? my classmates? my church? my youth group?
  • What unique traditions does my family observe that are different from the traditions of most people I know? Why are they important to celebrate each year? How do they capture what Christmas means to me?
  • How does celebrating certain traditions each year remind me of special people or events in my life? mark special occasions in our family or community? help me find a rhythm of life?
  • What are the most important Christmas rituals for me at my church during Advent and Christmastime? How do they help to bring me into the presence of God? into the Christmas story?
  • When have I “gone through the motions,” forgetting the true significance of Christmas? What helped me to rediscover the meaning of the season?
  • What is my favorite part of the Christmas story from the Bible? Who is my favorite character? When have I been able to act out or to imagine myself in this story? How did that make the story come alive for me?
  • When have I heard the Christmas story told or seen it reenacted in a way that gave it deeper significance?
  • How has celebrating Christmas in drama, song, worship, service, reflection, family rituals, or imagination helped to deepen my understanding of God’s wondrous gift in Christ?
  • What difference does it make in my life that God loved me enough to come to earth as one of us? What difference does it make that God was “in the flesh”? What traditions have I begun to remind me of this gift throughout the year?
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