Sunday, May 3, 2015

Comfort Zone

There's a funny thing that happens when you tell God "Your will be done." We have found that, with us, God uses this statement to move us out of our comfort zone, and even though it's been painful and confusing at times, it has usually ended up with tremendous spiritual growth on our part.
Seven years ago God began calling us to work with the youth of Immaculate Conception. We both ignored the call- we couldn't imagine why God would want US to do THAT. After a year of God urging {screaming at}  us, we finally listened. Karena Charlton was becoming the new youth minister and she has a very pretty good way of persuading you. (Thank you for that, Karena) We had no idea what was in store for us as we stepped way out of our comfort zone. You see, plumbing (Chuck's occupation at the time) and teaching first graders (Mandy's occupation) are VERY different than working with teens. 
Through a weird and unexpected series of events, Chuck became the youth minister at IC in August of 2010. You want to talk about being moved out of your comfort zone?! Chuck Becker would gladly be your work horse and take care of anything behind the scenes that you needed done-- but talk in front of people? {Just a side note here: don't ever tell God you won't do something, because you will end up doing that very thing.} 
The past 5 years have brought so many changes to our household. For instance when Chuck began in youth ministry at IC, Katie was just beginning junior high. Now, Katie is about to graduate from high school and leave for college. There have also been many changes at River Valley Life Teen. We have had the privilege of starting our Teen Core, and most importantly, realizing a dream with the opening of the 4:12@IC. God has immensely blessed the Life Teen program at Immaculate Conception during the past 5 years, and we have enjoyed every moment. God has definitely been good. 
And so, that call from God has come again. We are being moved out of our comfort zone once more. This time, we wait with expectant hope for the lessons and blessings God has in store for us, our family, and River Valley Life Teen. Chuck will continue as youth minister through June 30. During this time there will be teen core interviews, summer activities, and hopefully lots of time to get to know our new youth minister. 
We have been so blessed by the teens and adults that we have formed bonds with over the past 5 years. You have touched our lives in wonderful ways. A simple 'thank you' is not enough for the Adult Core Team and the members of Teen Core. You have made such an impact on the Life Teen program, and you are the reason for it's success. Thank you for your hard work and dedication, and thank you for always putting God first and allowing Him to work through you. You have not only brought teens closer to Christ, you've brought us closer to Christ too.
The process of selecting a new youth minister will begin soon. I am already praying for our new youth minister, and I will continue to pray for River Valley Life Teen. I ask that you all pray too, and make plans to be involved in Life Teen. God is not done with the Life Teen program at IC......He's just getting started. 
"Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young; but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

God is good!
Chuck and Mandy

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Life Night Schedule

All 9th-12th graders are invited to join us on Sunday nights from 6:30-8:00 in the 4:12@IC for a meal and Life Night.

Sunday, September 14- Life Night in the 4:12@IC (Parent Life in the Social Area)
Sunday, September 21- Life Night in the 4:12@IC
Sunday, September 28- NO LIFE NIGHT- PARISH PICNIC
Sunday, October 5- Game night on the school field (not required)
Sunday, October 19- Life Night in the 4:12@IC (Parent Life in the Social Area)
Sunday, October 26- Life Night in the 4:12@IC
Sunday, November 2- Life Night in the 4:12@IC (Adoration and Worship with Parent Life)
Sunday, November 9- Social Night in the 4:12@IC (not required)
Sunday, November 16- Life Night in the 4:12@IC (Last Parent Life)
Sunday, November 23- Life Night in the 4:12@IC
Sunday, December 7- Social Night in the 4:12@IC (not required)
Sunday, December 14- Topic Night (not required)
Saturday, December 20- Optional- Ordination of Deacon Jack Sidler at Subiaco (details later)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dolphin Delight

What I am about to share with you will likely make you roll your eyes and wonder if I've (Mandy) gone mad. I know this, because it evoked the same responses from my own children.

It was Thursday of our family beach vacation. The water was beautiful, the sun was shining, Chuck was beyond sunburned, and the waves were perfect for riding. But in the midst of all that "perfectness" I longed for one thing: Dolphins. If you know me well, you know that nothing elicits joy from me like seeing dolphins in their own environment. (The kind of knock your family out of the way joy.) I prayed out loud, in the ocean, while riding a wave with my family for God to let me see dolphins before we left for home on Friday. And I meant it. Right as I finished being intentional in my prayer I began to hear "Mom, that's so selfish." "Mom you can't pray that way." And I cannot even tell you the number of eye rolls I got from our lovely teenagers. (Partly because everyone was wearing sunglasses, but you get the idea!)  "Why can't I ask to see dolphins?"  "Why wouldn't God think that's ok?" All my questions were met with the typical 'mom you sound lame' kind of answers that parents of teens experience at one time or another. I found it funny that my teens were so offended that I had specifically asked to see dolphins, and they really did too.

We finished our wave riding and Chuck and I settled into our beach chairs while the doubting teens headed inside for lunch. I was doing what I loved most at the beach- watching the water and listening to the waves. And that's when I saw it- one dolphin fin, then another, then more. An entire pod of dolphins swam the length of the beach and out of sight.

Right now some of you are asking yourselves if I am seriously writing about seeing dolphins at the beach. YES I AM! I know it sounds trivial. But it had been one of those months. You know the months where everything seems to go wrong? I was frustrated by what seemed like a string of bad luck, and I lost sight of the big things God had answered in big ways.
And as crazy as it sounds, all it took were dolphins to remind me of two things:
1. My prayer need to be intentional. .
2. I need to be specific in thanking God for the way He answers my prayer.

During the car ride home, I couldn't stop thinking about the dolphins. It wasn't because it was the first time I had seen them-- we've seen them every year we've gone to the beach and even had a couple of chances to swim in the open ocean with dolphins so close to us that we could touch them.

 I was even lucky enough to catch this shot of a dolphin on the first day of our very first beach trip:

It was more than just the dolphins. God knew that seeing the dolphins would bring me pure joy, and it was God's way of reminding me that I needed to quit worrying, start praying intentionally, and take true delight in all things at all times. I had found that in my end of the school year fatigue I had become very broad during prayer; and, even though I realized that God was providing for my needs, I wasn't being specific in thanking Him for it or even showing gratitude.

The dolphins reminded me that God is just like any parent- nothing brings Him more happiness than to see His own children happy AND thankful.

So, I challenge you to delight in the small things and in the big things. I challenge you to remember that sometimes God specifically answers your prayer in big and evident ways, and other times He answers them in ways that go unseen. But most of all, I challenge you to be thankful in everything.

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Good Riddance

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road 
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go

So make the best of this test, and don't ask why

It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time
It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right,

I hope you had the time of your life."

One full cycle of Life Teen is complete. Four years ago an enthusiastic group of freshmen walked through the doors of the parish center. Well, ok, not all of you were enthusiastic. Some of you took some convincing, others were so excited to finally be a part of Life Teen that you volunteered to dress up the very first night......

Every one of you has made an impact that will never be forgotten. Not only in the lives of your youth minister and the Core Team, but in our parish and in the lives of countless teens who come to River Valley Life Teen. 

Class of 2014: you don't ever have to wonder if you've left your mark. The fruits of your labor are evident just to the west of Immaculate Conception Church in the 4:12@IC. You helped make a dream a reality. Your commitment, service, prayers, and involvement will always be remembered and cherished. A special thanks goes to the Teen Core seniors.Thank you for "sticking it out" with us and serving River Valley Life Teen for 4 years. We really couldn't have done it without you. Thank you for having a heart for Jesus! We know the walk has not always been easy, but thank you for your determination, enthusiasm, service, willingness, and love.

So where does that leave you- and us? I think it leaves all of us in a scary and exciting place! 

You've finally graduated! This Friday we will celebrate Confirmation and then begin the process of putting together a new Teen Core.  While your new semester at college begins, we will be welcoming a brand new batch of freshmen that we pray inspire us as much as you have. And so the cycle continues as our Life Teen family grows. It's what we all have anxiously waited for, right??

John 16:22 says, "But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you."

We say goodbye to you through tears. We will find ourselves in a new and unique relationship with you, as you will with us. Just because you're off to college doesn't mean our job is done. Visit when you're home, text when you need encouragement, and do a few things for us:

1. Get yourself to Mass- even when you don't feel like it. You will need spiritual nourishment. 
2. Get involved in your campus ministry. (See #1)
3. Follow the rule of St. Benedict- "live differently, putting the love of Christ before all else". 
4. Keep in touch- with us and with each other. 

You are going into what may be one of the most challenging times of your life, but don't do it alone. Temptation will be everywhere and can easily drown out God's voice.  It will be hard to get back up when you fall and that is what we are here for.

As Green Day says in the song 'Good Riddance', 
"For what it's worth it was worth all the while."

We couldn't have said it any better. 
We love you!
Chuck and Mandy

Friday, May 30, 2014

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." 

You probably know the theme of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" even if you haven't read the play. The story of doomed lovers. Juliet is not allowed to associate with Romeo because of his last name. She complains that a name is meaningless, and tells Romeo that he would still be the same person without his name.

I am not an avid Shakespeare reader and I haven't thought of "Romeo and Juliet" in a long time- until the completion of 4:12@IC was near. Chuck and I have often wondered about the best way to spread the word about the meaning of the name 4:12@IC. You see, it's not just any other name, and calling it by another name would not be the same. The name IS a part of "who" the building is.

During the 4 years that Chuck has been youth minister at Immaculate Conception, we have been blessed with a wonderful adult Core Team and an absolutely amazing Teen Core. Through retreats, worship, bible study, and discussions one verse kept appearing and reappearing. When the possibility of a youth building became a reality it was clear that this verse should be included in the name.

 1 Timothy 4:12: "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity."

Timothy was a young man who faced the possibility of being looked down upon in his ministry because of his youth. Timothy had to prove that he was wise beyond his years. He had to live a life that set an example for other believers. He had to show that even though he was young in years, he was not young in The Lord.

Before the sheet rock was installed in the building our Teen Core and Core Team chose saints whose lives possessed qualities of how we should each live our Christian lives. Father John blessed the medals and we placed them in the walls to surround the teens with the examples of our Catholic faith.  We are so inspired by the saints that our teens and the adults of our Core Team chose. Here are just a few examples:

 Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton "And in every disappointment, great or small, let your heart fly directly to your dear Savior, throwing yourself in those arms for refuge against every pain and sorrow. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you."

Saint Cecilia "Make my heart and my body pure that I may not be confounded." "Arise, soldiers of Christ, throw away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light."

Saint Therese of Lisiuex "It is your arms, Jesus, that are the lift to carry me to heaven. And so there is no need for me to grow up: I must stay little and become less and less."

 Saint Frances of Rome "God's will is mine."

Saint Francis of Assisi "All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle."

Saint Thomas Aquinas "Love takes up where knowledge leaves off."

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..

Saint Joan of Arc "I am not afraid, I was born to do this."  "Act and God will act."

Saint Catherine of Siena "“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."

Saint Boniface  "Let us put our hope in God; He will save our souls.”

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga "It is better to be the child of God than the king of the world."

Saint Anthony "Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak."

Saint Florian "Help me to be loyal and true, respectful and honorable, obedient and valiant. "

Saint Augustine "Our heart is restless until it rests in You."

Saint Monica “Nothing is far from God.”

Saint Sebastian "The devil strains every nerve to secure the souls which belong to Christ. We should not grudge our toil in wresting them from Satan and giving them back to God."

Saint Benedict "Walk in God's ways."

Saint Charles “If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out… Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter… Do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself.”

So how does this relate to our new youth building and the mission of River Valley Life Teen?
We believe that the five examples given in 1 Timothy 4:12 are pillars for our teens.
Speech: What you say matters (verbally and on social media)- Your character gives strength to your words.
Life: Your lifestyle defines your character, and your character points others to God.
Love: Do you show Christ's love to others through your actions?
Faith: Do other people know about your relationship with Jesus by your actions and words? Do you share your Catholic faith? Do you live in a way that honors God?
Purity: Keeping yourself pure through your commitment to God. True love waits.

The mission of River Valley Life Teen is the very foundation for the reason 4:12@IC exists: to lead teens closer to Christ, and to give glory to God, which IS the name above all names.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A big thank you for a wonderful year at River Valley Life Teen! Watch Facebook, Twitter, our blog, and the bulletin for RVLT's summer of fun activities! Schedule coming soon!

SEARCH: If you want to attend Search on June 28-30 (exiting 10th graders-exiting 12th graders) your registration needs to be completed and mailed to Little Rock ASAP!

CATHOLIC CHARITIES CATHOLIC YOUTH MINISTRIES SUMMER INSTITUTE (C2SI): Registration deadline is June 24.  All incoming 9th-12th graders are invited to attend this retreat in Little Rock on July 14-19. Contact Chuck for registration forms.

NATIONAL CATHOLIC YOUTH CONFERENCE: All incoming 9th-12th graders can attend NCYC in Indianapolis, IN, November 21-24. A deposit of $100 is due BY JUNE 27.  Please contact Chuck for more info or a registration form.