devozine

For Youth Workers Post

Living on the Brink

Lanecia A. Rouse

“In the Habit” session for devozine meditations for March 17–23, 2014.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“If someone had asked me a year ago if I was a risk-taker, I would have said, “No.” Over the past few months, I have learned that a little risk is not necessarily all that bad. Truth be told, I have taken some risks that could have created some different lines in the story I am living. I have also taken risks for the sake of love and for what I believed in—and though they have cost me, I would do them again in a second.

“A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation with a close friend who is struggling with addiction. We talked about how curiosity, loneliness, not knowing that we are loved, and the wounds acquired in living (most during our adolescent years), led to risky behaviors that were potentially harmful and some that were detrimental to our minds, bodies, and souls. As I listened to the stories that led us both to this moment, I thought the risk in “risky behaviors” may not be the word that needs our attention.

“We make choices today that have implications for the choices we make tomorrow. Choices are informed by our experiences, knowledge, desires, hurts, self-understanding, addictions, and emotions—to name a few. All choices involve risk. The question for this lesson is whether the choices we make about caring for ourselves and our neighbors will offer life or lead us down a path that is potentially detrimental. Is the potential harm worth the risk? How do we lead young people to develop tools for discernment that will help them choose behaviors that bring life and healing for them and their neighbors?” —Lanecia

 

MEET THE WRITER

Lanecia-Feature-SQLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am beloved, and I receive most of my days trying to discover the implications of this reality. I live in the tension of “the already but not yet,” with people living on and off of the downtown streets of Houston, Texas, on the campus of St. John’s Downtown. I am an artist—a photographer, painter, musician and writer. Daily I am learning how to play. Currently, I am serving 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 the move to Houston in March 2011, I served in youth ministry for thirteen years, most recently with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

 

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • a Bible
  • 8½ x 11” white paper or poster board cut in halves or fourths
  • images from magazines (Some of the images can be words. Either prepare the images ahead of time or provide magazines and invite people to cut out images. Make sure the magazines do not include images that will offend, distract, or harm members of your group.)
  • scissors
  • markers
  • glue sticks
  • music player and uplifting music
  • a candle and matches
  • scrap paper
  • pens
  • copies of the Psalm 1:1–8 paraphrase from “Sharing in Prayer”
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

 

PLUGGED IN

In this lesson, the participants will create vision boards. A vision board is a tool used to clarify and maintain focus on a specific life goal. It is literally a board of any sort, on which to display images that represent whatever a person wants to be, do, or have in his or her life.

Here are a few helpful resources to explore:

Practicing Discernment with Youth: A Transformative Youth Ministry Approach by David F. White. (Pilgrim Press, 2005)

> To Save a Life is a great film on real teen issues, the negative effect of harmful daily choices, and one young man’s journey toward forgiveness and choosing life.

> Websites:

  • I Am Second” is a great resource of hope and grace for people who are struggling to make life-giving choices and for those who have made choices they are ashamed of or feel alone in.

 

CHECKING IN

Receive time each day to be in prayer for those you are called to lead and for the ministry you share. Before the session, pray for the time you will have together, for those who will participate and those who will not be present, and for the life of your church community.

When group members arrive, welcome everyone, especially those who are joining you for the first time. Invite everyone to take a seat.

Then lead the group in a guided meditation below. Read slowly, allowing time for reflection, especially after each question: 

“Let’s go on a journey together, a journey into the future. Close your eyes and relax. Pay attention to your breathing. 

“See yourself walking out of the building, where you find a bubble plane waiting. You get in the bubble plane. The plane lifts off the ground. Watch as you begin to rise higher and higher. Soon the building is a small speck. Higher and higher you go and the town becomes tinier as you see the outline of the state and then the continent. Higher and higher you go, beyond the earth’s stratosphere. You are now so high you can see the planet. 

“The bubble plane begins its journey back toward the earth. Down, down, down you go. You see the continent and then the borders of the state. Before you know it, the bubble plane lands in front of your favorite place to hang out. You get out of the plane and walk inside. Sitting at a table is you three years in the future. You walk over to the table looking at your future self. You begin a conversation, asking these questions:
       What is life like for me?
       Who are my friends?
       How is my relationship with God? with the church?
       What three dreams have I made a reality?

“Now it is time to go. Take a good look at yourself. Take in the moment, all of it. Hug yourself goodbye. Then get back onto the bubble plane. You begin to lift off of the ground. Higher and higher you go. Soon the building and then the town become a small speck. You see the outline of the state and then the continent. Higher and higher you go, beyond the earth’s stratosphere.

“When you are so high you can see the planet, the bubble plane begins its journey back toward the earth. Down, down, down you go. You see the continent and then the borders of the state. Before you know it, the bubble plane is right back where you started. You get out of the plane, walk in, and take a seat.

“Take in a deep, deep breath. Breathe it all the way out as you slowly open your eyes.”

 

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11

Read aloud the words of Jeremiah 29:11. Then say, “As followers of Christ, we believe that God has plans for each of us.”

Invite each person to create a vision board. Explain: “Creating a vision board helps you to clarify and focus on your dreams for the future. A vision board displays images that represent what you want to be, do, or have in your life. Creating a vision board is a way to envision, with God, the person you desire to be.”

Turn on the music. Provide paper or poster board, markers, glue sticks, and images and/or magazines. Invite people to choose the images to which they are drawn and to glue them on their paper or poster board. Ask them to leave some space in one corner.

Encourage people to be guided by the conversations they had with their future selves and by the words of Jeremiah 29:11. Ask group members to complete their vision boards without conversation. This time is for them to envision a future with God.

Allow 20 minutes for people to work on their vision boards. Then invite them to study their board and to write in the empty corner an answer to this question:
       What are three things you need to add to your life, to do or to practice, in order to live into this vision of the future? 

Encourage group members to be as honest as possible. Possible answers might be, for example, “I need to study more.” “I need the courage to try out for soccer.” “I need to choose new friends.” “I need to apologize to (or to forgive) someone.” “I need to receive time each day for prayer.”

Thank people for their participation, and then say: “The good news is that the future we envision is not one we live into alone. God walks with us each step of the way as we make choices today that will affect our tomorrows. Allow God to be a friend who helps you choose how you will act and care for yourself. Talk with God about the struggles, temptations, and pains that may lead you to make choices that are harmful. God will provide people and opportunities in your life that will help you heal, focus, and be the person you want to be.”

Encourage people to take their vision board home and to put it in a place they will see daily. Tell them to let it be a daily reminder of the good plans and the future of hope God has for them.

 

SHARING IN PRAYER

Ask people to sit in a circle. Light a candle, signifying the presence of Christ.

Give everyone a pen and a sheet of scrap paper. Invite people to reflect silently and then to write answers to the following questions about their time together:
       When did you experience or see God?
       What gave you life? joy?

After a few minutes, invite volunteers to read their responses. Then give each person a copy of the paraphrase of Psalm 1:1–8 (below), and invite group members to pray this psalm together:

     God, may your blessings follow us, awaiting us at every turn,
          when we don’t follow the advice of those who don’t delight in your way,
          when we avoid paths that pull us away from you,
          when judgment and sarcasm call us, but we refuse.
     Make your eternal word of life our happiness.
     May it be our focus from dusk to dawn.
     Make us like trees, planted by flowing, cool streams of water that never run dry.
     May our fruit ripen in its time;
          may our leaves never fade or curl in the summer sun.
     No matter what we do, we will prosper and have life as we journey with you.
     Amen.

 

TAKING IT FURTHER

  • Consider inviting speakers to tell their stories and their ways of choosing behaviors that are life-giving. Ask them to offer practical tools that will help young people to focus their curiosity and to cope with peer pressure that sometimes leads them to make decisions that are not beneficial.
  • Create a sacred safe space for members of your group to leave prayer requests or to talk about behaviors with    which they are struggling. Be sure to pray with these young people and to check on them every now and then. Support them with grace, encouragement, and love as they navigate the rough waters of adolescence.
  • Another gift to your community would be to create a workshop or retreat for parents to help their teenagers practice discernment, live in grace, and envision the future. Parents need support as they help their children navigate the tricky choices of adolescence.
—from devozine In the Habit (March/April 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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