January 2017, Publisher's Letter

January Publisher’s Letter

Happy New Year!

bethDoes your faith move mountains? It should. It could. 

Let’s make a New Years “Revelation” together. In 2017, we will move mountains!

The Bible is filled with stories of people who had big faith — David, Queen Esther, Abraham, Daniel, Nehemiah, Peter, Paul, Thomas, John, and so many more! In Mark chapter 5, Jesus healed a woman saying, “Your faith has healed you.” Her faith. Not her works, not her life story. Her faith.

None of these mentioned had worry-free lives. They had obstacles. Many faced death. They didn’t just worship God all day. The lived lives, had families and jobs. Like us, they faced great difficulties and overcame obstacles.

Matthew 17:20 says, “He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”’

Let’s move mountains in 2017. Together. As ONE.

O: Overcome! In 2017, be an overcomer! The only way to overcome anything is by trusting the truth of His Word. 1 John 4:4 says, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  When you are feeling disappointed, say this verse out loud as much as you need to in order to walk in truth. Meditate on the Word and not your problems.

N: Now. Now is the time to live in freedom. Do not belabor your sins. Repent and be made new. Isaiah 1:18 says, “’Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” Your sins are forgiven. My sins are forgiven. End of story.

E: Everyone is equal! John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” We must come together as one body. Christ died for all. He loves all equally and forgives everyone the same.

Our faith can move mountains. Isn’t that an incredible truth? The day to day can quickly rob us of an eternal perspective. Yet if we live by truth and focus on what God says in His Word instead of what our problems say about our lives, we begin to be transformed into children of God who live like heirs to his righteousness.

‘Because of their faith’ … let 2017 mark a new era of faith in your life. At home, at work, around the city. Be in the Word and in prayer. Do things that require faith. See that God is faithful, and by all means, move those mountains!

Healthy Life, January 2017

YMCA Celebrates its first Community Prayer Luncheon



January 2017, Reading For Life

A Review of: Breaking Barriers


Faith Life, January 2017

Family is a Gift

img_3924-1Nearly four years ago, Victor and Amy Canada learned about a single father with terminal cancer looking for a couple to adopt his two children. Twelve-year-old Josh and 11-year-old Wynter’s father could think of little else but finding parents who would make sure his children continued their education, pursued music and art, and grew up in a Christian home.

That’s a pretty specific wish list, but the Canadas fit the bill. “We said yes to other children who needed a home over the years, but it had not been the right match,” said Amy. “We believe it’s because these were our children all along. God was bringing about his plan.”

Amy remembers first meeting the children, who were friendly and had a lot to talk about. They also brought some of their artwork to share with Amy and Victor. In the months that followed as their father became more ill, the children formed a bond with their new adoptive parents.

Victor remembers sitting at the dinner table one night and marveling at how quickly and completely they had formed a loving family. “We would sit together for hours talking and laughing. They both have such personalities! Such a sense of humor! And over time, they’ve even picked up some of our mannerisms and ways of doing things. We were comfortable together from early on.”

Amy home schools Josh and Wynter, now 16 and 15, and they are both involved in a number of activities. Josh loves to fish. Wynter loves to sing and act. They both play soccer, guitar, and enjoy sketching and painting. They are also skilled at making jewelry, something their father taught them, but it holds bittersweet memories, Amy said.

“There have been struggles,” said Amy, “but when I need an answer from God, it always comes to me. I also lost my father when I was very young, so I know what that feels like. I understand what they’ve been through. I have that special connection with Josh and Wynter.”

“God sometimes calls us to do things that are bigger than we are,” said Victor, “and I think being a parent is one of them. I’ve learned that it’s one of the most important endeavors anyone can embark on.”

Creating a family brings the Canadas great joy, but it has also stirred a longing to do even more. Their adoption was handled by Todd Gaudin of On Point Legal, who is also an adoptive parent himself, and has a passion for helping families through the process. A year ago, the Canadas joined Gaudin and his wife Hope to form Uplift Adoption Network, which encourages adoptions, helps to remove obstacles and offers a network of ongoing support.

In November, the group hosted the Adoption Perspectives Conference, which drew an audience of adoptive parents, adoptees, birth mothers, and professionals who work with the adoption process. A resounding success, the event included presentations and panel discussions from a wide variety of organizations and ministries. It was held in conjunction with World Adoption Day.

One of the goals of Uplift Adoption is to combat the myths that surround adoption, including fears about the expense, legal rights and the approval process. “We want to educate couples about all of the resources and support that are available to them,” said Victor. “And most of all, we want couples to realize that adoption is a true calling, not a last resort.”

Amy says Uplift also works to improve understanding and attitudes toward birth mothers. “It’s hard enough to place your child for adoption,” she said. “But imagine how much harder it is when people judge you or treat you badly because of it. We think it’s an honorable decision to do what’s best for your child, and birth mothers should be treated with dignity.”

If you would like to know more about the adoption process, call (225) 270-9022 or send an email to info@upliftadoption.com.

Faith Life, January 2017

Healing Hearts is Her Mission

but first, she had to heal her own
by Lisa Tramontana

15665944_1592785210736967_8376407394890518020_nCarolyn Williams will never forget that knock at the door. It was a police officer telling her that her 21-year-old son Chad had been killed. Concerned that she was alone, the officer said he would stay with her until a friend or family member could come and stay with her. “I was in a daze,” Williams said.

She picked up the phone to call her sister, and only when the words left her lips … “Chad has been killed …” did the realization hit her that she’d lost her only son.

“I fell apart then,” she said. “No one can imagine what it’s like to lose a child … it’s so painful. There is just no way to describe it. It feels like a part of your heart and soul … your whole being … has been taken away.”

For four years, Williams continued to go to her job every day and raise her daughter Andrea. But deep in her heart, she admits she was grief-stricken, depressed, guilty and overwhelmingly sad. She had always had a strong faith, so she prayed and talked with God constantly, she said. “But I was mostly angry during those conversations. I wanted to know why this had happened.”

And then one day, she came across Deuteronomy 1:6-8 (The Lord God spoke, saying, you have dwelt long enough on this mountain. Turn and set your journey and go to the hill country and to all your neighbors …”)

Williams believes this was a message from God, telling her that she had dwelt in her pain long enough. It was time to move on. There was work to do and other parents were out there suffering the same pain she had endured. She was in a unique position to help them. It was then that Williams decided to start a grief support group.

Healing Hearts Grief Support Ministries offers individuals and families compassion and support as they work through their grief from the death of a loved one lost to violence. As a nurse, Williams has a compassionate heart, and as a grieving mother, she can identify with the parents who seek help and understanding. She reminds them that they are at the beginning of a new journey that can bring them wisdom and spiritual growth (if they allow it). She encourages them to embrace it and be open to what God might have in store for them.

Williams’ journey led her to a new life’s mission … something that changed her life, gave it purpose, and ensured that Chad’s life and death was not in vain. “It’s been almost 10 years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss him and cry about him every day. Because I do.”

Chad’s death was especially tragic because he was looking for a fresh start in his life, Williams said. In fact, he had just moved back in with his mother and was looking for a new job. His grandmother had recently died and he had a hard time dealing with the loss. “Looking back, I see that Chad had some depression,” she said, “and could have used some help. But being a mother doesn’t come with a manual. You can’t keep looking back and feeling guilty. We all do the best we can with what we know at the time.”

Williams says helping other parents has been a blessing, and she feels a new calling to become a minister. “I could never have gotten through this without my faith,” she said. “God put all of this on my heart, and I have to believe there is a reason. Every day that I wake up – every morning that I open my eyes – to me, that means that God has a job for me to do that day. So I ask him, “What do you want from me this day, Lord? What can I do?”

In accepting a new purpose in life, Williams found many ways to serve. She has become a motivational speaker and often speaks at workshops, seminars and churches. She also wrote a book titled “It Was Me.”

“Years ago, when my kids were young, I used to sit on the edge of my bed at night and think about all the violence going on in the world and the number of young people dying. And I remember thinking, ‘Somewhere out there is a mother who is hurting tonight.’ A few years ago, it occurred to me that I had become one of those mothers. It was me.”

Healing Hearts offers many resources and services, including child counseling, individual counseling, family counseling, coping and adjustment skills, and group therapy. The group also provides education on the signs and symptoms of depression, the stages of grief, finding life after death, and forming a network of support. Williams has also helped raise funds for families with no means to bury their loved ones.

Williams is looking forward to 2017, as the organization will be moving to a new office in January, and she will be able to host weekly meetings and expand her services. For more information on Healing Hearts, call (225) 505-0015 or send an email to zenocwz@yahoo.com. You can also visit the group’s page on Facebook, or the website at healinghearts24.net.

Donations of any kind are greatly appreciated, she said, especially office supplies or furniture for Healing Hearts’ new offices.


Healing Hearts Grief Support Ministries is a nonprofit organization, and is actively seeking sponsors. Call (225) 505 0015.

Family Life, January 2017

Broken Together

Bishop Ronald Hardy and wife, Robbin, draw on personal experiences to take marriages from self-centered to a shared, love-filled life


img_7402“To be honest with you, we were heading for divorce court: we were saved, loved the Lord, it just wasn’t working.” He was the goal-oriented, organization-driven provider. She was the creative genius with a dream of “happily-ever-after.” The clash of priorities and personalities had sent them slowly drifting apart. They realized their marriage was in deep trouble.

“The Lord stepped in and healed our relationship. From there he told us to go and heal other marriages,” said Bishop Ronald E. Hardy, pastor of Faith, Hope & Love Worship Center. Decades later, he and his wife, Robbin Eames Hardy, continue to provide a pathway for couples to take marriage from co-existence to compatibility, from survival mode to mutual enjoyment. Their books, “A Love Like This” and “Where is Daddy?” address a culture that idolizes self-sufficiency and self-fulfillment while robbing couples of intimate friendship and shared life goals. The dramatic success of their seminars, retreats and publications is mirrored in a marriage that recognizes the uniqueness of the individual while embracing togetherness.

It didn’t start out that way. After casually dating during their years at Robert E. Lee High School, Ronald and Robbin reconnected at the funeral of a friend. Robbin remembered him as “Party Hardy” and laughed when she heard he had given his life to Christ and had shared the gospel with a mutual friend.

“He told her, ‘When I see Robbin, I’m going to witness to her, too’. At the funeral I saw him. I was kind of daring, ‘Well, witness to me’. So, I waited outside. And when he came out and said he was living his life for Christ, I saw a difference in him. This was not the same man,” Robbin said. After reading her Bible all day and talking with another friend, she became a Christian.

“In my prayer time God actually showed me a vision of my wedding and he was the groom. And I was like OMG. At that time, we weren’t dating,” Robbin said. “And one day God spoke to him and told him that’s your wife.” They were 18 and 20 years old with a lot to learn.

“We thought we knew what marriage was all about, but after four years we realized we were a long way from what marriage was about,” Bishop Hardy said. “We were struggling real bad. And God stepped in.”

“When couples come in, that’s one of the big things: ‘My needs are not being met,” said Bishop Hardy. “I was the biggest problem, I believe, in the beginning because I was so caught up in my own accomplishments –  in providing – and shortly after that I was called into the ministry. So, I was leaving work, getting off late, focusing on my time with the Lord and never really paying enough attention to her.”

“In Ephesians 5:25, the scriptures say, ‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it.’ So, there are two basic things: love and giving,” Bishop Hardy said. “A woman needs time and they’re more relationship oriented; they need attention and affection. A woman may put on a new outfit, change her hair. You have to notice those things. That says you just set value on who I am, you value me enough to notice this about me.”

“A woman needs to feel secure,” Robbin said. “Men need to be honored. They need to be respected. They need their recreation and fun time, so they need a playmate too.”

“I can say there was selfishness here because we were still doing our own thing,” Robbin said. “He plays sports. He was on a basketball team. During the games, I’m dropping him off and I’m going shopping. I didn’t like sports.” They had to learn togetherness.

“We raised four children. When it was their time, we would get into their world and do things they like to do, but we also had our day. And that was every week, no matter what was going on,” Bishop Hardy said.

“We would joke about – what day is it? Mommy and Daddy’s Day. So, what do you [kids] have to do? Go find something to do,” Bishop Hardy said. “They knew that was our time together.”

Finances and communication are also common issues. “There may be three different ways to interpret what I just said. Sometimes you have to ask questions – are you saying this? Do you mean this?” Robbin explained.

“And just flat out not meeting one another’s needs. If I try to meet his needs based upon my needs, the needs are not being met,” she said. “You’re different.”

“I believe that they can live happily ever after because the Bible says we can have everlasting joy. So, I believe we can have it in the marriage,” she said.

img_7407Marriages often reflect the experiences of the past, including baggage from relationships with parents. “In the early 90s, God began to visit me from Proverbs 17:6: ‘And the glory of children is their father,’” Bishop Hardy said. “Fathers normally look at their relationship with their children more as a provider – as long as I’ve provided for my children, then I’ve accomplished my goal. But there’s so much more wrapped up in a father.”

As he began to address the issue of physically or emotionally absent fathers, Bishop Hardy realized he had touched an unhealed wound in a surprising number of adults.

“Grown men and women were walking to the altar weeping and crying – never been healed of the relationship or the absence of a father in their lives,” he said. One night, he was surprised to see the keynote speaker at a Christian conference walk into his workshop. “And when I began to teach on the subject, he was at the altar. From that point, God began to inspire me to put it in a book.”

Many see themselves in the story of Esau whose blessing was stolen while he was away. “When Esau got back, his world had ended because the father releases the blessing upon the seed. And that is defined in expressed approval,” Bishop Hardy said. “You already know that Mama loves you. You already know that Mama is going to be there. But when it comes to a father, it has to be released upon them. They have to feel that sense of expressed approval. That’s why when Jesus arose after being baptized, came out of the water, God said, ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). So, children want to hear that from dad.”

“People who have never been healed, never heard the words, ‘I love you, I’m proud of you, I’m glad that you’re my son’ – it messes with their esteem/self-worth.”

“Then they start walking around with the sense that ‘I don’t need him anyway,’ a false pride. And that begins to flood our society. They begin to have an attitude – nobody else is going to cross them like that. You’re seeing such a rise in it.”

But Hardy sees hope for healing, even in the Monroe prison system where a majority of inmates come from fatherless homes. After witnessing the effect of their book, “Where is Daddy?” the warden made it part of the early release curriculum.

img_7393His book addresses new beginnings. “God says he will be a father to the fatherless because he understands the value, the identity, the glory, the expressed approval and the foundation that come from the father,” he said. “God knows how to establish himself in a fatherly relationship in their lives, and it’s very important.”

There is even healing for those whose fathers are no longer living. “The book helps answer questions – this is why I feel this way or this is why I’ve gone through this, Lord,” Robbin said. In some situations, adults have mailed their book to estranged fathers and experienced either personal healing or restored relationships. “In a lot of cases the dads did not know they were this significant in their child’s life.”

“The more they study and hear the word of God throughout the scriptures, the more they

witness God’s relationship to us as sons and daughters,” Bishop Hardy explained. “It will open a better understanding of how to embrace him not just as God, but as your father.”

The Hardys have plans to continue annual retreats on marriage in partnership with Pastor Milton Coats and Rose Coats of Magnolia Full Gospel Baptist Church in St. Francisville. “We believe God can heal any marriage,” Robbin said.

“We definitely believe in miracles. We’ve seen it. He’s a God of restoration,” she said. “He also said, ‘I will restore to you the years’” (Joel 2:25). You have to have that willing heart to allow him to come in and intervene.”

“We look at so much that God has for us. What if we had given up on it? We have four children and six grandchildren and a seventh on the way – all of what God has done over the span of time,” she said. The Hardys celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary this month.

Editor’s Note: For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/Faith-Hope-and-Love-Worship-Center

Family Life, January 2017

Releasing the Stronghold of Addiction

by Charles Mayo, MACP, PLPC,LAC, CSAT – candidate

grove-logo-long-new-e1477715742873When I was asked to write an article related to our national position in the war on addiction, I had to take some time to really ponder what that meant as both a mental health professional, as well as a recovering alcoholic working to live his life by the spiritual principles inherent in 12-step programs.

The statistics on alcoholism and drug addiction are staggeringly disheartening.  The number of drug overdoses in the U.S. have more than quadrupled in the last 10 years. Drug addicts are no longer the typical “junkies” you see portrayed in the movies. They are the popular cheerleader with the 4.0 GPA, the 30-year-old business man who started taking pain pills in college, a stay-at-home mother, the high school running back, the nurse, the chef and many other American workers driven to perform in high-stress environments during long hours at work.

It’s likely there is an addict or alcoholic somewhere in your life; a friend’s child, your own child, a distant cousin, a co-worker – it is widely accepted that every person struggling with addiction touches 27 people. They are struggling to hang on to their secret but ashamed to ask for help. Addiction does not discriminate, and the first place we can start to fight this war is by doing away with the judgment and stigma that goes along with addiction.

This is a tall order for many people who are convinced that it is as simple as making a decision to stop. They just can’t buy into the idea that addiction is a disease. However, it really is much more complicated. The good news is addiction is a disease people can recover from. Most addicts are overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and shame, and the only way to escape those feelings is to use more of the drug that has trapped them in a place where there seems to be no way out. With all that, addicts are people that have value and worth, but they are no longer in touch with that feeling.

The state of addiction today is much like the country in general. Increasingly God and Christ are being pushed out and made to seem no longer relevant. The AA Big Book (p. 59) says, “May you find him now,” and that is the solution. But there are more and more treatments and programs springing up that don’t have the spiritual foundation of the steps, nor do they even acknowledge the need for spirituality, despite the understanding that a relationship with a power greater than ourselves is the answer. Though Bill W. is credited with these steps, it was a humble Jesus who, in the Sermon on the Mount, said “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” And as John Piper put it, “Blessed are those who feel keenly their helplessness and their unworthiness and their emptiness and are driven by them to the grace of God.” For the addict, what started out as the solution to a variety of issues has now become the greatest lifelong problem.

The state of addiction today is definitely disturbing, and the numbers are overwhelming. Even behavioral issues such as sex, video games, porn, gambling and something as essential as food consumption has been affected by the interaction of addiction. I often think of the ways the plight of the addict and the Christian is so similar. The Christian can be saved and yet still struggle with sin. As Paul said, “The things I don’t want to do, I do, and the things I want to do, I don’t.” Addiction science around the brain and new therapy approaches from the counseling world have really made a lot of inroads, and rarely will any disease have so many dedicated to helping those afflicted.

What does the Christian in Baton Rouge do? They pray for those in my family and yours who struggle with addiction. Secondly, one central theme in almost all addicts is that they no longer feel lovable – we as Christians are known for our love for one another and must continue loving those struggling with addiction. Do not get in the way of God and end up instead enabling your loved one. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call us at The Grove today.


About Charles: After my own battle with addiction for 35 years, God used the 12 steps to set me free and begin a journey to totally change every aspect of my life. I received a master’s degree from Troy University in Clinical Mental Health, as well as a bachelor’s in Christian Ministry from Leavel College of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Since earning my LAC in September of 2014, I have led group and family sessions, as well as individual sessions in order to create complete care planning programs for my clients. In July of 2015 I began the journey toward the LPC as a PLPC with a supervisor. As that goal of the LPC draws closer I have gone to IITAP school and completed the 4 modules of Certified Sexual Addiction Therapy (CSAT) training. Outside of my professional career, I have also worked as a spiritual counselor for many years. I have operated as the recovery pastor for a church in Alabama for nearly three years completing my master’s, and previously lead a Celebrate Recovery session at Celebration Church in New Orleans. Outside of my work life, I enjoy the peace of living on the Amite river despite the losses of the flood.

Family Life, January 2017

His Majestic Miracles

by Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” – Mark 10:27

Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis, The Refresher
Tonya Woodridge-Jarvis, The Refresher

Things that should have killed you, didn’t. Situations that should have made you lose your mind, didn’t. Do you believe in miracles? They happen every day. Have you had a near death experience, but something saved you in the nick of time? That something was God. What about the lady in front of you at the grocery store in the checkout line with the screaming kid – someone allows her to go before them and she’s out of the store and in the car quickly –  that’s a miracle! Or what about when the doctor gave your family member six months to live, and they lived for 30+ years – another miracle! The most miraculous miracle of them all is the fact that God allowed you to wake up for one more day. The way I see it is that you can change anything you want to change in your life from day to day, so long as God keeps granting you the miracle of breath in your body.

There was an article in the New York Daily News detailing an incident where four police officers helped rescue a baby from an overturned car in the Spanish Fork River in March 2015. The officers claimed to have heard an unexplained voice calling from the car. The driver of the car was the 18-month-old infant’s mother who ran off the road into the river and was killed on impact. The child was upside down in her car seat for at least 12 hours according to sources. The officers stated that they heard someone say “help me!” All first responders on the scene heard it as well. The child was in freezing temperatures with no food or water and skimpy clothing for 12 hours, but has since made a full recovery and is now with family. My guess is that it was the voice of God directing them to save the child.

Do you believe yet?

Tara, on her way to college, had a blowout and was headed straight off a 33-story cliff when her car miraculously swerved across traffic, then careened back into the median, and she walked away without a scratch. What about the total stranger that walks up to you with the vital information that you needed, or the man who was declared dead for 45 minutes and miraculously started breathing on his own again.

Still not a believer?

Here’s is the most wondrous miracle of them all —  the man who was beaten and hung, the man that bled out and died for our sins so that we may have everlasting life, who was buried in a tomb and rose on the third day — he is the man we now know to be our Savior, Jesus Christ.

See folks, that’s the miracle that changed my life. So as you go out and be great, remember it is Jesus who is the greatest miracle, the ultimate gift and is worthy to be praised.

BRCLM Lagniappe, January 2017

The Bittersweet Nectar of Happy

by J.E. Berry

jeberry-headshot-1Those little droplets of sunshine that touch our skin just right. Those moments or even seasons that bring about the subtlest, most tasty morsels of happiness, that always seem to melt a little too fast, fading slowly back to searching. We chase happiness like a child running after a ball rolling out into the street. What are we chasing really? A moment? A feeling? An experience? An opportunity? An expectation? All that chasing and we may be bordering on danger without knowing because we are so enthralled with the idea of “happy.”

However, our pursuit of happiness is more accurately a need in us crying out to be satisfied, usually having nothing to do with what we are trying to attain for fulfillment. Somehow, we have been reduced to pursing the gift and not the gift giver, leaving us partially satisfied and hungry for more of what may or may not fill the void. The bittersweet nectar of happy that we experience pales in comparison to what has been purchased for us through the cross.

The lasting happiness we are all searching for is a byproduct of a much more sustainable gift that we already possess — JOY. Though happiness is awesome in all its momentary glory, joy has lasting power. Offering a fountain of life-giving “happy” that comes not from circumstantial positioning but is a result of a relational positioning with Christ and an indwelling of His Spirit. His Spirit produces the fruit of joy (Galatians 5:22) within us without any workings of our own (as hard as it is to swallow that truth), and the nectar of that fruit is much sweeter. If we have Christ, we have joy. However just like any good gift, if we never unwrap it, it cannot be enjoyed. But first we must take ourselves out of the producer’s seat and take an honest look at our relationship status.

The Apostle Paul writes “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). Why? Because he knows that “God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Regardless of his circumstances, he knew that he could rejoice because of who had him rather than what he had. His choice to abide in Christ sustained him in every way. Our happiness starts with trust, acknowledgement, and the choice to abide – not with purchases and lifestyle changes. To acknowledge that our God will supply ALL of our needs, spiritually, emotionally, physically,etc., means we understand that He knows our needs in order to supply them. Then we must trust Him to do so and rest in Him.

The fact is, we tend to assume that we know what’s best for us. Unfortunately, we are oblivious to what it takes to make us authentically happy, which is why we are always looking for it, and contentment trails. We have commissioned ourselves to be the “make me happy” commander, leading to our discontentment in the long and short run due to our unqualified position to be such. Our human makeup is created to be sustained and satisfied by one source – our creator. And in all the time we spend searching and grasping for satisfaction in counterfeit gratifications, we miss the satisfier standing right in front of us waiting to lavishly give us His love, His joy, and His provision.

The happiness that we long for is as far off as we determine in hearts for it to be. When we tap into the security and inheritance that we have in Christ and unwrap the gifts that He has given us, we can stop chasing and start living in what is already ours. Happy is not a goal to be met but rather a bloom from an already planted tree. Abide and be rooted in Christ Jesus and the blooming fruit of joy will become ever more tangible as we rest in His lordship.


About J.E.: J.E. Berry is a speaker and the author of “The Truth About Happiness: Exchanging the falsehood of happiness for Christ’s lasting joy.” She is a wife and mother of five children. J.E. has a heart for outreach and seeing people come to know freedom through a relationship with Christ Jesus, specifically women who have yet to see their God-given destiny because of lingering bondage. As an author and speaker, she explores things that hinder us from moving forward in our walk with Christ – such as people pleasing, unhappiness, un-forgiveness and much more – to try and lend a hand in unveiling the culprits so that we can move forward in victory. She carries this same passion into each area of ministry she is active in.

January 2017, Learning For Life

A Solid Foundation, A Better Education

by Lisa Tramontana

2981d9_09fd517e64eb4e708b81ac190eb1b02bAll parents want the best for their children, and that includes a quality education. But while most of us take that right for granted, those with a special needs child have a real challenge on their hands.

Lacey and Trey Prats felt that way as they tried to advocate for their son, Oliver, who was born with spina bifida and epilepsy. “He needed a lot of physical accommodations at school,” said Lacey. “He needed medications, a seizure protocol, a special desk, an aide for bathroom issues. It’s overwhelming to be an advocate for your child when you’re not aware of certain laws and regulations.”

Most schools identify a special needs student as one who has difficulty learning or functioning in a traditional school setting. Help is available through a federal law that mandates a special learning plan be created for students with special needs. The IEP (individualized educational program) addresses a child’s unique learning issues, which might require special modifications to class work, support services, assistive technology, therapy services and other considerations.

Parents work with schools to develop an IEP, but the process can be complicated and frustrating. That’s where Jannean Dixon comes in. Through her business, Cornerstone Educational Consulting, she helps families work with schools to create an IEP and learn how to navigate the system to assure the best education possible for their child.

Dixon retired last May after 10 years as a teacher. Her career change, she says, was a calling from God. Two years ago, she was working with a special needs student who was about to move into a mainstream classroom. “I loved this student and really wanted him to succeed,” she said. “I told his mother that I didn’t want to overstep my bounds, but to please make sure he had an IEP before switching schools. She didn’t know anything about it, so I went to her home, met with the family, and created an example IEP for their son, which his new school used. Later, she called me and said God told her to tell me that this is what I should be doing with my life.”

Dixon wasn’t completely surprised. Her career had provided her with knowledge about every aspect of the IEP issue, from the people involved to the paperwork required, and she enjoyed educating parents about the process. She had also been praying about the possibility of starting her own business.

“It had been on my heart,” she said, “and when I started to mention it to others, people came out of the woodwork offering to help me. Financial advice, a graphic designer, clients … so now I’m now consulting full-time.”

Oliver Prats, now 9 and a first-grade student at St. Luke’s Episcopal Day School, is one of many students who has been helped by Dixon. “Jannean is such a breath of fresh air,” said Lacey Prats. “She held our hand through the entire (IEP) process and took a daunting task and turned it into something pleasant. What she has done for Oliver and our family is invaluable.”

First and foremost, Cornerstone provides family advocacy and education. As Dixon’s website states, the IEP meeting can be a challenging experience, and parents need to be prepared. Cornerstone helps parents identify their child’s specific needs, discuss solutions, and have a list of questions ready for the principal or school officer involved. The company also provides transition assistance for children moving to a new classroom or new school. And Dixon conducts special teacher workshops to train educators about the IEP process.

In a short time, Cornerstone has helped many families who are grateful for Dixon’s expertise. Her website includes several testimonials from parents who praise her knowledge, experience and confidence.

You can learn more by visiting cornerstoneeducationalconsulting.com, or by calling (225) 931-8560. You can also email Dixon at jannean.cornerstone@gmail.com. The website includes articles of interest to parents, including how principals impact school culture, how to choose between a public or private school, and what to do if you suspect your child has a learning disability.

Dixon will be offering a free one-hour seminar for parents who have children with IEPs. For more details or to register, please visit the website.

Healthy Life, January 2017

The Mission to Help Kids Move More

by Pennington Biomedical Research Center

Hispanic boy covering mouth next to broccoli

Three-quarters of children in the United States are not meeting physical activity recommendations, according to a recent report authored by concerned health experts from around the country and by scientists from Baton Rouge at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The report, compiled by the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, indicates that nearly 63 percent of children are exceeding screen time guidelines, meaning that a majority of kids are sitting more and moving less. These habits put our country’s children at risk for obesity, diabetes and related chronic disease as they get older.

Here in Louisiana, one out of every two children is considered overweight or obese*. That statistic is unacceptable to Dr. Amanda Staiano, an assistant professor of research in the Pediatric Obesity and Health Behavior Lab at Pennington Biomedical, who is working to find creative ways to improve children’s health.

“We know that if we can help children develop healthy habits such as moving more when they are younger, they are more likely to continue those habits past adolescence into adulthood,” said Staiano.

According to Staiano, the first step to helping kids move more is understanding why they aren’t already moving enough. That’s why she is leading the TIGER Kids research study, which is researching ways to increase kids’ physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior to improve their overall health.

During the course of the study, Staiano and her team are using state-of-the-art technology like activity trackers and global positioning systems (GPS) to follow kids’ physical activity patterns for seven days to learn more about what prevents them from being active and what motivates them to move more. Kids in the study will also use a mobile phone app to share more information with researchers about who they are with and what they are doing — for example, spending time at the park with friends — when they are most physically active.

“This is a great way for me to teach my daughter about healthy habits,” said Brandy Davis, whose daughter, Ariamarie, is participating in the TIGER Kids study. “Both my son and I have been a part of research studies at Pennington Biomedical before, and we have really gotten some great health information from participating in those studies. My daughter was so excited to be a part of the TIGER Kids study because she is fascinated by the activity trackers and all the great information she’ll get about her own activity levels.”

Staiano said the TIGER Kids study is still looking for children between the ages of 10 and 16 to participate in the study. In addition to great health information they can share with their doctor, participants who complete the study will also receive compensation for their time.

If you’re interested in learning more about the TIGER Kids study and how your family might participate, contact Pennington Biomedical at 225-763-3000 or by visiting www.pbrc.edu/healthierLA.

Cover Story, January 2017

One City, One Church, One Hope

by Lisa Tramontana

te-publicity-1115bDr. Tony Evans has a vision for Baton Rouge — to transform the community from a Christian perspective to bring about healing and hope. He will share that vision on January 26 when he leads a citywide gathering, along with local pastors and church leaders who are also committed to creating unity in the capital city.

The event, “One City, One Church, One Hope,” is spearheaded by Pastor Rene Brown of Mt. Zion First Baptist Church and Pastor Kevin McKee of The Chapel on the Campus. The two worked hard to organize Dr. Evans’ visit. As the pastor at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Evans is a nationally recognized author, teacher and speaker known for a philosophy that mixes biblical spirituality with social responsibility.

One City
Creating unity is a lofty goal. Baton Rouge has experienced a lot of hurt in the past few months, and healing won’t come quickly or easily. For the past four months, residents have suffered indescribable loss and devastation due to the “Thousand Year Flood” which ravaged southeast Louisiana in August. The holidays were bittersweet for many local families who still haven’t been able to return to their homes.

And just weeks before the flood, an undeniable racial divide was polarizing area residents. In July, the city gained national attention after Baton Rouge Police’s fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man. The incident sparked local protests and widespread criticism, especially after a graphic phone video was shared on social media. Just days later, Gavin Long of Missouri ambushed and killed three law officers and wounded three more in another Baton Rouge shooting. Long, who was African-American, was killed by police shortly afterward.

No place is exempt from violence, but Baton Rouge seemed to suffer more than its share in 2016. It has been a heartbreaking year in many respects. Local pastors have called for peace and many churches have worked hard to reach across the chasm of mistrust and misunderstanding in the hopes of creating some kind of togetherness.

“The racial divide is one of the key reasons for social collapse,” Dr. Evans said. “When we become illegitimately divided along race, class, cultural and denominational lines, we have uninvited God into the scenario. And God will not work in the context of illegitimate disunity.”

One Church
Dr. Evans doesn’t just preach about the challenge of creating unity. He has solid ideas for making it happen, and has seen positive results in his own church in Dallas. He promotes the idea of an “urban alternative” which states that churches, not government, are best positioned to bring about social change.

“We go across the country to communities like Baton Rouge where there are churches that want to make a difference,” he said. “They (churches) are the epicenter of transformation. We offer a simple plan. First of all, we bring churches together around a common vision — to bring healing and help to their communities. We tell churches, ‘you must identify a common thread and let the community see how your presence is for the community’s benefit.’ The thread we promote most is the adoption of public schools.”

That’s because schools are often at the heart of America’s communities. It’s where children are educated, supported, protected and encouraged. It’s often the most integral part of a family’s social network, a place where not just students, but parents and teachers establish friendships and build relationships.

“We start with the adoption of public schools because this deals with children, with education, with families,” Dr. Evans said. “We don’t have to create anything new. If every school gets adopted by a church or group of churches, then you’re touching the whole community and you’re becoming the social services provider for the whole community.”

Eventually, Dr. Evans said, school/church partnerships (pastors and principals) are able to speak with one voice on major issues.

The process, he added, includes mentoring, tutoring and family support. The mentoring model he supports is based on one male volunteer to four boys, one female volunteer to four girls. “We walk them through character development,” he said. “So many kids don’t have strong parental influences, so the church becomes their surrogate family.”

Tutoring consists of academic help, of course, and family support comes from offering social services — for example, helping students by providing food, clothing, shelter, job placement (advice), GED counseling, etc. “Social services are critical,” Dr. Evans said, “especially due to the breakdown of the family.”

One Hope
Every community has people with hearts that hope for and work toward change. Imagine how hope can grow and triumph when a community is unified toward a common goal. This is what Dr. Evans hopes to find on January 26 when he steps before his Baton Rouge audience.

He encourages Baton Rouge residents to work toward building peace by focusing on community outreach — volunteering, mentoring, getting involved in church ministries. It’s something that sustains his own faith, he said, and strengthens his relationship with God.

“By being engaged directly and practically with my local church … that’s what keeps me grounded,” he said. “It’s not theory, but practice. I’m energized by gatherings like this (in Baton Rouge). They fire me up.”

“I can just see the hope God brings out in them.”

Dr. Evans’ visit is just the beginning of an important movement. Coming together is just the first step. Staying together is the ultimate goal, and it will require constant focus, prayer and communication. For more information on how you can become involved, visit the Believers for Baton Rouge website.

About Dr. Evans:

Dr. Tony Evans is a nationally known pastor, author, teacher and speaker. He is the first African American to graduate with a doctoral degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).

He promotes a Kingdom agenda philosophy that teaches God’s comprehensive rule over every sphere of life as demonstrated through the individual, family, church and society.

He believes in the power of church and school partnerships to effect spiritual and social change, and he trains churches, schools and volunteers in this philosophy.

Dr. Evans is senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas. The church has grown from 10 congregants in 1976 to more than 10,000 members today with more than 100 ministries.

His daily radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on nearly 1,000 radio stations in the US, and more than 130 countries. He has also authored more than 10 books, booklets and Bible studies.

He and his wife Lois have been married for more than 40 years. They have four children, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

January 2017, Millennial Life

Pursuing Your Passion in the New Year

by Trapper S. Kinchen

dscn0836As 2016 dissolves into the past and 2017 thrusts us ever closer toward a new decade, we owe it to ourselves to be bold. The start of a new year is the perfect time to shed insecurities, flex creative muscles and start chasing dreams. The missed opportunities and blunders of the old year become history, and – at 12:01 a.m. January 1 – our lives reopen to the limitless possibilities and excitement of the future.

Millennials are notorious for their confidence. We have learned through life experience, observation and intuition that purposefulness outweighs mediocrity. As a result, many millennials have chosen to pursue their passion instead of settling for stability. This self-assurance has led to a generation of people that are redefining words like “success” and “ambition.”

For example, Kimani Alexander is a busy guy. He’s a 17-year-old student at Scotlandville Magnet High, where he serves as the junior class president. He is heavily involved in a host of extracurricular activities, serves as the chairman/president of the junior deacon board at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, helps his family around the house, and – despite that amazingly full schedule – finds time to run a small business.

Alexander comes from an industrious family. His grandfather is an engineer as well as a dentist, and his grandmother runs a lucrative sewing business. She designs and produces ladies’ formal wear, and she taught her grandson how to convert his creativity into something tangible.

She taught him how to sew, and he fell in love with making gentlemen’s trimmings — bowties, handkerchiefs, etc. “I picked it up from her, and I’ve been doing it for a year. I’ve been doing pretty good with it, too,” he said. He has done so well that, in the course of 2016, he made nearly $1,000 in profit.

Alexander designs, constructs, and sells his handmade accessories in a workspace he and his grandmother share. His bowties in particular show a serious talent for fusing whimsy and style. Throughout the past year, he has taken the basic constructional elements of bowtie-making and very subtly revolutionized them.

Anyone who has ever worn a bowtie is surely familiar with the sweaty aggravation of getting them to fit properly. You must either fight with complicated metal tabs or study YouTube clips on proper tying methods. Either way, it winds up being more of a hassle than it is worth.

Alexander has taken all of that into consideration and developed a technique that helps avoid any bowtie related stress. His design modification is so practical and clever that it is nothing short of genius. He stitches one of his well-crafted bows onto a thin elastic band, just wide enough to comfortably fit around the average neck.

All the wearer has to do is slip the elastic band over his head, situate it under his collar, and fold the collar down. Voila! An instant and perfectly tied bowtie. If it sounds like one of the simplest and most remarkable innovations to formalwear that you’ve ever heard, then you are correct.

dscn0841But bowties are not just a part of his moneymaking venture. For Alexander, they are a way of life. You won’t likely catch him without a suit and tie, because he believes in the power of dressing well. He said, when you put forth an effort in your appearance, “You look more intelligent, it highlights your character, and it brings your personality out in how you carry yourself.”

Alexander and his business are examples of the ways in which millennials are reshaping the global economic landscape. It is more important now than ever before to demonstrate a can-do attitude in the workplace. Forbes.com highlighted a 2014 study conducted by Bentley University, which “suggests that Millennials sense that career success will require them to be more nimble, independent and entrepreneurial than past generations.”

As the American and global workforces begin to shift with the influx of millennial laborers, the way in which employees interact with their workspace is also transforming. The same Bentley University study indicated, “Millennials are less interested in managing others than in having their autonomous, creative work lives.” Like Alexander, more and more young workers are more concerned with pursuing careers that suit their personality/creativity, than with working at a job that provides little beyond stability.

Even though he is only 17, Alexander represents the national trend of increasing numbers of millennials starting and building small enterprises. Fortune.com says, “While the older generation launched their first businesses at roughly 35 years old, so-called “millennipreneurs” are setting out around 27.” So, although the risks may be high, many of our peers are working hard to transform their occupational fantasies into reality.

If you would like to support Kimani and purchase one of his bowties or handkerchiefs, simply direct message him on Instagram or reach out to him on Facebook. Search “K. Alexander Bow Tie,” and his information will present itself. Whether you need something for prom, a wedding, or just want a slick tie for your wardrobe, he has a great selection of readymade merchandise and is willing to take commissions, too.

Long term, he plans to graduate high school and pursue a business degree at Southern University. Alexander hopes to delve deeper into entrepreneurship and continue to learn the ins and outs of economics, as he matures. His favorite quote is, “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” The hard work he is putting forth at 17 will ultimately have a great and lasting impact on his future abilities as a businessman.

image-97Despite everything that occupies his time, Alexander says his ultimate goal is to “teach and motivate others to do their best.” His drive and work ethic are built on passion, determination, and faith. “I thank God every morning for waking me up and for his many blessings. I’m grateful for the motivated spirit he has given me,” Alexander said. He is such a fine example of how, with a little resolve and a great deal of perseverance, one can achieve anything one sets out to accomplish.

Venturing into entrepreneurship is just one of countless ways to be bold in 2017. The Lord is calling each of us toward a vitalizing and enriching purpose. Now is an excellent time to take notice of your passion, trust yourself and wholeheartedly chase your goals.

Fresh starts, bold moves and leaps of faith are possible year round, but January reminds us that our futures are crisp and limitless. New Year’s Day is symbolic of renewal, a day when we can bravely stare into the eyes of opportunity and see our lives as we would like them to be. Just remember, all things are possible with a bit of courage, the willingness to work hard and a healthy dose of faith.

January 2017, Pastor's Perspective

Miracles: God is Always at Work

by Rev. Thomas Howe

rev-tom-howeA few years ago a member of my church ask me if I believed in miracles. Smiling I replied, “Yes, I see them every day.”  Puzzled, the member pushed the issue, “and just what type of miracles are they?” At that moment I was simply referring to the miracle of creation, how God created the universe and the universes beyond ours. It was a simple reply meant to say God is God and as such is constantly at work in creation. Each time the sun rises, the rain falls, or we take a breath, that is creation in action and thus has a miraculous nature about it. Clearly that was not what my member was asking. He was asking what many people think about and that is, is God still active in our lives today? Do miracles still happen?

The answer to the heartfelt question will differ depending on where you are on the theological spectrum. For some, it goes without saying that God is still in the miracle making business and performs miracles on a regular basis. These people of faith will pray ardently for God’s action in theirs or someone else’s life. Many hours will be spent on their knees petitioning God to act in a way that defies natural law. It is their prayer that God will hear their humble cry and act to change the direction that something is going. Others will simply say miracles belong to a time long past. They no longer see God as a hands-on active agent in our world who is willing to set aside natural laws to work his will.

In my early years of ministry, I was clearly part of the latter group as my science background had left me somewhat devoid of miraculous belief. Then one day on a hospital call I was visiting a man whom the doctors and nurses were scrambling to prepare for emergency surgery on his lung. The hole that had developed in it was increasing and they needed to act. I held Mr. Grey’s hand and prayed. I prayed for healing of his lung while having some personal doubts that my prayer would have any impact. About thirty minutes later a doctor walked in and put his stethoscope to Mr. Grey’s chest and began to mutter. Others came in and listened, then they did an x-ray. In the end they looked at Mr. Grey and said, “Someone must have been praying for you.” He pointed at me. The doctor smiled and said, “The hole seems to be healing.”  I walked out of the hospital and looked heavenward and said, “Don’t you ever do that to me again.”  Smiling, I went home. It was a new revelation in my life – God was still at work.  God can do things when we least expect.

Since that day I have allowed God to become bigger in my life. I took him out of the box I had so carefully crafted for him to stay in. Now God roams freely in my life and whatever happens, happens. I’ve learned that we have no control over God and what God will or will not do.  My counsel to those who ask about miracles is this: not everything is a miracle and perhaps miracles are few and far between. But there are many things that happen in our lives that we are too quick to dismiss or explain away. Sometimes what we need to do is simply accept something on its face value. Instead of searching hard for an explanation, just let God be God.  When we open our lives up to the possibility that God can act, we might just find ourselves surprised where we see God. If we spend all our time searching for an explanation we may just be overlooking the real explanation, God is at work!


About Rev. Howe: The Rev. Tom Howe was born in Galveston, Texas, and grew up in Corpus Christi. He attended Texas A&M University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.  He also attended St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo., where he earned his Master of Divinity with a specialization in Christian Education.

In 1982, Rev. Howe transferred to the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. Since then he has served churches in Slidell, Thibodeaux, Minden, Shreveport and now in Baton Rouge where he is the pastor at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church.  Rev. Howe has three sons, Travis, Austin and Dustin, and two grandchildren. He is active in the outdoors as a sportsman enjoying hunting, fishing, camping and hiking.