Open Ears and Open Heart

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 the call and response song, This Is the Day1
Leader: This is the day…
Others: (This is the day…)
Leader: That our God has made…
Others: (That our God has made…)
Leader: Let us rejoice…
Others: (Let us rejoice…)
Leader: And be glad in it.
Others: (And be glad in it.)

All: This is the day that our God has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Leader: This is the day…
Others: (This is the day…)
All: That our God… has… made!


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, how have you been living like someone asleep, with the covers 
still over your head?”

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 letting your ego be your guide, today.

Pause

You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How have you lived fully awake, 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 opening your eyes and ears and heart 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 reading for tonight talks about how the Spirit encourages us to empower others. God is always working in our world and works in us, for others. God gives us love that we get to pass on to others. However, in order for the Spirit to work in us, we need to be open to experiencing the Spirit. We need to open our ears and our hearts. We need to be awake and observant. Sometimes, when we are open to God and living out the Love of God, it means that we are faced with some uncomfortable things (such as poverty and hate). Sometimes loving others is hard and sometimes the easy thing to do is overlook the things that cause us discomfort. This verse can remind us that we are the workers and the doers of God’s love.

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

A reading from Isaiah 50:4-9a2 (MSG)
The Master, God, has given me
    a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
    [God] wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
    to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
    and I didn’t go back to sleep,
    didn’t pull the covers back over my head.
I followed orders,
    stood there and took it while they beat me,
    held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
    faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
    so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
    confident that I’ll never regret this.
My champion is right here.
    Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
    Let [anyone] try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
    Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
    socks and shirts, fodder for moths!


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 does it mean to have ears open to God?
*What does it mean to be alseep in this verse?
*Can you name one way in which you feel God is speaking to you?

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:

We are going to practice listening. Close your eyes. We will sit in silence for a minute (or as long as what is comfortable). During that minute, you are going to keep breathing. Listen to your breath. If a thought comes into your head, say hi to that thought and let it flow through you. Listen to your breath.
Pause for one minute

Take three deep breaths. Next, we will listen to a section of the verse. Listen for ways that God might be asking for you to wake up. Ways in which God might be asking for you to open your ears.

The Master, God, has given me
    a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
    [God] wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
    to listen as one ready to take orders.

Pause

Take three more deep breaths and take one more minute (Or whatever is comfortable for your family) to sit in silence to listen. 

Take a longer pause

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. 
What does it mean to you that God’s Spirit is nearer to you than your own breath?
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  the call and response song, This Is the Day1
Leader: This is the day…
Others: (This is the day…)
Leader: That our God has made…
Others: (That our God has made…)
Leader: Let us rejoice…
Others: (Let us rejoice…)
Leader: And be glad in it.
Others: (And be glad in it.)

All: This is the day that our God has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Leader: This is the day…
Others: (This is the day…)
All: That our God… has… made!


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. We remember this song from our youth and searched for copyright/author/composer info, to no avail. Please share if you know who deserves the credit!
THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Found on Bible Gateway; accessed 03.28.20.

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