devozine

For Youth Workers Post

SIMPLE LIVING

Lanecia A. Rouse

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for February 1–7, 2016.

MAKING THE CONNECTION

“A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to serve in pastoral ministry with the British Methodist Church in Leeds, England. As I prepared for my year abroad, I decided to pack only what I needed and to prepare myself for a year of intentionally simple living—no mobile phone, no cable, no ten boxes of clothes—nothing I did not need. I could buy the basics when I arrived in Leeds.

“The preparation and discernment was one of the most difficult parts of the year. I took an entire afternoon to write lists naming what I needed, what I wanted, what I could do without, and what I needed but could get when I arrived. The process was a challenge, but a life-giving challenge to be sure.

“Finances were part of my discernment process. I wanted to see places and to have experiences in Europe, and I still had debts to pay at home; so I knew I needed to be a good steward of the money I was given for personal needs. I also needed to rid myself of distractions so that I could be fully present to God. I wanted the room to grow in knowledge and love of myself and to build healthy, authentic relationships with other people. My life had become so cluttered, literally and figuratively, that I needed breathing room and healing that only God could provide.

“That year was one of the best years of my life. For the first time I tried simple and intentional living, I think I did OK. I had shipped some things I could have left at home. I could have used my mobile phone. But overall, my choice to practice the Christian discipline of simplicity enabled me to cultivate a way of life that was good. I received life from the relationships I formed, the travels I could afford, and the connection I made with God, all of which still sustain me today.

“Simple living forces us to come to terms with our own privilege. The practice helps us to live more generous, rich, and grateful lives with God, our neighbors, and ourselves. This session will guide your group members to think theologically about the importance of practicing simplicity for an abundant life with God. They will be looking at the scriptures and evaluating and naming what matters most.” —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 in September 2014, 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 moving 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
  • paper
  • pencils and/or pens
  • darts game set(s)
  • a sheet of poster board (11×14) for each person
  • sharpies and/or markers
  • magazines (image-based magazines, such as O Magazine, Kinfolk, Darling Magazine, National Geographic, and so on)
  • glue sticks
  • scissors
  • a candle
  • matches or lighter
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGING IN

Books and Resources
The books below are resources that will be helpful in understanding the importance of simple living as a Christian practice.

  • Books by Richard J. Foster:
    > The Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World
    > Celebration of Discipline: The Path for Spiritual Growth

CHECKING IN

Before the group members arrive, print on different colored paper two copies of Matthew 6:25–26, 33. Cut apart the verses into 6-8 parts and put each part into a balloon. (If your group is large, use more balloons and cut the verses into more pieces.) Blow up the balloons, and tape them to the wall.

Once group members have arrived and been welcomed, ask them to form two teams for a game of balloon darts. Give each team a set of darts. When all of the balloons are popped, the first team to arrange the verses correctly and to read them aloud is the winner. [NOTE: Do not let anyone go up to the wall until all of the balloons have been popped and no one is throwing darts.]

If this game is too risky for your group, invite group members to participate in a balloon pop relay race. Ask them to form teams and to line up for a relay race. Place the balloons on a chair at the end of each line. Have each team member in turn run to the end of the line and sit on one of the balloons in an attempt to pop it. Once all the balloons have been popped, the team can work to arrange the verses correctly and to read them aloud.

Bring group members together and introduce the session, saying something like this:

“Today we are going to be thinking theologically about living simply. Living simply looks different and has a different purpose for each individual. For some, simple living means getting rid of things that cause stress or distract us from more important things. For others, it means decluttering our lives so that we can center our lives around things that are of real value to us. Simple living is both an internal and external practice. The practice helps us to name what matters most to us and to align our lives with God’s purposes for our lives.

“Scaling back and refocusing help us to cultivate a well-grounded life of gratitude, peace, joy, acceptance, clarity, and health. Daily we are bombarded with messages from every direction telling us that the more we have and the more we do, the better our lives will be. But scripture says that for those who follow Jesus the goal is not to have more and more stuff but to live in ways that reflect the one who came to let us know that abundant life is free of worry, guilt, and stress—whatever keeps us from being in a right and loving relationship with God and neighbor.

“In the letter to the Romans, Paul spends eleven chapters teaching who Jesus was and why the world is in need of a savior. In Chapter 12, he begins to teach about living in ways that embrace the salvation of Jesus Christ. Those who follow Jesus have a particular way of living, grounded in love, simplicity, and faithfulness to God.”

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Romans 12:1–2

Read aloud Romans 12:1–2 from The Message:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Ask the following questions:
       What does it mean to “take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering”?
       How does the scripture help us to simplify our lives?
       What does it mean to “become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking”?
       In what ways is simple living contrary to the ways of this world?
       What are some ways the world tries to mold our lives so that they are full of more things, activities, and stuff?
       How are the world’s ways different from the way of Jesus?
       What are some choices we can make to resist the temptations of the world and to embrace simple living?
       When have you practiced simplicity? Whom do you know who practices simplicity daily?
       What are some of the benefits of living more simply? (more time with God, focus, more time to do the most important things, peace of mind, good health, and so on)

Then say something like this:

“Choosing to embrace simple living is not always a simple process. It takes longer than a day and requires more than saying ‘I want to live simply.’ Simple living is a journey, not a destination; it requires creativity, sacrifice, community support, learning from mistakes, and commitment.

“Change often requires creativity. Creativity begins with imagination and prayer. Next, you will have an opportunity to use words and images to express what living more simply with God looks like. A visual reminder will help you 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 it will encourage you as you go.”

First, have each of the group members articulate what living more simply with God means. Here are a few examples:

  • more time to be still and to remember that God is God.
  • less energy trying to get more stuff and more quality time with people who bring me life.
  • I want my life to be helpful to me and to other people.
  • doing more activities that help me grow into the person I dream of becoming with God.
  • living a peaceful and joyful life.
  • being present to God, others, and myself.

Distribute sheets of poster board. Ask group members to write in the center of their sheet of poster board a phrase or statement that expresses the meaning of simple living. Provide scissors, magazines, Modge Podge, and other art supplies. Encourage the participants to create art that illustrates the statement or phrase about simple living.

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

SHARING IN PRAYER

Ask group members to form a circle. Light a candle in the center of the circle; the light represents the presence of Christ.

Pass the candle around the circle, asking each person this question:
       When did you experience joy this week?
If someone chooses not to answer aloud, instruct him or her simply to pass the candle to the next person.

Close by offering this prayer or one of your own:
“God of all blessings,
the source of all life:
Thank you for the gift of life, for unconditional love and grace that is sufficient.
Thank you for meeting us every second and every day in our places of need.
Grant us the courage to walk boldly in the confidence of your word and to know that as you care for the birds of the fields, you will care for us.
Be present in our daily discernment as we seek to ground our lives in your kingdom and your will. Be the guiding light that shines on the choices we make to live more simply. Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” —Marian Wright Edelman

  • Invite the youth to create a list of five things that will help them create a way of life that reflects their understanding of simple living. Encourage them to be prayerful about what they value most in life. Cultivating a life of simplicity begins by letting go of the not so important things to create room for the most important—whatever is needed to live a good life shaped by the love and peace of Jesus Christ.
  • Each week have the youth practice letting go of something to make more room for something more important and to write in a journal daily. Once a week, create space within one of your programs to discuss the changes they have made.
         What did you learn about yourself? God? neighbor?
         What was the most life-giving aspect of your practicing simplicity?
         What was the most challenging?
    Embracing a new way of life is a journey that is longer than a day, and it doesn’t happen simply because we want it to. Allowing a few weeks for members to practice, share, learn, and support one another along their journey of transformation will be extremely beneficial.
  • Think creatively about ways to include parents or families in the young people’s spiritual journeys. Though making life-giving changes and faith choices is possible for youth without the full support of their families, it is definitely easier when families are included in some way. Maybe you can host a book study for families in your group. Studying 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker, or The Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Meaning in a Complex World, by Richard J. Foster, would be a great way to nurture community among the parents of the youth, as well as a beneficial and loving gift for the youth in the group.

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

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