devozine

For Youth Workers Post

EVERYWHERE GOD

Lanecia A. Rouse

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for November 1–9, 2014.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“In a word, there is no point of space, whether within or without the bounds of creation, where God is not.”

                                                                              —John Wesley

“As an artist, I have always been intrigued by how God’s Spirit speaks and is revealed in everyday life. Since childhood, I have been taught that God is everywhere. I was taught to keep seeking, to keep looking, even in places, situations, and people in which seeing God’s presence is difficult. The Creator is there. Even as a child, the truth of God’s presence everywhere led me to making choices that I considered more in line with God’s will. If God is present, I did not want to do anything to make God upset with me. As I have grown in learning and in my love of God, the same truth has birthed my capacity to give and receive grace, to love well, to see well, and to create beauty.

“As an artist and lover of the world, I have always been intrigued by how God speaks and is revealed in everyday life. Over the past couple of years, I have studied the scriptures, read books about being able to see God in all of life, and engaged in a number of contemplative practices that have provided me with a deeper understanding of God’s Spirit, which is always behind, before, below, above, and beside us.

“As individuals prayerfully seeking God, we become more aware of the Spirit of God that surrounds us. Photography is one way I become more aware of the sacredness of all life. I use photography as a means of self-discovery and discipleship formation through a practice called visio divina, which means ‘divine seeing.’ It describes a way of viewing life in ways that permit us gradually to let go of our own agendas and to open ourselves to what God wants to say or to show us in the present moment. By applying the practice to various social settings, places, and people, my capacity to see God’s presence in all of life is expanded, especially in overlooked, ordinary, or challenging situations. All of life becomes an ever-flowing stream of prayer, which sustains us, brings us comfort, transforms us, empowers us, reconciles us, and ultimately saves us as we acknowledge that God is with us and we begin to participate in co-creating with God a more loving and just world.” —Lanecia

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

                                                                            —Frederick Buechner

MEET THE WRITER

devozine Lanecia Rouse-Feature-SQLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am an artist, mother, friend, and lover of life, who is daily learning how to play and to live in freedom. For the past three-and-a-half years, I served as the Project Manager 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 moving to Houston, I served in youth ministry for thirteen years, most received with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Find out more about Lanecia’s photography.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • a Bible
  • paper
  • pens and pencils
  • (optional) photographs of a variety of life situations or places
  • (optional) boxed cameras or cameras
  • (optional) copies of the list of words for the photo challenge in “Exploring the Word”
  • (optional) social media tag (#) for your group
  • a candle and matches
  • access to a projector and/or photo printing company
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

Below are some resources that you may find helpful as you shape and guide conversations about the omnipresence of God and about identifying God’s presence in all things.

Books and Articles

  • Any books by Christian mystics such as Julian of Norwich, Howard Thurman, Simone Weil, or Mother Teresa will help you prepare to guide others in thinking about God’s being everywhere.

Online Resources

CHECKING IN

Before diving into the session with your group, receive time to think through the questions below. Invite volunteers and youth workers to do the same. Then bring the leadership team together for conversation. Conclude with prayer for one another and the program.

Questions to ponder:
       What does “God is everywhere” mean to you?
       Do you believe that God is everywhere? Why? Why not?
       How do you feel reading Psalm 139:7–12 or hearing that God is everywhere?
       Where have you seen or experienced God today? yesterday? in the past week?
       What have your experiences revealed to you about who God is? who your neighbor is? who you are created to be in the world?
       When is seeing God most challenging?
       What faith practices help you to acknowledge God’s Spirit in all times and places?

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

When group members arrive, invite everyone to come together. Welcome everyone; extend a special welcome to those joining you for the first time.

Display the quotation by John Wesley above where everyone can see it. Say: “John Wesley was an 18th Century Anglican pastor and theologian who is credited with starting the movement known as Methodism. In his sermon ‘On the Omnipresence of God,’ he wrote, ‘In a word, there is no point of space, whether within or without the bounds of creation, where God is not.’”
       What do you think about John Wesley’s thoughts about God’s being everywhere?
       Do you believe that God is everywhere? Why? Why not?

Introduce the session, saying: “Our study today is about God’s being everywhere. In Christian theology, the belief that God is everywhere, or the omnipresence of God, means that God is present in all space and time, but God is not limited to space or time.”

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Psalm 139:7–12

Invite everyone to read Psalm 139:7–12 (NRSV):
       Where can I go from your spirit?
       Or where can I flee from your presence?
       8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
             if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
       9 If I take the wings of the morning
             and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
       10 even there your hand shall lead me,
             and your right hand shall hold me fast.
       11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
             and the light around me become night,”
       12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
             the night is as bright as the day,
             for darkness is as light to you.

Invite discussion of the text using questions such as these:
       What feelings or thoughts does Psalm 139:7–12 spark for you?
       What word or phrase captured your imagination?
       When is seeing God in people, places, and situations easy? When is it most challenging?
       When does thinking about God’s being with us make us uncomfortable? Why? What does the discomfort tell us about how we understand God? What does the discomfort reveal about us?
       How does the discomfort affect the way we choose to live faithfully and lovingly in particular situations or in relationship to particular people?
       Is discomfort always a bad thing? When is it a sign we are living in ways that are transforming us to be more like Jesus in our words and actions?
       What are some practices that help you to acknowledge God’s Spirit in all times, places, situations? (for example: prayer, reading the scriptures, worship)

Say: “The psalm reminds us that no matter where we are, what we are doing, or who we are with, the Spirit of God is with us. We experience God’s presence in various ways—through relationships, situations, the scriptures, worship, nature, and so on. When we are prayerfully seeking to encounter God in our daily lives, we may be surprised by what is revealed about who God is, who we are, and how we are called to live in relationship with God and our neighbors.”

Next, introduce visio divina, saying: “One spiritual practice that helps us to see God in our everyday lives is visio divina. Visio divina is Latin for ‘divine seeing.’ It is a way of praying with images so as to listen for and to acknowledge the presence of God. The more we practice with still images and art, the more we are able to hear and see God in our lives.”


PHOTO CHALLENGE: Contemplating the Presence of God through Photography

Guide your group in the practice of visio divina. Here are two suggested activities. You may choose to do one or both of the activities with your group.

Option 1

Before the session, select five to ten images. Make sure the photographs represent a variety of life situations or places. Invite the group to choose one of the photographs or ask each person to choose one photograph. Guide the group through visio divina.

  1. Invite participants to receive time looking at the photograph, to take note of the colors, people, places, and things in the picture. Have them sit with the photograph for one to two minutes; then invite them to write down a few words about the image.
  2. Invite them to take a second, deeper look at the photograph and to reflect on these questions: Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Where do you see yourself in the photograph? What would you see from that perspective? What feelings or thoughts emerge for you?
  3. Finally, invite people to sit with the image one more time, considering these questions for reflection: Does the image remind you of a prayer, experience, person, or situation that has been heavy on your heart? Is there a theme in the photograph that you believe God is inviting you to pay attention to? Where do you see God’s presence in the image?

Invite each person to be in prayerful conversation with God about what they saw or heard. It is OK if they do not hear or see anything. Visio divina is a practice; the more we practice, the more we are able to see and hear.


Option 2

Invite the group to participate in a photo challenge. Give each person a boxed camera, or allow group members to use their own cameras or the camera on their phones. Ask them to take and post a photograph that reflects the word listed below for each day of the month. The words in the list were inspired by 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22–23. Have each person come up with the words for the last ten days of the month, choosing words that serve as signs of God’s presence.

Challenge group members to post captions with their photos that reflect the image of God they see in the moment they took the photographs. The captions could be scripture verses, quotes, one or more words. Encourage creativity.

Create a # for your group so they can have an online gallery that others in the community can view. This gallery could be a space of inspiration, encouragement, and hope for a number of people seeking to see and hear God at work in their everyday lives.

Give each person the steps for visio divina (from Option 1 above) to use daily to reflect on the photographs they post. Have fun!

  1. patience
  2. kindness
  3. humility
  4. care
  5. freedom
  6. forgiveness
  7. goodness
  8. joy
  9. endurance
  10. belief
  11. hope
  12. truth
  13. love
  14. peace
  15. faithfulness
  16. gentleness
  17. self-control
  18. wisdom
  19. calm
  20. creativity
  21. strength
    (You choose the last 10.)

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to sit in a circle around a lit Christ candle.

Give everyone a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper. Invite everyone to reflect silently on the following questions about the session:
       When did you see or experience God this week?
       What gave you life or joy?

After a few minutes, provide an opportunity for volunteers to talk about their responses.

Then invite group members to pray with you:
       “Creating and Re-Creating God,
       Thank you for this day that you created and gave to us.
       Thank you for promising to be with us always.
       Give us eyes that we may see you in all seasons of life.
       Give us ears that we may hear you in all seasons of life.
       Teach, mold, and shape us to be more like Christ,
       as we go with you every step of the way. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

Art needs to be shared. Create an exhibition for the church or community, presenting various ways we can see and experience God in everyday life. You could also create prayer cards for people in your church community to use in the prayer practice of visio divina. This is a way to invite the broader community to journey with the young people in your group and to learn from them a new life-giving practice.

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

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