Family Life, Online edition!

Unstoppable God…..By Karen Milioto

My five-year old daughter has been spinning through the house belting out the lyrics to Unstoppable God, by Elevation Worship for three straight weeks.

“Unstoppable God let your glory on and on!

Impossible things in Your name they shall be done!”

At this point, the words are dancing in my own head. And I sit now, glancing out of the window at the midwinter landscape before me; barren with leafless branches swaying in the crisp January breeze.

The song reminds me of a day just like this one, six years ago. I had just learned I was pregnant. 

On that evening, I had stepped outside and studied my breath as it gently danced against the bleak backdrop of brown grass and sleeping trees. Silently wondering to myself, ‘How could this be?’ 

I couldn’t even grasp the notion of pregnancy after three years of waiting and wondering. Countless sonograms reflecting nothing but an empty womb. Pills and then needles. Surgeries and more tests.

Each elevator ride leaving the doctor’s office with nothing but a receipt in my hand. Watching happy couples gripping black and white strips of ultrasound photos. Expectant moms clutching large bellies full of life. And new families cradling infants. Each journey ushering me further away from my hope in impossible things. 

When I called the fertility clinic to tell them the news, I asked the nurse if it was even possible and she laughed saying, “Strange, yes. But anything is possible.” 

Anything was possible? I had wondered in response. 

That was a foreign concept to someone as dulled by disappointment as I was. One so far from the little girl she used to be. Who had once spun around her own childhood home, singing similar songs with conviction. Now replaced by an adult who weighed possibilities against numbers and reason. Letting logic decide what was truly possible.

No longer waking up in wonder at my Unstoppable God and giving glory to the impossible things that are constantly being done. From an empty tomb, to every single moment in-between when God has insisted on new life springing forth from dead things.

This January, as we are surrounded by the barren landscape of winter I pray to keep my eyes on the eternal promise of spring. 

Holding tight to my belief in a Kingdom that “reigns unstoppable”, as the song goes.

Knowing that God does such things through people by the power of His Spirit. 

People who believe in and make room for, the impossible to be born through them each day. 

It could be the birth of a new baby. Or the birth of an idea. 

Maybe it is one word of reconciliation, spoken to mend something in desperate need of repair. 

An act of love. Or an extension of grace. Some effort to bring peace or healing to this cold and dark world. 

Or maybe it’s something else completely. 

It might even be something that makes some of us step back for a minute saying, ‘how can this be?’

Don’t stop there. Step back towards it. 

Karen is a former Bostonian who now resides on a small farm just north of Baton Rouge.

She loves scripture and her garden and often weaves both into her work as a writer. In 2017, Publisher’s Weekly described her debut memoir, Mustard Seeds and Water Lines as an ‘emotional and finely crafted’ account of her personal journey towards healing after The Great Flood of 2016, in their annual Book Life Prize review. And, as her story has made its way across the country, readers have consistently embraced her as an authentic voice with a message of hope in the wake of a disaster.

Karen is a wife, mother and weekly co-host of The Back Porch Book Club, a podcast designed to build community and conversation surrounding books about Spiritual Formation and the Bible.

You can find her on Instagram @karenmilioto or online at

Faith Life, Online edition!, Uncategorized

Helping Kids Cast Out Their Fears, by Rachele Smith

Local Author Patrice Maguire Helps Kids Cast Out Their Fears


By Rachele Smith


Childhood fears can be very real.

From spiders to rainstorms to worrying about the future, children can become afraid of almost anything.

But local author Patrice Maguire wants to change that.

In her recently released children’s book, The Many Fears of Miela…the Cat, Maguire tells the true story of Miela, her family’s pet.

According to the book, which is illustrated by Eric Pipes, Miela is abandoned by her first owners. Lost and alone, Miela must overcome many fears before learning to trust and finding love and acceptance again.

Maguire said the book is a tool to help children not only recognize their own fears, but to bring those fears to God.

“It’s learning to trust God,” she explained.

“When you watch and see how God has answered your prayers, your spiritual eyes open, and your faith grows. You know he loves you,” she added.

The book is Maguire’s first, and, in a small way, is proof that she can trust the plans God has for her, plans that some believe go back almost three decades.

“When I was a teenager, maybe 15-years-old or so, my family and I were invited to a prayer meeting at someone’s house. We were there to listen to a woman everyone called a prophet of God,” Maguire explained.

As members of Bethany Church in Baker, Maguire said the night was interesting, especially since the “prophet” knew things about her that no one else could possibly know.

Before the service ended, Maguire recalled the woman began praying over families.

“I remember when she started praying over me, she said that I was going to write books,” Maguire said.

The idea baffled Maguire who never really thought writing was her talent.

“I mean, I liked writing more than math, but I definitely wasn’t passionate about it,” she laughed.

After high school, Maguire joined the United States Marine Corps, married, and became a Mom. Even though she said her mother would often remind her that she was supposed to write books, Maguire only occasionally allowed herself to remember that night.

As time persisted, and her three children began transitioning into adulthood, Maguire developed a medical condition. It mandated she change her eating habits, and Maguire began creating recipes.

Then something amazing happened.

“The Lord spoke to me,” she said, with water-filled eyes.

“I still get emotional whenever I talk about it. I mean, it wasn’t an audible sound, but I could feel him speak to my spirit. I don’t know how I know, but you just know that you know,” Maguire said, adding she was told she going to write a book, which she immediately interpreted as a recipe book.

“I did a real ‘Sarah’ thing,” Maguire said, explaining how just like Abraham’s wife, she forged ahead with her own plan.

“I began typing all of my recipes into my husband’s laptop,” she said.

But the more she worked, the more drudgery she felt.

“In my prayer time, I just turned to God and said, ‘God, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it,’” Maguire recalled.

That was the Summer of 2017, and the Maguire’s were moving from Baton Rouge to Zachary. She still felt a calling to write, but even though she continued to work with her recipes, she said the Lord began to show her things about Miela, the stray cat that joined her family shortly after Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

Finally, the desire to write Miela’s story became so great Maguire gave in.

“I wrote the story in one day,” she said.

In the days that followed, Maguire began editing her story and noticed a problem: God wasn’t mentioned.

Certainly, the works and moral authority of God were understood, but Maguire wanted more. Once again, she turned to the Lord in prayer and eventually wrote the final pages of her book. There, she gently leads her young readers, with their parents as guides, to recognize fear, call it out and bring it to God.

“It was an Ah-ha moment,” she said, noting that the only Scripture used in her book is 1 John 4:18, “…perfect love drives out fear.”

Maguire explained that she hopes her book will encourage bonding, transparency about childhood fears and prayer between parents and children.

She said she is constantly amazed at what God can accomplish, adding that not only did the Lord lead her to Little Oaks Publishing, a local book publishing company, but he also helped her recover some of the publishing costs required by finding part-time work.

Another unexpected bonus was the opportunity to donate some books to schools and to new “adopted” parents at a local cat shelter.

“This has been a journey of learning and exploring,” said Maguire, who has already finished writing her second book, one she hopes will help children understand sadness, another difficult and confusing emotion.

While she prepares her new book for publication, Maguire knows it will happen in God’s time.

After all, he has taken her this far.

“I’m so humbled by everything. I mean, who am I that God would use me like this? I’m nobody. The only thing I’ve done is make myself available to God,” she said, adding, “I’m just his vessel.”





















Rachele Smith is a South Louisiana-based freelance writer, copy editor and English teacher. Her writing has appeared in both broadcast and print mediums throughout the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. She is especially thankful for the many talented and inspiring people she has met along her writing journey and feels blessed and truly humbled to share their stories with others.


Learning For Life, September 2018

Faith, Hope and 50 Years

Faith, Hope and 50 Years

Local teacher marks milestone

By: rachele smith

If it’s true that teachers change lives, then Sarah Scott has transformed the lives of thousands.

Scott, a kindergarten teacher at Denham Springs Elementary, recently retired after 50 years of teaching with the Livingston Parish School System.

During the past five decades, she has taught multiple generations, and rarely a day goes by that she doesn’t see at least one of her former students around town. “I go here or there, and I always see someone,” she said, smiling.

Scott’s teaching career began in 1967 at West Livingston High School, a public school serving black students during segregation. “Back then, there weren’t many jobs for black women,” the 73-year-old said, explaining that the limited choices mostly included domestic help or education.

“My mother worked as a housekeeper. She worked so hard, and she started taking in ironing to make more money. She would come home and tell me to wake her up in 15 minutes (following a nap). But I would feel sorry for her and let her sleep longer,” Scott admitted.

Knowing that she didn’t want to pursue the same type of work as her mom, and after briefly considering the military (simply because she loved the look of uniforms), Scott decided to become a teacher. She enrolled at Southern University, where she would later complete a master’s degree in education.

Looking back, it was a decision Scott was almost born to make. Indeed, in her early years of schooling, from first to 12th grade, she studied hard and only missed one day of school. (She stayed home that day at the request of a teacher who thought Scott was getting sick.) “I always obeyed and followed the rules,” she said.

As a teacher, Scott continued to do her best, demonstrating a strong work ethic on the job, where she first began teaching core subjects such as math and social studies. She also cultivated a joyful attitude and a desire to “do whatever was needed,” important traits she said she learned from her faith community at First Church of God in Christ in Denham Springs.

“I was born into church,” she said, explaining how her faith always provided hope, which “would stop you from hating” when you were not being treated fairly. In 1970, Scott began what would become the first of 47½ years teaching at Denham Springs Elementary. That year also marked the integration of schools in Denham Springs.

“It (integration) was so peaceful, not like what other places experienced,” Scott added. The principal, who sets the tone for the school, “bent over backwards to make us feel comfortable,” she said.

Did faith play a role during this time? For Scott, it did.

“You need to let your light shine,” she said, noting that it is important to not just talk about the Gospels, but to “walk the talk,” too. Choosing to love rather than hate is essential in anything you do, she said, and while it played a key role during integration, the idea continued to affect her teaching through the years.

She remembers a 6th grade student who was always in troiuble. “I would keep him in at recess, and we just talked,” she said. “(Later), he wrote me the nicest note.”

In 1978, Scott began devoting some of her time outside of the classroom to the U.S. Army Reserves, finally giving in to her love of uniforms. She said a relative told her it wasn’t too late to join, and as she thought about those comments at her home later, she noticed the phone book just happened to be opened to the army recruitment office. “Wasn’t that something?” she said, laughing. Scott ultimately joined the reserves, where she was assigned writing letters and completing work for the company commanders. She retired after 26 years.

Scott’s willingness to do what was needed on the job was highlighted in 1981 when, at the request of her principal (who needed to fill a teaching spot), she began teaching kindergarten. Scott enjoyed working with the younger children and stayed at this post; however, several years ago, a health scare almost ended her career. Again, she turned to her faith, asking God what to do. She said his answer proved that she would make it to her 50th year in the classroom. “He’s a good God,” she said.

Now that she is retired, Scott hopes to spend more time with her family, which includes two grown sons, nine grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and a godchild that she raised. She is recently widowed. She also plans to remain active in her church, where she still serves as a Sunday school teacher, a church coordinator and secretary, district representative and state Prayer and Bible Band president.

In addition, she helps lead Camp Empowerment, a free one-week summer camp for kids, and she has served on the Martin Luther King Task Force and as chairwoman of the King Day Scholarship Committee. Scott was one of the first organizers of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March and celebration in Denham Springs.

In July, State Representative J. Rogers Pope, who retired as Superintendent of Schools in Livingston Parish, presented Scott with a proclamation honoring her 50-plus years in the classroom. “I didn’t expect this,” she said, humbly. “It was a wonderful honor.”

April 2018, BRCLM Lagniappe

Gene Mills: An ‘Advocate of Hope’

Gene Mills: An ‘Advocate of Hope’

Gene Mills is a husband, father, ordained minister, and president of Louisiana Family Forum, here he receives the Advocate of Hope Award from Craig DeRoche
Governor John Bel Edwards signed the 10-bill justice reform package into law on June 15, 2017.

His modesty prevents him from taking credit, but Gene Mills was recently awarded the 2017 Advocate of Hope Award for his part in Louisiana’s recent criminal justice reform package. As president of Louisiana Family Forum, Mills was instrumental in bringing together several groups to help change the system, including victims of crime, correctional officers, lawmakers and faith leaders.

“All I did was call attention to the good work that was already taking place,” Mills said.

In fact, the state Legislature created a task force in 2015 to come up with recommendations to reduce the prison population which is well over 40,000. For years, Louisiana has held the unfortunate reputation as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the country. Many of the issues that created the problem have been addressed in the 10-bill package that Governor John Bel Edward signed last June.

The new law aims to offer alternatives to prison time for non-violent offenders, expand parole eligibility, reduce prison terms, and provide support for inmates transitioning into society, among other initiatives. The reforms are expected to cut the state’s prison population by 10 percent over the next 10 years.

Mills’ award was presented by Prison Fellowship in January at the Charles Colson Hope Awards ceremony. In a press release, Prison Fellowship noted that the reforms would not have been possible without Mills’ leadership, integrity and passion, or without the Christian worldview expressed by the Louisiana Family Forum team.

“We are proud to have the partnership and friendship of Gene Mills,” said Craig DeRoche, Senior VP of Advocacy and Public Policy at Prison Fellowship. “He exhibits a passion for biblical principles of justice that is rare and valuable.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise agrees. “Gene has committed his life to ministering and helping improve the lives of others,” Scalise said after the award was announced. “His deep faith and selfless dedication are inspiring, and I am proud to call him a friend.”

Mills said the reason for his involvement is simple. “Scripture tells us to tend to the needs of the less fortunate,” he said. “Grace has been extended to each of us. Now, within the criminal justice system, we must intentionally extend that same grace to prisoners … it is extraordinary how many inmates are able to turn their lives around.”

About the Advocate of Hope Award
The Charles Colson Hope Awards recognize people who have faithfully and courageously worked to restore those affected by crime and incarceration. Colson, who founded Prison Fellowship 40 years ago, was a passionate advocate for incarcerated men and women, and their families, sharing his faith in the Gospel and honoring the God-given value and potential of each person. His impact on prison ministry, prison culture, and prison reform has been broad and lasting.