devozine

For Youth Workers Post

WHERE YOUR ♥ IS

Lanecia A. Rouse

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for March 16–22, 2015.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” —St. Augustine

“Essentially, this session is about how we wrestle with, come to terms with, and make adjustments for the competing interests that pull our attention away from God. We will think through questions such as these:

  • What are the daily practices or rituals you observe that let you know your heart is right before God?
  • Are you more devoted to fulfilling your own pleasure or to fulfilling God’s will?
  • What is it that you love or love doing that may prevent you from loving God fully?
  • Does applause from others motivate you more than the satisfaction that comes from knowing you were obedient to the person you sense you are called to be?

These questions are important for us to sit with as we ponder, Where is my heart?

“Typically, challenges arise for me when I seek to balance what I enjoy doing for my own leisure with what I feel compelled to do because I am committed to loving God and neighbor. For instance, on many mornings, I slept in or went to one of my favorite coffee shops for leisure, instead of going to volunteer in my community. Or I felt a need to spend alone time with God, but instead I got distracted and surfed the Internet for hours. Finances? Oh my! Being a good steward so that I can give more to those in need, to local churches, or to missions is indeed a challenge.

“These are personal challenges for me to think through as I locate where my heart is. They all bring me face to face with the ethical demands of the gospel. Each of us has a list of challenges that compete with our intention to live for the kingdom of God. I hope this session provides tools that help young people identify the values and practices that hinder and help their search for deep rest in God’s steadfast love.” —Lanecia

MEET THE WRITER

Lanecia-Feature-SQLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am an artist (photographer, painter, musician, writer), wife, mother, friend, and lover of life who is daily learning how to play and to live in freedom. Before becoming a full-time artist in September 2014, I served as the Project Director of The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and self-empowerment project of the Bread of Life, Inc. for neighbors living on the streets of Houston, Texas. Prior to moving to Houston in March 2011, I served in youth ministry for thirteen years, most received with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful, youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • a Bible
  • stack of magazines and/or books you do not mind tearing up
  • textured and/or patterned paper
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • white poster board
  • a candle and matches or a lighter
  • (optional) notebook or paper and pens
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

Here are some resources you may find helpful as you shape and guide conversations about shame, guilt, love, forgiveness, and grace.

Books and Online Articles/Resources

  • New Neighbor: An Invitation to Join Beloved Community, by Leroy Barber, is a collection of stories from young people who are seeking to love God and neighbor with their whole heart. Each story provides a rich reflection on life—the difficulties, sacrifices, and joys of focusing our hearts on kingdom treasures. This resource provides examples of people who are trying to abide in love as they seek the kingdom of God. In addition, it is a great book for youth to read together and discuss.
  • Mission Year is “a year long urban ministry program focused on Christian service and discipleship.” The blog includes stories of everyday people who are seeking to love God and neighbor within community.

YouTube Clip

  • Rudy Rasmus’ Story” is a modern day example of how shifting what we see as valuable leads to different ethical decisions that increase the capacity for and the experience of love in ourselves and others. Rudy Rasmus is the author of Touch: Pressing Against the Wounds of a Broken World and Period.: When All Else Fails.

CHECKING IN

A great daily practice is praying for those you lead and the ministry in which you share. Receive time before your community arrives to be in prayer for those who will participate, those who will not be present, and the life of your church community.

When group members arrive, welcome everyone, extending a special welcome to those joining for the first time.

Bring the group together. Ask everyone’s name. Then say, “In this session, we are going to spend time thinking about what it means to align our hearts with God and how other aspects of our lives compete for our attention, desires, and devotion. The Gospel of Matthew will help us think about what we want or treasure and what our faith says about what our greatest treasure should be.”

Then invite group members to center their hearts as you offer this prayer:

     “Spirit of the Living God,
     thank you for bringing us together.
     Open our hearts and minds so that we may
     hear what we need to hear,
     speak truth in love,
     receive what we need to receive,
     and grow further in our love and desire for you as we follow Jesus.
     In Christ’s name we pray.
     Amen.”

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Matthew 6:19–21

Read aloud Matthew 6:19–21. Then explain the following in your own words:

The focus of Matthew 6:19–21 is about balancing what we perceive to be of greater importance: our material or our moral interests. This passage is sandwiched between instructions on religious practice (prayer, fasting) and commentary on the wholesomeness of how we see. In prayer, for example, we should practice our religion because of our inner devotion not because of how we want to be perceived by other people. God, who discerns our inner motives, rewards us in an eternal way. Such a view requires a shift in our perspective, a shift in how we see.

Reading Matthew 6:19–21 in context suggests that (1) God calls us to focus on the treasures of moral rather than material goods; (2) the treasures of heaven outlast the common wear and tear of earthly treasures; and (3) the treasures of heaven are gifts from God that cannot be stolen or taken away.

In Matthew 6:19–21 Jesus teaches that to see God and to gain a kingdom perspective, believers need to focus their attention ultimately on the values and ethical demands of the gospel. As we give out of gratitude for the goodness of God, love our neighbor as we love ourselves, fast, pray earnestly, and refuse to allow our desire for material goods and wealth to trump our desire to be good neighbors, we grow closer to God. These practices help our hearts find rest among the constant competing values and interests that are vying for our attention.

Depending on the size of your group, ask people to form smaller groups of three to five or ask everyone to discuss together these questions:
       What in your life competes with nurturing your devotion to God? What do you treasure on earth?
       What do you love or love doing that may prevent you from loving God fully and participating in God’s kingdom work?
       Does applause from others motivate you more than the satisfaction of knowing you were obedient to being the person God calls you to be?
       Jesus advises his followers to store up “treasures in heaven.” What does he mean?
       What do you think Jesus meant when he said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”?
       What daily practices and rituals do you observe that signal to you that your heart is with God?
       What practices make it difficult for you to keep your heart focused on humbly seeking God’s will and God’s kingdom?
       What are some practices that help you keep your heart focused on humbly seeking God’s will and God’s kingdom?

ACTIVITY: Heart’s Desire Prayer Books
In this activity, group members will create heart’s desire prayer books, which will serve as visual reminders of what it means to store up treasures in heaven. They will first create boards and then turn the boards into treasure books, which will serve as reminders to abide in love and to trust God.

Step 1
Invite group members to look through the magazines, books, and textured or pattern paper to find words, images, and patterns that reflect what they believe about life with God when they are wholeheartedly seeking after God’s rule in the world.

Step 2
Ask group members to separate the words, images, and patterns into smaller groups based on theme or similar colors, They can then begin gluing the images on the poster board, working from one of the bottom edges across and covering the whole sheet of poster board. The images can overlap. A color pattern or theme going from left to right across the poster board makes a nice composition.

Invite group members to have fun with the process and to be prayerful as they create. If they find empty spaces, they can leave them empty or fill them with pieces of paper. They can be as creative and abstract as they like.

Step 3
Have group members cut their poster board into three to five smaller strips. The strips can vary in size. This process will create multiple prayer books.

Step 4
Using an accordion fold, they can make each strip into a prayer book. Invite group members to place the prayer books in places where they will serve as reminders for them to center their hearts on things that matter and on the life they are being called to co-create with God.

SHARING IN PRAYER

Bring the group together. Have group members pass the lit candle from one person to the next. As each person holds the candle, ask him or her to answer one or both of these questions:
       Where did you experience or see God this week?
       What gave you life or joy this week?

Close the session with prayer:

Creating and Re-Creating God, daily we seek you, our souls long to rest in you. Give us the courage, strength, wisdom, and support to align our hearts with yours, so that we treasure what you treasure, love what you love, and are focused on what helps to increase the capacity for love, justice, mercy, and hope in the world. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.’

As an alternative, invite the group to pray together Psalm 63:1–8 or to pray one of the following hymns: “Spirit of the Living God,” “Be Thou My Vision,” or “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

Invite group members to reflect on the questions below using a journal or notebook to focus their attention. Encourage them to be as honest as they can possibly be with themselves.

  • How do you spend your money, receive your time, and focus your attention daily? Make three lists.
  • In Matthew 6:19–21, Jesus invites us to store our treasures in heaven. What do you believe these treasures are?
  • Look at your lists. Where are the places of harmony? the places of tension? In what ways are you challenged to align your heart and treasures toward God?
  • What do you need to add or to let go of in life in order to align your heart and treasures toward God?

As they are comfortable, encourage group members to talk about their reflections with a friend or a mentor they trust to support them as they seek to align their heart and treasures with God.

 

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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