God in Our Struggles

CREATE A SACRED TIME AND SPACE
Leave all screens turned off and outside of the gathering space/room.
Set a single candle in the center of your space or on a child’s nightstand or headboard.


As you light the candle, you might sing or say, Healer of our Every Ill1


“Healer of our every ill,
Light of each tomorrow,
Give us peace beyond our fear
And hope beyond our sorrow”


TAKE A MOMENT
This is a time to become fully present with one another and with God.
Invite everyone to take a deep breath in and exhale fully.
Repeat this deep breathing for about 20 seconds, everyone at their own pace.


LET GO & RECEIVE
Excitement over past or future events - or, worries, pain and/or guilt - can keep us from immersing in God’s loving Presence, right here and now.


You might invite participants to Let Go as follows:


“In one or two words, when has it been hard to see God’s light today?”


Allow time for a response from each individual.


Breathe in: know that you are, right now, being filled with the Holy Spirit and the light of God.
Breathe out: release into grace any guilt, shame or pain caused by the darkness you may have felt today.


Pause


You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:


“How have you followed the Spirit’s lead, today?


Allow time for a response from each individual.


Breathe in: notice how the Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for filling you with what you need for each day.”


Pause


READING SUMMARY
Before moving on, take two more deep breaths.


Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged. If that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are some thoughts on this story:


The text for tonight might sound really familiar! In this Psalm, we find God’s people in the dark. The dark being really hard times. We are all going through a really hard time in the midst of this pandemic. Take a minute to talk about your thoughts and feelings about the pandemic and the challenges it is presenting. Some might think that God could or should protect us from bad things happening. Unfortunately, bad things do happen but what these verses remind us of is that even though we are going through rough times, God loves us and is still with us. We can go through stuff that is hard but we can carry God alongside us and we can have comfort in that. 

SHARING THE READING
Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.


A reading from Psalm 232

1 YHWH, you are my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 In verdant pastures you give me repose.
Beside restful waters you lead me;
3 You refresh my soul.
You guide me in right paths
for your name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil;
for you are at my side.
5 Your rod and your staff give me courage.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.
6 Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in your house
for years to come.

DISCUSS
At the close of the reading you might begin with basic questions, such as:
Did this reading have any words or ideas that anyone doesn’t understand?
Let’s explore what those might mean, together.


If you are ready for further discussion, you might consider these questions:
*What are your thoughts and feelings about God being with you in hard times?
*Talk about a hard time you had. Did you feel God’s presence?
*How do you think you can pay attention to God’ presence when things become challenging?


CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE
From your devotional basket, please take the following items:
~Notebook or binder for everyone
~Drawing or coloring utensil(s) for everyone


Be sure notebooks/binders and utensils are handy but not a distraction.
You might invite the group into prayer with these or similar prompts:


I invite everyone to find a comfortable posture appropriate to prayer and I encourage everyone to close their eyes.


Allow a few beats for the movement to settle down.


Let’s all take a few deep breaths to settle our minds:
~let go of the discussion questions and conversation;
~let go of the Bible story;
~let yourself rest for a moment in the love of your family and the presence of
God.


After a few deep breaths, share the following:


With your notebook in front of you look at a blank piece of paper.
Notice the emptiness.
Pick a color that represents a challenge. 
Draw a picture, shape, or word that comes to you as you think about a challenge.
Look at what you drew. Notice the color, the shapes.
What are you feeling as you look at what you drew.


Pause


Choose a different color. One that represents comfort.
Draw a picture, shape, or word that comes to you as you think about comfort. 
Look at what you drew. Notice the color, the shapes.
What are you feeling as you look at what you drew?


Pause


God is our comfort in the challenges.


Pause for a minute


At the end of your silent time, invite attention back to the room with words like these:


I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your head.
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.


Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.


PERSONAL REFLECTION
After a few beats, while people are still transitioning, introduce the reflection questions, as follows:


As we bring our awareness back to here and now, let’s consider how God was with us 
in this time. 
Reflect on a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?


Allow about 3-5 minutes; gauge the activity-level of participants to determine when they are “done”.
Invite people to share their reflections with the group/family, only as they are comfortable. Not everyone will have something to share or feel comfortable sharing their experience. Let this be okay: not everyone needs to share.


Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation.
This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.


BEDTIME SONG
As the following song is sung or said, the Leader should gather all materials utilized during the practice. Stow them in the basket for easy removal and future use.


As adults prepare to leave the room, you might sing or say, Healer of our Every Ill1


“Healer of our every ill,
Light of each tomorrow,
Give us peace beyond our fear
And hope beyond our sorrow”


FINAL BLESSING
As they blow out the candle, children can offer the following blessing/prayer with their adults:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”


Adult(s) can share the following blessing/prayer with the child[ren] as they turn out the lights:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”


  1. Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Augsburg Fortress; 2006: #612.
    2. Schreck, Nancy, OSF and Maureen Leach, OSF, Psalms Anew: In Inclusive Language; Saint Mary’s Press, Winona, MN.

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