devozine

For Youth Workers Post

Healthy Choices

Sally Chambers

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for September 9–15, 2013.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“Life is all about choices, and choices have consequences. On so many days I have found myself pleading with God, “Tell me what to do. Just tell me what is best.” On almost all of those days, God has given me choices. I get frustrated. But in making choices, I remember that God doesn’t tell me what to do. God isn’t a dictator. Ultimately, God loves me; and therefore God won’t force my hand. So I get choices: good choices, not-so-good choices, healthy choices, unhealthy choices, choices that lead to life, and choices that lead to death.

“I have come to realize that what helps me make healthy, life-giving choices today and tomorrow is to look back and to name the places of life and death in yesterday that help me learn to see them tomorrow.” —Sally

MEET THE WRITER

Sally canoe-006Sally Chambers has been practicing youth ministry for nineteen years as part of her life with God and people; she is currently on sabbatical. By trade, she is a counselor and spiritual director. She is a lover of art, photography, people, hosting, adventure, stories, a cup of tea, beauty, all things English, her niece and her Grandma, abbey ruins and cathedrals, creation in its grandeur and wildness, playlists, and her furry four-legged companion Doodlebug. Sally is a co-author of the leader’s guide to The Way of Pilgrimage and the creator of The Pilgrim’s Way, an approach to leading pilgrimage with teenagers and adults. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is currently on staff and worshiping with St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. She dreams of creating altars in the world where pilgrims may gather together, rest for a while, find renewed vision, be healed in body, heart, soul, and mind, and offer to the world the hope of God in Jesus Christ. Check out Sally’s blog at www.justsally.com.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • a candle and matches
  • newsprint and markers
  • paper and pens
  • fruit cards—To prepare fruit cards, write on each of eight pieces of card stock one fruit of the Spirit: “love,” “joy,” “peace,” “patience,” “kindness,” “generosity,” “faithfulness,” “gentleness,” and “self-control.”
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN

  • Watch the Ted Talk “How to Make Choosing Easier” by Sheena Iyengar.
  • Use the Nooma video “Trees” by Rob Bell as a conversation starter on why our choices matter in the larger scheme of things. Also, check out the discussion guide to the video.

CHECKING IN

Invite group members to say responsively:
       The Lord be with you.
       And also with you.
Then ask someone to light a candle.

Ask people to close their eyes, to take a deep breath, and to relax. Invite them to pay attention to their breathing. Suggest that as they exhale, they imagine breathing out the distractions that occupy space in their mind, body, and spirit—for example, tiredness, homework, and worries. Suggest that as they inhale, they imagine breathing in the peace of God. Repeat this exercise for a minute or two.

Ask group members to keep their eyes closed and to continue breathing in a slow, relaxed and deep fashion. Then invite them to notice how their breath moves in and out through the middle of their bodies, through the center of their being.

Ask each person to say his or her name and to answer these questions:
       What is the grossest health food?
       What is your favorite junk food?

Continue the discussion by asking these questions:
       What defines a health food? a junk food? (Health food is good for you; junk food isn’t.)
       Why is healthy good?
       Why do we like junk food if it’s bad for us?
       Is a cookie bad in itself, or is it bad when we eat too much?

Introduce the session: “Today, we’re going to talk about health and making healthy choices. We’re going to ask: What are healthy choices and why do they matter?”

Lead an exercise about choices. Ask everyone to gather in the middle of the room. Read aloud the choices below. After each one, ask people to move to one side of the room or the other to indicate the choice they have made. Then ask one person on each side to explain the choice he or she made.

Would you rather . . .

  • fold toilet paper or scrunch it? If you’d rather fold toilet paper, move to the right side of the room; if you’d rather scrunch it, move to the left. (repeat similar instructions after each set of choices)
  • sleep in or get up early?
  • go to a football game or a concert?
  • read a book or watch a movie?
  • eat something sweet or savory?
  • do homework or do the dishes?
  • listen to Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber?
  • do Facebook or Twitter?
  • the season be summer or winter?
  • walk or run?
  • be beautiful or smart?
  • be taller or shorter?

After the choices exercise, ask:
       What was it like to be required to choose?
       What did you think of the choices?
       Do you like to make choices? Why? Why not?
       Why are some choices harder to make than others?
       In what ways do you judge others for their choices?
       Are you decisive or indecisive?
       Why is making choices important?
       Why do choices matter?
       What is the relationship between health and the choices we make?

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15–20 (from The Voice version)

Before looking at how the choices we make fit into God’s story, invite the group to make a list of healthy choices. Record their suggestions on a sheet of newsprint. If a suggestion seems a bit iffy, bounce it back to the group to see if others agree. Otherwise, list all the choices whether or not you agree that they are healthy. Steer the group to list examples of all types of choices: physical, emotional, psychological, relational, spiritual.

Say: “In Deuteronomy 30:15–20, God is talking to the Israelites about a choice set before them.”

Invite the group to consider what has happened so far in the story of God and God’s people:

  • In Genesis, God created the world and called it good.
  • God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants to be their God and to lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey.
  • The Israelites ended up enslaved in Egypt.
  • God called Moses to lead them out of Egypt and into the wilderness.
  • In the wilderness, God showed the people the meaning of the covenant. The law and specifically The Ten Commandments further explained the meaning of God’s statement: “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7a, NRSV). The word used for law in the Hebrew is more fully understood by our word “way.” God was saying that God and the people were entering into a way of living together. God’s way brings the Israelites life; other ways bring death and destruction. More than a list of do’s and don’ts, The Ten Commandments described a way of life.

Invite group members to read (from The Voice version of scripture) the passage from Deuteronomy 30:15–20 below and the commentary that follows:

[Moses says:] 15 Look, I’ve given you two choices today: you can have life with all the good things it brings, or death and all the bad things it brings. 16 If you do what I’ve commanded you today and love the Eternal your God; if you live as He wants you to, if you obey His commands, regulations and judgments, then you’ll live and have many descendants. He will bless you in the land where you’re going to live. 17 But if your heart turns away and you don’t listen, if you go astray and you bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 then today I assure you you’ll be destroyed. You’ll cross the Jordan River into the land that’s going to belong to you, but you won’t live there very long at all. 19 I’m calling on the heavens and the earth to be the witnesses against you. I gave you the choice today between life and death, between being blessed or being cursed. Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live! 20 If you love the Eternal your God and listen to His voice and always remain loyal to Him, for He is your life, then you’ll be able to live a long time in the land the Eternal promised to give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Covenants between two people are typically witnessed by a third party. If one person doesn’t live up to his obligations and tries to argue that it was not necessary, the other person can then appeal to the witness to confirm the original terms of the agreement. Moses calls on the sky and the land to be the witnesses here. They will always be around to testify about the covenant terms that were offered to the people and how they agreed to them.

The formal treaty and its supplement have now been drawn up and witnessed. The only business remaining is to establish how the treaty will be carried on once the people who originally made it are gone. The Lord chooses Joshua to succeed Moses, to lead Israel into the land and represent them in their relationship with Him.

                                                                                    * * * * *

Invite group members to reread the text and to consider these questions:
       What stands out?
       What questions does the text raise?
       What do you notice about God? 

Facilitate conversation using the following questions:
       What choice is God giving the Israelites?
       What does God mean by “life”? by “death”?
       What are examples of “life” and “death” in the stories of the Israelites?
       What do you think of the choice?
       What are the consequences?
       Is God threatening the Israelites, or is God simply giving them a choice?
       Why do you think God gives the people choices? Why doesn’t God simply decide what is best for the people? (God is love, and God loves the people. Love doesn’t demand or force love in return. Love gives people space to choose.)
       How did God feel when the Israelites often chose death rather than life?

Bring the discussion full circle, saying: “Perhaps God is saying that in life you have healthy choices and not-so-healthy choices; you can choose whichever you like, but choices have consequences. God want us to make healthy choices.”

Discuss:
       What constitutes choosing life and death in our lives?
       Does choosing death mean that someone or something will die?
       Is the choice God is offering figurative? Why? Why not?
       What helps us to choose life over death?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Galatians 5:22–26 suggests ideas that help us choose the way of life or God’s way. It says that we will recognize God’s way if a choice is characterized by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Ask:
       Are these qualities good to think about when we make choices?
       Will they help us make healthy choices? choices that lead us to life? Why? Why not?

Invite group members to look again at the list of healthy choices they created earlier. Ask them to consider whether each item on the list is a choice that brings life.

Distribute paper and pens. Then give each person an index card with the name of one fruit of the Spirit written on it. If you have more people than cards, give a card to every other person.

Say, “We are going to close by asking God to show us the way of life and to practice looking for God’s way, which will help us make healthier choices.”

Begin by asking people to read the fruit of the Spirit named on their index card. Then invite them to ask God when the fruit of the Spirit was part of their lives during the past week and to write down a few words that mark that time. (If some people do not have cards, invite them to pray silently, “God place me on the path of life.”) After everyone has finished writing, ask people to pass their cards to the person on their right. Continue the process until everyone has had a chance to reflect on each fruit of the Spirit.

Conclude the prayer activity by saying, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.”

 

TAKING IT FURTHER

Practice the prayer exercise every week as a group. Take the practice further by having group members practice it every day for a week. At the end of the week, invite group members to talk about what they noticed and how the practice helped them to make healthy, life-giving choices.

—from devozine In the Habit (September/October 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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