All posts by Team RiseUp

Unstoppable by the Grace of God

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After a very reassuring text message conversation with my friend, Julian, I felt called to enlighten you on this topic:
Julian had messaged me after he saw my Instagram post about touring the University of Central Florida. He told me, ” Hey, I’m in Orlando too. Maybe this is a sign that we’ll go to the same college!”
The conversation took a very sharp turn, and we both went on to admitting that we are utterly terrified for our future. We are both constantly reminded that this feeling of terror for our future is completely “normal.” But, if we’re told that this state of mind is “normal,” then why does it feel so “abnormal ?”

In a society where our future seems to be manifested by numbers, we often fail to recognize that our future is solely in the hands of the one who literally breathed life into us, God our Father. Our future is most definitely not controlled by a mere transcript or standardized test score.

It is a Wednesday night, I have just gotten back from two college tours: the University of Florida in Gainesville, and as aforementioned, the University of Central Florida in Orlando. “A 4.3 GPA isrequired as well as a 33 ACT score…” For a girl who is very talented academically, but average in standardized tests, I simply thought that these pairs of numbers were seemingly impossible to reach. “I am never getting into college,” I said to myself. Those six words finally did it. I broke down in tears after the UF tour because of an overwhelming amount of fear and anxiety for my future.

During this whole process, I had no idea what role God played in all of this chaos. “God probably has so many other people’s problems to deal with that are much bigger than mine,” I thought. But God met me exactly where I was. My very own mother sensed a strange negative aura within me. Without saying a word, she took hold of my hands and prayed for me. She asked God to grant me a sense of peace and for an increase of hope in my life. She prayed that I have faith in my future, and trust that God’s plan for me is nothing but good. God’s love really shone through my mom. I immediately felt His uplifting presence only seconds after we were done praying.

Brothers and sisters, when we say to ourselves, “I can’t” it becomes a reality. Our minds feed off of this negativity, and anxiety overcrowds our lives. However, when we reverse our mindset to a positive one and say, “Yes, I can,” our minds become permanently altered.

Let us keep our heads held high because that’s where we will find our Father, guiding us toward a bold and prosperous future; different for each of us, but equally and exquisitely amazing. Another important factor to remember is that friends are placed in our lives to lift us up, not to bring us down. God blessed me with such empowering friends, like Julian, who constantly fills me with his love and positivity. When we keep our eyes fixed on God and His marvelous plan for us, we will be filled with His overflowing goodness. Ultimately, this “Yes, I can!” attitude is what makes us unstoppable by the grace of God.
As Emily Wilson would say, “Amen, Hallelujah!”

“Do not have anxiety about the future. Leave everything in God’s hands for He will take care of you.”
~ St. John the Baptist de La Salle

Blessings, Lola ✞☻☼♪

The Light Shines in the Darkness

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Darkness can be very frightening. If we take anything from our daily experience and put it in the dark, that seemingly normal object takes on a sinister character. For example: In the daytime a hallway is perfectly normal. However, that same hallway becomes terrifying in the dark. We have all had the experience of waking in the middle of the night to use the restroom just to be dissuaded by us looking down that long dark corridor. We don’t even need to into detail of how much creepier a porcelain doll is in the dark. We all have darkness in our lives and in our world. However, the good news is that Jesus is the light of the world. When we let His light and love into our lives that darkness will not prevail. Darkness is not a thing in itself. Rather, it is the absence of light. Darkness cannot ever overtake light.

Jesus is willing and able to enter the dark parts of our lives and bring us the light of hope. Nothing is too big for him to conquer. He has already conquered all things when He laid down His life so that we may live. Why did Jesus do this? If He is God, why did he humble himself to die for us and to save us? If God is perfect, that means He does not need anything, so we can’t say he needs us. This is incredible new because it means He wanted to die for us. God chose us because He loves us.  To God the father, you are worth the life of God the son. Let us respond to the light of His love and stand in that light.

 

Challenged to Rise!

Spend time in the light. Daily, set aside 15 mins and let Jesus into all areas of your life, the good and the bad, the dark and the light. When it comes to letting light into our life through prayer the only two things we bring to it is consistency and honesty. God does the rest. Everyone can be consistent and honest in prayer. It downs take a special “gift” or talent. Just decide. Spend time consistently and be honest with Him in your conversation. Don’t fake it. He is faithful to shine his light, it’s up to us to step into it.

After spending time with the Light, go about your day and be His light to the people around you. Let Him conquer darkness of the world through you.

Discussion Questions

What are the moments of darkness that you face in your lives?

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “to God the father, you are worth the life of God the son”?

What are some ways that you can turn on the lights and dispel the darkness in your life?

When has some one been a bearer of light in your life?

How can you be the bearer of light into the darkness for others?

 

Biblical inspirations

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. -John 1:5

The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” -Matthew 4:16

The Simile of Light. “No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it [under a bushel basket], but on a lampstand so that those who enter might see the light. -Luke 11:33

For God so loved the world that he gave[a] his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. -John 3:16

 

“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
✞☻☼♪

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!

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.

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

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.

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