Cover Story, September 2018

Actor T. C. Stallings, Art Imitates Life, Christian Media Gains Momentum

T. C. Stallings played the role of Tony in the blockbuster hit ‘War Room’ in 2015. Did you see the movie that continues to inspires audiences of all ages … and became the #1 Movie in America?
Stallings also starred in ‘A Question of Faith’ in 2017.
Dr. Cameron Lewis is Executive Producer of ‘A Question of Faith.’ “My vision does not stop with oral surgery. God has so much in store for me to serve His people. We are here to help one another. We are called to bless one another as we are being blessed.” More from Cameron in our continued “Christian Media Gains Momentum” in our next edition.
“A Question of Faith” became the #7 movie in 2017 according to the Christian Post.
Kevan Otto, Director of “A Question of Faith,” said that the hit movie “Fireproof” rocked Hollywood in 2008, prompting many production companies to make faith-based films.
Dove Award Winner Amber Nelon Thompson played the starring role of Michelle in ‘A Question of Faith.’ “Playing the role of a singer who’d lost her voice was easy, I’d been through that myself.” More from Amber in our October edition.

Art Imitates Life

Meet T.C. Stallings face-to-face and his unabashed enthusiasm for his faith is infectious. Since his acting debut in the 2008 Kendrick Brother’s film, “Courageous,” Stallings’ larger-than-life screen presence in “War Room” and “A Question of Faith” cemented him as a star in the Christian film genre. 

Christian-life reflected in twenty-first century genre is the Platonic/Aristotelian mimesis, that is, Art Imitates Life. To borrow the 1960s spaghetti western title, audiences of Christian-themed pictures generally — whether they want it or not– get the good, the bad and the ugly. As the leading male in the powerful film on the power-of-prayer, “War Room,” T.C. portrayed Tony as the ambitious, worldly husband opposite Priscilla Shirer as his wife Elizabeth. Christian men can easily see themselves in the part of Tony — driven by the treasures of the world and separated from the notion of storing treasures in heaven. 

There has been an explosion of religious-themed movies since 2006 when “Facing the Giants” inspired Christian audiences. Many mainstream productions tiptoe around the edges of Christianity, careful to avoid offending a viewer. But unapologetic Christian producers have cranked out dozens of films that are less timid in portraying what Christianity is about – a struggle to surrender to Jesus and reject what the “world” expects. Maybe the best thing about this form of entertainment is that there is always a happy ending. 

Stallings was bitten by the acting bug and at the very last minute got the role of T.J. in “Courageous.” After the movie, the bug bite grew into a full-blown desire for a career away from his roots as a football player.

Following his career as a star running back at the University of Louisville and several professional stops, TC was working as a sports commentator and game analyst in his adopted hometown of Louisville. Stallings and his wife Levette prayerfully decided to move their family to southern California.

As a Jesus-follower, Stallings was committed to maintaining an uncompromising commitment to his values and to rejecting any opportunity that did not fit. It proved challenging. Forced into a job as a youth pastor to make ends meet, Stallings’ position lasted just one year. After a year of struggling to find roles, dejected by the job loss, the aspiring actor faced a potential return to Kentucky. But God had another plan. The lead role of Tony in “War Room” was offered the same day as the youth pastorate ended. And, as the old saying goes, the rest is history. 

The genre isn’t always a sophisticated representation because of its “B-movie” budget constraints– woefully low compared to the mega-million-dollar major studio productions. It is not always as commercially successful, partly because of the same financial considerations that limit marketing and promotion, but probably even more so because of the progressive-secular nature of post-modern, mainstream audiences that outright reject a Christian theme as irrelevant to their lives. “War Room” crossed over to a broader audience than most of the genre’s films, which is what people of faith should hope will happen. But, sadly, these movies, which are quite cathartic, go unseen and unsupported even by many Christians. 

Hilton and Rebecca Glass have a film ministry based in Biloxi, Mississippi. Hilton promotes Christian films across the Gulf Coast from Florida to Louisiana. His story probably sums up why many believers are reticent to invest their time to go see movies from the genre. “Rebecca coerced me to drive 60 miles to Mobile to watch a faith-based film, made by a church on a very low budget. My thought was “No! How hokey of a movie can that be?” By the end of “Facing the Giants,” Glass’ perspective changed completely. “At the end the sports announcer exclaimed, ‘I can’t believe what I’ve just seen’ and the hairs stood up on my arms. God was speaking to me. It was crystal clear at that moment that ‘I can’t believe what I’ve just seen’ was not about the movie – it was how God can use movies as an instrument to reach His people,” Glass remembered. 

Despite the challenges, Christian film and television are expanding. Independent producers continue to come out with new products. One such film is “Beautifully Broken” by D-3 Productions in Nashville headed by nationally-known entertainment industry promoter Michelle Duffie. Just released in theaters on August 24th, Beautifully Broken is a story of a refugee’s escape, a prisoner’s promise and a daughter’s painful secret as they converge in a powerful true story of three fathers fighting to save their families. 

Pureflix, an industry-leader, releases three new films this fall. Ashley Kelly from Pureflix is promoting the three releases back-to-back. The first is “Unbroken: Path to Redemption” based on the book by Lauren Hillenbrand that comes to theaters beginning September 14th. It tells the part of the story that the 2014 secular production by Angelina Jolie failed to share. Louis Zamperini was an American Olympian turned World War II airman who survived 47 days on a raft adrift in the Pacific only to be captured and held prisoner in a hellish Japanese camp. That is where Jolie’s “Unbroken” ends. The Pureflix film begins after the war when Zamperini is consumed by hatred and a desire for revenge against his captors. Zamperini accepted Christ at the famous 1949 Billy Graham Los Angeles Crusade. The “path to redemption” is the best part of the story, a man who forgave his captors and launched a 60-plus year career as a Christian evangelist. 

“Little Women” is an update of the classic story by the same name. On the 150th anniversary of the release of the novel by Louisa May Alcott, actress Lea Thompson brings the heroine Marmee to life in a 21st Century setting. Ashley Kelly, director of Pureflix Global Strategic Alliances Marketing, shared that “Pinnacle Peak is releasing the first-ever modern retelling of the beloved classic, LITTLE WOMEN, bringing the same sisters to a new generation to celebrate dreams, family, and unconditional love in theaters on September 28. This movie celebrates the lifelong bonds of family, friendship, and sisterhood!” Pinnacle Peak also created ideas and opportunities for women’s ministries, schools and youth groups tied into the release date. 

Hilton Glass hosts a prescreening of “Indivisible” in Baton Rouge shortly after Labor Day, prior to its national release October 26th. It gives real insight into the impact of war on military families and their marriages. The story is for married couples reminding them of the reality that the most important battle they wage is the fight for their marriage.

These are just four Christian-themed movies, all worthwhile and family friendly, despite some challenging real-life themes. Yet these films are without gratuitous violence, profanity or sexual explicitness or even innuendo. It would bless the producers and actors for the body of Christ to flock to the theaters, and no doubt also bless the believers who see the films.

As one of the industry’s biggest stars, T.C. Stallings’ vision is a Holy Spirit led opportunity to take his celebrity and talent to drive the industry to new heights. There is no doubt that he has the charisma, energy and the character to succeed. T.C. prays daily for God to grow him in His purpose and close the doors that aren’t in line with God’s will. 

“I’m just a guy that watches TV and movies,” he said. “I’m burdened by what I see. Rather than complaining about what’s on TV and what’s in films, I just ask God to give me a platform to be a content creator. I don’t want to be at the mercy of other people to get it done,” Stallings added. But he has put action to the words. “I’ve started Purpose Studios. My company is Team TC Productions. We want to look for those who don’t want to compromise their faith and give them an opportunity. There are other people being told ‘no’ and doors slammed shut.” In the future, he hopes to transition to television. 

Stallings is not alone in the concept of real family-oriented programming, not just on the big screen, but also on the small screen in the living rooms of families around the world. One such company is Pureflix.com, the streaming service of Pureflix that offers a variety of programming. Not everything is exclusively Christian. But all films and television programs are family-friendly! It includes a lot of the old standard television series from the 60s and 70s. 

The future looks promising for Christian-cord cutters to find pay-per-view alternatives to Netflix, Amazon, and other streaming providers. There are intriguing opportunities for Christian programming because streaming takes it beyond American households and opens up worldwide access. For the fulfillment of the great commission, Christian television and films represent an amazing, if a little daunting, chance to reach into tens of millions of households. The key then becomes how to get potential viewers to tune in to this type of programming so that they might be impacted by it.

For generations, the American film and television series distributed internationally created a paradigm of American life. Value-based entertainment from Christian-themed organizations might similarly shape the views and touch the hearts of peoples around the world. Streaming means more people may be reached for the Kingdom in a matter of minutes than through years of grinding missionary work. Moreover, it is likely these programs could make the work of missionaries a little easier, possibly softening the non-believer or even the unreached to be more open to Christ in their face-to-face time spent with the people taking the gospel around the world.

Marketing and promotion of movies has become effective and popular in reaching a broader audience.
“Beautifully Broken” was released in August and continues to garner attention.
Michelle S. Duffie, CEO of D3 Entertainment Group has structured marketing strategies generating 1.3 Billion in revenue. Some of the movies promoted include #1 ‘War Room’, ‘I Can Only Imagine’, ‘God’s Not Dead’ and ‘The Shack’ among many others. Her latest, ‘Beautifully Broken’ was released August 24th. More about Michelle in our continuation of ‘Christian Media Gains Momentum” in our next edition.
The movie “Little Women” will be released later this month.
Hilton Glass of Movies Ministries Outreach
Fred Townsend

Fred Townsend is the husband of Beth Townsend, Publisher of Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine. His 45-year career in marketing is an eclectic collection of work in everything from political campaign consultant to television producer and executive positions at two Fortune 500 Companies. 

Publisher's Letter, September 2018, Uncategorized

Publisher’s Letter, Christian Media Gains Momentum, Part 1

Beth enjoyed learning about Christian Media from one of the industries biggest stars, T. C. Stallings.
Beth was inspired by the amazing story of Michelle Duffie of D3 Entertainment, stay tuned for more next month.
Dr. Cameron Lewis has been such an amazing influence in helping us to learn more about the ‘behind the scenes’ in ‘A Question of Faith’ and other faith-based films.
Dove Award Winner Amber Thompson Nelon shared with Beth about her breakout role as an actress in her first movie, “A Question of Faith.’

Christian Media Gains Momentum: Part One

It’s easy to get discouraged as a Christian. Often secular news stories cause us to cringe with messages that God is out of style and that the Bible is out of date. Christianity on the surface appears to be dying a slow death.

Not so fast!

In our next couple of editions, we are going to share some encouraging news about measurable trends in Christian media! God is calling all kinds of people from various backgrounds to utilize multi-media platforms that point others to Christ and bring God glory. We are thankful to have some of those amazing Believers share with us so that we can share with you.

We are encouraged to see so many people stepping into positions that God is using mightily to reach the nations with movies, televisions shows and other forms of media. We love this especially because, in publishing our magazine each month, we have always felt that the best way to change the world is one story at a time.

I still recall being wowed by the movie “Facing the Giants” in 2006. It is a great movie that still moves me today with such imperfect people following a perfect God who proves Himself very much alive and active in the lives of his children. Since then, we have seen many faith-based movies become very successful in the box office and in DVD Sales. One thing always rings true: there is just nothing like a great story that is based in truth and reality, and communicates a sound message of Faith.

Another great story that can change the world just may be your testimony. When is the last time you shared how God had intervened in your life or answered a prayer? As a testimony-driven magazine, we’ve seen how the power of personal stories brings real hope to others each month.

Yet, even the boldest Christians tend to shy away from sharing their stories. “I’m waiting for the right time…I’m going to write it down…I need to practice…I don’t know what part to share and when…I’m afraid of what others will think.”

Good news! We are sponsoring a testimony workshop in October. If you’d like to learn to share your story effectively, we suggest attending. My husband Fred and I attended a class in Dallas, and we were very moved by the quality of the teaching. We were inspired to be more intentional about preparing and sharing our testimonies on a regular basis. Check out pages 20 and 21 for more information.

We are going to share more about Media in our next edition. Our goal is to remind others that if we are going to craft a message to share with others, we must do so with excellence and take proper time to make it great. Therefore, we will share the experience of accomplished experts so that Believers learn the most effective ways to share content that is encouraging and inspiring.

Changing the world, one story at a time. Join us! Share yours, too.

Beth enjoys a prescreening of “War Room’ at Istrouma Baptist Church with Hilton Glass of Movies Ministries Outreach and Pastor Mark Lubbock of Gulf South Men.
Director Kevan Otto shared about the rise in Faith-based films.
Amber Thompson Nelon, Publisher Beth Townsend, and Videographer Rachel Boster enjoyed visiting with with so many media experts at the weekend event benefitting Mississippi Centers for Autism in July.
Geaux Life, September 2018

Sky is the Limit, Wings of the Spirit

The Sky is the limit

God Had Other Plans! This groups very first Mission of Peace (to Guatemala) included pilot Gerald Huggins and videographer Daniel Waghorne. But an accident ended the trip after just four days. Even so, WOTS worked through their doubts and ultimately found success.

BY: lisa tramontana

Tim Dixon, “I felt life God was preparing me for this ministry-the first mission trip, the pilot’s license, the move to Baton Rouge, and finally meeting Ryan. God put people and situations in my life according to his perfect timing and will.”
Gerald Huggins, “Working with this ministry has been so rewarding. We all have the same values and the same heart-to help others, to plant the Word, to water it and see it grow. When I met Ryan, he really pulled everyone in and kept us focused. Best of all, he let us share in is vision.”
Ryan Williams, ““I don’t know what the future holds,” Williams said. “I just know that when we let the Holy Spirit lead the way and guide us along the journey, amazing things happen.”

When Ryan Williams tries to explain how Wings of the Spirit went from a dream to reality, even he has trouble believing it.

Three men, unknown to each other, all wrestling with an idea God had placed on their hearts. Each man needing something to make God’s desire come true, but not knowing where or how to find it. And then one night at a church gathering (and by coincidence), the three men happen to be in the same room and everything starts to fit … like a puzzle waiting patiently for the final piece that brings the “big picture” into view.

Williams had just returned from a mission trip in Central America, and came home feeling that God wanted him to get his pilot’s license. Gerald Huggins, who owned an airplane maintenance shop, was dreaming of visiting his native Guatemala to distribute Bibles to people in remote villages. Tim Dixon had just moved to Baton Rouge from Ashland, Kentucky, where he had left behind his small plane. In the months before he moved, he had gone on a mission trip and felt called to combine his pilot skills with his mission work.

At the church meeting, through handshakes and overheard bits of conversation, the three men began to feel that they had been intentionally brought together. Within hours, Dixon offered to let Williams use his plane for flying lessons, Huggins agreed to help Dixon bring his plane back from Kentucky, and Williams began to envision an aviation ministry that would become Wings of the Spirit …

To say that the ministry got off to a bumpy start (see sidebar) would be an understatement, but by the spring of 2016, WOTS was literally flying high. On their “Mission of Peace,” volunteers visited four countries, covered 4,500 miles, and distributed 1,400 Bibles. God’s favor and blessings were apparent, Williams says, as the group’s needs were met at every turn, new relationships were built, and seeds of hope were planted.

In the two years since, the organization has branched out. When the Great Flood of 2016 caused so much destruction and heartbreak in the Baton Rouge area, WOTS volunteers immediately went to work helping local residents (and each other) clean and gut their damaged homes and get back on the road to recovery. They raised funds to donate 400 coats to Livingston Parish children. When a tornado touched down in Petal, Mississippi, the group mobilized a team to deliver water, tarps and supplies to the area. WOTS made at least five trips to Texas after Hurricane Harvey devastated the state last year.

“When our first mission didn’t go as planned,” Williams said, “we questioned whether we were doing the right thing. We had a lot of doubt, but it faded quickly as God began to show us the next steps. One thing we learned is that as the hands and feet of Christ, we were able to “serve where we stood.”

And so the group has gotten involved in outreach projects and disaster relief, some far away, but many close to home. Just last month, a group of volunteers drove a special trailer carrying three washer/dryers to a homeless community in New Orleans. For the men and women living beneath an interstate and wearing the same dirty clothing every day, this offer to wash their clothes was an incredible act of kindness and an acknowledgment of their dignity. The WOTS group also served meals and spent time with their homeless brothers and sisters.

“Our struggle now,” said Williams, “is to cast a wider net. There are so many opportunities to serve, and people are so grateful when you show them love and compassion. In order to see a change, you have to be the change, and we are willing to do that.”

To that end, Williams’ next dream is to build a “base camp” in Baton Rouge, from which to mobilize volunteer groups from local churches, providing them with the tools to serve in disaster relief and outreach projects. Many people want to serve, but are understandably hesitant because of the logistics involved.

“Our base camp would be a safe place,” Williams said. “A place to house 12 people. Beds, bath, meals … it would give volunteers the security and confidence to say ‘yes’ when the opportunity to help others arises.”

Wings of the Spirit has roots in Journey Church of Central, where its founders worship. But the ministry is open to all faiths. If you would like to know more about the organization, make a donation, or view videos of recent mission trips and relief projects, visit the website at wingsofthespirit.org. If you would like to serve as a volunteer, call Williams at (225) 773-4009.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” Williams said. “I just know that when we let the Holy Spirit lead the way and guide us along the journey, amazing things happen.”

Recipients find comfort in the Bible and a helping hand from the ‘Wings of the Spirit” Ministry.
Sharing with others and praying with people is very important to the team .
Faith Life, September 2018

S.T.A.R.S. Local Pilots Teach Kids to Soar

The rainy morning did not stop the flights!
Pastors Alber and Adraine White of Abounding Love Ministries, Inc. is the church behind the S.T.A.R.S. Camp.
The Kids enjoyed the experience.
Most were all smiles, some flying for the first time.
The leaders had as much fun as the children.
Right after the flight!
Pilots Gabriel Rincon, Albert Rutherford, Edgar Blevins, and Scott Barrow gathered to support the aviation education through the S.T.A.R.S. program. (Smith Thomas not pictured)

S.T.A.R.S: Local Pilots Teach Kids to Soar

On a steamy morning, a small plane taxies onto a runway at Baton Rouge Metro Airport. An elementary school-age youth climbs out of a passenger’s seat. “I was flying!” he says.

It’s a lesson in courage and trust that local pastors and pilots hope will inspire a new generation to think beyond the ordinary – to explore limitless possibilities.

Five local pilots recently volunteered to take kids on their first flights – an aerial tour of the Mississippi River, the state capitol grounds, LSU and Southern University. The excursion marked the end of an eight-week S.T.A.R.S. course in aviation basics with a Biblical application. For 14 years, S.T.A.R.S. (Students That Are Reaching Success) has employed a no-boundaries approach to teach kids to soar spiritually as they excel academically.

S.T.A.R.S. founder Albert White of Abounding Love Ministries, with the support of pastor/wife Adraine, partners with the YMCA and BREC to provide education, enrichment experiences and recreation every Saturday, plus an eight-week summer camp at Saia Park on North Donmoor Avenue. During the academic year, they also offer after-school tutorials and preparation for standardized tests along with instruction in social skills and strategies for coping with challenging life situations.

“It’s just amazing to see what God has done,” White said. Through the Soaring Stars element of the curriculum, he is hoping to awaken a passion for flying and show kids that their dreams are achievable. The five pilots – Bishop Calvin Emery, Scott Barrow, Edgar Blevins, Smith Thomas and Gabe Rincon – immediately agreed to the idea.

“I’m glad to help children get a different perspective on life,” pilot Scott Barrow said. “It gives you a different way of thinking, a different perspective. I’m hoping they’ll get excited about learning how to fly.”

“As a kid I always wanted to fly,” said Dr. Edgar Blevins, a pilot and mechanical engineering professor at Southern University. “All kids love airplanes and cars. So we thought this would be a good way to introduce the kids to aviation and the Word at the same time.” He and fellow pilot Dr. Calvin Emery, pastor of Times of Refreshing World Outreach Ministries, designed and served as co-instructors for the aviation curriculum.

“For each of the aerodynamics, from communications to flight characteristics to going places, there is a Bible verse and technical side,” Blevins said. “We taught them about the first principles of flight, the aerodynamics of the plane: lift, weight, thrust and drag,” Emery said. “God wants to lift you; the wings want to lift you.”

“One of the forces acting on a plane is drag,” Blevins said. “The drag can slow down the airplane – affect its flying characteristics.”

“God wants to thrust you, but drag is trying to come against you,” Emery said. We linked that to people that you shouldn’t be around – non-positive individuals,” Blevins said. “All kinds of things – sex before marriage – that stuff will pull you down.”

“A lot of kids pass by the airport; they don’t know what happens on this side of the fence, especially low-income African-American kids,” Emery said. “They see another African-American, a male, doing the thing that they might like. They realize that if he can do it, I can do it.”

Personal examples make the difference, according to fellow pilot Albert Rutherford. He shared an interest in airplanes with his father, who took him to watch the planes on weekends. “At eight years old I remember peering through the fence and seeing the magnificent men in the flying machines, knowing at that time – I’m going to become a pilot,” he said.

Some 20 years later, a pilot stopped and asked him, “Do you fly?” When he replied, “No, but one day,” the pilot challenged him. “He said, ‘You’re the only person that can make it happen. You’ve got to make the money and find the time. But until you do that – make that decision – it’ll always be “one day.”’ Now in his 42nd year as a pilot, Rutherford lectures and shares a documentary on the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American squadron known as one of the most highly esteemed fighter groups in World War II.

It’s that sort of motivation that camp director Ella Sue Evans hopes to inspire in kids – because kids don’t dream big dreams until they’ve been introduced to big ideas. And rather than selecting a few children to hold starring roles – as schools tend to do – the camp involves many children in a wide spectrum of activities including Spanish and chess classes. The results can be surprising.

“Our children have hidden talents that need to be exposed to the community and so this is an opportunity for them,” said Evans. At the end-of-camp finale, everyone performs. “Everybody gets an opportunity, because sometimes their parents don’t even know that they can sing, don’t know that they can dance, sometimes don’t even know that they have this gift inside of them.”

“We wanted to make sure that we prepared the children for the next academic school year, so that’s one of our biggest goals for the summer,” Evans said. Under the strategic leadership of program director Yvonne Bey, kids are involved in academics, enrichment and recreation. The camp, attracting as many as 200 kids, is funded in part by a state grant.

The influence of the camp and its mentors is far-reaching. Some former students return to pour into the lives of other kids. “We have the opportunity to impress so many young people,” Evans said. “I get fulfillment just seeing them come back. It brings joy to my heart that my work has not been in vain.”

“It really helped establish who I am as a person,” said former camper Suzanne Hartford. A graduate of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Hartford now runs Studio 29:11 and teaches dance at the camp. “The creed we learned talks about being a star and being a student who is reaching for success all the time – in the community, at school and at home.”

“That’s my mindset,” said Emery. “That’s why I became a pilot. I wanted to fulfill the dream I had since I was a kid. That can take you from doing something destructive to something constructive. It’s about doing something you never thought possible.”

Through the Soaring Stars element of the curriculum, the instructors hope to awaken a passion for flying and show kids that their dreams are achievable. The pilots, including Edgar Blevins, Gabriel Rincon, Calvin Emery, Smith Thomas and Scott Barrow donated their time and planes to offer the campers an unforgettable experience.







Susan Brown began her career in radio news. She was news director for WJBO/WFMF radio and a journalism instructor at LSU. She holds master’s degrees from LSU and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and served as a chaplain at Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women.

Family Life, September 2018

The Childless Life

The childless life

by Lisa Tramontana

  • Did you know?
  • 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility?
  • 20% of all women reach the age of 45 without having children. 

For the childless woman, there’s nothing quite as painful as Mother’s Day. Sandy Michelet remembers walking into a restaurant and being greeted by the host with a carnation in his hand. “Are you a mother?” he asked cheerfully.

It was so unexpected Michelet didn’t know what to say. After years of trying to conceive a child, such a question seemed almost insulting, but she knew he meant no harm. “People say things that are insensitive all the time,” she said. “Usually they mean well, but it still hurts.”

Michelet married in her early 30s and tried for years to conceive, but it just never happened. “For a woman, there’s so much pain and shame associated with being childless. It’s different from being child-free. Childlessness is not a choice. And you really question why this is happening to you. Don’t I deserve to have a child? I remember wondering if I was being punished for something I did … maybe I talked back to my mom when I was 20 years old? What did I do?”

When everyone knows about your struggle, their first impulse is to offer advice. “Just relax,” they say. “Pray more. Start drinking apple cider vinegar!”

Holidays and social events are especially painful, Michelet said. Most people don’t stop and think about what it’s like to navigate the everyday world without a child. At Christmas, it seems like everyone has a child on his or her lap opening presents, she said. At family get-togethers, parents are either bragging or complaining about their kids. “So many times, people have jokingly said to me, ‘Well, I’d be happy to give you one of mine!’ Really? Would you?”

The jokes are probably meant to ease the awkwardness. “It just seems natural that women are supposed to have children,” Michelet said. “Over the years, I found myself often offering to host or provide food for family gatherings. It’s the only way I could feel that I had a purpose like everyone else.”

Although Michelet mourns the fact that she never gave birth, she is grateful for her stepchildren, now adults, whom she has loved since she married their father Craig 18 years ago. “They are wonderful,” she said. “We’ve had a full and happy life together.”

But it’s not the same as it is for a woman with children. Especially when Michelet thinks of the “family tree” concept. “I move into new phases of my life,” she said, “and new concerns pop up, especially as I get older. Everyone else has ‘branches’ on their family tree. But generations from now, there will be no children to trace back to me. It just ends. That’s part of the reason I started my blog (The Childless Life).”

Two years ago, Michelet sat down at the computer and just started typing … the words, the pain, the anger all started pouring out. “I realized I’d been hurting and hiding for so many years,” she said. “I just couldn’t keep it in any longer.”

Many women have benefitted from her blog, which gets thousands of hits every month. Michelet believes it’s her down-to-earth conversational style, her honesty, and the fact that she isn’t afraid to sprinkle in a bit of sarcasm occasionally. “I also understand the struggle with faith,” she said. “For years, I stopped going to church, and many women have that same experience.”

Michelet has found a new church that nourishes her spiritually, and she has come to terms with her childlessness. “It’s a hard thing to deal with, but I’ve accepted it and I realize now that I’ve had a ‘rich and satisfying life’ just as the Bible says in John 10:10. And John doesn’t say you must have children to achieve that.”

It took time, but Michelet has found happiness with her supportive husband, her stepchildren, friends, work, and her blog, which has become a meaningful ministry. “Not everyone can have children,” she said. “And if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you’re less than anybody else. You’re just different. Your life will just take a different direction that what you planned.”

For more information, visit TheChildlessLife.com.

Thousands of readers visit Sandy Michelet’s blog each month
(from left) Brant, Craig, Sandy and Erica Michelet
September 2018

Transformation, Graceful and Beautiful as the Butterfly

Transformation

graceful and beautiful as the butterfly

by Jessica LeBlanc

When I think of transformation, so many things come to mind. The change in seasons is definitely one of them because as we’re getting ready to enter the autumn months, we’ll actually get the chance to see and feel the changes. Leaves begin falling, the air gets cooler and crisper and the sun sets earlier.

However, the first thing that comes to mind is the butterfly. It’s remarkable to me how it goes through four different stages before it becomes fully developed. I think more than any other animal, this one truly captures what can happen to us sometimes, as human beings, when we’re going through a transformative process. I decided to do a little research on this colorful creation and I was able to draw some major connections.

Stages of the butterfly

Egg: This obviously is the beginning stage of its life. Fresh, new and nowhere near fully developed; a blank canvas with a lot to experience. This can represent the first part of becoming a Christian. In order to be in Christ, we must be born again to begin our transformation from being dead in our sins to being alive in Jesus. This can only happen through repentance of any and all sin in our lives and a belief and devotion to God. (See Romans 6:23, Romans 5:17) As a babe in Christ and often times as millennials, we have a feeling of trying to keep up. In a world that’s constantly changing, there’s always something to keep up with. Things can get overwhelming quick when we feel like we always have to start over. But we must stay encouraged and keep pressing forward.

Caterpillar: Sometimes called the “feeding stage,” this is the time when the butterfly is growing and eating as much as it can to store food in its body that it will need later on. It’s not very pretty at this stage in life and some may even say it’s downright ugly and a little scary looking. But the caterpillar isn’t concerned about what things look like on the outside so much as it’s determined to build its inside to what it’s supposed to be. Its main goal during this time is to eat, part of the process of becoming something beautiful down the road.

For us, this can be a tough time, the beginning stages of becoming who we are meant to be. But it starts in our minds and hearts. The Bible says in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” This requires separation from the world and feeding on the Word of God in order to “live godly in Christ Jesus.”

Pupa: At this point, sometimes called the “transition stage,” the butterfly has separated itself and retreats inside of its cocoon. It can be found tucked away in the silky confines of the safe space, preparing for its grand debut. Things may look dead and quiet on the outside, but a lot is happening. Cells are expanding and other body parts are developing. For us, times when we have to separate ourselves and retreat might make us feel that we’re never going to get that job, travel to that city, marry that person. But just know that during your cocoon process, God is preparing you to re-emerge and be the beautiful person He has created you to be just like He does with the butterfly.

Adult: Finally, the butterfly is here in all its glory. Gracefully fluttering around, showing off colorful intricately designed wings, it is one of God’s many masterpieces. But even at this stage, it has a purpose — to mate and prepare for the next line of butterflies that will come after it is gone. In Matthew 5:16, the Bible says to let our “light shine before men … that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven.”

We are God’s creation and we are made to glorify, praise and worship Him. And we should always be thinking of the generation coming up behind us, ready to offer an encouraging and guiding word to them when they need it. I hope as you go through the month of September, that you remember life is a transformative process and as long as you’re in the center of God’s will for you, you will always re-emerge as graceful and beautiful as the butterfly.

Jessica Leblanc is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated journalist who was named one of the top student television n news reporters in the country by college broadcasters in 2011. While in college, she traveled to Europe and wrote political and human interest stroies for UPIU.com. Upon graduation from Southeastern Louisiana University, she began working at WBRZ New 2 in Baton Rouge as a multimedia journalist and later as an anchor. Originally from NOLA, she spends her free time working on blog Moments with Jess, reading, taking on various speaking engagements and spending time with her family

Pastor's Perspective, September 2018

Pastor’s Perspective, Rest and Be Restored

Pastor’s Perspective, Rest and Be Restored

By: Andrew Bates

Dry. Dry can be a good thing when you’re dealing with laundry or freshly mopped floors, but when it pertains to your spiritual walk with Christ, dry is not ideal. Scratch that — dry is downright dangerous.

A couple of years ago I was experiencing a very spiritually dry time in my life and the sad thing is that I knew it but couldn’t do anything about it. I was striving so hard to please God and to put in extra hours at my church, so much so that I actually planned to skip out on a family vacation to Navarre Beach, Florida, to stay at the church and “work.” Needless to say, neither my wife nor my family was very pleased, but I thought it was what I needed to do. I needed to work my way out of dryness.

After an event on the Wednesday night of vacation week, my assistant looked at me and boldly said something to me I will never forget: “You’re never going to work your way into pleasing God. Go love your wife.” So needless to say I jumped in my truck, packed a bag, and drove through the night to the beach.

When I arrived, the sun was just starting to rise. I knew my wife would not be awake yet, so instead of banging on the condo window and scaring everyone inside, I grabbed my bible and walked down to the beach. To say I was tired would be an understatement, and not just from the drive. I was spiritually, emotionally, and physically exhausted. So before I dove into Scripture, I prayed, “God, I am so tired. I am tired of being tired. Please renew me.”

I then opened my bible to Isaiah 40 and read verses 29-31: “He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” (HCSB)

As soon as I finished reading that passage, I looked out over the water and noticed a very large boat I had apparently overlooked before. As I began to study the boat, I realized it had a large pipe connected to it that ran all the way to the shore, where it was pumping in new sand to restore the beach.

At that moment, it hit me. I needed to be restored. I needed God to restore my strength. But the thing was, He didn’t need my help to do it. All I needed to do was be like the beach. I needed to slow down, stop my fighting, stop working and worrying myself thin, and simply rest in who He was and who I was in Him. Dry could not fix dry, but if I rested in the One who gives life, then I would be restored.

I think too often in life we respond a lot like I did in this story. We feel the pressure. We feel the need to grow. We feel the tension of the oncoming dryness. But instead of resting in God, and allowing Him to renew us in the way that only He can, we want to try to work and transform ourselves. It’s in our nature to be “fixers” and overcome our own shortcomings, but the gospel of Jesus teaches us that we are fully incapable of overcoming these obstacles. He’s the only one who can do that for us, and thankfully, He loved us enough to come and overcome all of our trials and struggles for us. It is with this heart Jesus said the words of Matthew 11:28: “Come to Me all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (HCSB)

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, dry, or overrun with the treadmill of life, rest in Jesus. Trust in the one who has overcome the world.

Andrew Bates is the Teaching/Site Pastor at Chapel in the Oaks in Baton Rouge. With his wife Emily, he “invests in people’s lives”— opening up their home for meals and fellowship, discipling younger believers, engaging people where they are in life, and attempting to bring a smile to everyone they meet. He can be reached at Andrew.bates@thechapelbr.com.

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.”

Healthy Life, September 2018

Healthy Life, A Refit Revolution

A REFIT Revolution

“We believe fitness isn’t just for the fit … it’s for the willing.”
By Sharon Holeman

Erika leads a class at the Chapel in the Oaks. Photography by Sharon Holeman of Praise First Media, LLC.

What started as three friends teaching fitness classes at a church in Waco, Texas has turned into a REFIT Revolution! In 2009 Angela Beeler, Catherine Ballas, and Emily Field posted some original choreography on YouTube to help draw people to their classes. Rather than quick-fix results, the trio chose to focus on the joy of the journey – building a community of friends where everyone belongs regardless of their current circumstance. They wanted a place where people would feel acceptance and know when they walked in the door that “you belong here.”

The response to their teachings was astounding. By 2013 they had received enough encouragement and requests from fitness instructors wanting to teach their routines that they launched the REFIT Instructor Program. It combines dance moves to positive music and has been transformational to a great number of people. One of those is Baton Rouge’s Erika Bittner.

Erika was first introduced to REFIT through a friend at church. That invitation led Erika on a journey she was not expecting. “I never did anything related to dance, but as God brought REFIT into my life, a new love and passion surprised me,” she said. After two years of taking classes, Erika became a certified instructor.

“Physical health was a chore for a long time in my life,” she said. “I went to the gym because it was something I had to do. REFIT has changed my life because I enjoy the workout – but it is so much more. It’s a community of real people who do not judge. They encourage each other to be the best versions of themselves. And that gives me so much joy!”

Erika has multiple stories of how she has seen God working in the lives of those who become part of the REFIT community. She recalls with amazement a college friend who reached out to her to learn more about the classes. Her friend attended, and afterward approached Erika with tears in her eyes. The class had given her joy amid an overwhelming season in her life.

“The moment my friend shared her situation with me I knew God was in the details,” Erika said. “Nothing is too big or small for God. He wants us to trust and follow His lead! When we are in tune with the Holy Spirit and do the things we love, big things happen for His glory!”

Despite being a busy wife, dog mom, music teacher, and travel enthusiast, Erika makes time for REFIT. “Not only has REFIT transformed my physical self, but I have gained a new sense of confidence and fabulous community,” she said.

Classes are 55 minutes each, with fun choreography to songs that are positive or neutral. Attendees come to dance, sweat, smile, and laugh. “There is a release of stress,” Erika explains. “Nobody is distracted by cell phones, social media, kids, family, or work. It is a place for people to let go of the burdens of life and worship through dance. I see a huge difference in my attitude and mindset when I am doing REFIT. It is tough to minister to others if we do not take care of ourselves, and I find REFIT provides a place for self-care and stress relief.”

Erika ends each class with a pinky prayer “because we are too sweaty to hold hands!” The group sometimes shares a devotional or does a small activity. “This time really allows us to grow deeper and walk through life together, which is so powerful!” Erika said.

Erika teaches REFIT at The Chapel in the Oaks, along with instructors Morgan Barkas and Jessica Wright. While classes are on a brief hiatus during August, everyone is invited to brunch at The Crown at The Royal Standard on Highland Road on Saturday, August 25 at 10 a.m. Come meet some of the REFIT family!

Fall classes at The Chapel will kick off on Saturday, September 15 at 9 a.m. All classes at this location are donation-based, and everyone is welcome. Follow Erika and her crew on Facebook (I fit you fit REFIT) and Instagram (@ifityoufitrefit).

Other classes in Baton Rouge are held at Elite Gymnastics, Calloway’s Gym, Southern Oaks, and Women’s Center for Wellness. See refitrev.com for more information.

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.

Creative LIFE, September 2018

Creative Life

Creative life, Seek and Ye Shall Find

Gail Barber Lloyd

#Selfie #Bff (Gails daughter and one of her best friends)

Q: Please share your journey as an artist:
A: As a child, I was encouraged in my artistic endeavors. My uncle on my mom’s side was a full-time artist and there were musicians on my dad’s side. I remember as a young girl, my mom speaking positively about one of my drawings to someone. It was through those types of experiences that I gained confidence in my artistic abilities. Throughout my primary education, I enjoyed success in art classes and competitions. In high school, I was involved in advanced placement art class which gave me a good foundation regarding artistic elements like line, value, and color theory. I chose to pursue a degree in “commercial art” as it was called in those days and minored in art history. I never finished college, however, I met my mate during those years, so I did acquire a “Mrs.” We began having children and I enjoyed those years of educating and raising my four kids. During those years, I was blessed to use my gift and passion by teaching art and art history to a group of homeschooled students. When my years of raising children came close to an end, I spent a lot of time conversing with the Lord about what I should do next. What did He have in store for me? I believe art is the gift I was given and that I am to share it and that is what I continue to do each day. My husband is very supportive and encourages this calling in my life.

Q: What are some of your favorite paintings?
A: My Word portraits are my favorite. Years ago I prayed about what kind of artistic present I could give to a dear friend who had been a Titus 2 woman in my life. A Titus 2 woman trains younger women in Biblical, simple-to-measure, Spirit-empowered, love-based living. So I decided to create a portrait made out of descriptive words that personified my friend — her interests, character qualities and her life. Although I have seen words used in art, I had never seen a portrait made up of words that are biographical and meaningful about the person. Word portraits are still my favorite to create because they honor the life of the person depicted and it is not just about their appearance. After I complete these portraits, I stand in awe of our amazing Creator because of each person’s individuality and uniqueness.

Q: Do you believe creativity is a spiritual gift?
A: As a Christian, I believe the indwelling Holy Spirit gives every aspect of my life spiritual significance. As a parent, it is delightful to watch our children enjoy their specific gifts and see them grow. I believe it delights our Heavenly Father when we use those gifts he has given us. Art does draw me closer to Him because it is something He has given me.

Q: What is your favorite book of the Bible or Scripture and why?
A: Psalm 139 has always been one of my favorites. The cry of the human heart is to be loved passionately and unconditionally — for someone to know every part of us, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and love us anyway. To me, Psalm 139 is a declaration. Lord, you know all of me. You formed me in the womb. You know my innermost parts and you see me as valuable and lovable. What is most powerful about this psalm is that he wrote “all the days of my life.” So when life seems a bit confusing or tragic, I find peace that He is not surprised. He is the author of my life. Each stage of life is like turning the page of a book. I can trust Him with the plot, the players and the outcome.

Q: Where can readers find your work?
A: The best place to find me is on my art Facebook page: Gail Lloyd Art . You can see my art at
gaillloydart.com and fineartistgroup.com, which is an organization that connects businesses with artists who create custom art for corporate spaces. Recently, I have been accepted into the Associated Women in the Arts. One of my paintings was featured in August at Elizabethan Gallery.

Q: What else would you like to share about your personal life?
A: In my home, I have a beautiful studio, but the opportunity presented itself to paint around other creative types and to be surrounded by seasoned artists. It has helped me learn and develop as an artist. Every day, I am so thankful to be doing what I love and painting around others who share the same passion.

Louisiana Times
Look What I Found
Gail Lloyd Self Portrait
Artist Gail Lloyd