BRCLM Lagniappe, October 2018

Life Imitates Art, with Greg Gudorf, CEO of Pureflix.com

Greg Gudorf, CEO of Pureflix.com

Life Imitates Art

by fred townsend

Publisher’s Note: The September edition approached the faith-based genre of entertainment from Aristotle’s proposition that Art Imitates Life, in other words, the movies accurately reflect the daily struggles of today’s Christians. This month, the focus shifts to how in the last fifty years the secular, pop-culture-driven media pushed an agenda so that indeed Life Imitates Art; and, how technology actually gives the Christian community a chance to counter the secularist  agenda by providing value-based, traditional entertainment.

Greg Gudorf, chief executive officer of Pureflix.com, is a former tech-guru turned entertainment executive. In an interview (with publisher Beth Townsend that you can watch in its entirety on the Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine YouTube Channel), Mr. Gudorf recalled nostalgically, “there was a time when you could watch a movie whether you were five years old or 95 years old. A lot of people don’t know that the church was actually involved with Hollywood in the early years helping to guide and shape the message of those movies. In the late 50s and early 60s the church began to pull out. In the mid-sixties you can begin to chart very dramatically the rise in language, sex and violence.”

Oscar Wilde, a leading 19th Century British intellectual, proposed the anti-mimesis. For 2400 years it was accepted that art imitates life. Wilde challenged that the opposite was true, e.g., life imitates art. Seventy-five years after his death, 20th Century technology advanced the influence of art definitively enough to support Wilde’s point. Television allowed “media art” to be distributed universally into living rooms. People became addicted to television to the point it was derisively referred to as the “boob tube”. Pop culture was born.

The media arts didn’t go from G to R-rated overnight. Dr. Charles Stanley (First Baptist Church, Atlanta) teaches that America’s culture was once moored in a safe harbor. Then it got loosed and set adrift. Gradually, our culture drifted further and further and further still from the core values that anchored it. If the drift began in the mid-1960s, when the church lost influence in Hollywood, by the 1980s advancing technology created a tidal wave of change.

The shift was first facilitated by videotape recording technology. The idea was simple. Record what you wanted to watch at your leisure and fast forward through commercials. There wasn’t much to record. Cable television was just starting to spread across the country. It was strictly regulated and programming choices were limited. Then Congress deregulated cable television in 1984. At the same time, film distribution changed dramatically when a Texas oil man started a videotape rental store, which became Blockbuster Video. At its peak, there were 4500 Blockbuster locations and thousands of competitive outlets. Anyone could rent pre-recorded movies. Video rental enabled people to view anything they wanted at home. (Arguably some they would not have seen at a theatre lest they be embarrassed by someone seeing them going in.)

Simultaneously, cable deregulation opened a Pandora’s box of new programs to both watch and record. In the guise of artistic freedom, television and movie moguls had license to weaponize programming to attack cultural norms. Cable television programs with explicit nudity, implicit sex, and realistic approximations of blood and gore, pushed commercial television executives on the network programs. Commercial television redefined family entertainment.

Gudorf shared some eye-opening data. “Parents’ TV Counsel did a survey recently and found that most of what passes for family content on normal TV — 81% is content of a sexual context and 94% of it has language issues,” he said. “Very different than what others might call family. At the same time the growth of media in our life can’t be ignored. There was a time when mom would just say, ‘Turn that off.’ Right? And that was the end of it. But now media is a part of our life. A child growing up today will spend six times more time with media than in school. Worse yet, 32 times more time with media than the time they spend with their parents. The stats are just scary. In 1970 the average age for a child to watch TV, interacting with media, was four years old. Today, they begin interacting with digital media at four months old.”

In pop-culture, life indeed imitates art. After 50 years of drifting, the results surround us. Profanity-laced conversation mirrors TV and movie talk. Dehumanizing gratuitous and graphic violence diminishes the value of life. Blatantly sexualized messaging robs youngsters of their innocence and leads to downright disrespect between sexes. Glorifying anti-heroes impacts any viewer, but especially the young people who are the most impressionable.

Ironically, however, if technology created the media age and helped fuel negative trends, streaming technology promises a potential solution through more and better choices. Fortune Magazine (Cord Cutting Isn’t Going Away, by Aaron Pressman July 24, 2018) reported that “an estimated 33 million consumers will have cut the cord by the end of this year, rising to 55 million in 2022.” The reasons are many, but simply put, streaming services allow consumers to make choices on programming they prefer.

Despite the perception that Christianity is dying in America, the potential audience for both faith-based and real family-friendly television is enormous. Gudorf shared surprising marketing numbers. “There are 125 or 130 million households in the U.S. Ninety million of them self report as Christians,” he said. “There are 20 million households that will tell you they make their choices, whether it’s their businesses, the restaurants they go to, the videos they watch — they make their choices based on how it aligns with their faith. Today’s word of mouth is social media. It’s digital. So Pureflix.com has been working hard in the social media to bring our message and encourage people on the positive trend and to try the Pureflix.com special offer of one month free. The question comes back to whether you cut the cord or not, the issue is to recognize that what we put into our minds and hearts is what comes out. We have to seek the good, the positive, the uplifting message. At Pureflix.com we don’t always get it perfect. But we always strive to give positive, uplifting messages on the platform.”

Therefore the success of streaming services with family-friendly and faith-based programs depends on the number of Christian households purchasing the services. There are a handful of streaming services that offer faith-based programs. As one of these, Pureflix.com thinks growth and success requires thousands of consumer choices on the platform. Pureflix subscribers can choose from thousands of programs. There is a wide variety from classic televisions series, such as old westerns like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, classic sitcoms like the Lucy Show, dozens of children’s series and movies, faith-based education, and popular theatrical movies like Fireproof.

Gudorf explains the growth of the service. “We’re continuing to grow the number of devices that we support,” he said. “You can now get Pureflix.com on Microsoft Xbox gaming platform. We’re always adding more content. We’re licensing programs as well as offering content we produce. For example, recently we added content from the Answers in Genesis organization. They intend to offer all their content on Pureflix.com. We have content that we’re working on in the way of originals. We have a Hope Opera — we were calling it a soap opera, but a friend said call it a Hope Opera. The first one was Hilton Head Island which had a successful first season. It features soap opera stars. The other is a situational comedy, Malibu Dan the Family Man. A second season is coming soon.”

The original program Faith Talk is a conversation-based program that came out of a dinner party where Gudorf and others discussed the difficulty of just good conversation in a sound-bite world. The show airs on Pureflix social media channels and it is archived in its entirety on the Pureflix.com site. It includes many well-known Christians, including Roma Downey of Touched By an Angel, Dr. Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Sadie Robinson from Duck Dynasty.

It seems evident that the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company has been blessed. Gudorf acknowledged this and summarizes its strength is outlined in their mission statement. “Pureflix as a company put forth their vision to be one who influences culture for Christ through media. That vision is very clear about what Pureflix should be doing. We’re focused on influencing culture for Christ. That’s a big advantage if a company has that sort of clarity for direction,” he said.

* You can see the interview in its entirety on the Baton Rouge Christian Life Magazine YouTube Channel.


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 from political campaign consulting to television production and creative advertising and executive positions at two fortune 500 companies. 

Creative LIFE, October 2018

Creative Life with Musician Will Wesley

creative life, Will Wesley, Musician

22The Yesterdays hosting a songwriters event a Jolie Pearl in downtown Baton Rouge
Will Wesley

Q: How did you first discover your musical talent?

A: I first discovered my musical talent at the age of eleven. My father was a guitarist, and when he would go to bed, I would sneak his guitar out and play. One night he heard me playing along with the radio and he was amazed at how quickly I could play by ear. He believed that God had blessed me with a gift. From that moment on, I began to pursue music more seriously.

Q: How have you grown as an artist?

A: I play a wide variety of music but that is nothing new. I find it very fulfilling to explore many different styles of music. Currently, I am working on two albums and each has a very different sound. One of my current albums, Reinvention, is a rock and roll based album. My second album in the works, titled Meridian, has a more country/Americana spin to it. It also features my fiancé, Jenna D’Shay as vocalist. We perform as a duo called “The Yesterdays.”

In addition, I consider myself extremely blessed to back Grammy award-winning blues artist Grady Champion. I am making my second tour to Europe with him. In terms of a personal highlight, the music video for my latest single, “The Break” from the Reinvention album actually won the Lakeview International Film Festival Award. In 2014 and 2016, I was a finalist in The International Blues Challenge, so there is never a dull moment in this industry. These highlights just make me want to continue writing songs, playing music and pursuing my gift.

Q: Artistic talent is a gift from God. Talk about your faith and if you ever felt directed by God.

A: My faith in God has carried me through the most challenging times of my life. I grew up very poor, but God was my constant. He made me feel rich because I knew I could always turn to him and look ahead rather than dwell on my immediate circumstance. He provides hope to me. Though the road is often rocky, our relationship is always growing. It may seem strange to some, but when I write songs, I consider God a cowriter. I feel this way because songwriting or playing music is a universal language. I have always felt the Lord’s presence in my music and I hope when people hear it, they feel a connection as well.

Q: Do you have a favorite song, and if so, why is it your favorite?
I do not particularly have a favorite song. Yet I will tell you that I love many songs that range in style from bluegrass, country, rock and roll, the blues and jazz. If I had to pick one of my own, it would be The Hardest of Hearts. There is a universal message to this song. You will know it when you take time to listen to it, which I hope you will do.

Q: Have you ever had an encounter or experience that you felt was divine intervention?

 

A: This may be hard to believe, but God has always spoken to me in my dreams. He lets me know where I am going and reminds me of where I have been. I believe that each person has their own individual language with God. Because we are individuals, we all have our own personal relationships with our maker. Dreams and songwriting seem to be my common language between the Lord and me.

Q: Do you have a favorite scripture or book of the Bible?

A: I have always liked the Book of Job because it describes in detail the trials and tribulations of a common man. When tempted by the devil, Job never turns his back on the Lord. By holding onto his faith, God gives him double for his trouble. The Book of Genesis is another favorite book in the Bile because though the Fall of Man occurs in this book, there is also a purity revealed in the beginning before temptation crept into the Garden of Eden. One of my favorite scriptures is the one that states “you cannot serve two masters.” Daily we are tested, and daily we have a choice to choose good over evil or obedience over our own desires. Satan loves to tempt us in our minds. Our mind is a battlefield. Yet God is our ever-present help in times of trouble.

Q: What else would you like our readers to know about you?
A: I was raised in a poor, yet very rich family. Though money was often hard to come by, we were rich in our love for each other. When I describe my family, it makes me think of some of the interviews I have heard with Dolly Parton. She talks a lot about growing up a country girl in the Tennessee mountains. In her heart, she was rich. I relate to her humble upbringing.

Anyway, my father was a construction worker and my mother stayed home with us most of my life. As a child, in all honesty, I hated how poor we were, but as a man, it was the lack I experienced during those years that helped me have courage and be tough. Family sticks together no matter what is happening and that is the type of family I am glad to be part of while on this earth. I hope people will know that I do not take anything for granted and I hope that people will discover my music.

To sum up my journey, there is a scripture that says, “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.” (Isaiah 45:2) Hold on and know who has your back if you believe. It is God. He has kept me going.

Wesley’s “The Break” is available on YouTube under the channel, The Will Wesley Band. There is also a Christian-based music video called “The Hardest of Hearts.” Visit his website at Willwesley.com or view his Facebook page. The duo, The Yesterdays is also on Facebook.

Will’s band gets ready for a performance.
Will Wesley and Jenna D’Shay play at Jolie Pearl downtown.
Will Wesley and Jenna D’Shay perform as ‘The Yesterdays.’

Sharon Furrate Bailey grew up in Alexandria, La., and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B.A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of the Lake Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales, and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at sharon@brclm.com.

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
August 2018, Creative LIFE

Creative Life

Brushstrokes of Love … Thoughtfully Placed

John K. Lee

Q: Describe your journey as an artist.
A. My journey is unique. I was born and raised in Baton Rouge. When I was 20, I moved to New York City where I studied business at NYU and worked as an analyst for an advertising conglomerate. After living in NYC for five years, I moved back home and worked as an accountant for a local nonprofit. I did not stay very long. In 2012, I ventured out to southern California where I studied at Fuller Theological Seminary and obtained my Master of Divinity. I enjoyed the dynamic city of Los Angeles. During my time there, I discovered my love for pop culture and my affinity for the arts. After living in California for five years, my journey led me back to Baton Rouge. Throughout most of my life, I worked in financial and administrative roles. But after discovering more about myself and my artistic gifts, I wanted to be an artist.

In the summer of 2017, I painted to discover who I truly was in the Lord. Throughout my childhood, it was difficult to love myself — the ideas I had about myself were false. Life’s challenges gave me wounds that made it hard for me to see myself as worthy of love. But over time, God revealed to me my true identity in Him. He revealed that I was intimately made, made in love, and made in his image. This is true for all of us. Only humanity was formed in this special way. As Erwin Raphael McManus says in The Artisan Soul, “While all creation declares the image of God, we humans bear the image of God.” Being an artist for me is declaring and living out my true identity as God’s child.

I believe in a sense that each of us are artists. God is the main artist. He is “Creator” and because we were all created in God’s image, we’re all fundamentally creative beings. Most people may think they have no artistic talent, but we all have creative abilities that we use in our daily lives. For example, a chef uses his culinary skills when cooking and creating beauty on a plate.

As an artist, what I care about most is how a person sees himself or herself. My desire is for others to know who they are in God, especially younger people. There are so many false messages in media and throughout our society, and it is important to find a confidence in knowing God’s love.

The medium I enjoy using now is mixed media. I enjoy acrylic paint and spray paint on canvas. Abstract art is something I enjoy doing because it uses the deepest recesses of my imagination. Having lived in some major metropolitan cities combined with my southern Louisiana upbringing, I feel that my southern Louisiana upbringing and the fact that I’ve lived in some major metropolitan cities impacts my art, making it contemporary but also intimate and down-to-earth.

Q: What are some of your favorite paintings and why?
A: One of my favorite paintings is Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. There’s such a peace and purity in Monet’s paintings. Another painting I like is Vincent Van Gogh’s Café Terrace At Night. I love the light in it. As for my own art, well, it remains untitled, but it’s a piece that has actual leaves on it from my parents’ backyard that I spray painted. It makes me think of this verse: 1 Peter 1:24-25: “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

My second favorite is called Home. There is great peace in being home after being away for ten years. The white around the image or “blankness” represents starting over and how everything is “blank” in a sense. But even though there’s this blankness, there’s texture in it. The texture represents the experiences I’ve had throughout my journey — smooth terrain and bumps in the road, so to say. They’ve added “texture” or layers to my life. Even though I’m back at square one, those life experiences remain.

Q: Creativity is a spiritual gift. How is painting spiritual to you?
A: Painting is naturally spiritual to me. My parents’ garage is my studio. God is in there and I experience His intimacy while painting. Additionally, I am very passionate about evangelism. The false views and perceptions of God bother me. So many see God as this domineering figure who is judgmental, rigid and mundane. God is quite the opposite, and art gives me a way to draw people close to Him or at least seek the God I have come to know. God is dynamic, diverse, loving, personable, and down-to-earth. God is humorous too. We can see the reality and beauty of God in things like art, food, movies, music, fashion, and sports. This outlet, or rather new beginning, helps me to present God and his attributes.

Q: What is your favorite Scripture and why?
A: One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 139: 13-15: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
This scripture shows just how special and how thoughtfully God created us.

Q: Where can readers find your work? 
A: In August, some of my art will be displayed in Magpie Café on Perkins Road. I also have a few pieces in Rue Beignet on Highland Road and I hope to display my art in more local businesses. Mid City Rising and Re-stabbed in the Art are local art events where I have showen my work. One can find my art on facebook (facebook.com/artbyjohnklee) and Instagram @artbyjohnklee.

Q: Describe your faith life and the people who have influenced you.
A: I became a Christian when I was a freshman in college. I grew up going to church, but I never had a personal relationship with God. At LSU, a good friend named Phil Koch told me how I could have a personal relationship with Jesus. Before this, I always thought being a Christian was about following rules and trying to be a really moral person. One evening in my dorm room, I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life. I found true fulfillment in life. Because of my experience, I’m passionate about ministry. If it is the Lord’s will, I want to start a church one day and help others have an intimate relationship with God who does hear us, sees us and loves us.

Aside from art, I work as the Connections Coordinator at The Chapel on the Campus. My role is essentially to help welcome and connect people into our church community. Two of my heroes are my mom and dad. My parents have owned a drycleaning business in Baton Rouge for over 30 years. They are the hardest working people I know and the purest example to me of Christ’s sacrificial love. One of my all-time heroes is Erwin Raphael McManus, pastor of Mosaic Church in Hollywood, California where I attended when I lived there. Erwin is an amazing pastor, but he is also a fashion designer, filmmaker, writer, speaker, and artist. His book The Artisan Soul literally changed my life and influenced my views about art.

My dream is to be an influential artist in the world who uses art as a platform to speak about beauty and the Gospel. When people see my art, I want them to see love.




Sharon Furrate  Bailey grew up in Alexandria, LA and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B. A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales, and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at sharonfur@yahoo.com. 

Creative LIFE, June 2018

Creative Life, Erin Landry, M.S. Live Healthy from the Inside Out

living healthy- inside and out

Erin Landry, M.S.

Q: What drew you to the art of making beautiful soaps?

A: Truth be told, I never thought I would be making soaps that were appealing to the eye. I wanted each soap to serve a purpose. The artist rose out of me to my surprise. When creating, my scientific background took the forefront and my goal was to help those dealing with skin issues.

 

Q: What is your artist statement and why do you enjoy creating soaps with healing properties?

A: My artist statement is simply this: “There’s a science behind it.” I say this because though my soaps may appear to be decorative, they actually do contain ingredients with healing properties. I have products for eczema and psoriasis, and products to help strengthen the vasculature that breaks down in rosacea. I have facial bars for oily skin, dry skin, and even combination skin. My latest formulations are for a skin care line for those suffering from Malassezia yeast. My line makes it hard for the yeast to survive and it’s therefore unable to grow in unbalanced proportions.

 

Q: Do you feel that you are using a spiritual gift?

A: I know this ability is an anointing from above. Prior to making these soaps, I had worked in education for a little over five years. One day, I just knew it was time to make a change. God is the creator, healer, comforter, and holds all things together. My desire is to help heal those who have skin issues. I know this gift came from the Lord because my heart’s desire was to always educate, but now I am also healing the populace. To me, healing comes from divine intervention and I feel God’s guidance while educating myself and by using my hands and tongue in a positive manner.

Q: Tell us about your faith journey. How has the Holy Spirit touched your life?

A: My husband led me to Jesus. I remember kneeling together beside our bed and saying The Sinner’s Prayer. The next thing I knew, I was waking up on my side of the bed. I had fainted as far as I could tell and awoke the next morning. Over the next year, I began to pray and get into The Word. I started following Kellie E. Lane on Facebook. She does Bible study and prayer on a daily basis. I also have a very good girlfriend who has been a prayer warrior for me since the beginning of our friendship in 2012.

With all of this encouragement, I began pressing in, praying, and fasting. But there was suddenly a road block. Nothing was moving. Everything had come to a standstill, a wilderness in a sense. I was invited to a three-day women’s conference at a local church as a vendor. At this point in my life, I was searching for someone to baptize me. I belonged to a church, but there seemed to be so much ceremony involved around their baptisms. They were only done on certain Sundays. Well, as I was sitting in the conference, I heard a church member say in passing, “Our pool stays full.” And a light bulb went off in my head. I pulled the member aside and asked what I had to do to be baptized right then and there. And her answer was simple: “Let’s go call the pastor.”

So, I was baptized on Saturday, February 16, 2018 and with that act of obedience, doors began to open, both in the natural world and the supernatural. The morning of Sunday, February 17, I awoke under a supernatural attack on my physical being. I’d had a sore throat the day before, but this morning I was stricken with fever, no voice, and body aches. Within the next two weeks my temperature remained between 101 and 103 degrees. No doctor was able to pinpoint the cause of my ailments. I was tested for strep, pneumonia and influenza. All tests returned with negative results. It was not until I called on help from my sisters-in-Christ and my own voice returned that I was able to pray and convalesce. This experience made the concept of faith very concrete, almost tangible … it strengthened my relationship with the Lord.

Q: What is your favorite hymn or scripture?

A: It may not be considered a hymn, but my favorite Christian song is Reckless Love. My favorite scripture is found in 2 Chronicles, chapter 20 when King Jehoshaphat was surrounded in battle and the Lord says to him, “Do not be afraid or dismayed by this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” These words bring me great comfort. For any God who will “leave the ninety-nine” to chase after the one, is truly a God to be worshipped and praised. Any God that will take on the enemies of his loyal servants is one who is truly not just good, but great.

 

Q: What is the name of your business and how can one order your products?

A: My business is Thomas Therapeutics, LLC. No, my last name is not Thomas nor was it my maiden name. I named the company for my maternal grandparents who have passed. My maternal grandmother had a huge hand in raising me and my siblings. Being the first black full-time teacher at Baker High School, she was able to instill in me that we are “made from sterner stock.” I have been sharing my soaps at events like Live After 5 and will continue to research places I should be set up in the fall. My favorite quarterly market is Sugar Plum Market held in the Mall of Louisiana. I also enjoy the markets held in Denham Springs, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

 

Q: What else would you like to share with our readers?

A: I enjoyed educating my classes at the college level but wondered if it were possible to get to students before they had the preconceived notions of being “good in math,” “a bad reader,” or “bad at science.” Ever the scientist, I decided to test my hypothesis and became certified in middle and high school education. I figured if I enjoyed seeing the light bulbs go off in college kids, I would love to see it in 6th to 8th graders! And I was correct. Students would inevitably come to me and say they were bad at math or science, and I would answer, “You’re twelve. You’re not old enough to be ‘bad’ at anything.” Though I am now creating soaps with medicinal properties, I miss the classroom in many ways, but feel this new direction has given me an opportunity to educate.

This journey really took off in 2014-2015 when a friend said to me, “Let’s make soap for Mother’s Day.” My reply was simply, “Who makes soap?” Well, later I discovered … I make soap.

For more information, visit Https://www.sootheurskin.com or on Facebook, go to Thomas Therapeutics/Erin’s Eromatics. On Instagram, see @thomastherapeutics_llc.

Erin Landry, right, with Makeva Armat, Miss Black Louisiana 2018



Landry’s Soaps are artistic and made with natural ingredients 

Landry’s booth can be found at many events around southeast Louisiana

BRCL Sharon Furrate Bailey
Sharon Furrate Bailey grew up in Alexandria, La., and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B.A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at sharon@brclm.com.

Creative LIFE, May 2018

Hot Art, Cool Nights

Hot Art, Cool Nights

Mid City Merchants 14th Annual Art Festival

Art rings by Christina Vasquez
These works by Cheryl Palmer will be on display at Bistro Byronz.

Anyone who has ever attended the annual Hot Art, Cool Nights festival knows what a special event it is. It’s a family-friendly evening filled with food, live music, and dozens of local artists showcasing their original works. Sponsored by Mid City Merchants, the event is a great way to discover new talent and connect with the businesses that keep Mid City growing.

Hot Art, Cool Nights will be held Friday, May 11, from 6 to 10 p.m. in the area loosely bounded by Jefferson Highway to Goodwood and Government Street to 14th Street. The area has long been known for its galleries, sculptors, painters, photographers, jewelry designers and other artists.

Participating businesses include: A-1 Air Conditioning, Aladdin’s Lamp and Antiques, Atomic Pop Shop, Bistro Byronz, Brew Ha Ha, Brewbacher’s Grill, Caffery Gallery, Calandro’s Supermarket, Create Studios, Curbside Burgers, Cutrone’s Barber Shop, Elizabethan Gallery, ELS Landscape Architecture Studios, Everything Philly, Graphic Prints, Happy Cajun Gallery, LES Federal Credit Union, Mo’s Art Supply, Monjuni’s Italian Café and Grocery, Mosaic Garden, Painting with a Twist, Radio Bar, Red Stick Spice Company, Reginelli’s Pizzeria, Sabai Jewelry Gallery, Serop’s Express, Shopper’s Value Foods, Soiree, Studio C, Superior Grill, Sweet Leather, Twine, Guru, The Market at Circa 1857, The Pink Elephant Antiques, Time Warp Boutique, Whitney Bank, Williamsburg Senior Living, Yoga Path, Yvette Marie’s Café, and Victoria’s Toy Station.

Hot Art, Cool Nights is a free event. Visitors can take advantage of a complimentary shuttle bus and Uber discounts throughout the night, but it’s also fun to stroll along the streets as you take in the art and most likely run into old friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Let art arise! For more information, call (225) 571-2176 or email info@midcitymerchants.org. You can also check out the Mid City Merchants Association page on Facebook. Many purchases made during the event will be tax-free.

Maddie Lea Alford is among the participating artists.
This oil painting by Sharise Ruiz will be at Mosaic Gardens.
This painting was done by Maddie Lea Alford.
Jewelry designer Maria Ramirez will be featured at Hot Art, Cool Nights.


Sandbar Beach and Walk the Line by Sharon Furrate Bailey.

BRCL Sharon Furrate Bailey

Sharon Furrate Bailey grew up in Alexandria, La and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B. A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales, and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at sharonfur@yahoo.com

April 2018

Creative Life With Danni Downing

Purposeful painting touches the lives of others

Danni Downing – Artist


Q:  When did you first discover you were an artist?
A: Thirteen years ago, I was invited to an art class given by Merriann Hornsby, and it was there I realized I had a love for the impressionists. Merriann has a gift for color and I will always carry with me what I learned from her. Her teaching style was very warm and engaging which is what I needed to build my confidence and develop my own style and techniques. I am forever grateful to her for jump starting my creative journey.

Q: How would you describe your artist statement?
A: I paint to put a smile on someone’s face. It is that simple. Every time I begin a new painting, my first thought is always: what will make someone happy? Will this painting bring joy to the person seeing it?

Q: Do you feel that painting is a spiritual gift?
A: Yes, absolutely. I believe every artist draws their imagination deep from their soul. Before I begin a painting, I pray and ask the Lord for direction and I want the completed painting to touch someone’s deepest need, to give peace, joy, contentment and hope. I am always amazed at the Lord’s direction because literally someone’s name may come to my mind and I will hear the Lord say, “….. needs this painting Danni.” I cannot tell you how many times I will give a painting to someone and he or she will say, “Danni, how did you know this is what I needed?” I am always tickled to hear those words and I am reminded that painting is a gift.

Q: You were a featured artist at White Light Night in November. How was that experience?
A: Yes, at the midnight hour, I decided to set up at Calandro’s and showcase my art. I really did not hesitate to participate because I believe in stepping out in faith. I had an amazing night. People came up to me the entire evening and I ended up selling three paintings and handed out all of my art business cards. I loved being among fellow artists and was inspired by the talented artists that were set up near me. I am excited about participating in more art festivals like the annual Mid City Arts festival. I have to say Calandro’s is a hot spot too because hundreds of people came through there that evening to not only see the art, but to hear the music and enjoy sampling appetizers and wine. It is like a mini arts festival.

 Q: Where can people find your artwork?
A: Currently, I sell most of my work via Facebook. I simply post my paintings on Facebook and people will message me in order to purchase it. I am hoping to find new places to showcase my work.

Q: Do you have a favorite scripture of book of the Bible?
A:  Psalm 73:25 is my favorite verse in the Bible. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Q:  Share anything you would like our readers to know about your journey.
A: Well, about two years ago, I discovered Sharon Furrate Bailey’s artwork on Facebook. I was drawn to her style of art and we became friends when I mentioned I would go by and see her at Calandro’s for White Light Night. So I went to see her and we hung out most of the evening. I told her I was one of her biggest fans. We began painting together at her studio not long after we met. Her dad is a retired architect and he designed her studio. Our friendship grew and we even teamed up to teach classes for the Mental Health Association of Baton Rouge. We also helped with their annual fundraiser Beat The Odds, which was held March 8 at The Lod Cook Center.

Q: What would you like readers to know about you as a person?
A: I grew up in Baton Rouge and graduated from Baton Rouge High School in 1974. In 1979, I married Paul Downing and have three beautiful and accomplished children — Amy, Heather, and Paul Jr. I am a retired flight attendant from Express Jet Airlines where I flew for 14 years. I am now pursuing a career in real estate and I am very excited about this new venture. However, I will continue to paint to touch the lives of others through this artistic gift.

 

 

Sharon Furrate Bailey grew up in Alexandria, La., and moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU. She earned a B.A. in English Literature in 1990. She attends Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. Sharon has been in the field of marketing, sales and public relations since 1996. She is a gifted artist and has been a columnist since 2005. She can be reached at sharon@brclm.com.

August 2016, BRCLM Lagniappe

Creativity and Beyond – A Quest for Creative Recreation

by Sherry Barron
Sherry Baron.
Sherry Baron.

Her eyes suddenly lit up with a radiant sparkle and her worrisome brows turned into an expression of amazement as she screeched, “Oh wow, it doesn’t sound like garbage!” She held up her hand-written music next to her very excited, shaking body, and looked me square in the eye with a huge smile! She had just composed and heard for the first time her original piece of music as I played it for her on the piano. What a gold medal statement she delivered! I often hear statements of satisfaction and see facial expressions transformed as I challenge my students to stretch their minds, and they go beyond what is assumed to be unthinkable or impossible. As a teacher, the reward for me is always the “ah-ha reaction when a light bulb moment happens. It’s what drives me to teach, to plant seeds of creativity and then cultivate them. Ah-ha moments are for all ages, and I’ve never seen a quiet one! It’s that sudden moment of realization, inspiration or instant comprehension. Then, one is pleased and delighted with oneself for trying. The mind opens and is freed, producing positive and productive problem-solving and critical thinking, all of which increase activity in the right cerebral hemisphere (the creative side of the brain). You may be one of the many in the world who thinks that they are not “creative.” But this is not true, for we all have an inner need or desire to create, and we have been made in the image of God, the great creator. Having a creative spirit is a part of being related to God! Can you think of something you do that is just like your parents or a close relative? You can’t help it; it’s knitted into the design of your very being! God gave us the desire to create for His purposes, and we are created in His image. “God is an artist and He is beautiful. He has woven His image into the fabric of our lives, which explains our drive to create things which are beyond us and which we don’t always understand.” – Michael Card Creativity is not bound by what we consider as being talented or gifted in the arts. There are gazillions of definitions for creativity, but simply put, I believe that creativity is a response generated by a need. That need is either internal satisfying an emotional desire, or external solving concrete problems. Creativity is the platform for bringing imagination and innovation into reality. In keeping creativity alive within us, whether young or old, we must banish these statements from our thoughts: “I’m not creative,” “There’s no hope,” “I’m not good enough.” All of these statements have one thing in common: they’re false! You are creative! “Some people spend years, even decades, perfecting the art of stuffing down any and all creative impulses, convincing themselves of their lack of talent and ideas,” says Christine Kane in “7 Tried and True Ways to Stifle Creativity.” This is how they do it: 

  • They check email first thing in the morning, letting the agendas of other people rule the day – that is a great way to kill creativity!
  • They worry about the results before beginning.
  • They try to be perfect right from the start.
  • They require a self guarantee — “This had better be really good!”
  • They wait until inspiration hits — They are probably still waiting!

  Fortunately, there is a way out! Tap into your creative gene by considering these habits:

  • Be curious: The principles of curiosity are play, suspend judgment and to be open to all stimuli (notice every sound, smell, sight, thought, and even your response to things you touch).
  • Connect the unconnected: Read articles or books that you wouldn’t normally read, talk to people in different fields, try something different, step sideways (see things from a different perspective).
  • Cultivate your ideas: Like seedlings, they need care, protection from enemies and to be kept out of the harsh light for a while. Give it time! Creative thinking doesn’t always happen immediately. Ideas may need to develop in their own time – to simmer on the back burner for a while before they are “cooked” enough to offer to other people.
  • Challenge yourself: Step outside of your comfort zone and have a bit of courage! Take risks and accept failures. Finally, trust — believe and notice when God gives you ideas, and then trust that He can deliver them.

When was the last time you were deliberate about creating and got excited about it? Keep creativity alive within you, and trust God to grow your ideas into reality! Be bold in taking the first steps! Creativity is endless … God created … and He continues to create and re-create in us and through us each day. Live Creatively! About Sherry: Sherry Barron is the Founder and CEO for The Academy for Cultivating Creative Arts, LLC. As an arts advocate, Sherry directs and provides creative experiences through Talent Spectacular!, The Baton Rouge Homeschool Choirs and private music lessons. She teaches music in West Feliciana Parish and is also Co-Founder of Restore Ministries, Inc. Originating and teaching multi-faceted visual and performing arts that lead others closer to the heart of God is Sherry’s passion! For more information about her work or ministry, visit www.cultivatingcreativearts.com or www.restore-ministries.net.

August 2015, BRCLM Lagniappe

Our Life As a Canvas: Educating God’s Masterpiece

by Nancy Smitherman

2081_1068580764420_6453_n-2As an artist and a certified art educator for more than 30 years, I have always been passionate about unlocking creativity in others. As I read through Genesis where it says that God created man in His own image, I realized that every human being has creative potential. It may be in different forms of creativity such as music, dance, architecture, writing, visual arts, etc., but there is a unique creative aspect in each person waiting to be unlocked.

As a young teacher I wanted to teach young people what I loved about art so they could discover their own way to express themselves. After several years of teaching the basics of design I discovered only one or two students who felt they were good at art, so I set out on a mission to figure out how to unlock the creative side of the brain to help all students achieve a higher level of expression. I discovered that the brain receives information through the eye by observation, different from a computer, which only gives out what has been put into it.

If people are taught to really see, the information gathered could add new thoughts and ideas to their lives. This realization sent me out on a journey to teach what I call a “visual language,” through the use of visual art. As people are taught the A B C’s of a visual language, they can be released from child-like thinking, to a higher level of cognition and self-expression.

BRCLM.ArtCamp-2If they are taught to see shapes, use line, color with different aspects and values, 3D perspective, and negative space, (all abstract concepts), they can become excellent observers. They will also be better equipped to use their entire brain and utilize what they are learning in the other disciplines of education (science, language, technology, and math).

The new buzzword in education is STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This emphasis, however, is based on a linear model (math and science only), and lacks the creative aspects that allow for comprehension of new ideas by experiencing new ways of designing and thinking. By adding the arts back into education (STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), students with different learning styles are given an equal opportunity to excel as part of a curriculum that educates the whole brain.

During my time in the classroom the Lord showed me in Ephesians 2:10; we are God’s workmanship (His masterpiece) created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. I sensed He was calling me to more than just educating the brain, but to also reach the hearts of my students. Since we are all uniquely designed and have a soul that He desires to fill, I wanted to make a difference in as many children as I could. I am now on a mission to teach adults and educators alike who could learn this visual language, and in turn, influence more people and students than I could ever reach on my own.

I have found quite a few people who needed to be introduced to this new way of thinking and who, by using the right side of their brain (creative dominant), could become more successful as people and educators if they were able to do so.

BRCLM.ArtCamp-3I also saw many students who learned new skills, which enabled them to succeed, along with self-motivation. Education became more intriguing and they looked forward to what they could discover at school.

This summer, God has given me an opportunity to serve Him with my passions at New Bethel Transformational Church’s Summer Outreach Camp, whose mission is to teach Biblical principles to inner-city children and families so they can go back into their neighborhoods and schools as heroes of their faith. Many of these children would otherwise be left to themselves or on the streets. These children come from homes that lack more than just financial means; they lack a biblical view of God’s unconditional love and the hope that He alone can give them if they put their trust in Christ. They are so hungry to learn and be accepted and loved, that it is a joy to serve there. They need to see themselves and life in a new and better way.

Pastors Monica and Kecert Turner have seen God do miracles in the lives of these children and their parents in just the past few weeks. We are bringing hope to a lost and dying generation of people right here in our backyard neighborhoods through the message of Christ.

I feel like a missionary bringing hope when I see the eyes of more than 60 children light up as they see God’s beauty in creation and that they are capable of learning as the apply this new visual language and produce a beautiful work of art. My goal is that every child will go home this summer with their own painted canvas to serve as a reminder that they too are valuable and have a future and a hope if they continue to follow the Creator.

August 2015, Cover Story

Sylvia Weatherspoon: Behind the Scenes

by Beth Townsend

Attachment-1“You have to be your best you. Be the person God created you to be,” words spoken by Sylvia Weatherspoon, a woman who spent her life chasing after God’s heart.

What you see is not always what you get when it comes to television personalities. Most are intricately trained to win audiences and influence others. They develop a persona and sometimes off-the-air you meet someone that, based on the persona, isn’t what you expected. But Weatherspoon, an award-winning journalist and popular local television anchor, is someone with such natural talent that what you see is in-fact what you get.

While her education and journalistic credentials are solid, and her experiences vast, it’s the warm smile and notable authenticity that makes her a favorite year after year. As a news anchor for WBRZ Channel 2, tens of thousands in the Baton Rouge area depend on her to keep them informed and decipher world happenings. Her insightfulness and discernment helps determine the stories that become our headlines.

“I started WTKL radio as a disc jockey but wanted to be a news person. I used to listen to Don Grady on WJBO and thought, ‘Oh my goodness that is what I want to do!’ So I would rewrite some of his news stories and post them around and practice reading the news!” she laughed.

DSC_0154Sylvia makes a very difficult job look easy through her gift for communication, and draws viewers in daily with a style that has developed a loyal audience. She is a determined woman who has overcome hardship and worked diligently to refine her skills with the goal of setting herself apart as a professional, as well as a woman of God.

Born in Clarksdale, Miss., she was adopted at birth by her great aunt Alene Sparks. Sylvia moved with her family to Baton Rouge when she was a young girl. “I knew my father but didn’t know my biological mom,” she said. Her aunt had previously birthed a stillborn baby and wanted a child badly. “My father nor mother could take care of me, so I came to live with my great aunt. She was the only mom I knew, until later.”

Over the years Sylvia had noticed the word “guardian” on school records and birth certificates near the name Alene Sparks, but when she would ask about it, the response was consistent, “It must be some mistake.” It was passed off as no big deal.

IMG_0822It wasn’t until the day she graduated high school she was told the rest of the story. “It was a conversation I overheard. My grandmother had come for my graduation from McKinley High. I heard her saying to Lene (Alene), ‘When are you going to tell her?’ “Her response was that she was not going to tell me because ‘she may hate me.’”

Finally, Sylvia asked, “‘What are you talking about?’ I’d sensed it, you know how kids can be, my mom was always the oldest. They would ask, ‘Why is your mom so old?’” she said laughing. “I had all the reasons; she works hard, she had me late.”

A graduation day is emotional for obvious reasons. But for Sylvia, the emotion was compounded by the reality of the conversation when she discovered that her biological mom had given her up to be raised by her aunt.

“I don’t know where she is, but I have a sister,” she explained that Lene wanted the sister as well, but someone else adopted her. “I also have a biological brother. My biological mom kept him. I’ve had an opportunity to speak with him, but we haven’t met yet but hope to at some point.”

Thinking back, she said definitively, “My mom raised me and that is the only mom I’ve ever known. She was divorced and she raised me as a single mom. I grew up on Maryland Street in South Baton Rouge,” she said. “This little village was full women, mostly widowed or single. Those little ladies…if your momma didn’t spank you one of them would!” She recalled the powerful way those women went about caring for their homes and families.

IMG_0823“Most did domestic work. They used their talents and gifts. There was a hairdresser across the street. One lady sold pecan candy and baked goods. There was a seamstress. My mother would bake, be a housekeeper by day and she also babysat. Each one made the extra money they needed to stay home. That was huge! I know inside of me somewhere there is an entrepreneur waiting to be born,” she laughed as she recalled the fond memories of childhood.

Growing up near LSU, Sylvia would walk to campus to work on high school projects. “We just walked back and forth to the library. We also liked hanging with all the big kids,” she said grinning.

As a graduate of the LSU School of Journalism, Sylvia worked her way through college, determined to pave the way for a career by gaining a solid education close to home.

Her faith has always been important to her, instilled in her heart since she was a child.

“I feel like I’ve always been a Christian. My mother was…you couldn’t be in that house and not love the Lord. Later, I came to where I understood who God was; that took a while for me to learn to trust who He was in my life. She was ambitious from a young age, perhaps inspired in that little village in South Baton Rouge.

IMG_0827“I had my little cassette player and I’d go cover things. If I heard Don Grady say something was going on, or I read something in the paper, I’d go cover it and get interviews with people. While still a DJ they covered Sheridan Broadcasting Network. Somehow I convinced them to drop that and let me do a little local news cast, and they did!”

She recalled pivotal moments when God used others to help shape her life that led towards His purpose. “On Sundays I’d babysit the morning programs. Many pastors would bring in their sermons. I’d tell them, ‘I’m going to be in news one day.’ They would pray over me! That was the first seed planted. I’d share my vision with those pastors never really knowing that would happen,” her gratitude was apparent.

She had looked up to Don Grady as a mentor and one day received a call from him. “‘Hey, come work with me!’ Before we hung up I said, ‘I’m in!’” Sylvia’s excitement about that event years ago is still visible. “I came up with this full proposal, wrote it down on big pages and posted it up with Scotch tape. I said, ‘Here are some ideas I have for doing the news.’ They said, ‘OK’ and that is how it started.”

After working in radio with Grady, she eventually got into television. “I always knew that I loved Christ, but didn’t go to work thinking, ‘Today I’m going to share my faith.’ I just try to live my life. Yet God did this thing since working at Channel 2. I received a call asking me to consider doing the news on WQCK The Bridge. I didn’t think WBRZ would allow that, so I kept putting them off, afraid to ask.”

Darren Ryder was the GM of The Bridge at the time. He called me to ask if I’d talked with my supervisors at WBRZ to see if they would allow me to do the news for The Bridge. When I said no, he said, ‘Let me pray with you now!’ After we prayed he said, ‘Go talk to them right now and call me back in 20 minutes.’ My legs froze; I was so afraid. Somehow I got up out of my chair and went up front and talked to management.”

1385026_504843936287644_3666567405895673101_n-2Sylvia gestured with her hands expressively as she described that day. She continued, “He said ‘you want to do what?’ I was also told to talk to another person in upper management. I thought, ‘what?’ That is like calling the president and saying, ‘can I have a minute with you?’ I talked to one of them, but I didn’t dare mention any other names. However, both who were the decision-makers came into the room! As we discussed this option, they asked me ‘Are you going to be praying on this station?’ I said, ‘well, I don’t know! Maybe? If someone asked?’”

She continued, beaming. “The first one said yes, then the other said yes. After that, I didn’t hear anything else!” That defining moment would prove to be a stepping-stone further paving the way for the future God had planned for her.

“I walked back to my desk in total disbelief like ‘what is happening?’ The policy was clear, that was not typically allowed. I called Darren back and he said, ‘When do you want to start?’ I responded, ‘I haven’t even talked to you! Did you talk to them already?’ To this day I don’t know if he did or not. But that was a God thing. He must have known how scared I was to ask. I needed that push.”

Now reading the news for WBRZ, as well as The Bridge, she was enjoying the environment and experience, but it is was physically taxing.

“I had to be at work at 5 in the AM to write my news but loved it. Then an amazing thing happened. People started calling and asking for prayer! On air! The thing about praying is that I prayed short prayers, I hadn’t really prayed out loud much and I had some insecurity about it. I think God did that as a set up to get me past those fears, of praying for people.”

Then my thought was, “They (WBRZ) are so going to fire me!” she laughingly recalled. “But, they didn’t. I think God opened that door to show me who he was. He didn’t give me talents to just keep me in one little box. He did that to show me how He can use even those skills to glorify Him. That experience was amazing and grew me up quickly in Him. It was also great exposure for WBRZ because they would introduce me as WBRZ’s Sylvia Weatherspoon. It was a win for all of us. Yet the greater lesson is what God taught me about Him.”

Because of her talent and professional ease, it is apparent Sylvia is living the life God intended for her. She seeks His will for her daily to ensure that she stays on track. “He is bigger than us. We don’t have to force things. In my life when I get off track, things just don’t feel right. I’ve gotten off the path many times, then to be corrected by him. Others see that as success, I see it being on the right track.”

Recognizing when we get off track can be difficult, but Sylvia has learned a simple skill from pastor Larry Stockstill of Bethany Church. “He was recently talking about the Holy Spirit. You get that feeling when something isn’t quite right. Listen to it. Plus I have people in my life who really pray for me. They may say, “Are you sure?” If it feels weird and becomes a struggle, for me that is a sign.”

Sylvia delights in discussing her marriage and family. She met her husband Donald in high school and sang in choir with his sister Carolyn.

“I had a boyfriend at the time but Carolyn said, ‘I want you to meet my cousin.’ I went over to her house, the cousin wasn’t there, but Donald was home on break from Mississippi Valley College. He was nice, athletic…a baseball player,” she continued. “I said, ‘hi, got a boyfriend, not interested!’”

Later Donald got hurt, came home and was working at McDonald’s,” she said. “Often I went in and ordered the same thing, a small fry and orange soda. Donald saw me, and he would bring the order and ask if I remembered him. I said, ‘Hi, oh yes, got a boyfriend not interested.’ Same thing. Later my boyfriend was killed. Donald was so sweet. From there our relationship began to flow. Now if he were sitting here, he would say, “She loved me from the start! She just played hard to get!”

Donald and Sylvia married in 1986 and had a son two years later, Donald II. “He was a surprise, but I guess there are no surprises with God! Donald comes from a large family and wanted a lot of children but I didn’t. He had to convince me, as marriage and children were not on my list of things to do. My girlfriend and I had it all planned out; she was going to be a successful attorney, I was going to be a successful doctor, we were going to own property and travel. It was going to be amazing! Who needs a husband? Then Donald came along,” she beamed. A few years later she and Donald had a daughter they named Taylor.

Donald II, a LSU graduate, celebrates his 27th birthday this month. He is trusting God to get into dental school and is currently working at a dental office. Taylor turned 22 on Father’s Day and graduates from LSU on August 7th and plans to pursue medical school.

Being parents has been a joy for the couple. Now as young adults, the struggle is accepting that their children are growing up. She laughed as she talked about their next steps. “They are adults and don’t need us anymore and both want to go away to school!” Yet she believes in them and knows they are grounded. “They are prepared to go on their own, it’s just scary to me.”

IMG_0825Sylvia continually uses her platform to bring glory to God, “When I speak publicly, I just share my testimony. I thought I was going to be a pediatrician, but God had other plans. He didn’t give me my skills just for the sake of being a news anchor, though it’s something I love doing. I’ve been able to do what I love and glorify Him at the same time.”

She gives sound advice and encourages others to be certain they are following God’s plan for their life, “I just tell them to pray about it. Everyday I ask, ‘God is this what I’m supposed to be doing?”’

One thing that she has heard consistently over the years is the perception that the news is always bad. “Many say they don’t even watch. I went to school at a time where we were taught in journalism class, ‘if it bleeds it leads.’ And, yes, I’d get excited about that big story that was breaking. My response was always, ‘send me there live.’”

Sylvia was in a car accident about a year after 9/11. Though she suffered no major injuries, she was home for about a week and a half. “As I watched the one year anniversary I was considering how I would cover that story if it were me. I remember asking God, ‘where is the glory for what I do?’” she continued. “I am telling you just as I’m talking to you the Holy Spirit ministered to me and took me right back to journalism school. ‘If it bleeds it leads.’ God said to me in my heart, ‘He is to be the lead story of my life.’ That my purpose and my responsibility; to tell His story, not only that, that very thing about if ‘it bleeds it leads.’ He bled on the Cross for my sins! It was a wow moment and I got it.”

“Others may not understand that, but to me it made perfect sense. I’ve not questioned since then my purpose,” Sylvia explained. “It’s amazing to see the result and knowing that my steps are ordered by Him, that I’m walking on purpose in what I do. It is more than just showing up everyday and reading the news. His will for my life and his purpose is bigger than that.”

One of Sylvia’s hidden treasures is her creativity and willingness to step out of the box and be different. Full of ideas, she’s been able to set herself apart by stepping up to the plate and making innovative suggestions.

FullSizeRender-2“2 Make a Difference came about when I got promoted to the 6 and 10 anchor. Before I was the medical reporter for 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. news. My question was ‘what happens to health?’ My general manager said, ‘we would work that in.’ I said, ‘Well I have this idea!’” Starting with the name 2 Make a Difference, it would be all good-news stories. “We started in 2008. We are supposed to serve people; that is what love looks like to me. Last year, 2 Make a Difference won second place in the state of Louisiana Associated Press for story of the year. That was the Trevor Sims story.” Tears welled in her eyes.

“That little boy, oh my word. I think about Trevor almost everyday, I don’t know why, I just do. He impacted my life. I’ve never met a kid so wise, grown beyond his years to have the understanding that he was not to be here long. Then to have the community rally around him, he was amazing, optimistic. I went to see him in hospice before he died. He woke up, looked around and saw me sitting there. He waved, I waved back, and he looked so different. I said ‘how you doing buddy?’ He said, ‘I just want to thank you for telling my story.’ He went home that night to be with the Lord. Such a special relationship that God set up; we sang Jesus Loves Me together, it was so sweet.”

Circling back to the new segment, she continued. “I love 2 Make a Difference because we can share good news; my goal is that it encourages people,” she said. “Trevor said it best. ‘You can do anything; one little thing you do can make a difference. I’m dying, and I’m trying to raise food for others.’ One day I hope to do a project that is centered on serving others from a needs perspective. 2 Make a Difference is preparing me to do that. First it lets me see the need within the community. Plus, there are a lot of people that want to serve others.”

As she discussed how to bring our community together as a united body of believers, working together to have impact on our city, Sylvia’s response was refreshing.

IMG_0828“Part of the solution is our voices as Christians have to be louder, and I mean that in all respect. We sit on the sidelines too much. I don’t think you have to wear a banner saying, ‘I’m a Christian.’ But I do think you have to live your life out loud. Start speaking out more as Christians, not just complaining about how this happened or that happened. Show who Christ is in our lives, people need to see that. For some that is all they are going to see. They are not going to go to church and they may not open the Bible. We have to take every opportunity we can to show who Christ is to people who don’t know Him.”

“I believe God brings people in our lives who he wants us to share with. Pastor Larry used to call it ‘being a pastor of one.’ So if it’s just that one person that you get to minister to, we could see a difference.

Recently Sylvia has started using social media as part of her platform. “In Bible Study Fellowship we learned that we should use any opportunity to minister. I’d post news stories, then I started posting Scripture every day, The Good News Report. What has blown me away is that others message me with testimonies! A few weeks ago I received a message. ‘I see your Scripture today. The one you posted spoke to my heart. My wife and I are in the ER at Women’s Hospital and our baby is not due for 3 weeks. It’s coming now and we are scared.’ He asked me to pray for him. My husband came home for lunch and found me sobbing and I told him what had happened. We prayed right then for this man and his wife. They messaged back the baby was born and all was good. I get testimonies and prayer requests and I’m like, ‘what?’ That Scripture ministered to him!”

She admits it can be risky to invite God to use your life as He see’s fit. “I had a lady prophesy over me at an Encounter Retreat at church. I go to Bethany, but I also visit a church in Darrow called Word of Life,” she recalled. There a lady laid hands on Sylvia and told her that she would evangelize. In her mind, that meant preach. When she told the lady she didn’t understand, she responded. “Let God explain.” She continued. “I’m not called to preach. Yet that can mean social media, speaking to ladies’ groups. It means living my life. When I go off script and don’t know what to say, the Holy Spirit takes over. Once I was asked to speak at Chapel on the Campus and share my testimony. I was freaked out! It went great but when I was walking off stage, our leader asked me to do an altar call! OMG what? An altar call? I had never done that! But, I channeled pastor Larry,” she laughed aloud. “I’ll never forget that. It was amazing!”

She went on. “God has a sense of humor. If you ask God to use your life, he will take you out of your comfort zone to grow you up in him. You don’t know what he is capable of until you depend on him.

The beauty of who Christ is, the real church, is out there,” she said, pointing outside. “We fellowship at church to encourage each other. The real way to make a difference is to share your story. It’s not preaching, it’s sharing who you are, who God is through you. Those things we go through in life, God will bring someone into your life that is going through that same thing. You can share with them that God brought you through and He will bring them through too. People are looking for something good to believe in. It’s my belief that that is why so many are depressed, people try all that other junk and it’s all junk!”

“I can’t be anybody else because that person is taken. The best you, is who God has created you to be. I’m doing me, and to be the best me I have to stay on point of what God has for me.”

“Let the Holy Spirit guide you, that voice telling you to get back on track, you are okay if you listen.”