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.

Creative LIFE, June 2018

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

There is More, Hillsong visits baton rouge

by: sharon holman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Faith Life, November 2016

Christian Dance Instructor Raises the ‘Barre’

by Lisa Tramontana

dance-3-jpgA children’s dance recital should be an event the whole family can enjoy. But if you’ve attended one in recent years, you might have experienced some uncomfortable moments. Little girls dressed inappropriately and dancing suggestively has become the norm at many dance studios.

Whitney Jones-Holland wanted to raise the “barre,” so to speak. An education major with a degree from Southern University, she had grown up dancing in her hometown of Houston, Texas, and dreamed of opening her own studio, but it would have to be one that adhered to high standards and Christian values.

“I wanted my students to be able to learn to dance with joy, love and excitement, but without compromising their values,” she said. “I wanted to be able to teach values that would uplift and inspire them.”

She didn’t know if anyone would be interested, but she began to pray about it, and the more she prayed, the more it seemed possible. During a road trip to Tennessee, the Lanier Elementary teacher got the proverbial “sign from God” — literally.

dance1-jpg“I was thinking about my dance idea, and I saw this huge billboard for some kind of guidance counseling. And then the word ‘guidance’ struck me, and I thought, ‘I never knew DANCE was in the word guidance. Then I thought maybe this was divine intervention. And suddenly I knew I would open a studio and I knew what its name would be … Divine GuiDANCE.

Today, Divine Guidance has more than 60 students enrolled in tap, jazz, ballet and creative movement classes. Dancers range from age 2 to adult, and participate in an annual recital each year, held at Faith, Hope & Love Worship Center, and at LSU.

dance2-jpg“The music, movements and costumes are not suggestive in any way, and don’t send out negative messages,” Jones-Holland said. “We pray at the beginning and end of every class. There is no yelling or fussing or pressure. We’re a team and we treat each other with kindness and respect at all times. Our instructors encourage students to believe in themselves in their daily lives, at home, at school, and in their communities. We are teaching them dance skills, but we are also sharing our faith, showing them love, and helping them deal with life’s challenges.”

Jones-Holland has a big heart, and a year ago, a new idea started weighing heavily on her. She would offer her dance classes free for an entire year. With 50 students, the idea could have had disastrous financial consequences, but just the opposite happened. “This was all faith,” she said. “My husband (Hansoni) supported it, everyone pulled together, parents donated what they could afford, and it was a huge success.”

The free training allowed many young girls to discover a love of dance in a supportive and caring environment. Many of them would not have been able to afford it otherwise.

Divine Guidance also enrolled students in the studio’s first dance, academic and enrichment camp, which will hopefully become an annual project serving about 30 students each year. Holiday camps are held throughout the year and in the summer.

dance-4-jpgJones-Holland, who is also mother to 4-year-old Holli, says her parents were instrumental in forming her faith life, and she is grateful to them for a gift she now passes on to other young girls. The parents of her students are grateful as well.

“There’s warmth and love in the way she teaches,” says Tonya Johnese, whose daughter Hannah studies with Holland. “Whitney is a great role model.”

Camilla Jones agrees. Her daughter, Ca’Myra, has been dancing with Holland since the age of two. “Everything about her studio is wholesome and for a parent that’s very important,” she said.

Divine Guidance Studio is located at 4523 North Blvd. For more information, call (225) 330-1648.