BRCLM Lagniappe, June 2018

A Little Laginappe, Melinda Stallings on the Infinite Power of Positive

The infinite power of positive

a god powered life

By Melinda Stallings

“Behold the fowls of the air: they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

“I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

It’s a pleasant morning, temperatures in the high 60’s; my back door is open to catch the slight breeze, and I can hear the beautiful sounds of the bounty of birds who come daily to my feeders. As I sit down to breakfast, I look out into the backyard. There are sparrows and blue-jays, cardinals and mourning doves, bluebirds and brown thrushes, chickadees and hummingbirds, and a lone red-headed woodpecker who commands the feeder each time he descends. And as I set my breakfast down and settle in to say my blessing, I am completely overcome with the fullness of the love of Jesus Christ. In that moment, I look all around me – at my beautiful little home, at the bounty of nature in my backyard, at my full plate of healthy and delicious food, at my two pups (who were already stationed at either side of my chair), at the pictures of my daughters and friends, at the fullness of my life; and I keep saying thank you, thank you, thank you God.

Two years ago, it was a different utterance. It was why God, why God, why God?

I moved to Baton Rouge from the Houston area four years ago to be close to my brother. Two years after my arrival, my brother suffered a massive heart attack. The day I discovered him was the eve of Epiphany, literally and figuratively. He was coming to get my Christmas lights down from my house before twelfth night. When he didn’t show up his customary 30 minutes before an appointed time, and when he didn’t answer his phone, I knew something was wrong. The evening before, I told him I would have the coffee ready, and I thank God the last words we said to each other that evening before we hung up was our customary “I Love You.”

God has a way of using all events for our good though, and to bring us closer to Him – if we are willing. Although I was always a Christian and had stayed close to my church and God, this grief settled into my soul like a soaked woolen blanket. During that time, I felt so alone. There was so much to contend with, and I had always relied on my brother’s guidance. It is the steadfast love of God, who loved me even when I railed at Him, that got me through that trying time – where time stood still yet progressed at breakneck speed. And it was in that time, that I realized that God would never leave me.

For months on end, I tried to control everything. I was seeking my own counsel since I felt like that was all I had. And my counsel was not that great in that state of mind. Nothing seemed to be working – issues became more convoluted. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t act; my world was closing in on me. About a year in, I became so despondent that, in a cry of desperation, I hit my knees and sobbed into the side of my bed. My railing and my beseeching were as of a young child – and indeed that’s what I felt like. A lonely, scared, tired, confused, beat up child. I cried until I had no more strength. As I lay on the floor, exhausted, I asked God to take it all. Remove the fear, instill the faith that had wavered, draw me close and provide people in my life to help me. I promised to seek the counsel of God first moving forward – such a simple concept, yet I had lost it in my bewildered, grieving state. That night, I feel sure that God held me ever more closely in His loving embrace.

And as time and I progressed, I saw that God indeed had a plan for me; plans to prosper me and not to harm me and that with Him, I had hope for the future that HE had planned for me – even though it wasn’t the future I had planned.

Through small actions and release, I realized that God wanted me to have an abundant life. Even in the midst of losing my best friend, I learned how to live more fully though the Grace of God. The journey was trying but the more I opened to allowing God to lead me through, the less treacherous the path became. I began to make better decisions, I felt more powerful knowing that I had God with me in all my decisions, and indeed, God provided the right people at the right time in my life. I would pray for a blessing on every decision I made, conversation I had, business endeavor I undertook. Ask and ye shall receive.

Jesus came that we might have life – that we may walk in peace, that we may have the ability to overcome evil, to love, to be able to enrich the lives of others, yes; even in our own times of trouble. Love lifted me. But I had to remember to put love first, the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. When I sought His will and followed the guidance of my soul through asking in prayer, He provided everything that I needed. And He still does.

Life is fleeting. We know neither the time nor the hour. I’ve decided to make every day count – positively, powerfully, for God. And to remind me, I keep this little LIFE acronym handy. I hope it will bless you when you feel the world closing in around you – just remember GOD is always there, just invite Him in – oh, and let Him have control. He’s got the whole world in His hands!

L – Love: “…and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13) – God’s love is unfailing.

I – Integrity: What would Jesus do? Act in integrity and all else will fall into place.

F – Faith: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” (Hebrews 11:1); “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)

E – Eternal: God’s love for us is eternal. He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5).

Melinda Stallings is a keynote speaker, author, consultant, coach, and mother of two daughters. She guides people in discovering the power of positive within themselves to uncover their God-given purpose and passion in life and share it with others. She moves organizations from conflict and essential business skills “breakdown to breakthrough” through the POSITIVE Approach. She can be reached at Melinda@MelindaStallings.com, www.MelindaStallings.com and (713) 817 8199. For inspirational quotes, follow her on Facebook at Melinda Stallings International.

August 2015, Faith Life

Benny DiChiara & Empowered

Following God’s Calling Into Performance and Worship

by Krista Bordelon

Benny-2
“I find that artists who get saved later in life have a stronger call from the stage because we’ve been there. I played for the devil all those years not even knowing it. I saw things I would never want [anyone] to see, ever. Name something and it was happening; it’s all a chase for fame. But now it’s a chase for Jesus to have the fame.”

The struggle for Benny DiChiara was what to do with his passion for music after he was saved at the age of 35 following years of playing the secular rock circuit in New Orleans. From that struggle, the band Empowered was born. DiChiara recognized how empowered he had become through music and desired to use those talents to now empower others. He realized that he didn’t have to give up his music, just the lifestyle and atmosphere of what he was doing before.

Performing was always a part of DiChiara’s résumé, and now as an opening act for artists including Chase Crosse, Jaci Velasquez, Point of Grace, Audio Adrenaline, Switchfoot, and most recently Mercy Me, Empowered is certainly no stranger to the Christian performance circuit. However, the change from his previous performances to these came in ensuring an aspect of worship during their performances. That aspect is of the utmost importance to DiChiara, the calling behind the talent.

“I’ve been asked to just get up and play through the set, not to talk about that ‘God stuff’ because that’s not what they wanted. I was able to honor that request even though it was something that really turned me off because my lyrics are my testimony,” DiChiara explained. “That’s all the words I need to use. I’m not an artist that writes songs that can be used interchangeably as a worship song and a love song. I always say ‘Jesus’ not just ‘him’. My songs aren’t cross-overs.”

DiChiara said there is a key difference in what they do, what he calls, “performance and worship” and what is done in churches, known as “praise and worship”.

“There is a fine line, but I think God honors that line. You can’t do what we do as performers from the stage in a church on Sunday morning and have it be the same thing. Praise and worship is about ushering God in; performance and worship is about honoring God in what you are doing,” he said. “Your praise band is not your opening act. In churches the struggle becomes not about praise, but about performance. That’s not what it is about, and that’s why I’m not on my church’s praise team.”

With an age range spread across two decades, the witness of Empowered’s members reaches many. “It’s really cool to see how God does that,” DiChiara said. “How His hand just makes everything work even when it seems like it won’t, and obviously, if His hand isn’t on something then it won’t work anyway.” The other members of the band, Shane Madere Jr. (lead guitar and back-up vocals), Danny Trahan (guitar and back-up vocals), Jay Yuratich (bass and back-up vocals) and Chris McCullough (drums) share DiChiara’s vision.

IMG_5956After several years of pulling together new material, their album Soul Cry was recorded in Nashville with the talents of Jason Wall at Angel on the Wall Music, Multi-Grammy Award winning producer and audio engineer Jim Dineen, and Erik Wolf at Wolf Mastering.

“People were saying, ‘You sound like Boston or Journey found Jesus and cut a CD,’ and I was struggling with that classic rock vibe. Then one day, God said, ‘How old were you when you came to know me? How many people do you think are like you, who love a certain style of music then come to know me and there is nothing for them?’ And that’s why He chose me,” he explained. “God likes to use not only regular people, but also resistant people. Look at Moses and Jonah; God was showing me all of these people He used that had made so many excuses why He couldn’t.”

“I look back over my days with the secular music crowd, when I wasn’t even saved at that point, and I was using the symbol of the cross and telling people who asked what it meant, ‘That’s who is going to get me where I want to be.’ I look back at that and I know He was talking to me because how else would I have known that? Why else would I have said that? But that’s how it works. He has always been there for us, it is just up to us to pursue Him.”

DiChiara has also used his band to help raise awareness and funding for a cause close to his heart. A portion of each CD sale goes to Children’s Cup to help with providing meals, wells, education, medical care, etc., and instead of selling t-shirts sporting Empowered logos at the merchandise tables they sport the Children’s Cup.

“What I do is very important to me. Some people just can’t understand why it is I do what I do, or how it is I do it, but it is because I am called by God to do it. It is that simple.”

You can find Empowered’s newest CD at iTunes, Maxwell’s Market on Highland, Yoglates II South, The Jambalaya Shoppe on Perkins, and the Healing Place Church Mission Cafe. For booking information contact Benny DiChiara at Empowered.Rocks@gmail.com.