Cover Story, Online edition!

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

By Karen Milioto

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

I can still remember standing there, completely wooed. 

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

“Christ The Lord is risen today, Alleluia”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find her on Instagram @karenmilioto or online at www.karenmilioto.com

Cover Story, Online edition!

Welcome Award Winning Author Donna Renay Patrick! Responding to Worship…..

You Have to Respond One Way or Another….

How will you respond? 

 

You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

Worship is not just something we “do;” it’s who we are. The very nature and essence of God commands our worship.  I’ve been in worship ministry several years and one thing I’ve come to discover is that a lot of what we call “worship” is really not worship.  I’ve seen some great choirs, worked with some of the best musicians in the country, and experienced different personalities in those charged with worship leader responsibilities.  But the common denominator in all of it is great music – not true worship.  I’ve been in rehearsal for hours preparing for Sunday morning, but where was the worship?  I know that sounds hard to some, and may even spark debate, but just walk with me for a minute.

God wants more.  All the way back to early in the Old Testament God was calling for our complete devotion to Him (Ex. 20:5).  He demanded it from the nation of Israelites and he is demanding it of us now.  But somewhere we’ve missed it.  Too often worship is lost in the great music, the sound effects, the technology, the stage props, the best singers, and all the other things that we think are necessary for people to have a meaningful worship experience.  But what does all of THAT have to do with in spirit and in truth worship?  

It is true that music is a Biblically-ordained tool that helps us get into the throne room, but great music and worship are not the same thing.  When Jesus was giving the Samaritan woman a lesson in worship by that well, He said nothing about music, instruments, praise teams, song selection, etc. (John 4:23-24).  It isn’t just about Sunday morning; it’s about the rest of the week. It is about how we live.  Shouldn’t our lives reflect the worship of God?  Shouldn’t how we live from day to day be an offering to God?  Shouldn’t we strive every day to be like the One we say we worship?  Isaiah’s worship brought Him to repentance, then service (Isaiah 6:1-8). God is looking for worshipers.  He is looking for those who will worship Him under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and be real with Him (Psalm 51:6).

God is really not concerned that we have the proper lighting on stage, or what color the PowerPoint is when we’re leading the congregation in song.  He doesn’t even care how big the building is. God just wants us to come before His presence with sincere hearts, spirit to Spirit, and a mind willing to receive from Him.  When God gave Moses the specifications to construct the Tabernacle, His concern was not a piece of real estate; but that His presence dwell there.

I hope you will choose to embrace God’s presence with every fiber of your being.  Give Him your all in your public and private worship experience.  The call has gone out. How will you respond?





Donna Renay Patrick is an award-winning author of two praise and worship-themed devotionals; At All Times, and It’s In Your Praise. She also co-authored two other devotionals; one to encourage women in the workplace, and the other a stewardship-themed devotional called,The Perfect Seven. She is a musician, worship leader, transformational speaker, and host of The Donna Patrick Show, an internet-based segment on The Fishbowl Radio Network.  With ministry-focused guests, her show emphasizes the priority of worship in the 21st century church, and how to tap into next-level personal and corporate worship.

Feature Story, Online edition!

Words to Live By, Words are important!

Words To Live By
By Pamela Gauthier

From the time we are born until our very last day on earth, we will hear and speak words. We first hear words from our parents at birth. These words shape us and for most of us we are taught by them. As we grow older we also hear words from teachers, coaches, peers, strangers and others. We read words and are changed by them. No doubt we live and breathe by words. Words can hurt us, abuse us, anger us and mislead us also.

I remember when I was on a job as a Test Monitor. I chose to read the Bible while waiting for the testers to finish.


I was dealing with an abusive marriage at this time. I was desperate to hear some words of hope, when I came upon a particular scripture, John 3:16 (KJV), “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believed in Him would not perish but would have eternal life.” I learn this scripture as a little girl at a Christian school, but it did not have the impact on me that it did on this particular day. The part that said whosoever believes in Him came to life for me, (Him being Jesus).

I was never the same from this moment on, reading this scripture changed my life forever. I knew my sins were forgiven and that I had been given another chance to start over. I was given power to live my life the way God intended for me to live it. Romans 1:12 (KJV),says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.”

As I continued living in the Word and being directed by the Lord, I discovered that not only were my sins forgiven, but I had also been given power to forgive others. This brought such a freedom to my new life. I discovered that the abusive words, the emotional and physical abuse that once held me captive, no longer kept me in bondage to fear. Instead, faith arose in my heart to receive words of significance, purpose and healing which came from receiving this eternal life. “By His wounds we are healed,” 1 Peter 2:24 (NLT).

The word of God says, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” Matthew 4:4 (KJV).

Many years have passed in my Christian faith, and I have learned through the years that God’s word sustains us, trains us, leads us and guides us. It is water to our very soul. “Study this book of instruction continually, meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua 1:8 (NLT).
These are, “words to live by”!

HeARTune Creations Poetry, LLC., is owned by Pamela Gauthier. Pamela is a writer and poet, who has been writing for over 20 years. She formally started her poetry as a business in October of 2013.

Her poetry has been at several boutiques and stores in the Baton Rouge area. Pamela is a native Baton Rougean, who has lived here all of her life. She is the wife of Ronnie Gauthier, and the mother of four: Mrs. Jamie Baham, Mrs. Jessica Chatman, Joshua and Joseph Gauthier. She is also the proud Grandmother of Five.

Pamela started her writing journey by writing poetry as a way to uplift the spirits of those in nursing homes and the like. This is still the goal today, to touch hearts and lives wherever encouragement is needed.

Feature Story, Online edition!

What is your “Sunday Best?” With Karen Milioto

Last Sunday, while feeding my horses before church, I set the buckets down, and glanced at my shoes. Laughing at the sight of my ‘Sunday Best’ atop a pile of muck. I attempted to dust them off, then hopped into the car with the notion of ‘Sunday Best’ still circulating in my mind.

What exactly is ‘Sunday Best’? I wondered.

Is it the clothing we put on that morning? Is it our accumulation of knowledge or our ability to use certain language with ease? Is it how much we give of ourselves? Is it the behavior of children? Or perfectly coifed hair, approving smiles and nodded heads as the message is delivered?

Is that our ‘best’?

I have always struggled with the notion of bringing my ‘best’. Failing to live up to whatever I believed that ‘best’ was.

First, I was a little girl who was fairly disruptive. I sang a bit too loud and I loved to use wild hand gestures for all of the songs. Often landing me on the receiving end of a few disapproving glares.

Then, as a youth, I lacked sound decision-making skills and for a while I failed to live up to the expectations of myself and the people around me. By then, the notion of ‘Sunday Best’ paired with those disapproving glares resided within me, and urged me to believe I wasn’t good enough for God or the church.

Nowadays, as I look around at the faces of the people I encounter, I can’t help but notice signs of this ongoing plight. I see weary expressions. People struggling day after day to bring their ‘best’ to those around them. Who seem exhausted from trying to live up to the arbitrary marks set for them by other human beings. I see slouched frames, heads hung low, creases and sometimes tears forming in the corner of tired eyes. Evidence of defeat is visible everywhere. From our church pews, to the streets outside and all of the other pockets and corners of our lives in-between.

And it’s strange, because the Message we have been given to carry out from our Sundays into the world, is not a message of defeat, but a message of provision. And unearned, undeserved love. Not because of what our best looks like. But because of Who we belong to.

We have the message of grace.

And as, a recipient of this audacious and underserved gift, I feel compelled to reframe what ‘Sunday Best’ represents. Repositioning it from an outward appearance and anchoring it as a constant posture of my heart.

The best I can bring on behalf of God in this world is humble gratitude of what has been done for me. And to be a living illustration of what it looks like to receive God’s love. Standing alongside all of the muck and mud of my lift and somehow still set apart and chosen as His treasured possession. And made holy not because of who I am or what I do, but because of Who lives through me.

The best of me is Jesus.

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

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

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

You can find her on Instagram @karenmilioto or online at www.karenmilioto.com

Family Life, Online edition!

Unstoppable God…..By Karen Milioto

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

“Unstoppable God let your glory on and on!

Impossible things in Your name they shall be done!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything was possible? I had wondered in response. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or maybe it’s something else completely. 

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

Don’t stop there. Step back towards it. 

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

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

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

You can find her on Instagram @karenmilioto or online at www.karenmilioto.com

June 2018, Publisher's Letter

Publishers Letter, Trinity is Truth! Enjoy…

Publisher’s Letter, Trinity is Truth


The Trinity is Truth.

It was a refreshing revelation. Suddenly, during an otherwise normal day, I looked back over my life and realized an amazing truth. I really am a new Creation in Christ!

In my head I knew I’d been “born again” at the point of salvation. Yet over time as I yielded to the process of change, I began to see evidence of real spiritual growth. A recent devotional helped to put this into words. Writing of the multi-million-dollar market of self-help books sold each year, Dr. Charles Stanley reminded us to understand that our identity in Christ is not about self-help or self-improvement, but about self-replacement.

In my life, self-replacement has been a gradual process. I’m guessing for many it’s more of an instant transformation, but for me it’s been about learning to trust the Lord one day at a time, growing each day.

My early life had some major hurdles. I had no choice but to learn a fierce sense of independence in order to survive. In those environments I learned to take care of myself at a young age. That worked well for a long time, which is part of the problem. With little education and experience, I was able to work my way into a career and be somewhat successful.

I rededicated my life to Jesus when I became a new wife and mom years later. Though I’d been “saved,” I’d never truly committed my life to Christ. My family would need God, and I wasn’t going to attempt life without doing my part to invite Him into our family.

I’d like to say since then life has been easy. Quite the contrary! Yet over the years, week after week, month after month and year after year, I’ve leaned on God and He has been faithful to help me stand when I could not on my own. Because of the experience of God working in my life, my understanding of the importance of the Trinity went from head knowledge to heart knowledge over time.

God the Father. My earthly father was not a man who took care of his family and honored his marital covenant with his wife, my mother. His early decisions wreaked havoc in our family. So, to believe in God the Father as a loving and perfect father meant letting go of who my dad was not, in order to receive God the Father, for He is the perfect father to the fatherless.

Jesus the Son. Receiving Jesus into my heart meant salvation and an eternal home with God. This finally settled that, “If I died tonight would I go to heaven?” question. It also meant forgiveness of sins, which were countless and created so much shame in my life. By reading the Bible consistently, I met a loving Jesus and finally understood the power of the Cross. He is my Savior who cleansed my life from my sins.

The Holy Spirit. We have the spirit of God living within us! Conversely, we also have a spirit of self-living within us. My “spirit of self” was very strong and stubborn. Still is at times. But I now understand the choice that I must make every day. A wise man once told me, “You can’t lead and be led.” Trusting God to lead my life through the Holy Spirit means to let Him be my counselor and guide, giving me the wisdom to take my life in the specific direction of His will and not my own.

The reason I know I’m a new creation in Christ is because I can look back and see where I once was and where I am now. While I’m a work in progress, I thank God for His provision.

In the Trinity is the Truth we can Trust.

Faith Life, June 2018

Faith Life, Jack Lynch on the Trinity in your Life

The Trinity IN Your Life

BY: JACK LYNCH

Jack is a teacher at Radio Bible Courses, LTD.

So, what about your Christian life? How do you reconcile what you read in Scripture with the way you live your life in this world? Is there a disconnect? If you want that intimate relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you cannot deal with the problems of the world in a worldly way.

1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” The world is the world system set in opposition to God. To love the world or the things in the world is to love that which is opposed to God, the One the believer claims to love. If you’re doing these things, then you’re not loving the Father.

How do believers live godly lives? Let’s see how the Trinity can, and should, guide your life.

Having been made in God’s image, and knowing the love that the Father has shown us by sending His Son to die for our sins (in our place and on our behalf), we long to love —and be loved by — our Father. John addresses this in 1 John 4:16: “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”

Yes, abiding in God and His love is easy to say but harder to do, since we have a sinful nature. But the Trinity’s ministry in your life will enable a yieldedness to the Spirit, which involves abandoning one’s self-will and living God’s way. Here’s how it works:

Jesus taught that believers receive everlasting life at the very moment they believe in Him … eternal life becomes the present possession of everyone who believes in Him. And Jesus described His role in the present outworking of our eternal life when He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). So, beyond the moment of saving faith, there is a more abundant life in Christ to be lived.

The Father sent the Son away from His side to die for our sins. Then, through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, believers are placed “in Christ,” and are forever identified with Him. The Spirit then empowers believers to live this eternal life they have been given in the here and now. It only makes sense. What would be the point of God giving you eternal life now if all you could do is live the same sinful, unproductive lifestyle?

In Romans 6:4, Paul makes the connection between Jesus and living our eternal life now: “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Since the proof that Christ died for all sin lies in the fact that He was raised from the dead by the Father, and since we believers were placed “in Christ,” then His death to sin was ours! Believers are no longer “slaves of sin,” but “should walk in newness of life.”

In this victorious life, Christians are empowered by the Spirit to resist sinning, and to accomplish God’s will for him or her. (Romans 6:6 says of believers: “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him [Christ] … that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

The Father’s love for you sent the Son to die for you so that the Spirit may lead you. Through the Trinity’s work in and for you, you “put to death the deeds of the body.” (Romans 8:13). This is how you live your eternal life now, in Christ and by the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 echoes this: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Never underestimate the effectiveness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to transform the believer into Christlike living. Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

Describing Jesus as “the glory of the Lord,” Paul writes of the role of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to accomplish this transformation to Christlike living in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

You become like the things to which you give your attention. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!”

Jack Lynch teaches at Radio Bible Courses, Ltd., which was founded by Dr. Nick Kalivoda. The class meets weekly from  9:15-10:00  at Burden Conference Center, 4560 Essen Lane. The class is open to everyone, and offers a Q&A each week. In June Louis Hillard will be teaching from the book of Revelation. Details are available at www.rbcword.org.

April 2018, BRCLM Lagniappe

Confession … Good for the Soul

Confession … Good for the Soul

by Rachele Smith

If you’ve ever hurt a loved one or caused a friendship to fail, then you know the emotions that can surface when you ask for forgiveness.

Feelings like pain, sorrow and even the inner conflict between humility and pride are all too common. But the act of forgiveness can wash away those feelings, and when expressed with a contrite heart, it can ultimately help a relationship become whole again. Forgiveness also works the same way in a relationship with God.

As humans, we are imperfect, and when failings occur and our actions, or sometimes, our inability to act, pulls us away from God, asking for forgiveness can make the relationship whole again.

“We never lose our relationship with God. That’s important to understand. But what reconciliation (confession) does is bring you back to that peace (with God),” said Father Charlie Landry, pastor of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in St. Gabriel.

In the Catholic Church, confession or asking for forgiveness is one of the church’s seven sacraments, or outward signs of the faith. It involves privately admitting one’s sins to a priest and then receiving absolution (forgiveness) for those sins.

For non-Catholics, however, the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be confusing. Traditionally, it was received in a confessional or behind a screen, but today, Catholics have the option to meet face-to-face with a priest.

Father Landry explained that while confession involves a personal examination of self, the priest’s presence is important because it reflects the ecclesiastical community of the church. “As Christians and as Catholic Christians, the sense of what Jesus left us is that we are a community,” he said, pointing to the Apostle Paul, who said in 1 Corinthians that even though we are different parts, we represent one body of Christ.

And as one body, when one member of the community offends or hurts another, the entire community is affected, Father Landry said. “It’s like a sore on your arm. You know the sore is there, but your whole body feels the pain and is affected by it,” he said, adding that through reconciliation, everyone, or all parts of the body of Christ, can come back to peace and wholeness in the church.

Confessing to a priest also allows spiritual directing and can help bring understanding to what is causing a sin, said Father Landry.

“Have you ever tried to dig up a dandelion? If you don’t get the root, it will come back again and again. But to get that root, you have to dig deep. That’s where spiritual directing can help, so you can find out the cause (of certain behaviors) and how you can make a change,” he said.

Spiritual directing can also guide those penitents who struggle to forgive themselves.

But what if a person isn’t really sorry for hurting someone else? Is a contrite heart needed for confession and ultimately forgiveness? Father Landry said it is necessary, especially in any loving relationship. With true contrition, the bond strengthens, and even though humans may worry about being hurt again, with God’s forgiveness, there is no worry.

“I kind of look at confession as God cleaning the slate,” he said, adding that our free will may at times take us out of our relationship with God, but God is always waiting for us to reconcile. “The beauty of reconciliation is when you sin, you know you can come back and receive the grace of reconciliation and continue living the salvation of Jesus.”

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