devozine

For Youth Workers Post

IMAGINE NO . . .

Lanecia A. Rouse

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for May 30–June 5, 2016.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire,
you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”
              —George Bernard Shaw

“I’ve always had an active imagination. As children, my sister and I created whole worlds out of toy box treasures and stuffed animals that made the best students, children, and friends. As I grew, I never lost childlike wonder at what could be and hope that what is doesn’t necessarily have to be.

“Throughout the years, imagination has been a source of courage, strength, and hope when I faced some of life’s harshest realities and heartbreaking experiences. Knowing that what you imagine can be real is powerful faith and spurs you on to take risks, to speak the truth in love, and to go beyond what you believe you are capable of doing.

“The work I did with The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and economic empowerment program with men and women living on the streets in Houston, was imaginative work. We believed that art and art-making can be vessels for God’s healing and transformative power. We imagined no homelessness and began to create one way we could participate in eradicating homelessness in Houston. I watched with the team as men and women began to reimagine their lives and to believe they were capable of getting out of the circumstances that kept them on the streets.

“Most recently, I have been working with a team of creatives, academics, and leaders in Houston to imagine a world where the lives of people who have been underrepresented, marginalized, devalued, and treated unjustly matter in all spheres of the city’s life. We have watched as our imaginative work has led people to participate in conversations that matter, to work to make systemic changes, to become more intentional about their words and more open with their lives. It is still a work in progress; but we know that if we imagine the change we hope to see in the world, name it, and offer our best as we participate in the change, we can create a more just, loving, good, and beautiful world for all people. This is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” —Lanecia

MEET THE WRITER

Lanecia-Feature-SQLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am a creative (photographer, artist, writer, speaker) living in Houston, Texas. Before becoming a full-time creative, I served as the Project Director of The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and self-empowerment project of the Bread of Life, Inc., with men and women living on the streets of Houston, Texas. Prior to the move to Houston, I served in youth ministry for 13 years, most received with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • Bibles
  • large sheet of paper
  • marker
  • 6×6-inch or 8×8-inch cradled wood panels or wood panels
  • paper and pencils
  • glue
  • acrylic paint (be sure to have primary colors, white, and black)
  • paint pens
  • paint brushes
  • magazines (pre-cut magazine images and words, if time)
  • scissors
  • Modge Podge
  • sponge brushes for the Modge Podge
  • palette paper or paper plates
  • a candle and matches
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGING IN

The books and links below are resources that will be helpful in thinking through the topic of imagination and empowering young people to be creative agents for change.

CHECKING IN

Bring group members together for conversation. Ask each person to finish this sentence:
       “I imagine a world where . . .”

Once everyone has had a chance to answer, say something like this:

“Our topic today is Christian Imagination. It is essential for us to tap into the deep well of imagination and creativity that God has given each us as we live within the tension of what is and what we hope can be for the world. This session will help us reflect, listen, name, and dream with God and one another about what we would like to see come to an end and what we want to see in the world.”

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Mark 2:1–4 (from The Voice)

Read aloud Mark 2:1–4 from The Voice two or three times, asking group members to listen closely for what the text says about imagination, community, and hope:

“Some days later when Jesus came back to Capernaum, people heard that Jesus was back in town and many gathered at the house where He was staying. Soon the crowd overflowed from the house into the streets, and still more people pressed forward to hear Jesus teaching the message of God’s kingdom. Four men tried to bring a crippled friend to Him; but since the crowd prevented their carrying him close enough to get Jesus’ attention, they climbed up onto the roof, opened a hole in it, and lowered the paralyzed man on his mat down to Jesus.”

Invite discussion:
       What might the text say about imagination? hope? possibility? Jesus? our role in healing, change, and the future with God? collaboration?
       What are some of the harsh realities for people who are underrepresented or marginalized in our culture and world?
       What is required of our imagination for Jesus to shed healing light on poverty, hunger, racism, and so on?
       How do you imagine God’s work of restoration and healing?
       What are some of your favorite stories in which Jesus or other people were imaginative so that other people could experience the goodness and life of the gospel?
       Jesus often says, “The Kingdom of God is like . . .” and then tells a story. What do you think the Kingdom of God is like?
       Musician Bono of U2 once said, The world is more malleable than you think, and it’s waiting for you to hammer it into shape.Do you agree? Why? Why not?
       In what ways have you seen people hammering the world into a shape that is more just, loving, good, and beautiful?

Conclude the discussion by saying something like this:

“George Bernard Shaw once wrote, ‘Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.’

“More recently pastor, author, and artist Erwin McManus said, ‘In the same way that bees create hives and ants create colonies, humans create futures.’

“If they are both right, then God has given us the authority and capacity to co-create the future, the world we imagine and hope for. What it takes is our willingness to acknowledge the need, to be creative in our response, to risk failure, to look foolish at times, and to allow love to take us beyond what we see as we faithfully work.

“Change often requires creativity, and creativity begins with imagination and prayer. In the next activity, you will have time to imagine what living more simply with God looks like. It can be helpful to have a visual reminder to identify what you need and want, to give clarity to your thoughts, to stay focused on what is necessary and important to you, and to encourage you.”

Begin by writing on a large sheet of paper: “I imagine a world where there is no more . . .” Invite the group to brainstorm and to create a list of ways to complete the sentence. Then ask each person to choose one of the completed sentences.

Invite group members to follow the instructions for one of the activities outlined below: “Art as Prayer” or “Imagine No . . . Tiles.” These activities create space for youth to imagine something different for the future of the world as they (1) name what they have been stirred to imagine there being no more of and (2) paint, collage, write, and/or draw an image of what the future might look like and how they can participate in its creation. Encourage them to trust the creative process and to remain open to the ways God will reveal possibilities and opportunities to them through their imaginative work. In either activity, they will create a visual reminder of their God-given hopes and the change they want to see in the world.

Distribute wood panels and have available art supplies.

ACTIVITY 1: “Art as Prayer” Instructions

  1. Write on a wood panel the sentence you chose from the list the group created. Reflect on why you want the world to change in this way and what the world would look like after the change you imagine.
  2. Use the art supplies provided to paint, collage, or draw the world you imagine.

ACTIVITY 2: “Imagine No . . . Tiles” Instructions

  1. Write on a sheet of paper the sentence you chose from the list the group created. Describe what the world would look like after the change you imagine.
  2. Write on the wood panel the sentence you chose; or write a passage of scripture, inspirational quotation, or song lyric that inspires you to participate in co-creating the change you hope to see.
  3. Use paint, paint pens, and/or magazine clippings to illustrate on the wood tile the change you imagine.

When everyone is finished, bring group members together to show and to tell about their artwork.

SHARING IN PRAYER

Ask group members to sit in a circle. Place in the center of the circle a lit candle to represent the presence of Christ.

Close by offering one of these prayers:


OPTION 1

Teach group members the song “The Kingdom of God” (find music video and printed score here), and invite the group to sing the song four or more times. Then allow a minute of silent reflection. Close by asking group members to pray together The Lord’s Prayer.

OPTION 2

Let the group know that as part of the following prayer, they will have an opportunity to name aloud what they imagine no more of. Then read aloud the prayer:

“Creating and Re-Creating God, you have made us in your image, with a deep well of creativity and imagination that reflects your own. Teach us how to imagine your kingdom on earth. Empower us by your Holy Spirit to create what we imagine. Teach us to walk, see, imagine, and live faithfully, as Jesus did, in ways that are rooted in love.
We pray for healing, restoration, and an end to_________  (encourage people to name aloud the realities they imagine an end to). In Jesus name, we pray, Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

  • Invite people from the community who do healing and restoration work to tell their story to the group. Ask them to speak specifically about how imagination guides their work. You may want to schedule an opportunity for the group to visit non-profits working to eradicate some of the realities your group named during the session. It is good for us to see first-hand work that is grounded in hope for a better future for everyone.
  • Create an exhibition of the art created during the session. Make an interactive display in which people are able to name what they imagine for the future. The art of the group, their voices and visions expressed artistically, will be a way to proclaim the gospel that sparks the imagination, increases the capacity of others to hope, and compels people to do their part as creative agents of change.

—from devozine In the Habit (May/June 2016). Copyright © 2016 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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