John Bel and I hope you all have a blessed holiday season.
Enjoy this video of the Mansion decorations.
FEATURE ADVENT – Our God Came, He Comes, and He Is Coming Again!
Rev. Dr. Rodney Wood
I am very grateful to First Lady Donna for inviting me to share some thoughts during this special season of the year.
Advent, as you may know, means “Coming.” The Story of the World pivots on that one word – adventus!
When we hid from God in shame in the garden, what did He do? He came to us! He immediately showed that part of His character without which we would be undone. Then throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, in various ways, He lovingly and repeatedly says, “I am coming!” And the story of your life and mine pivots on our response to Him who said, and is saying, “I am coming!”
During these days of Advent, Jesus wants to take you into your fullest, personal experience of His comings: His first coming, His present comings, and His second coming. Let Him lead you into prolonged ponderings of the Holy Scriptures wherein He will tell you about both His first and second comings. As you deeply contemplate all that you are told about His wonderful advents into His world, you will be taken up into extraordinary feelings of amazement, gratitude, and love. Your continued meditation on the facts of His story will become like a casting of fire logs onto the flames within you. It is by those flames that your heart and mind will be transported back to the time of His birth and His life as the Suffering Servant, and you will be launched forward to see the day of His return as the Victorious King. Your ongoing experience of these two great advents of our Lord will then cause you to have a greatly heightened awareness of His constant, present comings in your life.
His First Coming: Jesus, Almighty God the Son, came for our redemption. This is the bedrock of our faith. Our foundation is not our personal experiences, as wonderful as they may be. The underpinning of our faith is an historical event: the coming of God into His world as a Man.
Over fifty years ago, when I was a university student, I was struggling greatly with uncertainty about the truthfulness of the Incarnation. I knew that if this seemingly bizarre idea was not true, this whole Christian religion was nothing: it was absolutely nothing for me to be concerned about. On the other hand, if it was true, then it was everything – everything my whole life was about, everything the whole world was about. Knowing that it was possible that this might be true, and therefore in fact be everything, I knew right then and there that I could not pass through this short life without at least trying to find out whether this was true. Soon after this, in God’s kind providence, I had the opportunity to go with some friends to a beautiful farm in Washington Parish to hear a talk by a Harvard graduate who was involved in campus ministry at LSU. His lecture was exactly what I needed to hear. He spoke on Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament’s messianic prophecies. Here is a very brief synopsis of what we heard:
It was in Genesis 3:15 that God announced His redemptive plan as He declared that the “offspring” of the woman “will crush the head” of the serpent. Centuries later, the prophet Isaiah said that this woman would be a “virgin.” The prophets also said that this Man would be a descendant of the Hebrew patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that he would be of the lineage of King David who was of the tribe of Judah. They said that He would be born in the small town of Bethlehem and that He would spend time as a child in Egypt and that a massacre of infants would occur at his birthplace and that He would be called a Nazarene. He would begin His ministry in Galilee, and during His ministry, Gentiles would come to Him.
Possibly most fascinating of all is the detail with which the prophets described his crucifixion and the events attendant upon it. He would be betrayed. He would be abandoned by His closest friends. He would be falsely accused and would give no answer to His accusers. He would be mocked and ridiculed and spat upon and struck. He would be executed with criminals, having His hands and feet pierced. Soldiers would gamble for His garments. He would be given vinegar for His thirst. His bones would not be broken. His side would be pierced. He would be buried with the rich. He would be resurrected from the dead. And He would ascend into heaven.
And who exactly would this Messiah be? The prophet Micah said, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” And Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” In the New Testament, as Jesus stood on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah, God the Father echoed Moses’ prophetic words, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
As I sat there, on that night in Washington Parish, I was convinced that it was true: Jesus of Nazareth really was and is Eternal God the Son. God really did come into this world as a Man.
And why did He come? As the songwriter said,
He paid a debt He did not owe,
I owed a debt I could not pay,
I needed someone to wash my sin away
And now I sing that brand new song: Amazing Grace
For Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.
Let Jesus take you back to the feed trough in Bethlehem where in humility He lay. And let Him take you back to the cross where He paid our dreadful debt. Hear Him say, “I came for you!”
His Present Comings: Jesus comes to us again and again as we face the challenges, disappointments, sorrows, and perplexities of this world. Sometimes He comes to deliver us, and sometimes He comes to sustain and strengthen us.
When King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace, they replied: “… the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, … But even if He does not, … we will not serve your gods.” When they were then thrown into the fiery furnace, what the king saw bewildered him greatly: “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire? Look! I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” The “fourth” is believed by many to have been a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. But even if it was through the agency of one of His holy angels, God came. He delivered them. However, the greatest testimony of these three men’s lives was not their deliverance: it was their declaration of their unconditional loyalty to their God and their absolute trust in His wisdom and goodness: “But even if He does not …!”
When our youngest son John had leukemia twice in the nineties, in our desperation for God’s help in processing this grave situation, my wife Becky and I felt led to continually read and meditate on Psalm 91. The entire psalm was a source of strength over a period of eight years. We had no assurance that John would live, but we sought to hold onto these words from that psalm: “I will be with him in trouble.” We knew that God may not deliver him out of trouble, but He told us that He would be with John “in trouble.”
Jesus may not always deliver you from difficult, even tragic situations, but He will “never leave you nor forsake you.” He will always come!
His Second Coming: Jesus will come to gather to Himself all who belong to Him.
Jesus says: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory.”
The Apostle Paul vividly describes that glory-filled day: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
And in The Revelation, the Apostle John tells us that all the pain of this world will be over: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning or crying or pain: the first things have passed away!”
In the final chapter of Holy Scripture, three times our King speaks of the imminence of His coming. He says, “Behold, I am coming soon. … Behold, I am coming soon. … Surely, I am coming soon.” And we, whom He calls His “bride,” cry out in reply, “COME!” With the Apostle, we say, “COME, LORD JESUS!” This will be our unceasing prayer until He comes again!
Dear friends, our Savior came for our redemption. He continually comes to help us in our present condition. And soon He will come again, and “… we will be like Him” – full of goodness and truth and the beauty of holiness!
Adventus! It’s The Story of the World! It is to be the story of your life and mine!
LOUISIANA FIRST FOUNDATION
Join Annelise Cassar Tedesco as she encourages students to build community and overcome barriers through her conversation and performance series titled Arts Strong.
Community is one of the essential components of Louisiana. Louisianans are famous for good food, good times, and most importantly, good people. In today’s world, where emotional distance has developed amid social distance, we must prioritize building connections and community. Students need connections that extend horizontally to their peer group. Still, they are better when they become part of a vertically growing community, connecting with generations both younger and older than they are. When this occurs, and students connect with and learn from role models outside the classroom, they gain a broader world insight and learn valuable lessons from professionals working in the field. Students understand the interconnectedness of disciplines, grow in confidence as they form relationships, begin building a professional network, and most importantly, they gain strength from meeting new people and learning how every adult is the result of, or maybe better stated, is in the midst of a journey through challenges and joys.
If there is one thing you may know about children in foster care, they often live in multiple different foster homes and usually age out of care. While the goal of foster care is to reunify the child/youth with their parents, it is not always a possibility. This situation is something to which I can relate. When I entered the foster care system with two of my three siblings, there was no chance of reunification because both of my parents were set to be incarcerated for a long time and, in turn, had to have their parental rights terminated. I lived in five different homes, the last of which I was placed just seven months before I aged out of care. I believe a child’s success in the system is influenced heavily by the support system they have.
Most children who come into care experience a lack of control in their lives, even more so after being taken from their families. Too often, these children find themselves in similar situations as mine while in care. Every foster child deserves a family to support and love them unconditionally. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. These children have almost assuredly experienced all ranges of trauma throughout their young lives.
ANTI HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Louisiana has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the United States Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime that will be used to improve outcomes for child and youth victims of human trafficking. The grant is a multi-year award that will be administered by the newly established Louisiana Governor’s Office of Human Trafficking Prevention and will help fund the Louisiana Child and Youth Trafficking Collaborative Accessibility Initiative. This is the second time Louisiana has been selected for the award.
“I am proud that the Department of Justice recognizes the hard work we are doing in Louisiana to combat human trafficking and grateful that they saw fit to once again single out Louisiana for this grant,” said Gov. Edwards. “Although we have made great progress, we know that our work is not yet done. This funding will greatly assist our state in implementing programs and practices that will promote greater healing and recovery for victims and survivors. This wouldn’t be possible without the collective efforts of key agencies and trained professionals who have made it their mission to end this horrific crime. I am also extremely thankful of the leadership of my wife Donna who has worked hard over the last several years to raise awareness at both the state and national levels.”
GOVERNOR'S MANSION Holidays at the Governor's Mansion
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! With the help of our talented designer, Audrey Hendry, the mansion has been transformed into a magical holiday wonderland. The theme this year is All things silver & gold, with a touch of red. The children’s ornaments have been hung and two new eight-foot angels were created to welcome guests that walk through the mansion front door. The oak trees are lit with snowflakes, and lit garland lines the perimeter of the property. Enjoy these beautiful photos of the exquisite details of our decorations inside the mansion.
We wish you all a Happy and Safe Holiday Season!
WOMEN'S HEALTH A Woman's Self-Care During the Holidays
The chill of winter approaches as Autumn’s colorful scene sets the stage for a season of festive celebration. The heavy, cozy coats coupled with brilliant orange fireplace flames keep us warm as we snuggle in our favorite red blanket on crisp December night. As we embrace this holiday season, remember that self-care is essential. It should be one of our highest priorities as wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, and friends. Even as we plan our family holiday meals and shop for holiday gifts for those we love, let’s not forget to invest in our well-being.
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 1. Community
Community Fridges – Is there one in your area?
Community Fridges are popping up all over the state. Community Fridges are filling a need across our state. It usually works when community groups team up to place a refrigerator and pantry in an area in need. They are usually registered places where surplus food is shared within a local community, by businesses and individuals, and provide welcoming, social spaces open to all.
The fridges are kept up through social media and other means, providing free groceries. Check social media by searching “Community Fridge” to see if there is one in your area.
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 2. Schools
Engagement through Classroom Transformations
As we begin the winter season, our school days are often filled with busy schedules, making plans, meeting deadlines, and most importantly, excited students! The weeks that fall from Thanksgiving until the New Year can bring lots of excitement in the classroom, so it is important as teachers to keep the excitement going when the students return from winter break. There are many ways that teachers can incorporate engagement strategies in the classroom and ensure that all students are excited to learn each and every day. As I begin to plan something new for my students, I like to keep in mind my 3 E’s of Engagement: Effective, Engaging, and Exciting.
One of my most favorite things to do as a classroom teacher, is to bring the element of surprise to my students through classroom transformations! Every day as children arrive at school, teachers have the opportunity to make an everlasting impression on their students and the way that they learn. Many days throughout the year, my students will arrive, expecting a normal school day, and then the classroom is transformed into a new environment! Whether they arrive at a Fractions Pizzeria, StarBUCKS Cafe, NFL Touchdown to Learning, or Inferencing Class Detectives, the students are involved and enthusiastic about the lesson activities. By incorporating classroom transformations, you will be surprised at how effective, engaging, and exciting your lessons will be!
As teachers create lesson plans, students have a variety of objectives and standards that need to be met. It is important as teachers to be sure that all students are able to successfully meet those expectations. With classroom transformations, students are motivated, involved, and eager to achieve any educational goals that are set for the day. By having effective lessons, students are more likely to achieve higher levels of academic success. The more often I do classroom transformations, the more times I find my students referring back to those lessons when accessing prior knowledge and talking about their experiences for days to come. That is when I know that classroom transformations not only effectively achieve lesson objectives, but also create memorable learning experiences!
Capturing student’s engagement is key to the success of classroom transformations. As the students walk in the door on a transformation day, or begin their lesson activities, they are instantly engaged with the new, personalized learning environment! Classroom transformations allow students the ability to use the skills that they have learned, and use them in a fun, more engaging way. When teachers use classroom transformations in the classroom, it provides the students with a hands-on approach while giving them the opportunity to create, collaborate, and discover a new love for learning. This engagement will give students the motivation and determination to complete any task that you have planned for them. When students are engaged in the lesson, they are more likely to show growth and push themselves beyond their expectations!
There is nothing more exciting for a student than to be surprised when they walk into their classroom and see something unexpected! By getting the students excited about the upcoming school day, it inspires them to complete the lesson activities as they anticipate what is to come. During these transformations, students are using the skills that they have learned and applying them to real life situations and environments. This allows students of all abilities to connect to the outside world, while giving them an experience like no other. As I plan each of these classroom transformations, I am reminded of all of the joy and excitement that it brings to my students, which inspires me to continue to provide an unforgettable learning experience for my students!
Planning a Classroom Transformation
When planning your first classroom transformation, there are a few things to keep in mind so that both you and your students can fully enjoy the experience.
- Keep the decorations cheap and easy!
Classroom transformations do not have to be expensive or time consuming. Simple decorations such as plastic table cloths, a poster, sign, or banner, and activity supplies will help bring your classroom transformation to the next level. A few decorations to match the theme is all you need for the students to recognize that they will have something new and exciting during their school day!
- Focus on the content.
The goal of classroom transformations is to bring life to the skills or content you have already been teaching, and present it in a different way. Sometimes, this could be as simple as finding the difference between two scoreboards during a football transformation, or other times applying what they have learned about counting coins to make change during a cafe’ transformation. This gives teachers the opportunity to give students real life experiences and inspire them to think outside the box.
- Have fun!
What brings the most joy to students during a classroom transformation, is when they see their teacher excited about learning, too. By wearing a referee shirt and whistle, or using your best Italian accent, the students are sure to buy into the theme and enjoy the excitement that is to come.
By incorporating classroom transformations into your classroom after the winter break, you are sure to bring a new level of excitement into the classroom. This level of engagement from your students just may inspire you to continue to provide these exciting learning experiences, throughout the remainder of the year! As I plan each of these transformations, I am reminded of how important it is to involve students in their learning so that they may reach past the expectations that we have set for them. It is crucial that all students are given the opportunity to achieve excellence in the classroom, which is why I am motivated to give them memorable learning experiences through classroom transformations!
South Beauregard Elementary
2022 Louisiana Elementary School State Teacher of the Year
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 3. Military
As we move past Veterans Day, we must not forget an important date in December: Wreaths Across America Day. Annually on Dec. 18, ceremonies are held across the nation at more than 2,500 memorial sites to remember, honor and teach. Right here in Louisiana, people gather at our five state-run veterans cemeteries to fulfill the mission of Wreaths Across America so that no veteran is forgotten.
There are two ways that Louisianans can be involved: Purchase a wreath, or multiple wreaths, or attend a ceremony at one of our five cemeteries. If you would like more information, contact one or more of Louisiana’s veterans cemeteries:
Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery
Northeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery
Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery
Southeast Louisiana Veterans Cemetery
Southwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetery
It is important that we show a united front of gratitude and respect across our state as we remember the fallen, honor those who serve and teach our children the value of freedom. We encourage every person who places a wreath on a veteran’s grave to say that veteran’s name aloud and take a moment to thank them for their service to our country. It’s a small act that goes a long way toward keeping the memory of our veterans alive. Remember, we are not “decorating graves.” We are to remember not their deaths, but their lives, and each wreath is a gift of appreciation.
For more information about LDVA, visit vetaffairs.la.gov, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 225.219.5000 or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 4. Business
Jill DiMarco, DMCP/CMP
Owner, Signature Destination Management, LLC
Jill DiMarco is the owner of Signature Destination Management, LLC. Signature DMC is a full-service Destination Management Company that works with corporations and convention groups traveling to New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast. The past two years have been particularly devasting to the tourism industry. Jill’s team of meeting and event professionals are inspired to introduce clients once again to the culture and authenticity of the region. From Events, Conventions, Tours, and Teambuilding, they work with local vendors and businesses to produce nationally acclaimed and award-winning programs. They are so excited to showcase New Orleans once again to their clients. When clients book with Signature DMC, they know that it is a turnkey service and that Signature will take care of all the creativity and nitty-gritty details.
Jill and the Signature team have proudly collaborated with the Zurich Classic PGA tournament since its inception in 2005. And are thrilled to be working with the Louisiana First Foundation on the National Coalition for the Prevention of Human Sex Trafficking Fund Raiser.
Signature DMC is a certified WBENC. Jill is serving a second term on the Board of Directors of New Orleans & Company (New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.) She holds the designation of Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) and Destination Management Certified Professional (DMCP). She is a member of the Association of Destination Management Executives (ADMEI) and is currently on her second stint on the ADME/Accreditations and Certification Board. She is also a past chair of this board. Jill is married with two children and a fighting tiger from LSU.
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder 1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups white sugar 1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until
smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.
Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto un-greased cookie sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.
Yield: 4 dozen
MEMORABLE VERSE December 2021
THE FIRST DOGS Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
MEET OUR EDITOR Delery Rice
A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Delery has lived there all of her life except during undergraduate school and a brief stint in Seattle, WA. She is a mother to four boys, ranging in ages from 21 to 16, and they are the heart and soul of her life.
Delery earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and Master’s Degree from Louisiana State University. She completed a fellowship at Loyola University, New Orleans Institute of Politics, and currently attends Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy. Her volunteer work has mostly evolved from issues that have affected her personally. Actively engaged in disability rights advocacy, Delery has testified numerous times in the Louisiana Legislature regarding issues that affect persons with developmental disabilities. She served as the chair of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, worked for seven years directing regional advocacy efforts and is a graduate of Louisiana’s Partners In Policymaking.