Untrained artist Larry Farris credits a word from God with ushering him into an art ministry.
Actually, it was three words - "teach, preach and paint" - behind an impressive 12-painting project Farris said God gave him to help share the Gospel.
"The Lord put it on my heart to paint some paintings," Farris said. "It all started with those three words."
Farris, a member of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, said when he received the words two years ago, he asked God to be more specific.
God's reply? Produce the 12 paintings based on Scripture, teach about the paintings and set up a blog to share comments.
Farris, 61, said he followed God's commands and has been awestruck at how the project has opened his eyes to the things of God.
"It's kind of like taking your hands off the steering wheel and kind of letting God do the driving," he said. "I never would have dreamed about the ability to do any of these paintings. Since I've began to sort of allow God to take over, he's really freed up a lot of things."
Farris has definitely found time to talk to a broader group of people about the paintings - with such names as "The Transfiguration," "Too Late to Repent" and "The Second Coming of Christ."
"The paintings are an opportunity to talk about God's providence, basically," Farris said.
He also likes to share that God has given each person a spiritual gift.
"He's given me the gift of painting these paintings, but everybody's got a spiritual gift that can become a ministry," Farris said.
The semiretired insurance salesman had been painting for about 10 years and has had no formal training.
"I'm not an artist," he said, explaining he didn't know he had a gift for painting that could touch people's lives. "An artist is someone beyond my capability."
But he said through the hands of God, he has been able to produce the "Preach. Teach. Paint." project and other works.
"The Lord just will give me a vision of what to paint," he said. "And I just do it. I'm sincere when I say that. I really don't do the painting. I just hold the brush and let the Holy Spirit do the painting."
One painting did present a challenge, Farris said.
"Too Late to Repent" was the hardest one out of all of them to paint because it's very painful to paint people as they're stepping into the abyss," he said.
Farris said the paintings are not for sale but are available for viewing at events. Some of his other work is for sale. Call Farris at (225) 933-1587, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.teachpreachpaint.weebly.com.
A supportive community can be a valuable resource to people in crisis even to those considering suicide, said the former executive director of the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center.
And the church's help is sorely needed as suicide rates continue to raise, said Frank Campbell, a licensed clinical social worker and clinical researcher and consultant.
"Sometimes people don't realize they can turn to another member of their church for help or they could talk to their pastor," Campbell said. "They don't what to trouble other people. They would go to the trouble to die rather than to talk to somebody."
Campbell will share his experiences in a message titled "The Canon of Why: Coping with Crisis and Suicide" on April 14 at Broadmoor United Methodist Church, 10230 Mollylea Drive in Baton Rouge.
The messages are set for services at 8:30 a.m. , 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. Campbell will also host a workshop titled "Further Down the Canyon: Suicide and Its Aftermath" from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Adult Building. The workshop will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
"Crisis theory comes to life in every community and creates the possibility of suicide for people in crisis. Unfortunately, that continues to be a growing number in our country in the last 50 years," he said.
Campbell's appearance is part of Broadmoor United Methodist's "Waging Peace" sermon series. The church's senior pastor, the Rev. Fred Wideman, started the series in January in response to the pre-Christmas slaying of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn.
Campbell, a member of Broadmoor United Methodist for nearly 40 years, said a lot of attention is given to the violence of homicides, but he said suicides double the rates of homicides in the nation.
"In every community in the United States, suicide is a great form of violence. It occurs to the individual but it also occurs to the family, the community and many times that means members of the church are also victims when there's a suicide," he said. "So what the church leaders in every community, every race and every reality in our community can do is start to talk openly and honestly about how to get help when you're in a crisis."
Campbell is a senior consultant for Campbell and Associates Consulting LLC. In 2009, Campbell was awarded the Dr. Norman Farberow Award by the International Associate of Suicide Prevention for his international contributions to those affected by suicide.
ä ON THE INTERNET:
Louisiana hunters can relate to author and outdoor enthusiast John Van.
Combining his countless hours sitting in treestands and his experience in "lay ministry," Van has written a book - a devotional really - to help inspire other Christian men and fellow hunters to seek God.
"Treestand Devotionals: Nothing Happens with a Dull Sword ... Nothing" (Crossbooks Publishing) is a weekly devotional organized about the hunting calendar and claims to relate the "intangibles of hunting to the necessities of faith."
The 122-page book has colorful photos of nature shots to open each week's chapter.
In the "Week Ten - Summer" entry, Van talks about the "The Reality of Time." He references Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 about there being "an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven."
"We have all the time we need because it's appointed by God," Van writes.
"How are we using our ‘appointed time'? Are we using it to build others, using it to heal, using it to embrace, using it to sew together with peace and love ... or are we using it to tear down, throw stones, and hate? I think a lot of us use time as an excuse ... Our use of God's appointed time reveals our heart. Show me where you spend your money and your time, and I'll show you your heart. Use your appointed time to sharpen you sword. Use the time God appointed for you ... in service of Him who gave you life."
For more information, go to http://treestanddevo.wordpress.com.
Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email email@example.com