Category Archives: All Blogs

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

 

Marlys’s Declassified School Survival Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Marlys

“I Belong To Jesus” Declares Brazils World Cup Players

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

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

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

Summer Bod? I Think NOT!
by Lola Martin

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

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

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

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

Blessings, Lola
✞☻☼♪

Take Up His Cross

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

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

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

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

In peace, Marlys

How to Get Back to Happy
by Madi Wade

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

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

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

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

 

-xo Madi Wade

How Does He Reveal Himself To You

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Onie Lee

 

Joy To The World
by Marlys Adjevi

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The Three Obstacles

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

  • Destructive Criticism

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

  • Complaining

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

  • Attitude of Ingratitude

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

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

Pause

Process

Pray

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

All I Want For Christmas Is You
by Joe Sutherland

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

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

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

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

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

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