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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.

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.

Texans Deshaun Watson
Walks the Walk

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Deshaun WatsonMany times in today’s society, people will talk the talk, but they will not walk the walk. Many people do not have the courage, selflessness or character to go the extra mile for others.

Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is not someone who lacks these qualities.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, with the entire city of Houston still recovering and many people affiliated with the Texans organization doing the same, Deshaun Watson went out of his way to help somebody.

This past week, Watson and his teammates found out about two women who work for the Texans who lost everything they had to Hurricane Harvey. They lost their homes, clothes, money, etc.,

They still showed up for work to help the players; To feed them, give them nutrition and energy. Even when they had nothing, they worked to help Watson and the Texans.

Watson took notice of this, and he decided to take action to help the two women who helped his teammates and him as often as they do.

As James 2:14-26 said; “Faith Without Action is Dead.”

Watson’s action in this instance was to give the two women his first NFL game check, which totaled over $400,000

That is in all likelihood more than the two women could have ever imagined in their wildest dreams. Watson did the extraordinary to help these two women. He did as the church says all should at least try to do; Take action.

God In The Midst of Natural Disasters by Tracy Gaboyau

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Recently, I was scrolling through Twitter and I saw this:

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.01.50 PM

It got me thinking. What does the Bible say about natural disasters? What does the Bible say about horrible things that are occurring everyday, such as famines and floods and fires that bring harm to our brothers and sisters through no fault of their own? So, I decided to do some research, and here is what I found:

 

Amos 3:7

If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble?
           If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?

Surely the Lord GOD does nothing
           Unless He reveals His secret counsel
           To His servants the prophets.

 

2 Chronicles 7:21-22

And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”

 

Isaiah 54:10

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

 

I also found countless other verses, but if I were to list them all here, this blog post would never end.

From these few verses, I have come to two conclusions.

The first one being that there has to be suffering, some way some how. Life would make no sense if there was just nonstop joy from sunrise through sunset. There would be nothing to work towards, there would be no gratitude, no justice, and no fear of God.

Suffering is a very important part of everyday life, because it is where the majority of our learning happens, whether it is a great suffering, or a minor trouble. For example, when you make a mistake while doing homework, you learn from the mistake you made, which prevents you from making it again. Or when you hurt someone, or someone hurts you, you learn to not make that same mistake with other people.

It is through suffering that you truly earn things. If you simply showed up to school once and in that same day earned your diploma, it would just seem like a piece of paper. But if you truly went to school 180 days every year for 12 years, waking up early every morning, writing countless essays, taking multiple tests in every subject, spending multiple hours on an innumerable amount of essays, then you would really know the value of that diploma, because you have worked for it. Because you have suffered in order to earn it, and you have reaped the fruits of your labor.

The second conclusion I have come to is that everything God does, great or small, he does it for a reason. For everything that happens in the Bible, there is a cause and an affect. B has occurred because A has happened. When God punished Adam and Eve it was because they disobeyed him, and when God flooded the earth, it was because he was disappointed with all the evil in the world.

Therefore, if all of the uncontrollable circumstances on this earth are controlled by God, then we should have nothing to fear because: “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

All in all, to our unknowledgable brother on twitter, here is your explanation. And to my fellow brother and sisters in Christ, I hope you have learned something new.

 

Tracy

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

More Than a Coach

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There are a number adjectives that are used to describe Tom Coughlin, the former Head Coach and current Executive Vice President of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

Tough.

Disciplined.

Detailed.

But what are other adjectives that Coughlin emulates as much as he does his other traits, but still go relatively unnoticed?

Devout. 

Charitable.

Thoughtful.

Coughlin, a practicing Catholic, is as embedded in the city of Jacksonville as any one man can be, and this has dated back to his arrival to the city in 1995.

He was the first coach of the cities first major sports team. He lead them to early success and has remained a legend in the area.

But the impact he has made on the residents of Jacksonville, and around the entire United States, can be found off the field as well. He is truly a man who lives his faith.

The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, or the Jay Foundation, was started by Coughlin in Jacksonville in 1996. It is a non-profit foundation that focuses on supporting families that have children who are being treated for cancer.

While Coughlin was the Head Coach at Boston College, his position before the Jaguars, he witnessed one of his players, Jay McGillis, suffer from Leukemia.

Coughlin was able to witness firsthand the impact that cancer has on a family, both emotionally and financially. Since that point, he has been moved to help the sick and the needy as much as he can.

There are not many better ways for one to demonstrate their faith and character than to aid the sick or worse-off, and there are not many men who do this with more dignity or consistency than Tom Coughlin.

By 2004, Coughlin had expanded the Jay Fund to New York City. This continued to aid families while both increasing funds and number of families treated.

Today, Coughlin still works with the Jay Fund and hospitals throughout the country to aid cancer patients and their families. He has been able to donated over $2 million dollars in aid.

This is something that has traveled with him through his career just as much as any of his playbooks or coaching staff’s.

When Tom Coughlin steps away from football, he will be remembered as a Super Bowl winning coach, a Jacksonville legend, and an all time football authoritarian. There is no debating the impact that Coughlin has made with his work on the field.

But people should never look past the impact Coughlin makes off the field. Being Catholic is being humane and charitable, and Tom Coughlin personifies that completely.

Differing Opinions by Tracy Gaboyau

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In my sophomore year of high school, my group of friends in my class and I were discussing controversial topics. We were telling each other about our different beliefs, religions, and our views on topics such as abortion and homosexuality. Yes! I know, very heavy topics for sophomores in high school. But those are topics that allow us to learn more about the people we surround ourselves with, to step out of our “social media bubble” and discuss ideas prevalent in our society and be comfortable hearing different views respectfully.

Somewhere within our discussion a friend started to mention how he/she hadn’t been to church in months. Another added that they weren’t really dedicated to the religion they were brought up in, another decided that they should start going to church more often, and another realized that they might want to venture into Catholicism… My favorite part about the whole discussion however, was that no matter our opinion, we were all respectful of each other’s choices. And though we may not agree with them, we realized that each person was entitled to their specific belief.

What may have happened in that one class, however, is not the way it may have happened in the real world, or better yet any of my other classes. As we can see in today’s news, it can be hard to express your religious beliefs without receiving backlash from those who may not understand or agree. Whether it be Catholicism or Islam or Atheism, at times others do not understand that the passion you hold for your beliefs is the same passion that they hold for their beliefs, and just like you feel that you do not want to shift or change your views, others probably do not as well.

The point I am trying to make however, is that sticking to your beliefs, especially in high school, is difficult. We are constantly being thrown different opinions and beliefs and being put into situations that force us to identify what kind of person we are and what kind of person we want to be. I’m by no means an expert, but I have somehow made it to my senior year unscathed, and closer to God than when I started high school, and here are some of the ways I did it, I hope that they may help you:

 

Don’t be afraid to say no.

If you feel like you are being or are about to be put into a situation where you may have to compromise your religious beliefs in order to fit in, or conform, it is okay to say no. You don’t have to attend every party or every social gathering, and if you’re friends don’t respect decision to step out or remove yourself from situations, then those probably aren’t the friends you should be surrounding yourself with.

Educate people!

A lot of the times we hear others bad-mouthing our faith, it’s probably due to ignorance. Not ignorance in a negative connotation where the person realizes the way things truly are but chooses to ignore the truth, but ignorance as in literally not knowing. While it is okay to have differing opinions, it is not okay to trash talk things people know nothing about. If you hear something that is not right, kindly let people know the truth. No need to be condescending.

Respect! Others! Opinions!

Like I said before, the same way that you feel strongly about your beliefs, is the same way others may feel about their beliefs, and just like you may not want to change your opinions, others may not want to change theirs. It is okay to disagree, and it is okay to think differently. But it is not okay to give people a hard time for adhering to the beliefs they were taught at a young age, and it is also not okay to look down on someone because they are not living their life the same way that you are living yours. As stated by my sponsor Valerie, “many times people take an opinion as the truth or reality… while to the contrary an opinion is just someone’s point of view.” Do not forget that the Lord gave us freewill, and as written in Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”.

 

So with these three tips I leave you, and I hope that you take them into consideration to make the 2017-2018 school year the best, most blessed, one yet.

Transfigure the Ordinary

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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.

Faith & Theology

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The NCAA men’s baseball college world series officially concluded in the final weeks of June. The Florida Gators won their first men’s baseball championship in school history after defeating the LSU Tigers.

But the Gators victory was not the only thing to take away and reflect on. Neither was the tournament, or the MVP, or anything else on the field.

Instead, this moment came from the team who came in 2nd.

The post-game press conference given by LSU Coach Paul Mainieri, a known Catholic, touched on several topics–from his team’s performance to his pride for his school, to disappointment over the loss.

But there was one moment in his interview that provided a perfect example for the role a sports team can play in the lives of others, as well as an example of several values that all should live by.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript.

“I remember my wife saying to me last summer, she said, ‘Man, wouldn’t it be great if you could go out and win the national championship this spring to unify the community and give them something to be happy about and be proud of?’  And I’ve never — I never forgot that she said that.”

Mainieri shows where his values and priorities lie. He has thought about his community and the positive impact that he and his team could make on the community.

This aligns with the verse Philippians 2:4
“do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

The church teaches that, while you should prosper for yourself, you should have the interests of others in your heart. This is the same thing Mainieri is teaching his players.

“I don’t really talk about it that much with the players, but in my heart, was something we really wanted to do. And even though we came up a little bit short-two victories short-I think we did a lot of things this year to make the people in our community proud and our state proud.”

Here, Mainieri again shows that, despite talking moments after a momentous loss, the coach was still thinking about others. This was clearly more than just a game, which means that regardless of the final result, they can take solace in it.

This aligns with the verse Galatians 6:9-10
“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

The church teaches to do good for all people if we have the self-ability to, which is the same thing that Mainieri emphasizes to his players.

“But I know these players to my right and all the players in that clubhouse gave it everything that they had. And I don’t think they have anything to be ashamed of. And I hope that the people of Louisiana and in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, et cetera, are proud of our team.

“I think they should be. They’re a great group of kids. They’re wonderful young men. And this is just the cruelty of what we do.”

Mainieri closes out by thinking more about the type of people he is coaching and playing for, before thinking about the result of the game.

The Tigers may not have left the college world series as champions, but they made an impression on everyone who was willing to listen. They showed the core values that all, from the church, to sports, should learn from. Give to others. Teach others. And care for your community.

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.

 

 

Staying Hopeful by Tracy Gaboyau

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I’ve never had anyone ask me directly: “Why do you believe in God?” and if anyone did I honestly don’t think I would be able to formulate words. As a teenager, I am constantly growing into my faith and strengthening my relationship with God. Though I may not know about the Catholic faith as much as my confirmation sponsor, or my priest, or my bishop, I do know the joy that I experience at every youth convention that I go to with my youth group. I know the great feeling of triumph I get whenever I am exposed to the Holy Sacrament. I am best friends with the exhilaration of having a great confession, and I am in love with the way any and every Gospel has a way of shape-shifting itself and making itself true in any instance of my life.

That being said, however, it is (and I think I speak for anyone that has ever walked this earth when I say this) almost impossible to remain in that state of bliss forever, nevertheless a whole day. One way or another, whether it be things not going our way, or having to make sacrifices, or having to overcome difficult adversities; we will get moments when we are sad. If you’re a teenager like me, your hormones will go crazy, and you’ll want to scream and cry and yell all at the same time. But hey, that’s okay. (Okay, maybe not the screaming and yelling thing, but you get it).

With every situation we face, we are always given the choice as to how we want to react to it. In a good situation it’s always easy to be content, take it in, and remain hopeful. But what about the situations when we’re put on edge, and we’re hanging by a thread? It becomes a lot more difficult to remain hopeful when the hope that you did have is lost or has been destroyed by an unfortunate situation.

One of my favorite aspects of the Catholic Church and its teachings are the theological virtues. If you are not familiar with them, these include faith, hope, and charity. In reality, I think all three of these virtues idealize the Catholic faith, but the one I want to focus on today is hope. The Catechism defines hope as “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

While it is impossible to remain in the state of bliss I mentioned above forever, we shouldn’t let the unfortunate circumstances we are faced with alter the way we view that bliss, or alter our perception of hope. God gave us the gift of hope as a message saying, “hey listen, no matter the situation, there’s always a chance for improvement. As long as you have me in your heart, I will never abandon you”, so who are we to say all hope is lost?

Take the future, for instance, due to its uncertainty, and our fear of failure, we at times decide to take matters into our own hands and exclude God. We have to remember however, that fear is the opposite of hope. Whereas fear disconnects us from our joy and our feeling of protection in God’s hands, the virtue of hope reaffirms our faith and our beliefs in the grace of the Holy Spirit.

In Jeremiah 29:11, it is written, ““For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I think of this verse quite often, actually. When the lives of innocent people are lost at a concert, in a place where people come to have fun and live life, when I hear of the injustices haunting our society in ways I thought were left in the 1960’s, when I hear that children are being orphaned over a fight for power-I always think, how are we supposed to bounce back from that?

Though we don’t get to choose what happens in our lives, or on this earth, we do get to choose how to react to it. And God calls us to react to it with faith, hope, and charity.

Remember: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9) So hey, keep your chin up.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Head Coach Tyronn Lue

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On Thursday evening, Head Coach Tyronn Lue and the Cleveland Cavaliers got their 3rd straight chance at an NBA championship as they began their series vs. the Golden State Warriors.

Tyronn Lue has faced adversity at various points throughout both his career and life, but much of what has gotten him to this point in his career are his roots in his family and his faith.

Lue is from a small town in Missouri called Mexico. He did not have much growing up. Since then he has reflected on his time in Mexico as difficult but rewarding because what he did have were his faith and his family. His grandfather and his mother were among hist biggest supporters in both his professional and his faith journey.

Since Lue has moved away from Mexico, he has played in the NBA, played in an NBA finals, and coached the Cavilers to their first ever NBA championship, which came at the expense of the greatest regular season team of all time, the 2016 Golden State Warriors.

Philippians 4:12-13
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Lue is living proof of this scripture. Once a poor child from Mexico, Missouri, without much else then his family, faith, and basketball, Lue now has a multi-million dollar contract.

He has credited his tough upbringing for much of his success, but he has since used his situation to help those who were once in the less fortunate position that he was once in.

Lue now personally pays for several charity events and churches in Mexico each year during the holidays. No corporate sponsors, all from his own pocket. He remembers what it is like being poor with nothing to turn to except family, faith, and ball. He wants to do anything he can to help the kids who he was once like. Anything to get them to turn to God or family or basketball.

For the next month we will hear about Lue, the coach, but we regardless of the result of the NBA finals, we should celebrate Tyronn Lue, the person. The player, coach, son, and man of faith.

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