Summer Shaping Fun

Beaches, amusement/ water parks, family vacations, back yard barbecues, outdoor exercise classes, mommy get-a-ways…Yes, honey! Summer is here!

Summer time brings about various memories and good times with family and friends. To ensure that you enjoy it to the fullest, I’d like to discuss a few health maintenance topics.


Fun in the sun!

  • Who doesn’t want to be outside enjoying the summer breeze and sunlight? Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to hideous sunburns and tans. You know, the ones that make wearing that beautiful prom, wedding or summer dress almost impossible? It can also lead to wrinkled or early aging of skin, skin cancer and cataracts of the eyes. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
    • Wear sun screen, SPF 15 or higher
    • Wear hats to cover your face, ears and neck
    • Get in the shade in the midday hours
    • Wear clothing that protects your skin if you are planning to work outside for a long time


Get your exercise on, girl!

  • Sometimes this is hard while on vacation. Here are a few ideas for exercise when you’re not in your normal environment:
    • Find a local park- While the children play, walk or run the path around the park
    • Look for free outdoor classes in the community- Many communities are sponsoring activities to help their citizens be healthy.
    • Go hiking or mountain climbing- You’ll get a full body workout and have an opportunity to capture some breathtaking photos!
    • Go boating- Moving those paddles are bound to get your upper body muscles toned!
    • Go skating with the children- You already know this will get those legs and buttocks muscles “on fleek!”
    • Find a local gym and get a 1-week visitor pass.

Drink! Drink! Drink! Drink! Water, that is- Yes, you must stay hydrated!

  • You’d be surprised how many people we see in the emergency department because they are dehydrated or worse. Here are a few tips to save yourself the time and money:
    • Your body is made of 70-80% water, which gets released when you void, sneeze, speak, sweat, etc. To replace the water lost, drink at least 6- 8 ounce glasses of water per day. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll need much more than that.
    • Drink Gatorade or Powerade to replenish your water intake.
    • Decrease the amount of soda, sweet tea and sugary drinks. These will dehydrate you.


Practice safety!

  • It’s fun to go riding with your girls in your drop top, or windows down for most of us, with your hair flowin’ and make up poppin’, but please remember to buckle up!
  • Know your surroundings. Criminals are looking for victims who are “off their square” or are clueless of their surroundings because they are talking on their phones or texting.
  • Label your emergency contacts in your phone “ICE,” This is short for, In Case of E This way, your emergency contacts can be called if you are unable to call them yourself.
  • No texting and driving! Use hands free methods of communication while driving.
  • If you’ve had a little too much to drink, call a cab or friend for a ride home.


Well, that’s it for now! I pray that you all enjoy the blazin’ summer and make new memories for a lifetime!

Dr. Jay

I Weathered the Storm!

by: Anise Marshall


Vanessa Murray’s testimony is the definition of what it means to be a bold believer, bold dreamer and bold achiever. Vanessa’s dream as a teenager was to become a successful meteorologist. As a child, she was always intrigued with the inner workings of weather. She had her entire life planned out and thought about her plans daily. As for many, when we desire to accomplish something, everything and anything happens to deter us from moving forward.

During the interview, I was beyond grateful to be able to hear her testimony and unbeknownst to Vanessa, she was encouraging me. Vanessa has faced so much in her life. At only 26 years of age, she has experienced things that make most want to give up and curse God, like Job. Vanessa, however, has chosen to play a role that insists on giving God praise instead of grief. Not everyone will face the same test in life and that’s okay. I’ve found that every testimony comes with a test, built to encourage someone else. I hope this testimony will encourage others just as it has recharged my heart. She has truly weathered the storm at such a tender young age.

Decisions we make sometimes cause us to have setbacks in life. How many of you know that those “setbacks” are nothing but setups for come backs? The enemy will cause us to believe that things we have not planned, will stop us from reaching our destination. That is a lie from the pit of hell. Vanessa found that even though she lost loved ones (her great-grandmother) along the way, God had a plan for her, her husband, her children and her extended family.  God had taken her on a path that would speak to multitudes whether Christian or a non-believer. She has a story that many young women face daily, only to throw in the towel. Included in this story, is a visual timeline of the life of a walking success.


– Junior year of high school, got pregnant with her first born child.


– Turned down an opportunity to visit, and gain first-hand knowledge from, a news station due to shame of being pregnant again.


– While pregnant, with her second child, she was attacked by racially motivated individuals causing her to lose control of the car.

– Hospitalized and told she may lose her child due to the accident.

– Brought up charges against individuals responsible but was told that, “they had a future,” and case was thrown out.


– Got married to the love of her life.

– Boldly changed her negative views of herself, and asked for a transfer from junior college at home to a university, 6 hours away, in Edwardsville, IL.

– Moved to Edwardsville with a scholarship as basketball manager.



– Had to move back to her home town due to financial stability and personal issues.

– Did not have a place for her and her children. Vanessa was pregnant with her 3rd child, and “Homeless.”

– Decided her prayer life and spirituality needed to be revitalized and strengthened regarding marriage, children and family.


– Hospitalized, for a month, after a severe bout of pneumonia. Had to withdraw from an accredited meteorology program at NIU.

– Gave birth to 3rd child and found that he had many medical issues causing constant hospital visits.

– Oldest child started having medical issues that caused frequent hospital visits.

– Noticed a positive shift in her home and decided to move back to Edwardsville and pursue degree in Geography.


– Made dean’s list and got nominated for academic achievement and leadership, in Geography program, along with the Madison county scholarship award of $1,500.

– Great-grandmother passed.

– Criticized for working on degree while being a non-traditional student.


– At the peak of her prayer life, she found that her husband could potentially have cancer.

– Found that husband was cancer free on drive to her externship, with a meteorologist, to Cleveland, Ohio.

– Graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Geography, with a Minor in Meteorology/ climatology.


Vanessa’s journey did not unfold as she had planned as a child, but it was the journey that established her into the praying woman she is today. She will soon be blessed with the gift of recording a sample meteorology tape, to submit for job offers. If you take anything from Vanessa’s story, learn that adversity does not have to stop you from reaching your dream. In the midst of: financial turmoil, racist attacks, stereotype of being a non-traditional student, medical scares and even death, Vanessa still found a way to find the calm in every storm. Let God use your trials, to draw you closer to him and trust that he is equipping you for your future. He will bring the right people in, at just the right time. She learned that instead of giving up, she must weather the storm.


Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm”, and the warrior whispers back “I am the storm” – Unknown

LXW Chicago, A League of Their Own

In 2014, gospel singer and pastor, Deitrick Haddon, introduced LXW (League of Xtraordinary Worshippers) to the gospel scene. With hits like “Great God” and “Just Like He Said He Would,” this amazing group began to take flight. Fast forward to 2015, where Haddon and Eric Rideout (Co-founder of LXW Chicago) came together to form LXW Chicago. According to Haddon’s wife, Dominique Haddon, and Eric Rideout, Co-founder, the group is an identical replica of the group located in L.A. “Due to costs, there were two groups created so that LXW L.A. could handle west coast engagements, and LXW Chicago could handle mid-west and east coast engagements.”

Though a young group, the leadership is full of experience and talent. Along with the founders of the group there is Zeke Locke, director of LXW Chicago, Nina Goshay, ministry director, Tiffany Williams, support staff, Baneika Holeyfield, finance administrator, Marquese McCoy, music director, Dwayne Verner, bass player, and Tony Taylor, drummer (who recently won the Guitar Center Drum Off).

Make no mistakes, LXW Chicago is not just another choir doing the same old thing. They hit the stage, voices ready to capture your ears and bodies ready to morph to the beat. Their ministry statement describes them as a group that, “captures the high-energy, larger-than-life sound and meticulous melodies that fans have grown to love about choir music…” Their purpose, is to “show youth in church and not in church, that there is a positive way to live and, be in this society.” So, don’t let the high energy and talent of LXW Chicago cause you to think it’s all about entertaining. From leadership’s mouths, they said that this group is all about ministry.  Director, Zeke Locke avowed, “We want to break the mold, we want to be that group that can set an atmosphere and be swagged out.”

The first qualification to be a part of LXW Chicago, is salvation. Of course, there is the factor of talent for vocals, but you must be saved! At the end of the day, they want everyone in the ministry to show Christ wherever they go. The standard has been set by the leadership team making sure that the lifestyle of every member reflect what they sing about. They don’t want anyone doing anything that will cause someone else to stumble or deter someone from giving their heart to Jesus.

The standard has been set by the leadership team making for the lifestyles of the members reflect what they sing about. They don’t want anyone doing anything that will cause someone else to stumble or deter someone from giving their heart to Jesus.

LXW Chicago makes it a point to constantly go before God in prayer. Not just the huddles before ministering for an event or those quick prayers to open and close rehearsal. Their chaplain, Darien Mickens, or their Director, Zeke Locke, lead LXW in a short bible study lesson before rehearsals. There have been times where the presence of the Lord fills the room they rehearse in. It has gotten to the point where everyone is in a spirit of praise and worship that is undeniable. They have a heart for God and it is evident when they minister.

If you have not seen them in action yet, you can catch them before summer ends. Their summer events are all about outreach and ministry. They have already ministered at the Edwin & Walter Hawkins Music & Arts Love Fellowship Conference in Chicago, IL and C.O.G.I.C. National Aim Convention in Cincinnati, OH. They are scheduled to do much more. If you can’t make any of their summer appearances, be sure to mark your calendars for a concert they will be having on October 29th in Chicago, IL with special guest. For more information concerning the groups schedule, you can view their social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The “F” Word

Pastor Harmon is an evangelist with a strong desire for people to know they are never too broken or lost. Everyone is someone else’s miracle. When God brings you through something that is now a testimony to share with someone to help them. Pastor Harmon mentions, “Forgiveness can catapult you into your purpose and we have glossed over forgiveness. There is a lot of sickness, bondage and pain that happens to us from not forgiving people.” Forgiveness is sometimes the “f” word that we would rather not use and if we do, it’s forgive but not forget.

People harbor bitterness but Jesus’ message was forgiveness. The sacrifice of his life for the sins of the world is about forgiveness. Pastor Harmon’s story that he shares has definitely catapulted him into his purpose with Burn for the King ministries.

Nathan Harmon was raised in the church by his parents. He remembers at the age of twelve when his parents divorced that he began to turn away from the life that he knew and live a life that was a downward spiral. On his website he shares how he struggled as a young adult with drugs, alchohol, suicide and more. It was in 2009 when he made the choice to drive drunk with a passenger, Priscilla Owens, that his life changed. Pastor Harmon was in an accident where his vehicle was totaled and Priscilla lost her life. Harmon was able to go home but eventually had to turn himself in for the crime he committed.

In 2010 he was sentenced to serve time for what he had done and it was at his sentencing that God began to change Harmon’s life. The family of Priscilla, in their restitution request, asked that Harmon be released from his handcuffs so they could hug him and forgive him. Harmon remembers being in his jail cell on August 17, 2010 crying out to God that he was done running and he wanted to live for him. The forgiveness of Priscilla’s family sent Harmon launching to a place in God where his prayer was “Lord use me, send me.” He asked his mother for a bible and the bible he received was a black covered bible with a poem inside picked by the editor. The poem was written by a hymn writer, Priscilla Owens. That’s not the only thing that will surprise you about Pastor Harmon’s story.

While in prison God, being the miraculous God he is, opened doors for Harmon to share the gospel with the public on college campuses. He was there to share his story and how his life had changed up to that point and at the end he would say, “By the way, I’m in prison.”

When the question and answer portion came he was not shy to glorify God for the transformation that had taken place in his life. From prison he was released to a program that allowed him to live in a community and go from place to place sharing the gospel of Jesus. How did this happen you may ask? Some things, such as this, only God can explain! You see the program that he was a part of when he was released from prison was a new program and once he had completed the program, not too long after the program ceased.

In 2013 Pastor Harmon was released from the program to go home. When Harmon came home someone unknowingly gave him a car that was the exact make and model of the vehicle he had ruined in the accident. Burn for the King was birthed shortly after his return home.

He never anticipated that his ministry platform would be what it is today, he only wanted to be a vessel used by God. He has been welcomed to the Big Ticket Festival two years in a row. God has allowed his ministry to grow so much from the time he came home in 2013. He has recently become the lead pastor of a church that he and his wife had come to only to be an evangelist. His desire as pastor is to drive for outreach and evangelism. He wants to be a help to other ministries and churches to help them evangelize as well.

Pastor Harmon feels that churches have become more like country clubs where members are being swapped and what he hopes for his ministry to do is to go into the world as Jesus commissioned and to share the gospel and the love of Jesus. His desire is that they will adopt a burning passion to live for Jesus. He calls it a “reckless abandonment for Jesus.”

Just as Pastor Harmon was able to say to God that he was willing to let go of his past and live for the Lord his prayer is that he can encourage others to do the same. He wants God to continue to use him to share his story of forgiveness and the gospel of Jesus whether it be in a tent or on a corner. Revivals are not dead to Pastor Harmon. Jesus still has the power to forgive and the love that will open hearts to move forward with purpose for the king.

Byron Rideau & Mariah Houghton: First Comes Love, Then Comes…

If you are a pessimist, thinking that true love doesn’t exist and people don’t really fall head over heels in love anymore, take it from me, when I say, Byron Rideau and Mariah Houghton’s relationship will renew your faith in God having your ideal partner. In March of 2016, the couple announced their engagement through social media. If the photos connected with this article don’t emanate the joy of young love in your heart, you may need to visit the Wizard of Oz for a heart check. Okay, just kidding! But they are oh so cute!



Boy Meets Girl

Mariah Houghton, that last name may sound familiar to you, is the oldest daughter of gospel singer Israel Houghton. She is a song bird in her own right. Byron is minister, poet and an all-around talented young man.

Byron and Mariah met six years ago at church through mutual friends. While they didn’t actually become the best of friends then, their circles always remained connected. Some years passed and Mariah and Byron were helping to set up for a conference. Mariah found herself stressed, trying to make sure everything was as planned. She noticed that Byron was very helpful doing things that were needed, without having to be asked. Byron observed how stressed and exhausted Mariah was. He took that opportunity to check on her and offer her some help and reassurance. Byron encouraged her to take a short nap and continued setting up for the conference. From then on, Mariah says, she knew that they had to be best friends. She made it very clear that she was not looking for a romantic relationship with Byron.

During the interview, Byron went on to admit his ploy’s at gaining her interest. On March 9th, during their friendship, Mariah invited Byron out to an event to hear her sing. This was the date that changed things. Byron says, “I genuinely wasn’t flirting at all. I went and put my arm around her (Mariah), and put my arm around one of our other friends. Mariah moves my arm and says: ‘um, excuse me,’ and dropped my arm on my thigh.” Byron definitely knew, at this point, Mariah was not interested in him. He remembers telling God, “I was like, you know God, I tried.” But, as the evening was ending, Mariah invited Byron out for coffee the next day. They sat in the coffee shop talking for almost eight hours. Wait for it, their story gets even more sweeter. Mariah professed that she knew Bryon was not into her. Why? Because, “Bryon was so popular, so handsome and I was not popular at all.” By the end of their “marathon coffee friend date,” Byron expressed to Mariah, that one day, he would marry her. Mariah remembers being caught off guard because she did not think he was into her. They count that as their official first date. How adorbs!


The Proposal

Mariah’s desire was that her and Byron date for one year before getting married. So while they knew, eventually, that they would be married, they did date for a year.

Byron recalls Mariah picturing, perfecting and imagining her perfect ring. One day, while in the mall in their home town, Houston, TX, he saw the exact ring Mariah always wanted. Being as smooth as he is, Bryon let Mariah look and try it on. He then told her he just couldn’t get the ring right then and they should pray about it. He escorted her home and quickly left because he had to “pick up my paycheck.” He didn’t lie, he really did need to pick up his check. But, he immediately went back to the mall to get the ring for Mariah.

Byron pursued counsel from those he trusted most, to see if March 10th would be the perfect day to propose, and most agreed. In case you don’t remember, that is the anniversary of their coffee date.

Mariah recalls not having a clue that Bryon was going to propose because he always took the time to do loving and sweet things for her. Byron made it a point to make the whole day about Mariah. As the day got started with breakfast, He made it priority to ensure her nails were done and as the day progressed, they ate dinner at Tiny Boxwood’s and danced to their favorite song, “La Vien Rose” by Louis Armstrong.

Mariah loves when Byron tells stories, so he told her a story after dinner about a lumber jack and a princess who lived in a glass house, relating the story to their relationship, and had a video for her to see. From there, Byron walked her outside to the canopy for the restaurant, and got down on one knee to propose. Mariah said yes, of course. When she turned around, their family and friends were standing behind them.



The Critics

Mariah, soon to be 20, and Bryon, who recently turned 22, have had many people encourage them to “wait” to be married. But, as Bryon put it, “the wrong people” were giving input. So with their young wisdom Bryon and Mariah have learned to chew the meat and spit out the bones. Meaning, when people tell them stories or reasons why they shouldn’t get married at a young age, they listen to what they have to say. They understand that while people may be speaking on their own circumstances and fears, it doesn’t define how they have to view marriage.

Bryon said, “it’s not that we’re getting married because we want to be able to have sex or anything, it’s because we love each other.” They have had someone, who wasn’t married until they were in their late 30’s, tell them that they wished they were able to find each other as soon as Bryon and Mariah had. On the other side, they have had others try to convince them, that they should wait until they are more financially stable and established themselves.

Their parents are a huge support to them and answer any questions they have about marriage and relationships. Support comes from couples that are closer in age and also, older couple’s council them in areas where they struggle. Bryon and Mariah refuse to allow fears of finances or their future to keep them from trusting God on this journey.

Happily Ever After…

Because Bryon and Mariah were friends for a year and dated for a year, they have experienced many changes with each other. Learning to pray for each other and minister to one another gives them a deeper understanding of their relationship. They consider themselves blessed, knowing that they were both on their own paths, doing their own thing and God brought them together.

They are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, besides their parents. It’s not just something that they display on social media, creating a persona for people to see, but their love for each other shines through. They are moving forward with plans for their wedding and know that with God, and each other, they are writing their own story of happily ever after.


* all photos provided courtesy of Byron & Mariah