devozine

For Youth Workers Post

THE BUSY TRAP

Lanecia A. Rouse

MAKING THE CONNECTION

Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.
Mark Buchanan, The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God

“I would be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard or said, ‘I need an eighth day of the week to get it all done’ or ‘There are not enough hours in a day.’ These words scream ‘busy’ and usually point to feelings of being overwhelmed, overburdened, overscheduled. They say that we are moving within a daily rhythm that is not giving us life. Not being mindful of receiving the gift of each new day or intentional about receiving time with God daily quickly leads to burnout in work; unhealthy patterns in life, which hinder us from thriving; and chaos in our relationship with God, others, and ourselves.

“Studies like those suggested below in ‘Plugged In’ have shown that a growing number of teens find themselves overstressed and overscheduled, which leads to symptoms such as exhaustion, dropping grades, depression, irritability, physical ailments, anxiety, and spiritually depletion. The pace of society is not going to slow down anytime soon; the list of things requiring our attention is not going to get smaller on its own. However, we can choose how we will live within society’s pace and what on the list will get our attention.

“One of the most helpful ways of cultivating a life-giving rhythm is to follow Jesus’ pattern of drawing away from the busyness and the demands of life to pray, to be still, and to remember that God is with us. I see a difference in my week when I take one day as a Sabbath. My days are so much better when I take time in the morning to pray, to acknowledge the gift of the new day with gratitude, and to be with God. Sometimes being with God means praying with words. At other times it is reading a book, listening to music, creating in my studio, going for a bike ride, or simply resting in the comfort of my couch with a cup of coffee, blanketed in silence. Being with God isn’t always the same; but it always means drawing away from the busyness, distractions, and noises of life. It means being alone with God for fifteen minutes or more.

“May this time of study continue to help your community see the importance of spending time with God every day, and may you develop ways to draw away from the busyness and to cultivate a life-giving rhythm from your life.” —Lanecia

MEET THE WRITER

Lanecia-Feature-SQLanecia A. Rouse is my name. I am a photographer, artist, and writer. I live, love, teach, and create in Houston, Texas. Before becoming a full-time creative in September 2014, I was the Project Director of The Art Project, Houston, a therapeutic art and self-empowerment project of the Bread of Life, Inc., serving my neighbors who lived on the streets of Houston, Texas. Prior to the move to Houston in March 2011, I served in youth ministry for thirteen years, most received with the brilliant, bursting, beautiful youth of Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

STUFF YOU WILL NEED

  • Bibles
  • paper
  • pencils
  • copies of the categories listed in “Exploring the Word”
  • colored pencils or fine-point markers (each person will need six different colors)
  • paper
  • candle
  • matches
  • copies of the closing prayer (optional)
  • Print-Friendly Version of this session

PLUGGED IN  

Books

The books on this list are great resources for exploring the practice of Sabbath and the importance of language in shaping our understanding of time as a gift from God that we receive through our daily activities.

Online Articles and Magazines

These articles provide information about the impact of a busy life rhythm on teens:

CHECKING IN

Before diving into this session with the group, receive time thinking through the session. If you are able, plan a time for your leadership team to meet. If not, send the session to them, and encourage the volunteers and/or youth workers to read through it and to think about the questions raised.

A great daily practice is receiving time to be in prayer for those you lead and the ministry you share. Pray for the time you will spend together, for those who will participate, for those who are not be present, and for the life of your church community.

When group members arrive, welcome everyone, extending a special welcome to those joining you for the first time. Then say something like this:

“Tonight we are going to talk about busyness and explore ways we can keep from falling prey to the busy trap. We live in a fast-paced society, where we are constantly running from one task to another. Sometimes our busyness becomes a badge we wear with honor; at the same time, we are exhausted and completely drained mentally, spiritually, and physically. Our packed schedules don’t allow us time to breathe deeply and to savor with gratitude the gift of time we are given. Our busyness distracts us from what is important in life.

“One of the most helpful ways to cultivate a life-giving rhythm is to follow Jesus’ pattern of drawing away from the busyness and the demands of life to pray regularly, to be still, and to remember that God is with us.”

Next, explain to the group the difference that spending intentional time with God and practicing Sabbath has made in your life.

EXPLORING THE WORD

Scripture: Luke 5:10–16

Read aloud Luke 5:10–16 from The Message. Then read Luke 5:15–16 again:
“Soon a large crowd of people had gathered to listen and be healed of their ailments. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.” 

Luke 5:10–16 begins with the first call of the disciples recorded in the Gospel of Luke. After Jesus invited the disciples to leave behind what they were doing and to follow him, the story shifts to a healing. Jesus cleanses a man suffering from leprosy and then says, “Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed self to the priest, along with the offering ordered by Moses. Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.” Before the report about him made its way to the priest, crowds came to Jesus for healing. People gathered around him, needing him and wanting to experience his healing touch. Then Jesus slowed down; he went to a deserted place as often as he could to pray and connect with God.

Invite discussion using these questions:
       What do we learn from Luke 5:16 about how to pray?
       Why do you think it was important for Jesus to withdraw, to slow down, and to pray by himself?
       In what ways does Luke 5:16 speak to our lives?
       What does following the way of Jesus require of us? Is being alone with God easy or challenging? Why?
       How are you when life is hectic, chaotic, and busy? Is it possible to hear God and to connect with God when we are busy all the time?
       How are you when life is calm and peaceful? What are the practices or activities that create calm and peace in your life?
       Do you practice Sabbath or take time daily to receive time with God?
       What are some of the ways you receive time alone with God? (prayer, reflection, study, creativity)
       What difference does spending time with God make to your day or week?

Distribute paper and colored pencils or markers (six for each person). Each group member will also need a copy of this list:

  • Discipleship Formation: Items in this category include activities we do out of a desire to grow in love and knowledge of God, as well as love for neighbors and for ourselves as God’s beloved. Activities may include, for example, practices such as these: prayer, worship, mission, service, Bible study, youth group, Sabbath, keeping a journal, and table fellowship with other sojourners in the faith.
  • Self-Care: Items in this category include activities we do to care for ourselves, for example: working out, spending time alone, reading books or magazines, watching a movie or your favorite television show, creating art, climbing or hiking, playing games.
  • School: Items in this category include activities related to school: classes, homework, clubs, sport teams, band, and so on.
  • Extracurricular: Items in this category include activities such as musical instrument practices, sports, volunteer work, art lessons, and so on. They are not directly connected to your life at school.
  • Home: Items in this category include activities we are responsible for at home, as well as family routines and traditions.
  • Social Life: Items in this category include activities we do with friends for fun and for the purpose of nurturing friendships.

Make sure group members understand the categories; answer questions as needed. Ask each person to assign each category a color. Then invite people to create a calendar for one week that includes their usual weekly activities and uses the categories as a guide for color coding. The colors will give them a clear picture of how they are spending their time. Allow 15–20 minutes.

Once everyone has completed the activity, ask all or some the following questions:
       What do you think or feel when you take a good look at your weekly schedule?
       What did you learn about yourself by creating a weekly schedule?
       What surprised you?
       Is your schedule too packed? What led you to think so?
       Looking at your calendar, what might someone else think or feel about it?
       Imagine a week in which you experience more calm and peace than chaos and busyness. What changes can you make in your week to experience more calm and peace?

Then say these words or something similar:

God loves us and daily invites us to abide in Christ. Abiding in Christ requires being intentional about what we do to connect with God and to rest in God’s love. The pace of society is not going to slow down anytime soon, nor is our to-do list going to get shorter on its own. However, we can choose how to live at a slower pace and to what items on the list we will give our immediate attention.

“When we are super busy and don’t slow down to be with God and to connect with the center of our being, we become fatigued, ill, impatient, rushed, overwhelmed by stress, and disconnected from the people and things that are most important to us. When we are constantly running without slowing down to hear God and to remember who we are (our needs, wants, dreams), we will become drained.

“Following Jesus includes going with him to out-of-the-way places to pray, to listen, and to be in communication with God. A time of centering is an important practice if we want to be our best selves spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

“At times, we will need to give extra time and energy to take care of responsibilities and to accomplish our goals. We will do what we need to do, even when we don’t want to. The key is not getting so lost in the busyness of life that we neglect God. By connecting with God, we remember who we are and who God is shaping us to be.”

Encourage group members to commit to spending at least fifteen minutes a day with God in prayer, creativity, nature, Bible study, music, and so on. When the group meets again, allow some time for people to reflect on these questions:
       What was it like to spend time every day with God?
       What difference did it make in your week?
       What were the challenges? the surprises?
       What did you learn about yourself? the world around you? God?

SHARING IN PRAYER

Invite group members to sit in a circle. Place a candle in the center of the circle, and light it to represent the presence of Christ. Invite people to name their prayer concerns. Say a prayer for the group’s concerns.

Then pass the candle around the circle. As each person holds the candle, invite him or her to answer the question:
        When did you see or experience God this week?
If a person chooses not to speak, instruct him or her to pass the candle to the next person.

Close by inviting the group to sing a Taizé song or another meditative worship song. Then read one of this week’s meditations or suggested scripture readings from devozine. Invite people to meditate in silence on a word or phrase that caught their attention during the reading. Allow 5–10 minutes of silent reflection—long enough for group members to push past the discomfort and to settle into the silence.

When you are ready to close the time of silence, simply say, “Amen.” Or you may choose to close with the blessing below. Either read it aloud, or print a copy for each person and invite the group to read it with you.

“May the light your soul guide you,
May the light of your soul bless the work You do
       with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal
to those Who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden you.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams,
       possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.”

       —John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

If you have the time, after closing with the blessing above, ask everyone to speak aloud the line that was most meaningful to him or her. Conclude by saying, “Amen.”

TAKING IT FURTHER

  • Consider creating a weekly or monthly “Grow in Rest” experience in which people pray, play, be still, create, and learn of new ways of encountering God. The time you set aside may be 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on the day. Do not allow cell phones, cameras, computers, homework, or other distractions that will keep group members from being present to God and one another.

—from devozine In the Habit (September/October 2015). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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