devozine

Sep/Oct 2018

Deadline: 12/06/2017

LEARNING RESPECT

  • Who has taught me by example what it means to respect others?
  • How have I learned the importance of showing respect for my parents? for my peers? for my teachers? for authority figures? for the earth? for God? What motivates me to show respect?
  • Who has taught me what it takes to earn respect? When have I received respect from an authority figure? from my church? from my parents? How have I experienced God’s respect for me? How did that change our relationship?
  • Whom do I respect? Why? What qualities that I respect in others do I model in my own life?
  • How do I feel when I know that someone respects me? What does this call forth from me? What might my respect for others call forth from them?
  • How am I learning to listen to and value others so that I offer them not simply lip service but genuine respect?
  • How am I learning to interact with and respect those who are different from me? to think theologically about the ways I engage with people from different cultures? from different generations? What helps me to be open and loving in these situations?
  • When have I discovered that my ability to respect others depends in part on how I feel about myself? How do I love and respect myself?
  • When have I struggled with a lack of self-respect? How did my insecurity cause me to disrespect myself and others? Who helped me to see myself through different eyes and begin to respect myself?
  • When have I failed to respect others and ended up losing respect for myself? How did I resolve the situation?
  • When have I shown respect for people who are disrespectful? who have not earned my respect? who are not ordinarily respected?
  • Do I believe that my respect is easy or difficult to lose? Once lost, what would someone have to do to regain my respect? How hard do I work to regain the respect of those who have lost faith in me?
  • When have I been disrespected? How did I feel, even if the disrespect was unintentional? Was I able to talk through it with the other person, or did I simply ignore it?
  • When have I been disrespectful to others—on purpose or unintentionally? When have I hurt someone else with put downs, teasing, or bullying? When have I disrespected others by seeing them as objects rather than as sisters or brothers in Christ? What helped me to realize what I had done? Was I able to apologize and to ask for forgiveness?
  • How did Jesus show respect for all kinds of people? for those who followed him? who disrespected, betrayed, and killed him? What can I learn from his example?

WELCOME THE STRANGE

  • DC Talk asks an important question: If people call me strange, does that make me a stranger? How would I answer? How have I discovered this answer through personal experience?
  • How do I feel when I’m with people or in situations that seem strange? Do I tend to respond with caution or fear, or am I open to the possibility of growth and adventure?
  • What does it mean to welcome the stranger or people who seem strange to me? Where do I see this happening in my school, my community, or my church? Why is this practice important?
  • How do I welcome new people in my neighborhood, school, or church? How do they receive my hospitality? What is it like to welcome people I don’t know?
  • When have I welcomed or befriended someone whom my friends considered weird or strange? What sort of relationship were we able to build? How did this affect my relationships with my longtime friends?
  • When have I welcomed those who are different from me or shown hospitality to those I don’t like or understand? What motivated me to do this? What was the outcome? What did I learn?
  • When have I welcomed a total stranger? an immigrant or a refugee who has settled in my community? someone who is the complete opposite of me? How did I break the ice? How did this person respond? What difference did this make in our relationship? How willing am I to try this again?
  • When have I been the new person at school, at church, in a club, or on a team? How did I feel being the stranger? Who welcomed me? Was I able to receive the welcome in a way that invited friendship?
  • How am I learning to receive hospitality from others? How do I show others that I am thankful for their hospitable actions? How have I learned that both giving and receiving hospitality is a gift?
  • Is my youth group open and welcoming? Do new people feel as if they can become part of our group? What can we do to make our youth group more welcoming to all people?
  • What have I read about Jesus welcoming people? Whom does he welcome? What can I learn about hospitality from the way Jesus welcomes people?
  • What seems strange to me about the things Christians believe? When have I wondered how God can also be Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Or why we talk about eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood? Who has helped me to explore these questions and to embrace the mystery and practice of my faith?

GOD’S FINGERPRINTS

  • Where do I see the fingerprints of God in the world around me Where do I see God revealed in the wonders of creation?? What clues have led me to see God or to sense God’s presence?
  • Where do I see God at work in my life or in things I experience? How and when do others see God in me?
  • Who has shown me a glimpse of God? How do I see God reflected in the life of this faithful person? How might telling this story be a way to thank this person for such an incredible gift?
  • When have I seen God in someone I never would have expected to reflect the image or love of God? How am I discovering that we all bear the image of God, that we are all a window to the holy?
  • How do I honor the people who reflect God’s love and reveal God’s nature to me? Some people practice bowing and speaking the word Namaste, which means “the Christ in me greets the Christ in you.” What practice can I cultivate to honor and thank those who help me see God?
  • When have I sensed God’s presence in an unexpected place and realized that God was already there, already at work long before I arrived? How has this inspired me to look for God wherever I go—and to find God more often than before?
  • When has God surprised me by showing up where I least expected God to be? What have I learned from God’s surprises?
  • Do I find God most often in ordinary events or in spectacular happenings? Where do I see God in my everyday life? What is surprising about this?
  • In the Old Testament, as God leads the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, they carry the Ark, in which God resides. God goes with the people. When the Temple is built, God lives behind the curtain, in the Holy of Holies where only certain priests can enter. When have I limited God to certain parts of my life, pulling the curtain to close off the parts I didn’t want God to see? When have I invited God into all of my life and to walk with me throughout each day? What difference has this made?
  • What do I think God is trying to say to me through the world God has created? What is it that God wants me to find by noticing or following the fingerprints?

WRESTLING WITH THE WORD

  • What role does scripture play in my life? Do I turn to the Bible for guidance? consolation? wisdom? help? enjoyment? When have I felt God speaking to me through the Bible?
  • What passages of scripture do I find troubling or uncomfortable? Which ones have required more time and focus than I’ve wanted to give to try to understand them? How did I approach these passages? Whom do I ask to help me explore their meaning?
  • Where do I see contradictions in the words of scripture? What questions or doubts do I have about the teachings, the promises, the commands, or the nature of God in the Bible? Which ones are important enough to struggle with until I find answers? Who or what has helped me to grapple with these passages and to find answers?
  • When have I questioned how the experiences of people of faith from 1000s of years ago could possibly matter in my life? When have I wrestled with the word to try to make the context of biblical times fit my life today? What have I discovered about the ways scripture informs and intersects with my everyday life?
  • When have I been taught what scripture says or means by someone who was uncomfortable if I disagreed or asked questions? How did I seek to find answers or explore different opinions? Who introduced me to Bible commentaries and other resources that help me to explore and to better understand scripture?
  • Author Phyllis Tickle echoes the story of Jacob when she talks about wrestling with the words of scripture until she finds God’s blessing. 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?
  • When have I wrestled with God or with God’s word in scripture, determined to get an answer about a particular issue? Did I receive an answer? a sense of peace and contentment that I could trust God with my concern? some other kind of blessing? Am I still waiting?
  • When has grappling with God over a certain issue strengthened my faith? How? When has it left me feeling empty and alone? How am I learning to be honest with God about the hard questions of life?
  • When have I searched or used scripture to confirm what I think is right rather than allowing the word to speak into the situation? How am I learning that the latter is more life-giving?
  • What spiritual practices have opened up the word for me? How do practices such as lectio divina or audio lectio enable me to pause and listen to what God might be saying to me through the word?
  • Who has given me permission to put myself into a Bible story? to read a story and imagine what happens next—things that could have resulted from the events in the story but are not recorded in scripture? How has having permission to use my imagination helped scripture to come alive for me or to speak to my life today?
  • How have I discovered the power of stories through reading scripture? How have I begun to see that I am part of a much larger story—God’s story? How does that shape who I am, what I believe, how I live?
  • What does it mean to me that scripture is God-breathed? When have I encountered God as I grappled with scripture? How has God’s love become alive and real to me through the words of scripture?

PRESS ON

  • Do I see myself as resilient? determined? stubborn? driven? When have these qualities been a strength? When have they become unhealthy?
  • When I face a challenge or experience pain or fear, how do I persevere? Have I ever wanted to give up? Who or what keeps me going? Where does my drive come from?
  • When have I worked really hard but failed to achieve what I had hoped for? What was this like? Did I give up or try again? What thoughts or emotions did (would) I have to overcome in order to try again?
  • When have I felt as if I couldn’t go on and then somehow found the strength and courage to press on? What made the difference?
  • How am I learning that persistence pays off? What have I been able to accomplish by not giving up? How have I been able to strengthen my own ability to persevere?
  • When have I persisted beyond the time when I should have let something go? What happened? Who has helped me to understand that sometimes it is OK to stop pressing on toward a goal that is out of my reach? How has this person taught me to recognize and admit when it’s time to let go?
  • When have I found the courage to do something I would not have thought possible? What happened? When has my faith been the source of my courage or strength?
  • What role models—in life, in books, in movies—do I have for persevering through difficult times? How has someone I know or know about overcome incredible obstacles, hurt, fear? What has this person taught me? inspired me to do or be?
  • When have I encouraged someone else to keep on keeping on? What did I learn about the power of encouragement? How can I use this gift to help others who need strength to press on?
  • How has my faith helped me to press on when the going gets tough? What scriptures encourage me to persevere in life?
  • What biblical characters had to overcome obstacles in order to do God’s work? (Ex: Moses didn’t think he could speak well enough to answer God’s call.) What do I learn from their stories about pressing on?
  • St. Paul encourages us to run the race God has set before us, to press on toward the prize. How am I beginning to see the race God is calling me to run? Who is running with me? What helps me to press on toward this goal? What holds me back or tempts me to give up? What is the reward for me and for others if I follow God’s will for my life?

GIMME A BREAK

  • When I am feeling overwhelmed, out of sync, exhausted, do I stop and take a break? Or do I feel that I can’t slow down or stop until I have finished everything on my plate—or until my body shuts down to make me stop?
  • What do I do when I have a break? How might I use my fall break from school as a time to sleep, rest, refresh, and find balance? What difference might this make when I return to my school work and other commitments?
  • Who has taught me that rest does not equal laziness, that it is OK to be lazy sometimes—in fact, that it is necessary to rest and relax?
  • What difference does it make to me that even God had to rest? Does that give me permission to do the same? How am I learning to schedule down time so that I have the energy, strength, and focus I need for when I am busy?
  • Whom do I know whose life seems centered and balanced? How does this person model for me a healthy balance of work and play, busyness and rest? How am I attempting to find a healthy rhythm of work and rest in my own life?
  • When have I felt that my life was out of balance? What things do I struggle to keep in balance? When have I experienced a sense of balance as a result of prayer? of taking time away? of being with good friends? of giving my all to a project? of good, hard work? of getting enough sleep? of finding moments to laugh and play?
  • How do I balance the demands of my day with time for God? What role does God play in helping me keep my life in balance?
  • Why am I always in a rush? What am I trying to accomplish? What am I missing? trying to avoid? What do family and friends say about my fast-paced lifestyle? What does God say?
  • When have I experienced the value of leaving the rush of life and getting away for a while? What activities could I give up or what changes could I make in my life in order to spend more time with myself or with God?
  • When do I feel lifeless? What situations drain my emotional and spiritual energy? What helps to restore me—body, mind, and soul?
  • Who has taught me how to slow down, to breathe, to find balance, to take the time I need to care for myself? How do I try to encourage friends who are worn out?
  • When have I practiced taking a Sabbath day each week as a time to rest and refresh my whole being? How am I learning to take Sabbath moments throughout each day to pause, breathe, re-energize, or to connect with God?
  • When have I worked so hard to be a faithful Christian that I burned out? Where did I find the rest, balance, and grace I needed to go on? What scripture, song, practice, place, or person helps to refuel my spiritual tank when I’m running on empty?

LIVING PRAYER

  • How do I communicate with God? Are there certain ways to pray that “work” for me better than other ways? Which ones seem to make my conversation with God more real and alive?
  • How do I incorporate prayer into my daily life? If I were to invite God into my life, my friendships, my decisions, how would that bring new life to our relationship?
  • When have I noticed that my prayers seemed to have a kind of rhythm that marks my days—for instance, morning prayer, noonday prayer, and evening prayer?
  • When have I practiced paying attention to the presence of God in everything I do? How does a prayerful attitude help me to handle the ups and downs of my day? to notice God in even the most ordinary events or moments of my life? How am I learning to make my life a prayer?
  • What does it mean to me to “pray without ceasing”? When have I experienced a deep companionship with God? Was I in conversation or prayer every minute of every day, or did I simply remain in an attitude of prayer, listening for God’s voice and sharing the events of my day with God?
  • How do I feel when I know someone is praying for me? How does praying for other people bring life to my prayers? How have my intercessory prayers made a difference in the lives of others?
  • When have I prayed for others as part of a group? What was powerful or memorable about that experience? How did I feel as I prayed?
  • How have I learned to pray for people I don’t like? for people who don’t like me? for “my enemies”? for situations over which I have no control? How do these difficult prayers keep my prayer life alive?
  • When has a critical global issue—clean water, bloodshed, hunger, displacement, slavery, disease—affected me personally? How do I pray for people who are facing these crises? Do I pray for them or with them? What’s the difference for them? for me? What prayer rises in me when I go to God with the struggles and challenges of the world?
  • When have I not felt like praying? When have my prayers seemed empty? How am I realizing the importance of being honest with God in these moments so that we keep our conversation alive even when I struggle to pray?
  • When I don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit prays for me with “sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26)? How has this freed me to come before God without pressure to say the “right words”?
  • Often I find it easier to pray during times of trouble and hardship. What helps me remember to praise God in times of peace and joy? How does celebrating with God bring life to my prayers?
  • What forms of prayer (examen, lectio divina, centering prayer, etc.) have I experienced that help me to connect with God? How does incorporating silence, listening, talking, and acting in my prayer time help me feel closer to God?
  • What does it mean to me that God’s prayer for the world is an active prayer, that God comes to earth in Jesus? How am I engaging with God’s prayer for the world? How am I becoming part of the answer?

I LIKE ME!

  • What things do I really like and appreciate about myself? What about me am I proud of? What do I believe about myself? When I am introduced to someone, what am I excited to tell them about me?
  • How have I come to know myself? How did I learn that I was important? a person of worth? a beloved child of God? How am I learning to be true to who I am?
  • Who helps me to feel good about myself? Who respects me and listens to what I have to say? Who pays attention to the things that matter to me?
  • How have I learned to know who I really am? to claim my gifts? How have I learned to be OK with my body, even though I have things I need to work on? How have I learned to like myself—zits and all?
  • Who or what has helped me to find my voice? Where do I find the courage to speak up when I have something to say? How have I been encouraged by having others listen, respond, and engage in conversation?
  • What does the way I present myself in interviews or on college applications say about me? How am I learning to be confident and positive without feeling that I am bragging or being conceited?
  • Who is a model of confidence for me? Who remains confident even when the odds are not in his or her favor? What have I learned from this person? How am I seeking to apply it in my life?
  • How am I building relationships that go beyond the surface so that I know and am known more than superficially? How do these people bring out the best in me?
  • How do deal with other people’s opinions of me—good or bad? When have I felt the pressure to conform? What causes me to try to live up to others’ ideals instead of my own? Who or what has helped me to find myself when I am ignoring my values?
  • In a world where teens face much pressure and anxiety, where suicide has become an all too easy choice for dealing with pain or disappointment, how does finding my identity in God give me hope and strength to carry on? to feel loved and valued no matter what the world tells me?
  • When have I experienced God’s love and grace at a time when I felt lost or unlovable? Was I able to accept these gifts? How did I begin to accept God’s love and to love myself in spite of what others felt about me? What am I discovering about myself? How am I finding my identity in Christ?
  • How does loving myself enable me to love others? How does loving myself affect the ways I live out Jesus’ second commandment to “love my neighbor as myself”?

SPEAK, LORD

  • When have I felt called to do or to be something? What happened? Who or what has given me the strength and courage to answer a call in my life?
  • How do I understand my calling in life—specifically and generally? If it is clear, how did I figure it out? If not, who is helping me to discern my call? What if I have no clue right now—is that OK?
  • When has God called me to do something specific? How did I know it was God’s call? Who or what helped me to discern God’s voice? How has that call been confirmed?
  • How do I make myself available to God? Do I answer God’s call in the way young Samuel did (“Here I am!”—1 Samuel 3:1–10), or do I have to think about it? What scriptures help me to hear and respond?
  • When has God called me to do something that I didn’t want to do? When have I responded, “You want me to do what?” What have I learned from following a call that at first I didn’t want to accept?
  • Jesus called his disciples and then sent them out into the world to serve others. When have I felt sent by God into a situation? How did I feel about being sent? How am I learning to respond to God’s call in my life?
  • Who helps me to recognize and act on my call to serve others? How do they support me in my call? How have others shown me what it means to be a disciple and follow God’s call?
  • When has God encouraged me to make a difference in the lives of people in my community and in the world? Who saw my potential as a leader and named those gifts for me? What did I learn?
  • How am I learning that God’s call to help others doesn’t always require some grand gesture? What are some little things I can do that could make a big difference in someone’s life?
  • When have I become aware of an injustice and felt called to take a stand? What was the issue? Why did I feel compelled to take the risk of getting involved in working for change? How did I help?
  • When has it been difficult for me to take an unpopular stand? Why is it important for me to step out of my comfort zone? Why is it so hard? Who or what gives me the courage to say YES to God?
  • When have I stood up for or with someone who didn’t have a voice—sitting with the un-cool kid at lunch or participating in an awareness event for homelessness? How are my actions changing me?
  • When has God asked me to take a stand for what I believe? Who or what gave me courage to take this risk?
  • What do I feel that God is calling me to do right now? (besides write a meditation!) What would it take to make saying YES to God a lifestyle?
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