devozine

For Youth Workers Post

ALL BY MY LONESOME

Lanecia A. Rouse

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for May 25–31, 2015.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“In 2004, I served in ministry for a year in Leeds, England, with the British Methodist Church. In August of that year, I flew over to begin my service in England, along with a couple bags and a good friend from Divinity School who would be serving about two hours away from Leeds in Newcastle on the Tyme. As we got onto separate trains in London on our way to our new homes, I realized that I was alone on this journey. All of my family was in the United States, and I was moving to a place where I had no history and no established relationships. Church would provide a community, and my relationships with others would grow over time; but the year would teach me, among other things, how to be alone with God.

“The year provided a number of opportunities for me to be still and to grow. At first, being alone was uncomfortable; and at times, the loneliness was so deep I was moved to tears that led to honest conversations with God, as I chose to enter into the solitude instead of trying to escape it. Over the year, my seeing the solitude as loneliness was transformed into peaceful contentment with being alone with God. I have a journal entry from about four months into that year in which I wrote with amazement that I had turned down an invitation to hang out with new friends so that I could drive to the Yorkshire Dales for a day of silence, renewal, rest, and reflection.

“I began to see that I needed to be intentional about practicing solitude and receiving the gift of grace daily to write in my journal, to pray, to do the things that give me life, and to listen deeply to God. By the end of the year, solitude became breathing space for me as I learned to enter into the solitude with wonder as God met me there each time and I learned to love myself.

“The practice of solitude, of being alone with God, is a gift of grace. In solitude, we are free from distractions that keep us from hearing God’s voice or listening to the stirrings of our hearts as we pray, write, study the scriptures, create, or simply enjoy the awesomeness of God. Solitude provides an opportunity for our minds, bodies, and souls to find rest and to receive the nourishment necessary to love God, neighbor, and self. When we allow ourselves to receive the invitation of Psalm 46:10 to be still and to know that God is God, we become more aware of our belovedness and we grow in our capacity to love as we follow Jesus. In this session, we are going to take a look at what Jesus’ life teaches us about the importance of practicing solitude, the good that comes from time spent alone, and ways we can practice solitude.” —Lanecia

MEET THE WRITER

Lanecia-Feature-SQLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am an artist, photographer, painter, musician, writer, mother, friend, and lover of life who is daily learning how to play and live freely. Before becoming a full-time artist in September 2014, I worked as the Project Director of The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and self-empowerment project of the Bread of Life, Inc. for my neighbors living on the streets of Houston, Texas. Prior to the move 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

  • Bibles
  • various art supplies
  • journals, notebooks, or sheets of paper
  • pencils or pens
  • Prayer for Each Day, by Taizé Communities
  • music leader
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

Here are some resources you may find helpful as you guide conversations about the importance of silence, solitude, contemplative prayer, and stillness as we grow in love and knowledge of God and self.

BOOKS

MOVIES AND VIDEOS          

  • Hearing the Voice of Love,” The Work of the People—Phileena Heuertz on “the need for stillness, silence, and solitude in order to love ourselves, our neighbors and to transform our world.”
  • Union,” The Work of the People—Phileena Heuertz on “how contemplative prayer helps surrender our unconscious motivations.”

CHECKING IN

Before diving into the session with the group, think through the questions below. Invite other youth workers to do the same. As a leadership team talk about what you have learned. Conclude the time with prayer for one another and for the program.

Questions for you to think about:
       When you hear the word solitude, what comes to mind?
       How do you seek out solitude for yourself?
       How do you feel after being alone with God?
       What are the benefits of being intentional about being alone with God?
       If you don’t practice solitude, what keeps you from practicing it?
       What are some ways you can add this practice to your daily rhythm?

A great daily practice is to pray for those you lead and the ministry in which you share. Before group members arrive, be in prayer for the time, for those who will participate, for those who will not be present, and for the life of your church community.

As group members arrive, bring them together. Welcome everyone, extending a special welcome to those joining you for the first time.

Invite the group to wrestle with one or both of these questions:
       When you hear the word solitude, what comes to mind?
       What is the difference between being lonely and being alone?

Then say something like this: “Many people find being all by their lonesome with God to be a difficult practice. We are created for community, and community is a good gift. We learn from the life and ministry of Jesus that both community and solitude are important. In the Gospels, we see Jesus’ drawing away to be alone with God. Let’s dive into the scriptures and think about why Jesus was intentional about withdrawing from the community to be alone with God, why solitude is important, and how we can practice solitude.”

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Matthew 14:1–13, Mark 1:29–39, Luke 5:12–16, Luke 22:39–46

Have group members read all or some of the following scripture passages. You can use some of the questions below after each reading or wait until all the texts have been read before you lead a conversation with the group.

  • Matthew 14:1–13 (Jesus retreats to solitude while grieving the death of John the Baptist)
  • Mark 1:29–39 (Jesus retreats to solitude after performing a miracle)
  • Luke 5:12–16 (Jesus retreats to solitude after healing the person with leprosy)
  • Luke 22:39–46 (Jesus, aware of his approaching death, withdraws to pray in Gethsemane)

Questions:
       Why was it important for Jesus to withdraw to a place of solitude and pray?
       Why is it important for us to withdraw to be alone with God?
       What are some ways we can practice drawing away from our daily lives and drawing near to God?
       What are some of the challenges to practicing solitude? 

Guide group members in thinking of ways to push past the challenges they named to be intentional about having fifteen minutes or more each day to be alone with God.

Then say, “Solitude is a valuable practice as we walk with God. As in a friendship, spending time alone with God allows us space to get to know God and ourselves better. It can be a time of knowing God more deeply, gaining strength in faith, being refreshed, as well as telling God our deepest concerns and doubts. The scriptures remind us over and over again that God loves us. The practice of solitude helps us to revel in and to be stretched by God’s love and leads to growth and transformation.

ACTIVITY 1: Meditating on the Scriptures in Silence

Ask people to find places in the room where they can be alone and comfortable to meditate on scripture and have a one-to-one conversation with God. They may write in their journals, create art and/or sit quietly with God and the scripture passage. They will be silent for the next thirty minutes. Encourage group members to be fully present to God and to rest in God’s grace. Thirty minutes may seem like a long time, but if they give it a try they may come to understand silence and solitude as a gift. If their minds begin to wander, encourage them to turn back to scripture, to listening, and to the conversation they are having with God.”

Invite participants to choose one of the following three scriptures to meditate on during the 30-minute time of silence:

If other passages are more fitting for this season of study for your group, feel free to substitute. You will want to make sure the scripture texts are no longer than ten verses so that people will not become distracted or overwhelmed by the length.

Have art materials available as well as paper, pens, and Bibles.

Before the time of silence, say this prayer:

“God, we love you and desire with all our hearts to know you and to be known by you. Open our ears and our hearts during this time of solitude to hear what you would have us hear and to know what you would have us know. We are thankful to be able to rest and to enjoy you in solitude and silence. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.”

Instruct everyone to find a comfortable place to be with God. Remind group members to remain silent until you let them know it is time to gather back together.

After thirty minutes, bring the group together to reflect on their experience.
       What was your experience like? Was it fun? boring? difficult? peaceful?
       What did you hear, write, or create? (Allow time for volunteers to read what they wrote or to tell about what they created.)
       What did you expect your experience would be like?
       Did it live up to your expectations? Why? Why not?

ACTIVITY 2: Taizé Prayer

Choose one of the days from Prayer for Each Day, by the Taizé Community, for group members to use together. Allow twenty to thirty minutes, including ten to twelve minutes for complete silence.

If your group members are new to the Taizé experience, briefly tell them about Taizé. For more information, check out the Taizé website. Let group members know that during the time of silence they are to be completely silent with God in prayer. Suggest that if their mind begins to wander, they meditate on one of the songs, prayers, or scripture for the day. If possible, have a copy of the worship for the day for each person.

After the time of prayer, bring group members together to reflect on their experience.
       What was your experience like? Was it fun? boring? difficult? peaceful?
       How was the time of silence? (Ask people to explain why they enjoyed it or why it was difficult.)
       What did you expect of your experience?
       Did it live up to your expectations? Why? Why not?
       What did you hear or pray during the experience that you want to remember over the next week?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite people to sit in a circle. Light a candle to represent the presence of Christ.

Distribute pens and paper. Invite group members to reflect on the following questions about their time together and to write their answers to these questions:
       When did I experience God’s presence?
       What gave me life or joy?

After a few minutes, provide an opportunity for volunteers to read their responses to one of the questions. Then close with a prayer.

TAKING IT FURTHER

Lead a retreat for group members to learn and practice ways of being alone with God. Books and resources are available online that can guide you in shaping a day of solitude. Or consider these resources from devozine:

Host the retreat at a campground, retreat center, cabin—a place with few distractions. Limit what participants can bring; and let the participants know in advance what they can and cannot bring, so they are not surprised by having to give up something they bring with them. Make sure a Bible, a journal, and a pencil or pen are on the “to bring” list. Invite participants to prepare for the retreat by resting well the night before and by inviting one other person to pray for them during the retreat.

Open and close the day with all participants together. During the opening, explain the retreat’s purpose, prayer activities, and boundaries. Invite group members to pray together before each person goes into a time of practicing solitude.

For the retreat closing, bring the group together to talk about their experience. What surprised them? What was challenging for them? What did they learn about God and themselves? What practice from the retreat do they want to continue in their daily walk with Jesus?

Many people experience God through creating or encountering art, tapping into the divine image of creativity within them. Provide a variety of art supplies and copies of works of art.

Solitude and silence is challenging for most of us. Being alone with God in silence can be uncomfortable as we face questions, doubts, brokenness, emptiness, wounds that have yet to heal, loneliness, and aspects of ourselves we do not like. The busyness and noise of everyday life distracts us. Acknowledge the difficulty and gently encourage group members to be as fully present to the experience as they can. If they are feeling anxiety or fear about being alone with God, invite them to talk about their fear and anxiety with God, asking God to give them peace. Make sure to have a pastor or spiritual director present who can meet participants where they are with love.

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

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