Cover Story, Online edition!

A Hallelujah from Head to Toe, Is anything in the way of your hallelujah?

By Karen Milioto

Growing up, nothing filled me with more awe than hearing The Hallelujah Chorus sung on Easter Morning. Not a single natural landscape, museum nor any painting on any canvas I had ever seen, compared to the sound of that song filling the sanctuary of the little church where I was raised. The smell of lilies blanketing the room as echoes of each chord boomed off of the white walls and wood paned windows, beyond which the first subtle hints of spring were just beginning to emerge in our tiny New England town.

I can still remember standing there, completely wooed. 

In the days and weeks after Easter, each word would continue to sound off in my heart, and I would hum along softly to myself,

“Christ The Lord is risen today, Alleluia”.

But as I grew older, each ‘Alleluia’ was slowly replaced with a growing internal list of all that I believed I lacked. Each thing I thought I wasn’t enough of, and all the areas where I was certain I fell short. All combining and filling me with a sense of instability where I had once been overcome by awe.

Before long, that song became just another tune I used to hum. Easter became just another day on the calendar. And ‘Alleluia’ became just another word I had once believed I held meaning for me. Then I slowly began turning from it all in pursuit of things I thought I could rely on here and now. Stuff I was certain would bring me security in this body and this world.

When I finally stumbled my way back into church years later one thing was clear to me, the only thing truly tangible in this world is Easter. And my security moving forward relied solely on never forgetting that again. Remembering that ‘Christ The Lord has risen’ and setting my mind and my heart on making the resurrection of Jesus’ body the only lens through which I see myself and the world around me.

It’s a discipline, and discipline doesn’t come easily to me. I am kind of a quitter by nature and I’m super distractible. I back away when things get difficult and seek out what comes easily to me instead. I have a yoga mat, two Pilates DVD’s and several diet themed cook books to support this claim. 

Thankfully, I am not the one empowering the cultivation of this discipline or the corresponding shift in my person that has come as a result. Its Jesus. His body, broken for me. His blood poured out. That somehow enables me to stand here, completely wooed. Watching every ‘not’ and each ‘isn’t’ that I once believed defined me, and all things I thought I needed to do and be in this life in order to have a sense of value and worth. And every characteristic I was certain I lacked. Melt away into one resounding ‘Alleluia’ instead.

Leaving me with only one thing left to strive for here on earth, becoming as Augustine put it, “an Alleluia from head to toe”.

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 www.karenmilioto.com

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 www.karenmilioto.com

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.

 

Creative LIFE, June 2018

A Little Lagniappe, Sharon Holeman visits with Hillsong on a recent visit to Baton Rouge

There is More, Hillsong visits baton rouge

by: sharon holman

The room goes dark, and the crowd starts to cheer. Anticipation builds, and then in a unified moment of energy, song and light erupt as the room comes to life. Smiles and singing, clapping and jumping – the response would most likely be similar in just about any culture, although the note structure and outward expression might vary – the joy that music brings is a seemingly collective reaction from God’s created ones. The powerful combination of spoken word and melody amazingly appear to intensify when it is purposed for His glory.

I was privileged to get the personal thoughts on the power of song from one of today’s most well-respected musicians, Ben Fielding. Fielding serves in the immensely popular group Hillsong Worship as Worship Leader and Songwriter. In fact, he and fellow Hillsong member Brooke Fraser just earned a 2018 Grammy Award for Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song with “What a Beautiful Name,” which the band performed as part of their There is More Tour at Bethany Church (Baton Rouge) in April.

The night started with what Fielding said is a song that has meant a lot to him personally, “Who You Say I Am.” The song, which he co-wrote with Reuben Morgan, also of Hillsong Worship, serves as a reminder of whom God says we are. “Competition for our identity is insidious” Fielding stated. He explained that once we are saved, “You are no longer a slave to sin, (the power of sin was destroyed through the death and resurrection of Jesus) … but you are a child of God, a son or a daughter” … with a “permanent place in a family, a son or daughter will belong forever.” (John 8:35-36) The words in verse 36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” are closely paraphrased in the song’s chorus.

Fielding said he is “an ardent believer in the necessity for the songs we sing in our churches to be firmly founded in the scriptures.” He relies on divine help to accomplish this mission. “As a songwriter, I need the Holy Spirit to illuminate (the) truth of who God is and what He is wanting to say to and through His Church.”

The message the team is bringing in this season with their 26th live praise and worship album There is More comes from a place of cohesiveness as the album, tour, conference, and book by Senior Pastor Brian Houston all carry the same name.

Houston, who also attended the event at Bethany, spoke to the full house on living larger and digging deeper. He referred to the story in 2 Kings, Chapter 3, during the time of war between Israel and Moab when Elisha prophesized about the dry valley being supernaturally filled with pools of water. It happened just as the prophet said. The next morning, after the sacrifice was offered. Houston explained, “The water was already there” – the people just had to dig deeper in their faith and believe God for it.

As the stage was given back to the musicians, and the team led the room in worship, the presence of God fell on Fraser. She openly shared with the crowd, on two separate occasions, what she believed to be a word from the Lord for three individuals in the building that night. Fraser’s emotional performance of the team’s new song, entitled New Wine was powerful, and Hillsong member David Ware offered a salvation prayer.

The night ended with dancing, as Aodhan King of Hillsong Young & Free led the party with the popular songs Alive and Real Love.

The days of our walk can often be challenging, so it is imperative for us to remember that sometimes the room goes dark before song and light erupt to bring forth renewed life. We can take comfort, however, that it is always there. We often just need to dig deeper. Joy does come in the morning. Ultimately our lives, just like music, can be a blessing to those we encounter if we are purposed for His glory.



Sharon Holeman is a writer and photographer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the project creator, coordinator, and co-author of the book Backyard Miracles-12 American Women , 12 True Stories, 1 Miraculous God. Previously published in Her Glory and Inspire Louisiana. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at San
Antonio and The Art Institute of Houston. She is currently attending Bethany College to further her pursuit of the Lord and His Word.