devozine

For Youth Workers Post

Come Away

Steve Matthews

“In the Habit” session for  devozine meditations for March 31–April 6, 2014.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“Today, I am feeling a bit tired; but I am not tired from overwork. I’m tired from over-play and from a week of restful vacation. Today, I’m having a hard time getting back into the groove and managing my to-do lists. After a week in the tropics, I feel like I am breathing deeper. I am less tense and less preoccupied with things that annoy or frustrate me. In short, I feel more normal, more like myself—a sign of a good vacation.

“Unfortunately, the residual effects of a vacation may fade quite rapidly when we re-enter the world of work, responsibility, and constant connectivity. Cultivating a regular spiritual practice of rest and renewal is important. We could call it “vacationing with God.” When Jesus invites his disciples to “come away” in Mark 6, he is encouraging them to take care of themselves, to rest, and to rejuvenate. Perhaps he invites them to come away also because he wants them to cultivate a deeper awareness of God’s loving presence in their lives. He wants them to slow down and to pay attention so that they will be stronger for the mission and because he knows that stillness and quiet, as well as delighting in God, one another, and all creation, ground us in God’s love.” —Steve

 

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Steve Matthews IMG_0433Steve Matthews was a youth minister for more than fifteen years. At present, he is living in central Virginia on a small farm with a cat, a dog, and sixteen chickens. He loves growing his own food as well as cooking and eating it. Steve is a leadership consultant and is presently working with “missio:Engage,” an online school for church redevelopment sponsored by the Episcopal Church. He is also a spiritual director and was a writer for The Way of Pilgrimage: An Adventure in Spiritual Formation for the Next Generation.

 

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • newsprint
  • markers
  • Bibles or copies of Mark 6:30–32
  • copies of the closing prayer
  • index cards (one for each participant) with these words written on them: “Honorary Member of the Slow Club”
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

 

PLUGGED IN

  • In this clip from The Color Purple, two friends consider why it is important to come away to delight in God.
  • In “The Slow Club,” youth ministry consultant Mark Yaconelli talks about slowing down to cultivate a sense of wonder.
  • While not expressly Christian, “Thankful” by Christabel and the Jons is a great song that describes deep gratitude for a quiet afternoon of floating down a lazy river.

CHECKING IN

Begin with an opening ritual: observing a moment of silence, saying a short prayer, or lighting a candle to symbolize Christ’s presence. Take a moment to claim this space and time as holy.

Then invite group members to reflect on the questions below and to talk about their responses as they are willing Encourage people to listen to one another prayerfully and without comment.
       When have you felt that you were away from the hustle and bustle and demands of your life? (The time might have been a vacation, an experience at camp, a hike with friends, or a day alone at the beach.)
       What was the experience like for you?
       In what ways did you experience God’s presence?

Invite group members to write on a sheet of newsprint three words that describe their experiences. Ask them to read the words listed and to comment on what they notice about them.

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Mark 6:30–32 

In the verses preceding Mark 6:30–32, Jesus had sent out the disciples in pairs to preach, teach, and heal. When they returned to Jesus, they told him about their experiences. Then Jesus invites them to come away for a period of nourishment and rest.

Invite two young people to read the passage aloud slowly. Then encourage group members to address these questions:
       Why did Jesus want his disciples to rest?
       Did he want them to be stronger for the mission?
       What else might Jesus have been trying to teach them?
       Why is coming away with Jesus—away from the day-to-day demands and challenges of ministry—important for the disciples?

Some of the early Christian mystics talked about awareness as one of the purest forms of prayer. Prayer is not only talking to God about our needs and concerns. Sometimes prayer is slowing down, breathing deeply, and paying attention to how God’s life and love is pulsing within us and around us. To be aware of the “still small voice” of God (1 Kings 19:12, KJV) is difficult when we are always connected and busy.

Consider showing the group the clip “The Slow Club” by Mark Yaconelli.

Then invite group members to engage in a ten-minute exercise in wondering, saying: “Think about somewhere in or around the church where you can sit or stroll for ten minutes. Go there. Notice where your attention is drawn—for example, you may be aware of a piece of art, a stained glass window, a flower, a bird’s chirping, a candle, an ant crawling on the ground. Pay attention to something in your environment, and let yourself develop a sense of wonder about it.

Send people out, asking them to return to the room in silence in ten minutes. When everyone has returned, provide some time for group members to talk about their experience.

Play the clip from The Color Purple, which points to the importance of delighting in God. Then ask:
       In what ways is coming away to delight in God a beneficial practice?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to say together the closing prayer:

“Dear God, thank you for making us human beings and not just human doings. Thank you for stories in the Bible that encourage us to practice being with you. Remind us to come away from the busyness and noise of our lives to rest and to delight in you. Help us to slow down and to pay attention to your presence and activity all around us. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.”

 

TAKING IT FURTHER

Write on several index cards “Honorary Member of the Slow Club.” Distribute the cards. Invite your group members to slow down and to come away with Jesus by taking at least five minutes each day to delight in creation. They might choose to watch a dog play, to feel the wind blow, to listen to the laughter of children, to smell spring flowers, to savor a piece of chocolate. Whatever they choose, encourage them to see their experience as a mini-vacation, a precious few minutes of communion with God.

—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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