Silence in the Storm

Posted on August 9, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: Silence in the StormFor Sunday, August 13, 2017
19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

Have you ever heard five hundred teenagers singing? As a music minister, it’s not always easy to pull off. When I worked in a Catholic high school, there was one song that nearly everybody always sang, whether it was in the Mass, on retreat, or at a prayer service: “Oceans” by Hillsong, the music ministry of an Australian evangelical church. Here are some lines of the refrain: “And I will call upon Your name. Keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise.”

I spent a lot of time considering why this song roused an instinctive response in so many students, regardless of grade, race, and social clique. In many ways, I think this simple song reflects the cry of the human heart. We all, at times, feel storm-tossed and unconsoled. The song isn’t just about our effort to reach out to Christ, but the steadfast presence of God as we brave the unknown.

I don’t know the history of the song, but I have no doubt it was at least somewhat inspired by today’s Gospel. Jesus has spent time alone, consoled in his weariness by the presence of his Father, and he returns to his friends by night, supernaturally walking on the waves of a stormy sea. Peter, in a classic display of bold faith, trusts that if the figure really is Jesus, than he too can walk on the water. His Lord will do the miraculous, keep him from sinking. (more…)

The Intersection of Faith and Photography

Posted on August 8, 2017 by - Catholic Tech Talk

How Good Photography Reveals Beauty and Draws People to the Church

We live in a world where nearly everyone has access to a camera. It has never been easier to document and record our lives. With the click of a button, we can share the beauty of our faith with the world, a faith that is naturally beautiful on many different levels. Our human instinct to capture beauty is a direct reflection of God’s word when he saw all that he made and “found it very good.”

Photography matters in our world—and should matter to the Church—because it is the bridge or gateway of communication and storytelling. Statistics show that more and more people are visual learners, which shows that photography makes a difference. With the Instagram generation having a bigger impact in the world of communications and evangelization, taking a photo with purpose and reason can give someone a reason to stop, pause, and be curious as to what that photo can offer. Most importantly, it offers the story behind the photo.

Imagine if that same purpose and reason were applied to the way we approach photography within church communications. Here are five tips to help the photos you take leave a deeper impression.

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Glimpse of Heaven

Posted on August 6, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Feast of the Transfiguration

heaven

There are times in our lives that we get the chance to see a glimpse of heaven. It may be through the love of another, loved one or stranger. Sometimes it may even be an event that seems unexplainable, perhaps even supernatural. These occurrences may be the answer to prayer or they may surprise us by coming out of nowhere. But no matter their nature or origin, they give us hope and strength to carry on through life.

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5 Ways to Turn Youth Ministry On Its Head

Posted on August 5, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Where were you on 9/11? Most of us reading this can tell a vivid story our experience that tragic day. Ask a teenager that same question. Most of them won’t have an answer because they were far too young to remember or weren’t even born yet. From security to the way we consume media and information, there have been seismic shifts in the culture since most of us were teenagers. While the culture seems to change in dramatic ways every year, the way we minister to teens has changed very little. I had to humbly face the fact that I had been running the same youth group for eight years with only cosmetic changes. Worse, I was running the youth group I went to when I was in high school.

youth ministryIn the midst of identify this problem and my own soul searching and Google searching, I discovered YDisciple, an online platform designed to enable parishes to engage and train other adults in the parish to mentor small groups of teenagers with training, videos for discussion, well-crafted discussion questions, and more. Through five basic steps, God turned my entire paradigm of youth ministry on its head.

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Watch Your Labels

Posted on August 4, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Guest Post by Chuck Frost

labels

We are all guilty of name-calling from time to time. It’s human nature when you are frustrated, angry, or have been mistreated to lash out with an insult. We like to label people too. We label people by political leaning, intelligence, attractiveness, personality, behavior…. Even our Lord had labels attached to him:  glutton, drunkard, blasphemer.

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A Hope that Gives Life

Posted on August 2, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The Kingdom of God in Our MidstFor Sunday, August 06, 2017
The Transfiguration of the Lord

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
2 Peter 1:16-19
Matthew 17:1-9

The death of Chester Bennington, lead singer for the popular group, Linkin Park, has stunned the music world. His alarming death by suicide follows that of another popular singer of his generation, Chris Cornell, who fronted the seminal grunge rock groups Soundgarden and Audioslave.

While such deaths have not been uncommon in the world of music, the suicides of the rich and famous shock us because we think they “have it all.” In fact, they only prove that success, money, fame, and power do not ultimately fulfill us and cannot shield us from life’s difficulties. (more…)

What’s Possessing You?

Posted on July 30, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

earthly possessions

My wife is a big Dave Ramsey fan. She loves when he tells people that in order to pay down their debt they need to sell so many of their possessions that the kids think that even they can be sold for the right price. He definitely sees earthly possessions as simply tools to be used and not possessed. This is a tough, countercultural message for sure in the eyes of the average American. Too often, our self-worth is derived from our wealth and the items we own. The size of our house, the brand of our car, and the quantity of our belongings are all gauges of success in our world. For Ramsey, not only can you not truly own anything if you owe money to others, it belongs to God anyway and is only given to us as stewards.

Could you sell all you have right now? Could you walk away from all that you have amassed and be truly free? When Jesus speaks of the merchant who sells all he has to obtain a pearl of great price, he calls us to see the pearl as the kingdom of heaven. Nothing on earth can rival the value of the kingdom. If that is true, why is it so hard to surrender everything to God to obtain it? It can be fear that keeps us from stepping out in faith. It can be selfishness that prevents us from letting go. Whatever it is, we must face the fact that we are possessed by it. The good news is that God does not expect us to conquer this obstacle on our own. But with God, all things are possible.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

The Kingdom of God in Our Midst

Posted on July 26, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

Connect! Sunday Reflection: The Kingdom of God in Our MidstFor Sunday, July 30, 2017
17th Sunday Ordinary Time

This Sunday’s Gospel can seem obvious, even cliché. We’ve heard the stories before. Man roaming in field finds treasure, sells everything, buys field. Merchant finds pricey pearl, sells everything, buys pearl. “God is worth it!” we hear loud and clear. But this Gospel presupposes something that, to be frank, I don’t think is always presupposed. These people were actually looking for something.

Consider the man in the field. He’s taking time away from tasks to wander a patch of open land. Consider the merchant. He knows what he’s looking for and he’s thrilled to discover it. I wonder, if we’re confronted with the kingdom of God in our midst, will we know it when we see it? Have we given ourselves the mental and emotional space to search? (more…)

Why You Don’t Need a Youth Minister

Posted on July 25, 2017 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

youth minister

This blog is Part One of two pieces. Part Two will post on Saturday.

Like many Youth Ministers, I was hired in my early twenties and fresh out of college. Zealous, energetic, and immature, I was handed a floundering youth ministry program in a parish with over 450 high school students on the books. After nine years in that same suburban parish cluster, I still I loved my job. I loved putting on my weekly youth group that we had grown to reach over 100 teens. I loved working with my Core Team of young adults. The mission trips, the World Youth Day pilgrimages, the retreats—I loved it all. But after nine years of watching the vast majority of even our most engaged teens go off to college and stop practicing the faith, I had to honestly ask myself: “Is my work as a Youth Minister effective?”

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