Category Archives: All Blogs

Marlys’s Declassified School Survival Guide

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HI FRIENDS!!! I know, summer is almost over #suchabummer. I grew up dreading those last weeks of summer, but fear not I am here to help ya out peeps! Here are my top ten rules of starting a new school year

1. ENTER WITH A PLAN!
My best school years have happened when I map out my highlights. Now I’m not saying write a day to day detailed schedule (if ya wanna, that’s all cool), but just pull out that fresh planner and write the highlights. Write down your friends birthdays, when the breaks are! Have something to look forward to because when a goal is in place, your mindset is focused!
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” HEBREWS 12:11

2. START EACH DAY WITH POSITIVITY
Guys, I’m just going say what you’re all thinking. Waking up at 6am to get ready for school isn’t the best, I get it. So just some quick suggestions-put a positive quote by your nightstand, set a timer with a new song each day, get ready with praise and worship or hype music, whatever you need to do. I personally used to practice silence in the morning and that helped me prepare my day.

3. END ON A GRATEFUL NOTE
It’s really easy to complain, isn’t it? Honestly, we can spit complaints like nobody’s business, but there is so much for us to be grateful for, so at the end of your week write down 3 things you were grateful for that week. Practicing Gratitude is a great way to close your busy week.

4. STAY AWAY FROM THE DRAMAAAA
New Year, new dirt. Friends, STAY AWAY FROM IT. Drama and gossip not only hurt friendships but it also hurts us as a whole. If you’re tempted to gossip or even ask about the latest dirt, ask yourself “Would I want someone to be doing this to me?”
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.” PROVERBS 9:10-12

5. PRAY FOR THE HATERS
You know, Misery truly loves company, but pray for misery and her/his friends! Just say a quick prayer for that person who’s always looking at the glass half empty.
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” ROMANS 16:17-18

6. THROW KINDNESS AROUND LIKE CONFETTI!
Be genuinely positive! Many believe that positive people are always outwardly happy, that’s not always the case. Positive people know who they are, and they find ways to find the sparkle in dull situations. Make a happy jar and share a quote with a new person a day, find good in those around you even when they can’t find it themselves.
“The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” PSALM 119:72

7. BE AUTHENTIC!
School can be one of two things, a place where we hide ourselves or a place where we let ourselves shine. I’m going challenge you to let yourself shine this year! Discover something new about yourself. Join a new club, take on a new hobby, talk to a new classmate. In all things, be authentic.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” PHILIPPIANS 4:8-9

8. ENCOUNTER NEW HEIGHTS IN YOUR FAITH
My relationship with Christ became real my Junior year of high school because I encountered him in a new way! What is that way for you? Tell Jesus how you want to encounter him this year. Climb new heights in your faith, there’s so much more!

9. A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY.
So many times we believe that Jesus wants all of our time every day. Jesus wants to talk to you every day. He wants to know how you’re doing. The best relationships are combinations of little day to day things. Talk to him, at least for ten minutes, you won’t regret it.
“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing”. 2 Thessalonians 1:3

10. THRIVEEEEE
Lastly, live in the moment. I know it’s a cliché, but honestly don’t worry! Enjoy where you are, celebrate where you’ve been and wait in anticipation for what is to come.

I hope you guys have a great first day and please comment and let us know what you think of the blog! Can’t wait to see you all in September!

 

Marlys

“I Belong To Jesus” Declares Brazils World Cup Players

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World Cup Soccer players declare “I belong to Jesus”!

Alisson Becker, Goal Keeper for Brazil, took to social media to praise God for the opportunity to play in his first World Cup: “Very happy to receive the opportunity to defend my country in a world cup! Realization of a dream!!!!…Glory to God!!” Becker advised young potential goalkeepers that faith plays an important role in success. “If you want to be a great keeper, you need to work very hard. That’s what I do. You need to be very focused on football and I think faith is important too,” he said. “If you believe in God, you know you have to do your best on the pitch and put love into everything you do in life.”

What a great philosophy!  He gives glory to God for the gifts he’s been given.  He acknowledges God in all aspects of his life.  How often do we stop to ponder our own gifts?  To unwrap those gifts by practicing, working on them, acknowledging them?  To thank God and use them for good?  That’s one of the awesome aspects of Rise Up.  Rise Up encourages young people to consider their gifts and gives them an opportunity to improve their skills and use those gifts for God’s glory.  So if you’re good at writing, video production, photography, graphic design, music, art and more, consider Joining The Rise and proclaim “I belong to Jesus” too!

Summer Bod? I Think NOT!
by Lola Martin

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For years, we have been bombarded by all forms of media promoting unhealthy weight loss and body types that are seemingly impossible to achieve. As we approach summer vacation, our main goal seems to be getting the “perfect” body. Don’t misunderstand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of wanting to lose weight in the pursuit of health. However, people are attempting to achieve their “dream body” for the wrong reasons. It’s the body you can show off in your brand new swimsuit… the body you can show off to your boyfriend or girlfriend…the body that looks like that of an Instagram model or a Victoria’s Secret Angel.

I recently read a viral tweet in which a teenage girl announced that she was going to unfollow several models she was following on Instagram. She admitted that, with their evident physical beauty, their bodies were filling her mind with the toxic idea that she had to look exactly like them. After unfollowing them, she instantly felt revived and happier overall. This girl set a fantastic example for the thousands of people she reached via Twitter. As I mentioned earlier, there is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight and bettering your body. Losing weight should be done with the intention of living a healthier lifestyle, not to please others around you. It becomes harmful when you are not giving your body the proper nutrients or exercise that it needs. It becomes harmful to your mind when the only reason you’re attempting to achieve your “dream body” to impress others or mimic the models that are overcrowding your feed.

We recall in Genesis 1:27, “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Before beginning your “summer body” campaign, ask yourself, “Am I doing this for the right reasons? Am I honoring the body God so generously fashioned with his own hands?” Brothers and sisters, I am saying this to you because two summers ago, I was in the same boat you are in right now. I was obsessed with looking like somebody I wasn’t, and I was envious of those who were “prettier” than I.

I am telling you: appreciate your body! This is the beauty of God’s impressive creation; He did not create everyone to look the same. Every person God created is unique and magnificent in his or her own way. If every person had the same body type, the same skin color, the same scars, the same height, our world would be boring. Embrace your flaws and embrace your body because you are a gift from God, created and destined to do wonderful things, regardless of how you look on the outside. That’s the way it’s meant to be. This isn’t “Summer Bod 2k18,” it’s “Beautiful Bod 2k18.”

Blessings, Lola
✞☻☼♪

Take Up His Cross

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“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Like many, I have heard this verse so many times at mass, it just flew right by me. But recently, in prayer I started pondering on these words and the magnitude of what the Lord has been asking me to do. The fact is friends, that Christ, before he went and picked up his own cross, invited us to carry our weight along with him. This is easier said than done of course, but the beauty is that we know the end. We know we have already won, yet it is the suffering and the downs of life that fully strengthen us.

On our journey towards heaven, we each carry a cross and we each have moments when we fall, just as Jesus did. Moments when we need someone to carry the load for us, just as Simon did for Jesus. We need someone to be bold and come forward to wipe our faces, just as Veronica did. The beauty of our journey is that we are never carrying that cross alone. We have the opportunity to give our burden to Christ who walks beside us always.

The week of Palm Sunday has always been one of joy, based on the fact that Lent is almost over and I can eat meat once again, but this year it has been very different. I not only wonder, who I am in the story of Christ’s journey to the cross, but also at my journey towards him. Where am I? Am I still on the ground because I fell, more than once? Am I going through persecution and being scourged? Am I looking towards all those who hate me and asking God to forgive them, just as Jesus did? The beauty brothers and sisters, is that we are victors, not victims! We belong to a God that is mightier than life itself and that has overcome death. So, as we enter the fifth week of Lent, do not lose heart. Stay steadfast and carry your cross with joy. For the heavier the cross, the more glorious the crown.

In peace, Marlys

How to Get Back to Happy
by Madi Wade

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When the sun is shining, and the palm trees blow in the wind, all I can do is smile. The warmth from the sun hitting my face to darken my freckles is such an amazing feeling. But what do I do when these things happen, and I don’t smile? Everything on the outside aligns, but the connection isn’t made to the inside.

Well, I take a step back and figure out why the connections aren’t happening. I try to find out why the usual things that make me happy, aren’t making me happy. Nine times out of ten, with God I can figure out the issue to solve it. But on the rare occasion when there just isn’t an explanation, I start to question God. And this can be dangerous, for many reasons. One question leads to another and at the end of the day you are left with unanswered questions and a load of doubt in your head. Doubt can and will, slowly make us go crazy. The uncertainty that creeps into our mind comes straight from a place of darkness, not from God. This darkness grows as we question God and question everything that makes us happy. We cannot let evil work its ways into our lives, only GOD.

I recently had an experience where I started to disconnect from everyone and the things I enjoyed. This happened because I was experiencing stress from family and school work. I slowly started to become unhappy with the things that used to make me happy, without even noticing. My friends, school, youth group, even my favorite foods couldn’t put a smile on my face. Then I started to question God and became angry with myself for not ever being happy. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t finding pure joy anymore. After about three weeks of this, I finally said enough is enough. I took a break from the superficial things in life. I started becoming more proactive and talking to people who are helping me find joy again. In those three weeks, I questioned God regularly and thought I just failed at everything in life. But, after letting the negativity go in my life, the positive things and people started to come back.

God knows what we struggle with, and he will never give us more than we can bear. In times of doubt, with ourselves and God, we must disconnect from the earthly things and focus on the ultimate goal-heaven.  There is no place we can go where His love won’t find us. No place we can hide that He won’t see. HE sees it all, through the eyes of love. We must remember this and continue to the next day with joy and a mindset for the future. We always need to enjoy the sunshine!

 

-xo Madi Wade

How Does He Reveal Himself To You

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Sometime in November the “Christmas season” began. Streets and homes were strung with lights, stores were decorated with red and green, and you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing songs about the spirit of the season and how jolly Santa Claus is. The excitement built to a climax on Christmas morning, December 25, and then it stops, abruptly. Christmas is over, the New Year begins, and we all go back to our regular lives.  What I forget is that December 25, Christmas Day itself, ushers in 12 days of celebration, ending only on January 6 with the feast of the Epiphany.  You know, like the song The 12 days of Christmas.

 

Many of us probably think of the Epiphany as the day when the Three Wiseman or Kings bearing gifts visited the newborn as they follow a great star.   My first thought is of the three kings under my tree from the Nativity scene. The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek verb meaning “to reveal.” As I reflect on this, I can’t help but think about how God reveals Himself to mankind, through Christ’s birth.  Matthew 2:1-12 tells us about how God revealed Himself to the Magi through the Star of Bethlehem.  Even from the very beginning, God created a star to reveal himself to us.  The Three Kings followed the light from the star to discover Jesus.

 

These three Wiseman were seeking the promise of the Messiah and they saw the light and followed it.  It seems so simple: follow the light and find Jesus.  Compared to all we have to show us Christ today, it was such a tiny light. I know many times I struggle, and I ask God to show me what he wants me to do or show Himself to me.  Then I realize I am the one who needs to seek Him just like the Wiseman.  In Jeremiah 29:13, the Lord says, “When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart.” Maybe you have never “talked” to God before, but you honestly want to know if He is the real deal. Perhaps you have an issue for which you need some answers, but you have never really asked God what He has to say about it. In Jeremiah 33:3, He says, “Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you great things beyond the reach of your knowledge.” To find God we have to seek him with all our heart and figure out what’s separating us from doing that.

 

As we enter into the new year, we should challenge ourselves to truly find God with our whole being so that we can be like the three Kings and let God reveal Himself to us and discover Jesus.

 

Onie Lee

 

Joy To The World
by Marlys Adjevi

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The Three Obstacles

Hello Friends!!! As we anticipate and wait for the big day to come, let us reflect on Advent. Last week was Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of Joy and praise, because the savior, our savior is near. That word comes up a lot doesn’t it? Joy.  There are songs about it, “Joy To The World” and they’re books, poems, even seasons dedicated to just JOY. I heard once that joy is Jesus, others and then you. Many times we seem to get those out of order, and that is when we encounter obstacles. I would like to share with you Three obstacles of joy:

  • Destructive Criticism

So many times we judge others in our actions and in our thoughts and we forget that they are a masterpiece of God, just like us!

  • Complaining

Have you ever met someone that always complains? Or do you tend to complain a lot too? The thing about complaining is that you encounter life with a negative attitude. You are never satisfied with your past, your present or your future. It’s being stuck in a cycle of insanity. Nothing seems to be enough.

  • Attitude of Ingratitude

Gratitude is a doorway to love. To feel appreciate and to thank those around you opens up your heart to much love. To be ungrateful closes your heart to not only others, but to God.  Those with an attitude of ingratitude lack thanksgiving, but most importantly, awareness for what they do have and how that is a blessing.

Now friends, we have all experienced these obstacles and here’s my suggestion:  THE THREE P’S!

Pause

Process

Pray

So during this season when it is so easy to be driven by materialism, and relish in the parties and the food, try to just pause and be in the moment, process the beauty around you-your family, your friends, your co-workers etc,-and pray, thanking God for what he has given you. The Three S’s allow us to stay present and enjoy the moments around us and the people in those moments.  It makes us aware of our blessings and it enables us to have a positive attitude while allowing us to build each other up and not tear each other down.

My prayer is for each of us to knock down those obstacles and encounter Joy! May we always be aware of the beauty around us, for when we open our hearts, Jesus will come and dwell in it.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

All I Want For Christmas Is You
by Joe Sutherland

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It’s December, the most bitter-sweet time of the year! December means colder weather and fun-tacky sweaters, final exams and Christmas break, the end of the year and the start of a new one! This time of year, I always find myself reflecting on all that I’ve done, experienced, accomplished, and missed out on.

At the last RiseUp event (Shout out to you if you were there!) our speaker Sarah Swafford dropped some hard knowledge and truth about dating and relationships for our generation. It was hilarious to hear her explain the dating thought process from both a girl’s and a boy’s perspective. One of my favorite ideas that Sarah shared with us was the “Altar Switch.” The idea that when it comes time to get married, to your perfect Bride or Groom, you process up the church aisle to the altar and hit the magic “Altar Switch.” POOF! You’re suddenly exactly the man or woman you have always wanted to be for your Bride or Groom. You’re the best version of yourself, you’re holy, and in good shape, and you’re selfless, and you don’t struggle with sin or lust or addiction, and you can play 17 different musical instruments and speak 3 and half languages.

I have definitely pictured the kind of man (that’s right, MAN, not boy) that I want to be for my bride. It is a good thing to know and envision who you want to be, but that alone isn’t good enough – because there is no Altar Switch! Instead we must “strive”,to use Sarah’s words, to be the person we hope to be. Not just for our future husband or wife (if that is your vocation), but for yourself, for God, for your family and those around you.

During this Advent season (the period of preparing and waiting for Christmas and Christ’s birth), we often talk about “preparing the way for the Lord.”
I think that one of the best ways that we can prepare the way to celebrate the birth of Jesus is by preparing ourselves! Jesus only wants one thing for His birthday and for Christmas (lucky us it’s the same day), he wants you! He longs for all of us, each individually, to be in a deeper relationship with Him. What if you were to be the best you for Him?

Picture an advent calendar – one of the cute wall hangings with little squares that you open everyday. Some families have a small gift that comes with each little day on the advent calendar. Imagine if you were to make a small gift of yourself to God everyday – like an advent calendar – by bettering yourself…by striving to be the best you that you can be…
I think that come Christmas, you will have successfully prepared the way for our Lord and Savior.

Prepare Your Heart
by Liz McGillan

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Entering Advent I wanted to be able to focus more this season, to really set this time as a time of preparation for the Christ child. While there are a variety of ways that one could prepare, I took time in prayer to find what was right for me this season.

I was reminded of an awesome Pope Francis story. In a book of questions asked by children from all over the world, the Pope was asked, “What was God doing before the world was made?” In Pope Francis’ answer, I found the answer for my focus this Advent.

Think of it this way: Before creating anything, God loved. 

That’s what God was doing: God was loving.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks showing me what I had so naively missed, the very nature of the season held my answer. The holidays are a time of family and friends – a time for love.

In Matthew chapter 25 we read:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and

 you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked

and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and 

you visited me.’ Then the righteous* will answer him and say,

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty

and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and 

welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you

ill or in prison, and visit you? And the king will say to them in 

reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these 

least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

While usually we view these words in light of service and charity, my time on the Diocese Urban Plunge mission trip this summer showed me something deeper. While painting houses, mending floorboards, and building ramps we met the needs of those who we served. But the greatest thing we offered our clients was the time spent sitting with them and showing them our love. That was how we truly served God in them that week.

While there are needy, hungry, and thirsty people in our world – and while we should absolutely  help them when we can – there are even more people simply needing love. I could argue that it’s everyone. What we are shown in Matthew 25 is that when we love them we are loving Christ.

So my challenge for you this Advent is to join me in being intentional with my love.

Make plans with a friend, just the two of you, to hear each other and be there for each other. Maybe it’s coffee, or Christmas shopping together, or just the movies.

Without causing more stress, makes plans with your family. Maybe you have holiday traditions like a baking day that you can help set up. Maybe you haven’t had a movie or game night in awhile that you can make happen. We’re all rushing around buying presents for our family members this holiday but we’re not actually spending time together – it’s a little weird.

And what can seem like the hardest challenge – be loving toward that family member, coworker, classmate or friend that gets on your last nerve a little. I’m not saying torture you both with forced one on one time. But let the little comments slide, give them the choice of what board game or movie to watch, and grab them a cookie when you are getting one for yourself. They’re Christ too.

Let’s be intentional loving and receiving Christ in others this Advent, so our hearts can be prepared and open even more to receive Christ the Baby on Christmas.

 

The Strength of Fortitude
by Tracy Gaboyau

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Last month, I attended a retreat at the University of North Florida called the senior day of reflection. The retreat was hosted by my Catholic diocese to gather up seniors in my area and help them in the college process. Throughout the day college students from both FSU and UNF came in and informed us that while maintaining your faith in college is difficult, it is 100% manageable. Towards the end of the retreat, we had a priest come in to celebrate Mass and offer reconciliation, which I gladly took advantage of. After reconciliation, however, Father Mike explained something to me that might relate to many young faithful all over the world. Father Mike said: “you seem to know what the right thing is, but have trouble with carrying it out, I want you to pray for strength, pray for fortitude.”

The Catholic church defines the virtue of fortitude as “the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life”. In other words, fortitude is having the courage and strength to know what the right thing is, and do it.

Many times, we know what the right thing is, but it becomes incredibly difficult to choose it over the easier thing. We must remember, though, that being kind, giving, and respectful is ten times harder than being evil, rude, and impolite. It is easier to roll your eyes or curse out an ignorant person than it is to remain kind and forgiving, even when you know you are correct, but the easier route is not the route God calls us to. He even told us in 2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Our lives as Christians aren’t meant to be easy; they are meant to be tough, demanding, and exhausting. And in return, we get the ultimate reward: eternal life with Jesus.

Similarly, anyone can simply say “I’m sorry,” or “I won’t do it again,” even both my 9 and 7-year-old brothers can do it, but it takes real strength, true fortitude, to not commit that sin again.

For many of us, the virtue of fortitude can act as the angel on our right shoulder that is constantly encouraging and pushing us to do the right thing, to do what Jesus would do. So, brother and sister in Christ, I encourage you all, just as Father Mike has encouraged me, to pray for the virtue of fortitude. Let’s challenge ourselves to overcome different forms of adversity and resist everyday temptations.

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