Holiness Emphasis week is an annual, week-long event at Asbury University. The theme this Spring was entitled "Whole and Holy" and encouraged students to invite the Holy Spirit into their deepest wounds and allow Him to do the work of healing. It this healing that is embraced by the ongoing process of sanctification and allows believers to more fully pursue a life of "holiness unto the Lord". On the Wednesday of Holiness Emphasis week, our speaker, Rev. Carolyn Moore, encouraged the faculty, staff, and student body to lay their wounds at the cross. A Post-It note was passed out to each member of the congregation and many wrote down specific sins, struggles, and people that needed to be forgiven and were affixed to a large, wooden cross at the front of the auditorium. A few days later, these notes were burned as a symbol of repentance and surrender. I was asked by the Assistant Director of Spiritual Life, Jeannie Banter, to take these ashes and create a piece of art to represent how God had touched each one of our lives. Some of the paint in and around the flower is paint made directly from the remains of the Post-it notes and the remaining ashes I have scattered around the flower in the background of the piece. I usually enjoy painting flowers, however, this painting is largely outside of my canon of art. I have a very small art business that takes commissions to create acrylic paintings of family pets, among other things. This painting is done with oil paint, oil paint made from paper ashes, and ashes. The ashes have been attached to the painting by means of oil paint, metal leaf adhesive, and tweezers - all of which I have never done before. However, this painting does not represent my work, my accomplishments, or even only what God did in my own journey of surrender. When you look at this painting I pray that you see what the Lord has done in the hearts of many, both students and adults alike. This painting is a corporate submission and surrender to "the name above every name" that has the power to break chains, bring victory amongst ashes, and allow us to claim the triumph of the cross. It is their vulnerability, courage to surrender, and the all-powerful work of the Holy Spirit that made this painting possible. The title of the painting is a remembrance of the power of the victory of the cross in each one of us even in the midst of a world that is still stained by sin.
When people hear the phrase "beauty from ashes" it is normally associated with suffering and it certainly is a beautiful picture of what God brings out of suffering. However, this is not a painting about suffering. This about what God can do with a broken, sinful person like me and a broken, sinful congregation like Asbury University. The purpose of the spiritual armor of God, according to Paul, is to help us stand firm against the enemy (6:13). When spiritual warfare comes our way, it is easy to want to take the battle into our own hands. After all, isn't it a noble thing to fight for God? The thing is, is that God does not need us to fight for Him. The battle has already been won. When we try to fight on our own it is disregarding the power and purpose of the cross. This is why Paul does not tell us to put on the armor to fight, but to put on the armor to stand firm. The armor itself indicates that we cannot stand in the battle on our own. I heard in a sermon by Priscilla Shirer what happens when we only carry the breastplate of righteousness. In that time period, the purpose of the breastplate was to protect the most vulnerable part of the body, however, the breastplate was so heavy that the weight of it would eventually crush the soldier. In order to prevent this, the belt was put on in order to hold the weight of the breastplate and take it off of the shoulders of the soldier. When we try to pursue righteousness without the belt of the truth of the gospel we will be crushed under its weight. However, when we surrender to Jesus, we not only "resist the devil", but we take on a weight as light as a flower. Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 that His "yoke is easy and His burden is light". We were never meant to carry the weight of the battle of sin and evil because He did that for us. This painting is a symbol of what happens when we choose to put that belt of truth back on, depending on the strength of the Lord, knowing that we cannot hold our own. It is a symbol of what happens when we choose to stand our ground in the victory that has already been won for us by the cross and submit to a God who brings victory in the midst of the ashes of our sin and brokenness.
The staff, faculty, and students of Asbury University who contributed every one of the Post-It notes that were burned. Greg Haseloff (Dean of Spiritual Life at Asbury University) and Jeannie Banter (Assistant Director of Spiritual Life at Asbury University) who burned the Post-It notes and provided the ashes for the painting.
This is an original work with only prints available for various sizes and prices. Prints can be purchased by contacting Annie Sisk through email or a Direct Message on Instagram or Facebook with the Page name of Annie Sisk Paintings. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Direct commissions are available for acrylic paintings of pets, flowers, landscapes or buildings (such as homes, universities, etc.)
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