Category Archives: Rise Up

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.

 

Pews Pencils and Crickets
by Joe Sutherland

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Chirp-chirp……
Chirp-chirp……

Crickets

 

Silence. An empty air.

A sound you’re probably familiar with. But maybe not comfortable with.

Sometimes you hear it (or rather, don’t hear anything) in an awkward moment. Maybe you have asked someone a tough question, and the room is silent.  Maybe somebody has told a joke that sounded a lot funnier in their head.

It’s the worst.
Silence is hard to work with.

 

Last week I had a 3 o’clock appointment with an advisor. I showed up respectably early to sign in, about 2:50 pm.

“Thank you for checking in Joe, Mr. Harrison will be right with you. You can take a seat.”
I picked a chair in the corner that looked comfortable to patiently wait for my meeting.
A solid 4 and half seconds go by before I was utterly bored out of my mind, so I grabbed my phone from my pocket.
Shoot. It’s not in my pocket. Left it at home.

I look around.

The horror sets in.

I am in the most boring waiting room in America. No phone. No book. Still 9 minutes and 50 seconds to go until my meeting.  I might not make it. I might just keel over right now.

 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a blog about how we are all completely addicted to our phones (but hey, are you?).  And I won’t try to convince you social media is Satan’s latest and greatest attempt (but hey, does he use it against you?).

 

This is about you and silence.

We are very good at stimulating our interaction-hungry brains. Phones really have served as a constant distraction. Yes, a distraction. Phones are a great tool for communication, organization, learning, and even for fun. But how often do we look to it just because there isn’t something else to look at? Have you ever pulled your phone out of your pocket to “check the time,” and then someone asks you what time it is, and you have no idea? I definitely have.

 

Prayer. Everyone’s personal relationship with God.

I don’t know about y’all, but God doesn’t really communicate with me as He did in biblical passages – thundering clouds or opening heavens.

He makes Himself known to me in the silence of prayer. But let’s be real, holy smokes, how hard is that? To sit quietly in a church (without your phone) and not think about the other 437 things you need to and want to do today. Or even think about dumb stuff.

“Hey God, thank you for today and my family. I really need your help today with — oh wow look at these little mini pencils in the pews! Where do these come from? Does the church take normal sized pencils and cut them in half and then sharpen them? Then how come none of them have erasers? ….”

Perhaps if I got better at sitting in silence throughout parts of my day (like in the waiting room, or on the bus, or in line at Dunkin) without my phone or distraction… maybe I could grow. I could improve myself and be okay with and more comfortable in silence. Just like I have gotten better at calculus and ultimate frisbee, I can get better at being calm in silence.

This is something I am working on little by little every day, and I can already begin to see how it is affecting my prayer life. I can be silent in the church and give God the chance to speak to me.
Where is your attention? Where do you want it to be?     …Who do you want it to be with?

Chirp-Chirp………       Hey God.

Back In Session

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Hello Young Church! WELCOME BACK, to school, I mean. The chapter of summer has closed once again and we are leaving the days of Netflix bingeing and beach days and entering the season of waking at 7:30 in the morning, moving back into the dorms and the joy of taking the bus. It seems the best part of back to school is school supplies sales at Target, but trust me there’s so much more. This is the season of rejuvenation, we relaxed and went on adventures in summer, we reflected on our school year, now it’s time to come back stronger than ever. With your new supplies, add one more essential to your bookbag: a daily/weekly devotional. With school starting it will feel like time is slipping away.  Having a daily/weekly devotional not only prepares us for the day, but it helps us stay focus throughout the day. When starting your day off with a simple devotion, you invite the spirit of peace, joy and love into your heart and you are more keen to reject confusion, negativity and gossip. The key is finding a devotional that works for you!

1. Do you want daily or weekly?

2. Do you like a specific author?

3. Is there a specific topic you have in mind?

I have personally done devotionals that centered on Mary, a specific saint and women in the bible! I have also done devotionals for every day, and trust me, every time I start my day with devotion I enter the day stronger.

Paul tells us to put on the armor of Christ, and a devotional can be a part of your uniform for battle! As we enter fully into fall, let us not lose our discipline and continue to water the seed that has been planted within us, so that we may grow in faith and love towards Christ and toward neighbor.

In Peace,

Marlys

Transfigure the Ordinary

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IMG_2545

This is a picture of me in Israel, “The Holy Land.” The mountains and valleys, the roads and cities that God Himself walked. Where Jesus was born and raised, lived and died and lived again.

I was there – in the settings of scripture – just last month. And now, I’m in Gainesville, Florida sweating off the summer heat and scraping by minute after minute in summer classes while day -dreaming of my adventurous and soul-inspiring travels last month. My God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Okay, that is a little dramatic. But have you ever caught that feeling? The post-church retreat, post-mission trip, post-pilgrimage, post-RiseUp blues? What time are you thinking back to? And now, how are you?

Maybe you’re facing the daily grind of seemingly meaningless responsibilities like me?

Or maybe the opposite? Maybe you have so much free time that you’re bored.

Why can’t I go back to this time, or this place, with these people?

What made those moments in the past so special anyways?

In math class a decent guess to a big question is usually 0 or 1. Talking about life and good things, a good guess is usually Jesus or Love. They happen to be one in the same.

Take a minute to reflect on whatever moment you thought of earlier. It was most likely a joyous and happy time.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” – James 1:17

Back to the picture of me. (Side Note: it’s hard not to smile when you remember Jesus is alive).

That mountain behind me is Mount Tabor. Mount Tabor is well known as the site of the Transfiguration of Christ.  (Mark 9:2-8) Peter, John, and James followed Jesus up the mountain, where he then revealed Himself and His glory to them. Imagine that! Jesus “became dazzling white.”  Peter says “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!”

Yeah, you better believe it was good to be there! Peter wanted to set up camp and stay forever. It sounds like those cherished moments in our own lives. “Can we just stay here forever?”

There are times and places when and where Christ reveals Himself and His love to us! He does so through our experiences and adventures, through our relationships with those around us.

It wasn’t long before Peter, John, and James had to return down the mountain and continue to love and serve God by loving and serving His people. We are called to look back to the times when Christ revealed Himself to us and to be inspired by our experiences with Him. He uses these high points, or “mountains,” in our lives to help encourage us through our low points, or “valleys.” So whether your valley today is the daily grind of work and responsibilities, or the struggle to motivate yourself to be productive, open your heart to the Transfiguration of Christ. He reveals the ordinary to be extraordinary. He makes all things new.

Music & Faith

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Music is the one language that speaks to everyone regardless of your class, color or creed. What is the message behind music and how do we take it to the next level?

My name is Rafael Alicea and I have been moved by music all my life. My goal was to be a super star and live the high life of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Drake, Bruno Mars etc. But who makes them all super stars-who put them on the map? YOU…and only you. The focus is on the fame and fortune, not on the impact or influence they have on others. We truly lose the gift of God-Music. I’m not judging anyone here, but we need to focus on the message. God’s gift of Music. Think about this: if all artist were to take their music to reach out to a Christian audience, can you imagine the impact, influence and conversion of this world? WE can make a difference…

Let’s take a look at toddlers. When they reach the age of two and they hear music, their bodies just start to move, groove and wiggle. There is something within us that makes us move to music. What makes music anyway? The bass, singing, the rhythm? Whatever happens- music transforms us and takes us to happy medium. You know what I’m talking about.

In my conversion of faith, I gave up cold-turkey everything related to music. I’m a Catholic Christian viewing music in a totally new perspective. When in front of Jesus in adoration (which is now a huge part of my life) I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me: SING TO ME A NEW SONG. Troubled by this message, I started to search over the internet SING TO ME A NEW SONG and this is what I found.

Psalm 96:1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

Psalm 13:6 I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 33:3 Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

To me, this meant to play music and praise Him at all times-in the name of Jesus. Now, Toby Mac, Big Daddy Weave, Hill Song United, Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin will play on my radio at all times. Secular music was great and now listening to Christian music it is awesome! This helps me understand the value of music and remember that it is truly a gift of praise. I’m now part of Rise Up, this new movement motivating the young church today. I’m able to give the gift of music.

What is your gift? Do you have to give it up? Nooooo… just Rise Up, give back to God and you will succeed in all you do.I hope this makes you value Music. Please always share good music with your loved ones, friends and family.

God Bless -DJ Elevate will always intercept to make music move your soul. AMEN.

Faithful Chicken

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“A faith that is afraid of other people is not faith at all.” Thomas Merton

I saw this quote today and could not help but think this could describe me at times.  First, I don’t enjoy conflict but who does.  I try to get along with others, and I think if I stay away from certain topics we can all get along better.

I was checking out at the grocery store the other day, and I was wearing a t-shirt from a retreat, and the clerk asked me if I went to church.  I said yes, and then he said he doesn’t anymore and doesn’t feel like he needs to.  I thought of all these scenarios in my head of what I could say, like being part of a community is so important, my faith is stronger because I experience Jesus in others and what about not being able to receive Christ in the Eucharist.  I was motivated to talk about it, but then my negative thoughts kicked in:  What if he thinks I am weird? I don’t want to look or feel stupid.  Will I offend him? Will I have the right answers? Will I have to defend my faith?  What if I didn’t say the right things and keep him from Christ.  No, I just said, “Oh well that is too bad.”  I became what I call a Faithful Chicken and was shut down by my fear.   For some reason, I kept thinking about what I had done.  I felt like I had missed such an opportunity to share about something that is important to me.  God had chosen me as a messenger, and I let fear get in the way.  So, I went home and thought about what I would say if I were put in that situation again. I thought about why my faith is so important to me.  In all this, I realized that if I let my fear overcome my faith, it will only lead to regret.

The number one reason why people do not share about their faith is the fear of rejection. Have you ever wanted to talk about your faith but you didn’t because you were afraid of being rejected? If we share and are rejected, they are not rejecting me and you, they are rejecting Christ.

 

 

So, what’s the plan now?

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Hi, friends! So I just recently graduated from college and oh how happy I am! But there’s the lingering question, actually the never ending question, “So, what’s the plan now? What do you do now?” And the internal panic attack begins!

So many times in life we struggle with the transition into the next stage of life, whether from college to adulthood or pre-k to kindergarten and everything in between! If you ever feel like that, you are not alone!

So I brought my issue to prayer and also dug into my Bible to see what the Lord shares with us about transitional stages of life.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

In all honesty, what I’ve discovered is that with every transition there is one constant feature: GOD! God has never left me in my path, and I don’t think he plans to in the future. With graduation season upon us, I invite all graduates and fellow transition buddies to take their fear of the future and of life, to prayer. There was a time in life when I had to admit to myself that anxiety is the cure for nothing, in fact, anxiety is just rumination expressing itself. Sometimes not knowing what to do next allows one’s soul to be open for adventure with God.  So, on your road to adventure, think of the following:

1.What sets your soul on fire?

We see the quote everywhere, “Be in pursuit of what sets your heart on fire,” or “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” These words are perfect reminders for us to question ourselves. What brings you joy? What sets a fire within your heart? Is it working with children? The church? Medicine? Whatever it is, pursue it and always ask God during each step.

2.What is the root of your fear?

The most repeated phrases in the Bible is ‘be not afraid’, but we do it so often. What is the root of your fear? Through my journey, I discovered one of the causes for my fear is a lack of trust in God. This discovery allowed me to open up fully about my fear.

3.Who are your cheerleaders?

Through this journey of transition, one of the biggest factors pertains to your circle or your squad. Who’s in your squad? Are they people that will put you to the top of the pyramid when needed and be a sturdy foundation? Will they be there for you, support you and tell you the truth at all times? The most beautiful thing about our love for Christ is that he is a man of relationships. His squad was amazing and though they struggled, they always had each other’s back.

So, as I sit here, a recent grad open for adventure, I invite you to do the same! Always ask yourself, what sets your soul on fire? What is the root of your fear? And who is in your squad? We have a hope as an anchor for our soul, let him steer the ship that allows you to welcome adventure with open arms!

Love God, love others, and love yourself. ❤

 

 

Present! The Best Gift

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Have you ever been in a room but really been a thousand other places? Your mind wandering through to-do lists and people you need to check in with and whatever you’re sure you forgot to do earlier?

I am the queen at this. Or at least I used to be. I’m trying to abdicate that throne.

Being present in the moment is so much harder than it seems. Especially in this day and age where our phones are constantly filling us in on what it happening outside of our present situation.

This and that celebrity are engaged. Your friends are at a party somewhere without you. Here’s how five fabulous people are doing five fabulous things that make you feel like you’re doing nothing spectacular at all.

It can be amazing to have all this information at our fingertips, but I’m learning there has to be a time to put it away. To just be where I am and not anywhere else.

The holiday season is on us – the most wonderful time of the year! For so many years, though, I’ve made the mistake of zooming past the wonderful. The awe of twinkling lights, the smell of tantalizing treats baking, the joy of family togetherness. I’ve made the mistake of bundling together those ideals, calling them “the holidays,” and then zooming past them as if they are nothing spectacular at all.

I got stuck in my to-do lists of projects and exams, shopping, baking, planning for family, that I forgot to actually take part in all of those things.

A parable Christ taught, a story in Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew, tells of a sower of seeds. He throws out his seeds, very non-mindfully for some slightly unclear reason, and they land in a few different types of terrain. Seeds landed on rocky ground, were unable to root and died. Some seeds landed amongst weeds, the weeds stifled them and the seeds died. Lastly, some seeds fell to rich, soft soil. These seeds were able to take deeps roots and grow strong.

We typically view this parable in light of taking in the Word of Christ, in nurturing a safe place for the Word to land and take root in our hearts. But I think we can also learn to take in the joys of life in this same way. After all, God made all that is good, joy most included, and true joy is gifted to us all around.

During this holiday season, let us be rich, soft soil for the seeds of joy and love. Let us be open and present to the moment that we are in, not hardened by our own expectations of how we think the season might go. Let us be free from distractions, not stifled by the choking social media feeds and to-do lists.

Let’s be present. It’ll be the best present we give to others this season…. and also the best present for ourselves.

Listen Up, People!

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While watching the third presidential candidate debate, I was overcome by the frustrations I think a lot of us have felt this entire election cycle. Don’t worry, this won’t be a blog commenting on the merits or faults of either candidate’s platform or lifestyles. I think a lot of what has frustrated us, and what definitely frustrated me that evening of the debates, has nothing to do with either of those things.

As the candidates responded to questions asked, and then responded to each other, it really seemed like neither side was HEARING what the other said but rather just responding to how they GUESSED they responded, or to what they thought they MEANT by their response.

Now obviously as a voter wishing to best form my conscience, it was frustrating to not get to hear genuine replies to the questions raised. But it was also frustrating for me in a much grander way that night.

See, I think the climate of this cycle is actually a greater reflection of the problems in our own lives than we like to admit. How can I expect politicians to really listen and share ideas when I am surrounded by normal, everyday people, failing to do just that – myself included.?

I feel like our politicians, our neighbors, and, yes, ourselves, could use some reminders about listening and not just hearing.

“Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” James 1:19

“Fools take no delight in understanding, but only in displaying what they think” Proverbs 18:2

Listening to respond is not listening to understand. Let’s take some direction from the man himself, Christ. He knew that hearing was different than listening to understand. When speaking to the masses he said, “Hear me, and understand” (Mark 7:14, Matthew 15:10 to name a couple). So let’s try to do the same with each other. Let’s listen to understand each other’s approaches, sides, and ideals. We might realize we have a lot more in common if we did.

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