Giovanni Antonia Bazzi’s “Procession to Calvary”

 Giovanni Antonia Bazzis Procession to Calvary

Giovanni Antonio Bazzi’s high renaissance painting “Procession to Calvary” was created over 500 years before Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion”; however, each are masterpieces in their abilities to capture the torment of Christ.  Bazzi, also known as II Sodoma, masterfully reflects the majesty, although willingly lowered, of Christ here.  He is a strong and muscular figure with the light of glory reflected throughout His being.  Here is God.  He is bowed but is there any doubt that it is by His choice?

We are in the painting as well.  Bazzi portrays our ability to be both kind and cruel but in both sinful.  On one side of the painting are those with clinched fists, angry expressions, and aggressive stances.  On the opposite side there are those with open palms and saddened faces, but they do nothing.  We do see Simon from Cyrene appearing to grasp the cross as he begins to take it for our Lord.  But we know that even he  did not do so willingly.  No one was without fault.  No matter if their sin was intentional of passive, it was all sin and how horrible sin must be to have brought God’s Son here and place that look of agony upon his face.

The process of separation has begun and it is this truth which Bazzi captures so clearly.  This strong muscular figure, this one with the glow of glory so clearly communicating His divinity has the face of agony.  The agony we see here is not from nails, nor blood, nor humiliation.  The agony is from the separation which has begun.  John Calvin tells us that Christ “paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in His soul the more terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man.”  In the face of the Son of God we see a soul experiencing a pain we can never fathom.

God came.  God kneeled Himself willingly.  God allowed Himself to experience the pain we see here in this tormented face and it was all just beginning.  The agony you see is the look of grace in the face of our Lord and there is nothing cheap about it.  How He must love us.

Remembering Rubens and Grace

Peter Paul Rubens   Last Supper   WGA20255 867x1023 Remembering Rubens and Grace

Peter Paul Rubens’ classic painting “The Last Supper” is beautifully striking in its contrast and symbolism. In that contrast, you can see grace if you look for it. The figure of Christ is centered, prominent, large, with a heavenly light outlining His head. There can be no doubt that Rubens’ intention is to boldly proclaim the deity and majesty of Christ. Here is God. Here is God surrounded by men. Here is God fulfilling His mission. Here is God knowing what is to come. Here is God sitting with those He loved, those He came to redeem, restore, renew, forgive. Rubens is telling us to remember.

Remember that the hands that would lift the cup would be lifted up themselves and nailed to our sin. Remember that grace would flow by His blood just as wine flowed for their refreshment. Remember. Remember that violence would tear Him just as they tore the bread to feast upon it. Remember, Rubens is telling us, “Do not ever forget.”

It is all here in this beautiful portrayal: majesty and humanity, deity and deception, holiness and sin, redemption and decay, grace and judgement, mercy and betrayal, forgiveness and bitterness, love and envy, sacrifice and selfishness. It is all here in the image of God and man. Remember.

Can you see His grace here? It is written on His face as He looks to His Father, and it is written upon the face of the one who looks at you. Grace and sin are both sitting at that table. However, although sin sat at the table with Him and even looks toward you, it will never be strong enough to overshadow God’s grace that sat there, as well. Remember!

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So Close: I Need Your Help To Get “Micah’s Touch” Published

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Most of you know that, for the last four years, I have been working on my book “Micah’s Touch.”  It has undergone a number of revisions and changes but has been finished for at least six months, or until the next editor shows interest and suggest changes.  I have learned a lot about publishing through the traditional process and it is a frustrating process, but one that has built patience and made me a better writer.

First Publisher:

Before ever arriving in Colorado three years ago, I had spoken to a small but promising publisher who had agreed to publish “Micah’s Touch” and was interested in at least two more of my ideas for future books.  You can imagine how disappointing it was after we arrived to find out that the publisher had been merged with a larger publisher who was not interested in publishing “Micah’s Touch.”

Encouraging Interest:

Then I attended a writer’s conference where four out of the five literary agents there and two publishers requested meetings with me. Few of those who attend these conferences get to meet with agents or publishers one on one.  Every person I met with who requested a sample of the book asked that I send them the entire manuscript plus a book proposal.  One of the agents later would contact me and express great appreciation for my writing but did not know how the book could be marketed.  She suggested I rework the book as a spiritual memoir.

Rewrite:

At the same time  the agent suggested the book become a  memoir, I began working with a very talented and helpful writing coach and she made the same suggestion.  It took over a year to complete the full rewrite but once it was complete everyone felt that the book was strong and ready to be picked up by a publisher.

969422 So Close: I Need Your Help To Get Micahs Touch PublishedSo Close:

A number of publishers have shown interest and always spoken highly of the book, but each time the biggest stumbling block has been what publishers call my platform.  They love the book but do not believe that I have enough support and connections to sell enough copies for them to recoup their investment.  There was one editor at a major publishing house who did like the book enough that she was preparing to go forward despite her concerns about my lack of a strong platform.  Only days before an offer was going to be made the publisher her imprint was under reorganized, and she was let go.

I Need Your Help:

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, first to ask you for prayer.  Imagine working four years on something that basically lays your life out for the world to see.  Being told it is an excellent book and your a good writer, even being told the book will change lives.  However, then having people not move forward because they do not think you will be able to support your own book through sales.  Would you pray for Edith and me?

1 e1397022180492 821x1023 So Close: I Need Your Help To Get Micahs Touch PublishedThe other reason is that I need your help.  Once again someone has shown interest in “Micah’s Touch.”  They have      asked that I send them a marketing plan for how I intend to promote and market the book.  A large part of that plan  rest, once again, on my platform.  One of the main ways agents and publishers evaluate your platform is through your website subscribers and your social media presence.  I need to move my social media numbers from the hundreds into the thousands, and that is where you come in.

Here is what I need:

I need you personally to do the steps at the end of this letter and then ask as many of your family, neighbors, friends an co-workers to do the same.  I have listed each action item in order of importance.  So, if you can not do all of them you can at least do the first few.  Here they are:

1. Please subscribe to  www.darianburns.com . On the right side of this page you will see a place for you to put your email in so you can subscribe to to this blog.  I now have 140.  I need at least a 1,000 if not more.  Subscribe to www.darianburns.com as soon as you can.  Make sure that you go to your email and CONFIRM you subscribed or it will not count. Only subscriptions that have been confirmed are listed.

2. Go to my Facebook FAN page, not my personal page, and like it.  The page is brand new, but it will improve in the days to come.  For now, I just need likes.  here is the link:

    https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDarianBurns

3.  If we are not friends on Facebook, please friend me.  Here is the link:

https://www.facebook.com/darian.g.burns

4. Follow me on Twitter if you use Twitter.  Here is the link:

https://twitter.com/dgregoryburns

5. Follow me on Google + if you use it.  Here is the link:

https://plus.google.com/+DarianBurns/about

6. Follow me on Instagram if you belong to it. Here is the link:

http://instagram.com/dgregoryburns

7. Connect with me on Linkedin if you use the site.  Also, it would be helpful if you endorsed me as a “Writer.”  Here is the link:

http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?

8. Visit www.darianburns.com as often as possible, comment on posts in the comment box following the post, look through the different pages and enjoy the free stuff.

9.  If you subscribe to www.darianburns.com, but you do not like getting email from the site just ignore them but please do not unsubscribe – At least not until I sign a contract for the book.

I have tried to make this as simple as possible.  It should jest take a couple of minutes.  It would mean more to me than could ever imagine.

Sincere thanks!

Darian

Darian 33 1023x682 So Close: I Need Your Help To Get Micahs Touch Published

The Hungry and World Vision

d052 0080 143 The Hungry and World Vision

World Vision has changed its mind. It hardly had a choice. Thousands of children were having their support taken away only one day after the Christian relief organization announced employing gay individuals with partners. The reaction was swift and angry. Many Christian celebrity leaders called for their followers to end all giving to World Vision.

Clearly, World Vision could have handled their announcement and the transition better. However the manner and level of anger Christians unloaded toward the ministry was, for me, a low point for the American church. Many of my spiritual heroes blew it, and it was hard for me to watch. Even as I say this I do so knowing that a large portion of my family and friends will disagree with me. But I have to say it. The one thing that was missing in this entire unfortunate situation was any resemblance of Jesus or Christ-likeness.

The overstatements and hyperbole were reactionary, dishonest, arrogant, and pharisaical. One individual, whom I have always respected, announced, apparently without asking anyone at World Vision, that the ministry no longer “believed in the Bible.” The person who said this is someone I take seriously, so I pulled up World Vision’s statement of faith to see if what he was saying was true. Guess what? World Vision believes “Jesus lived, died, and rose again.” They proclaim boldly that, “Jesus is Lord.” Elsewhere, they state that redemption is offered “only through faith in Jesus Christ.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty biblical to me.

Another “leader” announced that Christianity had “collapsed” at World Vision. According to this guy, the one organization which feeds more children and supports more families in Christ’s name than any other ministry in the world, are “apostates.” This writer went on to write that the announcement was a full frontal attack on “the gospel.” He did not say it was an attack on “the Bible’s teachings about sexuality”, he said on “the gospel.” Somehow in this fellow’s mind World Vision deciding to give gay people a job was an attack on the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Christ’s blood can wash away all our sin but can’t somehow cover World Vision’s hiring practices? Huh? What? Really? Did he really think this through before he said it? I believe in a Savior and a Cross much more powerful than that.

Now, please understand me. I think all those reacting are good people seeking to live out the truth of God’s word. They believe Scripture is under attack, and, therefore, they need to defend it. But Scripture can carry its own weight quit well without our help. The Bible is, after all, the very “breath of God.” So, while I think many had sincere motivation, I also believe they were misguided. God does not ask us to defend Him. He does tell us to follow Him and His Word tells us the best way to follow Christ is by love.

So, as I was praying and trying to sort all this out in my mind, a question popped into my mind. If Christ were here how would He have responded? Would Jesus insist that sinners not be given jobs so they could support themselves and their loved ones? If the answer is not obvious, I will answer the question for you. No. He would not have. The man who spoke with the woman at the well told her to sin no more, but He did not insist she not be allowed to make a living. I think Jesus would likely even get angry if someone insisted that the law of God was being broken, and therefore these sinners needed to not be allowed to work for a living.

The biggest thing of which I am most sure is that Jesus would not have called for His church to take food from the mouth’s of hungry children. Thousands of children and families who were being fed through monthly support given to World Vision had their support dropped at the insistence of “Christian leaders.” Yes, Christians were instructed to find another relief organization, such as Compassion International, and adopt a child through them. But that still doesn’t do anything about the kid you made a commitment to at World Vision who now will feel the pangs of hunger once again.

This week I heard a lot of noise. Many clanging cymbals so to speak. A lot of tongues wagging and self proclaimed prophets declaring God’s truth. What I did not see was much love and that is how we have been called to show Christ to the world.

Fred Phelps Is Dead. Now What?

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”  Matthew 5:44

pho 10sep26 2553281 Fred Phelps Is Dead.  Now What?

Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, died today. He is famous for his hatred for almost anyone and everyone. I am sure there will be many who will give back as good as they got. His signs will be there but held by those he once condemned: “Burn in Hell”, “God Hates Fred” “Bigots Are God Haters”.  There will be many who will take pleasure in pointing out that the church he founded on intolerance became so narrow that they no longer tolerated him.  They will chuckle at the excommunication of the excommunicator.   However, I have a suggestion. How about we don’t become Fred now that he’s dead.

Already, the Twitter and Facebook universe is buzzing with tasteless jokes and hate filled venting. But if Fred Phelps was the example of everything God calls us not to be when he was alive why on earth would we follow his example now that he is gone?  How about we recognize what his parting has blessed us with, a more peaceful place to discover what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – MLK

When Fear Comes Your Way

fear final When Fear Comes Your Way

I have been fearful before.  A fire that threatened my voice.  A child trapped in the bewildering world of autism and my inability to do anything about it.  The despair and loneliness after desertion.  The challenge of raising three boys alone.  The wondering of whether questioning my faith was equal to losing it.  I have known fear in my life.  We all have.

Earlier this year I faced a fear unlike any I had ever known.  Fear that I was dying and that, before dying, I was losing my mind.  A stroke is a terrifying encounter.  There is no pain.  Just bewilderment and fear.  Nothing does what it is supposed to do.  Where are you?  For a brief moment you become lost in a strange place that is not your home.  Yet it is.  You tell your arm to move and, instead, it falls.  You attempt to speak but are met with silence.  You decide to focus but your eyes flutter and roll.

Soon, it has all passed and you feel fine and are shocked when the test returns with the word ‘stroke’.  Fear.  As therapy begins you discover you have lost far more than you had realized.  A hundred little words you have known all your life;  words that you are sure you knew what they meant, but you don’t anymore.  Your words begin to stall,  stammer and stumble.  At times they slur.  Often with the slurring and your occasional loss of balance you are sure there are those who assume you are a drunk.  You feel terribly terribly alone.  You are afraid.

You are not alone in your fear.  Fear is universal.  The turtle withdrawing into its shell.  The birds rushing out of a canopy of trees as you enter a forest.  A crawdad scurrying under a rock when a finger is placed into it’s stream.  A child holding their father’s hand tightly on the first day of school.  A parent as their child drives away to enter into their future – without them.  Fear is a part of being alive.  Something each of us share with each other.

So, if fear is universal, what is its purpose?  What is it teaching us?  The longer I live and encounter fear, the more I see how others face it, I have come to believe something. I am convinced that more often than not fear is our reaction to encountering, or at least moving closer to, truth.  The stagnant are rarely fearful.  Shallowness is often a warm buffer from fear.  If you do not face fear you do not grow, move forward, live.  Death is safe but it is also dead.

When Peter took those steps onto the water and he began to sink, in fear he called out to Jesus.   In faith he believed despite his fear.  Fear was still there.  It was still part of the equation driving him forward.  While fear drove him to a place where he had never been closer to his Lord, his friends sat safely back in the boat.  Think about that and the next time fear comes your way and ask yourself if truth is right beyond it’s horizon.

Epic Grace

epic grace   book Epic Grace

In his what is soon becoming a classic, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” author Philip Yancey explains that grace is not something that can best be understood through explanation and education.  It is not something that can be fully known outside of experience.  To receive grace is to know it – plain and simple.  Grace transcends human language and categorizations.  Those who have known it and experienced it, see it in each other’s eyes and we smile.  We do so as professors and preachers lecture on as if it is nothing more than a doctrine.  We know better.

As I read Kurt Bubna’s “Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot,” I felt as if he and I were eye to eye flashing one another knowing smiles.  One of the clear ways I know that Bubna gets it is that he chooses to reveal grace, as opposed to explaining it, through his own experiences and encounters with grace.  Bubna intuitively knows that grace is best revealed and understood through story.  However, I also know that he has experienced grace because he freely lays himself out before his readers with vulnerability and authenticity.  Bubna shares failures, inadequacies, sins, lies, betrayals, and shortcomings all with his readers. He does so as a man with no fear of judgement.  You can only do that when you have encountered the unconditional grace of Christ.

When it has all been said and done everyone of us is either an idiot or a recovering idiot.  If you don’t understand that, or if you reject it, you need to read this book.  If you do understand it, you need to read and celebrate this book.

 

20 Facts That Sound Like Fiction

20 Facts that Sound Like Fiction:

swimming moose1 20 Facts That Sound Like Fiction

1.  A moose can DIVE underwater and SWIM to nearly twenty feet in search of food.

2.  Cosmic rays from outer space cause glitches in your electronics. In some electronics, cosmic rays are the primary source of soft errors. Cosmic rays are one of the main reasons that servers and high reliability computers use error correcting RAM.

3.  When you get a kidney transplant, they usually just leave your original kidneys in your body and put the 3rd kidney in your pelvis.

4.  65% of all data on the Internet is either pornography or spam.

5.  The United States in World WarII created a bomb that used bats. The bats would be carrying small incendiary charges and would be released from the bomb in mid air, causing them to fly and scatter to different buildings in the area. The charges would then detonate and set all the buildings on fire. It was tested and proven to be very effective.

6.  Saudi Arabia imports its camels from Australia.

Camel face e1393700377527 20 Facts That Sound Like Fiction

7.  Australia once LOST a prime minister. As in straight up could not find him. They have yet to find him.

8.  There was once a war between Honduras and El Salvador started by a SOCCER game.

9.  It rains diamonds on Saturn, and Jupiter.

10.  More people are killed each year by vending machines than by sharks.

11.  Humans share 50% of their DNA with… bananas.

12.  Maine is the closest US state to Africa.

13.  Cleopatra lived closer in time to 2014 than she did to the building of the Great Pyramids.

14.  Two grandsons of tenth US President John Tyler are still alive today.

john tyler color 20 Facts That Sound Like Fiction

15.  Cows have best friends and they get stressed out when they are separated.

16.  The coat worn by Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel/OZ) in the movie wizard of OZ was picked up by the studio at a second hand store looking for props. It turned out to have been originally owned by L Frank Baum, who wrote the book.

17.  Robert Todd Lincoln, the president’s son, was at, or near the first three presidential assassinations.

18.  The founder of match.com, Gary Kremen, lost his girlfriend to a man she met on match.com

19.  The lighter was invented before the match.

20.  The total combined weight of the world’s ant population is heavier than the total combined weight of the world’s human population.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

index Martin Luther King, Jr.

In memorary of Martin Luthr King, Jr. Here is the link were you can read a PDF of his original “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963.  You can also watch and listen to it below.  If you would like to read, or download a PDF copy of his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” just clink on the name and it will take you to my “Free Articles, Devotions & Studies” page.  Just scroll down to find it.  Last, here is a link to a book review of Dr. Anthony Bradley’s book “Aliens in the Promise Land: Why Minority Leadership is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions.”  Anthony and I are both alumi of Covenant Theological Seminary and I have alway enjoyed his work.  I hope you do as well.

 

 

God’s Story of Grace

gods story by david arms Gods Story of Grace

David Arms, a well known and respected artist who hails from Nashville, set out to capture the story of Scripture and God’s grace on canvass.  The result which he calls “God’s Story” is a large painting that stretches across the chancel of a large church in Franklin Tennessee. A print of it hangs in my hall way as well.  It is a masterful portrayal of God’s redemptive work.  Each panel of the painting powerfully shows us the four connecting parts of God’s gracious plan of redemption for His creation.

In the first panel we see Creation.  Here we have life with clear blue skies, beautiful birds who are no doubt singing, a strong vibrantly alive oak, and a bright red apple representing God’s gracious provision.  The second panel, representing the Fall and sin, stands in stark contrast to the first.  Its somber and dark hues leave no doubt that an unthinkable loss has occurred.  Clouds are in the sky.  Black crows, symbolizing the death that has come, are perched upon a leafless and lifeless tree which sits lower than any of the trees in the other three panels.  In fact, the entire panel seems to sit lower as if the entire frame and what it represents has fallen.

In the third panel Redemption has come.  God has come to make all things new.  Here we see the agent of redemption, Christ, symbolized by a cross which sits in the center of a restored oak tree.  Though the sky is not as clear and blue as in the first frame, it is obviously clearing.  Flying around this “tree of love” are three butterflies who proclaim, through their simple beauty, the new life that has been won through Christ victory over death.  Above the tree is an egg, which might at first seem an odd and out of place symbol; however, the egg perfectly communicates what has occurred here and is still occurring.  The egg tells us that life in Christ is here but that a much greater and fuller life is on the horizon because of Christ sacrifice and victory.

Finally, the forth panel which declares the full arrival of God’s redemption, His renewal, His restoration of all that was before the fall to a greater state than before.  The Consummation of the Kingdom of God has arrived!  Notice that the elements in the frame literally spill over and can not be contained within it.  The skies is clearer and bluer!  The Tree is larger, higher and fuller! The fruit is more plentiful and the birds are larger and and more striking in their beauty!  The grace of God has invaded ever facet of His creation and redeemed it!

Look at the story of God’s grace.  Our creator’s mercy, love, and grace can be seen in every frame.  If you look close enough and open your heart to the truth and love it reveals you may even see yourself in the story.   My prayer is that you do.