Faith Matters for July 14, 2012

By Terry Robinson

Advocate staff writer

Sue Primm
Sue Primm

Where others may have simply seen a brick wall, Sue Primm saw Jesus.

The Baton Rouge woman turned the space in the Fellowship Hall at Francis Asbury United Methodist Church into an immaculate piece of art titled “The Story of Christ.”

Primm unveiled the artwork — all 7 feet by 4.5 feet of it — about a month ago at the church on Old Hammond Highway.

Primm, 61, got the idea to depict the “I Am” statements of Christ in her painting from a church Sunday school book, she said. “I started with the baptism, when John baptized (Jesus). And I went through different parables or his teachings; then I had it progress on up to the Garden of Gethsemane and the tomb and his final resurrection.”

She said it took about a month of inspired work to finish the painting, and “while I was working on it, I became intimate with Jesus.”

Her art, Primm said, is like her faith: “It’s bright. It’s uplifting. It’s hopeful.”

Fellow Francis Asbury member Gwen Ross, 61, called the painting an inspiration.

“It just reiterates everything Jesus did for us through his life,” she said. “And it just takes us on a journey like the journey you take as a Christian.”

Primm said the frame for the painting is made of board from “sinker cypress” logs from the Atchafalaya Basin. It is believed many of the ancient trees were living during the time of Christ.

“Even if these boards weren’t that old, I pretend that they are,” she said.

Church member Matt Turner put the frame together — just before starting chemotherapy, Primm said. “He insisted on doing this frame before he became very, very ill. He has a lot of faith that’s he’s going to be OK.”

A native of Ferriday, Primm had no formal training when she started painting about 20 years ago as a form of psychotherapy “during a very stressful time,” she said.

One of the stresses was the sentencing of her son for vehicular homicide. He served prison time and is doing well, Primm said.

“I knew everything was out of my hands,” she said. “There was nothing I could do. (Painting) just occupied me and gave me a sense of pleasure during such a stressful time.”

The painting hasn’t stopped for Primm, who moved to Baton Rouge in 2000 and has been a member of Francis Asbury for about eight years, but she doesn’t sell her art.

“I found that I get more pleasure out of giving it away to someone who appreciated it,” she said. “I appreciate the church so much that they allow me to hang up my banners of anything that I’ve painted.”

Rocking for Jesus

Benny DiChiara still rocks.

Instead of leading a secular rock band as he did years ago, the New Orleans native and Baton Rouge resident heads a Christian rock band.

“We just played every rock club that we could play and it meant nothing compared to this, where we reach out and just touch somebody’s heart and kind of give them hope and all that,” said DiChaira, founder of the band Empowered, which seeks to empower others with the message of Christ.

DiChiara, 51, recently released his first Christian CD titled “Soul Cry.”

The CD features 12 tracks, including the title song “Soul Cry,” “Heal My Heart,” “Sow the Seed” and “1995.”

It is “1995” that has a special significance to DiChiara. In 1995, DiChiara was invited to attend a service at Trinity Christian Center (now Healing Place Church). He gave his life to Christ after a dynamic message by the Rev. Dino Rizzo.

“It’s my personal story of my salvation,” he said. “It’s hard to play live because it’s emotional.”

The emotion comes out because DiChiara said the band’s call is now about Jesus and fulfilling the Great Commission — going into the world and sharing the gospel.

“Back in the day when I had the hair and the rock band and we dressed up in New Orleans, it was about being rich, it was about being famous, it was about doing the big towns, getting out of New Orleans and doing the big music thing — very worldly,” DiChiara said. “The difference between then and now is so stark. We’re not doing this to get to heaven. We’re going so other people can get into heaven. I already know I’m going to heaven.”

DiChiara, who runs a Baton Rouge advertising agency, said he spent three years working on the CD.

Other Empowered members are Tony Fresina, Mark Bordelon and Don Winters. DiChiara serves as lead vocalist, keyboardist and primary writer for the group.

Dichiara said “Soul Cry” is available locally at the Bible and Book Center, 4242 Government St., and the Healing Place Church bookstore.

Words of wisdom

“Grandma’s Hands: Cherished Moments of Faith and Wisdom” (Acanthus Publishing) by New Orleans author Calvin Mackie is one beautiful book with high-quality, colorful photos that explode off the pages.

The book’s inspirational writing brings backs memories of a bygone generation that exhibited great faith in some of the most trying of circumstances and shared that faith and wisdom with others.

The second book by Mackie, a former Tulane professor, brings to mind many of well-known proverbs and sayings from grandmothers and others, such as “Every Good-bye Aint’ Gone” and “Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You.” Mackie adds a vignette and scripture that fits each saying.

Many of the proverbs and stories are taken from the women who raised Mackie, but Mackie also shares anecdotes from his own life and deals with the storm — Hurricane Katrina — that altered his life and the lives of countless others. There are nearly 100 proverbs in the 225-page book.

The foreword is by the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, who was recently named the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

One proverb Mackie expounds upon is “The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side” with the corresponding Scripture taken from Ecclesiastes 4:4: “Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors.”

In that, Mackie writes: “Our neighbors or friends are always doing better than us — so it seems. … Some people jump around from partner to partner from job to job looking for that non-existent utopia, but you have to make the best of your situation and not worry about what is happening next door.”

Mackie is a founder of the Channel ZerO Group LLC, an educational and motivational consulting company. He is also the author of the 2005 book “A View From the Roof: Lessons for Life and Business.”

Go to http://www.grandmashands.net.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com