Friday, December 8, 2017

"Scarred, Scared, Sacred" 36x72, Oil on Canvas

"Scarred, Scared, Sacred" 36x72, Oil on Canvas

"The Civil War is the American Iliad. Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, Frederick Douglass, Grant and Lee endure as stirring to our national memory as were the legendary Achilles and Hector to the world of the Greeks..." - Opening to Gettysburg, by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen

Can we understand ourselves as Americans without the Civil War? What are we because of the Civil  War? And how do we remember it as we change? All these questions (and so many more) stir and churn through the pot of America whether we want them to or not.

As I was painting I used the colors of the war. Blue, Gray and the African American. For me the trees are symbol. They don't depict a certain place or battle. Although a very thoughtful friend asked if this was about the 20th Maine (What a battle! What men!). I chose instead to say something about memory with mist. The age that passes that we can't quite make out because of the passage of time. These fallen are all mixed together. There aren't just Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs. They are all brothers included in the hallowed ground. For me, the pivotal tree is the black tree. Scarred and sinewed with age. This tree, the largest in the painting, reaches up with an arm to show the way to the open landscape. For what is America without freedom, without the land? And how can we truly remember the Civil war without addressing Slavery?

The battlefields of the Civil War are those rare places within our own soil to wrestle with the questions of who we are. They make sacred the landscape marked by death and brutality. This ferocity dealt on animal, land and man. All were carnage for the machine of war. If we do not have these places of memory, of consecration, we lose the space to sit with those questions adequately. We instead don't remember at all. Something far worse.

Lincoln spoke these words at the Gettysburg Address:

"...The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"Frayed" 48x48, Oil on Canvas

"Frayed" 48x48, Oil on Canvas

I finished this painting after reading Sam Watkins account of the civil war. His book is called, Co. Aytch. Phil Leigh writes this about Sam:

"Of the 120 men enlisting in his company in 1861, Watkins was one of only seven remaining upon its surrender two weeks after Appomattox. Such endurance speaks volumes about the young man’s chronicle. During the war he was falsely arrested once, suffered three gunshot wounds and captured – and escaped – three times." (Article, Private Watkins War).

I am also reading Elisha Hunt Rhodes' account of the war, All for the Union. I am struck by the juxtaposition of these two men. Sam is a rascal but survives by his wits and cunning. Elisha is faithful to goodness throughout the war. He is a man you would remember because of that goodness. Both men came to faith. Sam, later in life after the war's end and Elisha already a follower of God as he went into service. Both men enter the gaping maw of the bloodiest war that was ever fought by an American and both lived through some of the worst battles of that war. Both were forever changed.

Perhaps this painting is also about a frayed South. And today, I feel a frayed country.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

"Emancipation Proclamation" 55x55, Oil on Canvas

"Emancipation Proclamation"
55x55, Oil on Canvas

I woke up on morning with this "idea" or image in my mind of a tree. I want to thank Matt Guilford for his input on the painting. What a blessing he is (and Betsy too!). 

In a time where it's hard to talk about racial issues without there being so much misunderstanding between what is said and what is meant I pray images can help us feel our way to each other.

Friday, September 1, 2017

"Memory" 16x72, Oil on Canvas

"Memory" 16x72, Oil on Canvas

The American Landscape holds our dead and our violence and begins the slow process of life anew.

This was from a great deal of Civil War reading I'm doing right now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Into the Deep" 55x55, Oil on Canvas

"Into the Deep" 
55x55, Oil on Canvas

Getting back into some larger works and it feels good! I forgot how much paint it takes though so have been making more orders. It was so great to get back to Big Bend and think and feel that enchanting place again.

Have been sitting on a few ideas for paintings that have been rumbling within me for a while. I will post soon. Pray peace over this frayed country.

Monday, August 7, 2017

"Night Lights" 48x36, OIl on Canvas

"Night Lights" 48x36, Oil on Canvas

A Mentor and Friend of mine suggested the title for this and I just loved it. 

I am inspired by the magical feeling of fireflies.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Gomer" 48x36, Oil on Canvas

"Gomer" 48x36, Oil on Canvas

I've had this in my mind for a while and finally got the chance to paint it. I am going to try to do more as a series of responses to Hosea. I thought about how she was "lost" out in the city. Her husband had to go looking for her. A man that loved to be in the country. I thought about his love for Gomer and how he looked until he found her and bought her back from her enslavement at whatever the cost. I thought about what had enticed her to leave. Her wayward heart that was looking for some excitement or attention. All along what she truly needed was to stay true to her first love.

In a way this is a painting of contrasts. One of heavenly light (as my friend Matt pointed out) and city lights. One of light fading and one of lights coming on. One of an abstract bending of light and another a grid of lines cutting through our city like scissor clips. It's also about how a city sometimes forgets to just look up. Beauty is grace.

As I've been traveling this summer I have seen some beautiful landscapes in our country. Farmlands and fields, waterfalls and valleys. I got to stay in some motels along the way and move over some of the concrete lines that traverse our nation. Getting passed or passing the trucks that really move this country from one end to the other. My kids and I having a time looking at all the different license plates.

I couldn't help but see how many "Adult Bookstores" lined the highways. It has become clear to me that everything is accessible just off the freeway. This was the first time in my life that I actually used the Anti Trafficking Hotline while on vacation. We were pulling into our hotel in Arkansas and passed another one on the way. One with a balcony. I have learned through Children's Advocacy Center of Texas that some hotels off the freeway with balcony's are used by traffickers. As we were passing this motel I saw a young lady on the balcony standing with a young man. She looked right at me in the van. She had a little tattoo on her stomach and the young man was pulling her arm. I've learned that this lets Johns know that she is available as they come off the freeway. As we left for dinner a few minutes later we passed the same hotel and I didn't see her out there anymore. I could not shake the feeling that I should report it just in case. After dinner, I did contact the Anti-Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888 or SMS: 233733 (Text "HELP" or "INFO"). You can give your tips anonymously if you choose to do so.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Creative ARTS Workshops

Creative ARTS Workshops Offered This Summer:

Two exciting opportunities for creatives to consider this summer!

Oil Painting Workshop, July 17-20 6-8 pm, Instructor - Dawn Waters Baker - reserved for ages 15 through adult, who truly want to become landscape painters.  Cost is $150 for four sessions and this includes ALL the materials that will be needed.We will be learning how to paint, "The Emotional Landscape" using different palettes along with discussion and examples of mood and value choice. This is for all levels.

Here is a little about Dawn:

Dawn was born and raised the child of missionaries on the islands of the Philippines. She grew up under the shadow of an active volcano and learned to look for the beauty in lives much harder than her own. In 1994 she moved to Dallas for college where she received her BA in Arts from DBU, Magna Cum Laude in 1998. Soon after she married a mathematician, Kendrick Baker and they had three girls, Myla, Keeva and Avia. In her free time she likes to hike, travel and teaches art in Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center once a week for incarcerated youth.

Her art is collected by many businesses as well as private owners.  Her piece, “Release” is on permanent display in the New York Times Building. She finished five original drawings for the book, “Why, O God?” published by Crossway books.  She is a Signature member of Artists of Texas. Dawn is affiliated with Mary Tomas Gallery in Dallas Design District, Kate Shin Gallery in New York, NY, Joseph Gierek Fine Art in Tulsa, OK, and currently with White Stone Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. She was also selected as the 2015 Artist in Residence for Big Bend National Park. She had a solo exhibit in 2016 based on her time and inspiration at the Park. Her work has been in national shows including The National Weather Biennale, Jubilee Museum of Sacred Art Biennale, CIVA Contemporary Images of Mary and Ex Nihilo at Roberts Wesleyan College. She has an upcoming exhibit with the Nave Museum in 2018 and a second residency at Gettysburg National Military Park in July and August of 2018.

Theater Workshop, Tuesdays in August 1, 8, 15, 22, Instructor - Mac Lower - for ages 15 through adult.  Cost is $200 for four sessions (or $50 per session).

Here is a little about Mac:

Mac Lower received his BA in theatre from Union University, and a MFA in Directing from the University of Houston.  While attending U of H Mr. Lower had the privilege of studying with Sir Peter Hall and Edward Albee.  Upon graduation Mac worked as an actor with the AD Players, the Creede Repertory Theatre, and Theatre West Virginia.  In 2004 he participated in the Lincoln Center Theatre's Directors Lab where he attended seminars led by such directors as Julie Taymor, Simon McBurney, Mark Lamos, and Susan Stroman.  During his career Mr. Lower has worked as an actor, director, technician, and educator.  He has taught acting and directing at East Texas Baptist University, Temple College, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and Richland College.  Today he serves as the Production Manager for the contemporary worship service of Highland Park United Methodist Church. 

You can register with and make online payments through using the following codes:  "Painting WS" for the oil painting and "Theater WS" for theater.  Questions? Contact

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Immovable" 18x24, Oil on Gessbord

"Immovable" 18x24, Oil on Gessobord

Finished this painting a few days ago. I truly love trying at those shadows created by the light.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Gettysburg National Military Park Artist Residency

"Blood and Earth" Study on 9x12 panel

I have some exciting news to share that through the selection of the National Park Arts Foundation I was chosen to be the Artist in Residence for July-August of 2018! I'm so thrilled and wake up everyday thinking and praying about what God has to show me there. Truly this will be a growing experience for me as I look at the landscape through the lens of war and what it means to be hallowed ground.

I've been having dreams about Gettysburg even before I heard whether I had gotten the residency or not. This was from a dream as I was reading more about Plum Run (or Bloody Run). The fighting was so heavy in this area that the creek, Plum Run, ran red with the blood of the men.

I'll write more later. I've been recovering from the flu and still feel very tired even after just doing simple tasks. Hope you all have a chance to remember those who have fallen. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Evening Touches Day" 20x20, Oil on Canvas

"Evening Touches Day" 20x20, Oil on Canvas

I've been working with some limited palettes to try and get at a mood. I liked how this one turned out with the contrasts as well as the large and slight value shifts.

"Just Before the Darkness" 24x18, Oil on Gessobord

"Just Before the Darkness" 24x18, Oil on Gessobord

Spring here in Texas, is just beautiful and terrifying at the same time. We get some spectacular skies and storms that come through North Texas.

This is just one of those moments after a spring day where the sky was singing it's last solo before the light went out.

Friday, April 28, 2017

"New Earth" 30x30, Oil on Gessobord

"New Earth" 30x30, Oil on Gessobord

This is from an excerpt of my journal after reading Robert MacFarlane's The Old Ways:

Perhaps the fall caused a disengagement with the landscape, a tuning in that was once our way of hearing and knowing it only to be haunted by it's language, a murmur we can't quite make out.

MacFarlane says to not think of the landscape as something to re-engage or plug into as a technology but something that exists and you are separate from, the way it calls us, the way it speaks to us to BE itself and not us. It doesn't need us to know it. We are dust longing to know dust. We speak "bones," the language of all flesh. We are given the brain, heart, soul, there is something we lose in not engaging in sweat, foot, walk, hike, climb. We move about the typography of the landscape but its our very selves we discover. Silence. Beauty. It doesn't need us to speak beauty over it. It IS beauty. It thrusts up despite our protests that beauty is a man made discovery. In fact, it IS it's own self. Beauty is old, very old, and doesn't need us to name her. We need her.

"Alight" 12x48, Oil on Canvas

"Alight" 12x48, Oil on Canvas

Ramping up for a two woman show at Joseph Gierek Fine Art in Tulsa, OK in September.  I'm so pleased to be with this wonderful gallery. 

I wanted to show the layers of light but also the topography of the landscape. I was giving Georgia O'Keeffe a wink with this one I think. I so love her work.

Friday, April 21, 2017

More Plein Air Works

 "The Garden of Water" 7x5, Oil on Panel
Painted at Hot Springs National Park (up in the mountains)

 "Evening Glow" 7x5, Oil on Panel
Painted right here in my neighborhood.

I know! There's a BUILDING!! aaaaaahhhh!!

"End of Day" 8x6, Oil on Panel
This was in Missouri.

Over 20 plein air paintings will be available through Mary Tomas Gallery at Artscape at the Arboretum running April 28th-30th. This year the Dallas Arboretum has opened The Degolyer House to prominent galleries in Dallas to display and also sell the work during Artscape. Please go by and see if there is a little treasure you would like to pick up. All profits are going to fund a trip (more to come on that) for me to get to paint in the landscape. I would love to have you own a piece as well as send me on another adventure doing what I love: paint IN the landscape.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

More Plein Air Works From My Travels

 "Sol Duc Falls" 9x6, Oil on Canvas

This was from our trip to Olympic National Park. So many waterfalls there. I could have painted for months!

 "Missouri Creek" 5x7, Oil on Panel

A beautiful little spot that I wadded and swam in with the girls while on vacation. Funny thing was on the way back to the van after painting this one I saw a copperhead! I was pretty quick to get in the van after that!

 "Green and Shadow" 7x5, Oil on Canvas

Can never get enough of my in-laws beautiful piece of land in Illinois. Especially on those cool summer afternoons. The green is almost yellow during the right light.

 "White Rock Dusk" 7x5, Oil on Canvas

One of my excursions to White Rock. I am captivated by the trees! One day I'll get to the lake! Ha!

 *Untitled* 9x6, Oil on Canvas

I revisited this older one as I didn't like the water. A beautiful little place we camped in Oklahoma.

"Olympic Sea 2" 6x9, Oil on Canvas

Revisited this one too as I didn't like the rocks and the highlights. Will continue to sit with it to see if it needs anything else.

Monday, April 3, 2017

"The Way" 12x12, Oil on Gessbord

"The Way" 12x12, Oil on Gessbord

Easter is almost here and I usually do something during the time to reflect on this special time of year. It's my favorite holiday and I've had a particularly sweet time this season as I've been working with a wonderful group of artists on our church's Maundy Thursday service. I've been working with a Director, Mac Lower, a Pastor and Musician, Dan Liles, and Actress, Nancy Li and Actor, Eric Fulton, a Craftsman, Pete Underwood and 5 young artists ranging in age from 8-19. Each of the young artists are doing an I AM statement of Jesus (one artist is doing two). This left me with "The Way." 

I leave it with you, the viewer, to see what things were stirring me. I hope it does for you too.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Plein Air works from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Dallas

 "Olympic Sea" 6x9 Oil on Panel

Had some time recently to finish some older studies. I loved this place. Olympic National Park is amazing.

 "Sleepy Fields" 7x5, Oil on Panel

This was in Illinois while visiting over Thanksgiving last year. I loved the cool shadow on the furrow.

 *No Title Yet* 6x9, Oil on Canvas

I did this at a park in Richardson, Texas. A nice cool day with the water through the rocks and light through the new budding trees.

 "Preserve" 7x5, Oil on Panel

This was done in Oklahoma on the Wildlife Preserve. It is just beautiful there. Probably my favorite piece I've done in a long time. Had a buffalo sleeping down the valley as I was painting this.

 "Warm and Cool" 7x5, Oil on Panel

Hubby and I backpacked out to the waterfalls at the Wildlife Preserve near Lawton, OK. It was a hot day but the cool shade let me take a nice break from the sun. I liked the play of cool and warm shadows on the rocks.

 "Lookout from Mt. Scott" 5x7, Oil on Canvas

From the top of Mt. Scott we could see way out. I liked trying at the atmospheric shadows and highlights in the distance.

 *No Title Yet* 7x5, Oil on Panel

This was done at my in-laws house on their property in Illinois. It's just so beautiful when the light hits the trees and grass a certain way.

*No Title Yet* 7x5, Oil on Panel

This was also done at my in-laws property in Illinois. So many wonderful trees there.

I know it's been a long time since I posted but I've been working and have some news to share in a few days.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Illuminated Forest, 12x12, Oil on Gessobord

 12x12, Oil on Gessobord

12x12, Oil on Gessobord

I've been wanting to do these colored trees for a while. I think I'll keep trying different colors. I had a friend suggest an "Illuminated Forest" and I liked that idea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Unbroken White" 12x36, Oil on Canvas

"Unbroken White" 12x36, Oil on Canvas

I've been working black and white for the past few works. I like the mood it sets. This one was particularly challenging as I had to think of the white shadows in the background, foreground and middle ground.

For black I used a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber and then Titanium White for the greys.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Brushworks Class, ALERT Ministries

A's Beautiful Emotion Painting

Thank you so much for your prayers! I had 4 kids last night in the Brushworks Art Class in Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center. One young man lost his privileges this past week so he wasn't there. Please keep praying for him. I got to really engage with the small group. It was just wonderful. Your prayers are being heard. Thank you for going in there with me. I couldn't do this without your faithful prayers and without Jesus being there already waiting.

A (a lovely young lady) did this emotion piece! It's so powerful and moving. I hope you see her heart poured out in this canvas. I can't wait to see more from her. She told me last night she goes to an Academy and her elective there is art.

Two young men from last week came back. They don't ask for prayer but I always ask if I can pray for them and they say, "Yes, Miss." They both did a great job last night. I was so happy to see them get confident.
Here are their works:

One young man I've had for a few weeks was back. I got the opportunity to talk with him a little more. He was getting very discouraged about his painting and we just walked through it. The other two boys were saying some negative things so I had them stop talking (or they were going to sit out in the hall with the Detention officer). After that he really started going for it. At one point he said, "Miss, you make me feel like a million dollars!" Every kid should get to feel that way in their life. Every kid. It's those times that I really feel Jesus is already there, in the moment, waiting to be seen, heard and felt. 
 We did our very FIRST painting in oils of a sky raining down. Below is the one with a large black bottom (land) that is from this particular young man. 
Loved his landscape!

Please keep praying for these precious ones that God loves.

Bless you all. I can't thank you enough for your love and friendship to me and these kids.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

"Overflow," 36x48, Oil on Canvas

"Overflow," 36x48, Oil on Canvas

It seems like I'm trying to avoid social media more and more these days. Over the past few weeks I've backed away on purpose. Not saying that the solution to our problems is to avoid them. Of course, we have to have serious discussion about Refugees, Immigration, Education...the list goes on and on. Social Media doesn't seem the right platform for a good talk with another human being. I had to back away because it was all "noise." With mine added in. I started to feel helpless. The problems seemed insurmountable.

As I was painting this I just wanted to convey something of the power of grace. This unending, relentless force that flows from the core of God. Whenever I get close to despair I have to get my eyes on beauty and goodness. It strengthens me to my very bones. It shapes me as water shapes rocks over time.

I don't have the answers to the world's problems and I certainly am not giving up on loving people who are not like me. I think that right now we could all use a big plunge into the everlasting...the magnificence of mercy. I believe we could all use the reminder that any true love comes from an overflow of God's love. Let's not forget that His love changed the world and is still changing it...even as it is steadfast.

Praying with you friends. For an overflow of kindness, goodness, truth and sweet beauty. Not fake, plastic surgery beauty. But a beauty that would cause us to be better people for having seen it.

Friday, January 27, 2017

"Presence" 36x36, Oil on Gessobord

"Presence" 36x36, Oil on Gessobord

I've been reading a book, The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane. It's a beautiful, thoughtful book about the trails that are left by man on the landscape. Many of the chapters are an exploration of England's wilder moors and mountains. 

I've also come from reading Silence, by Endo, Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fujimura and watching the film, Silence, Directed by Martin Scorcsese. All of these left a deep impression on me. I will not talk about that in this post. But I will say that the mist in the movie seemed to be it's own character. I noticed it in the novel as well but of course visually it was just stunning. There were moments when the mist hid the priests and saved their lives. There were moments of deep spiritual clarity that came and went with the lifting of the mist. There was a deep thirst for the spiritual throughout the film and yet this heavy, thick mist (full of water of course). As if God was right there, waiting.

I have always felt mist to be a very spiritual visual. For me it is much like prayer. I never see clearly everything that is there but I am wrapped in a veil. I see what is right in front of me and that is enough.

In the painting I wanted the mountain to be almost fully veiled in mist. Like a lightness of air put on something immovable and large.

MacFarlane writes, "...we customarily imagine mountains in terms of their external surfaces and outward-facing forms: cliffs, plateaux, pinnacles, ridges and scarps. But mountains are also defined by their interiors: their corries, caves, hollows and valleys, and by the depth of their rivers, lochs and lochans. Once our eyes have learnt to see that mountains are composed of absent space as well as massy presence, then we might also come to imagine walking not "up" a mountain but "into" a mountain...searching not for the great outdoors but instead for profound interiors and deep recesses..."

For me, that's what I'm after in the painting. This topography of the mountain blanketed by a thick mist. A spiritual place as God was present on mountains and in mist/cloud/smoke. We can stand and be quieted by presence.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Brushworks in Juvi

One of the Students' final work, Anger and Flow (peace)

Thank you all for the prayers last week. The class was small. Only had 4 kids (2 boys and 2 girls). I went over some rules (some of which I share in a photo below). Blue and Red are significant colors to these kids because they are the colors of two dominant gangs. In a painting class we need to be able to let that go and just use them as COLORS. Lots of talk last week about "my favorite is red miss. You know. It's MY color." And lots of knowing looks to each other. Ugh. So this week I just went ahead and told them this is ART WORLD and in Art World there is no gang colors. I also was able to talk about their right to be respected (as well as mine) and their right to learn and be safe. Huge thank you to Dee Jones for helping me talk through rules and guidelines in the classroom.

I asked one student if I could share his painting with you. He's an African American young man. I have found him to be respectful and insightful when I ask questions. I have appreciated how he gets right to the assignment and does the work. On the left side is Anger and on the right side is what he calls his Flow (chill). I think he hit it very well as the assignment was to keep to a few colors with no symbols or forms and to pick two different emotions (prefer two contrasting ones). He is especially receptive to prayer.

This may seem like scribble or just color to you all but I am hoping that he sees how he can express himself (safely) through paint. Pray for God to use this to open some windows for some of them.

I am enjoying the class and ask that you please continue to pray for me to know how to best reach these precious ones.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thoughts on Silence

Father Rodriguez with Kichijiro in the Movie, Silence

Thoughts on Silence

After watching the film, Silence, I was mute, full of emotion, questions and also a need to be around people (at least for a time afterwards). I won’t give a full synopsis of the film here but I did want to write down some thoughts that have been churning in me after reading Makoto Fujimura’s book, Silence and Beauty, as well as reading Endo’s novel, Silence and then finally watching Martin Scorsese’s film, Silence. That was the sequence I followed. Not saying that is the way to do it but it was my way. I found after each book and after the film that I needed space and time to fully get my questions out. Perhaps to untangle the mesh of emotions that came up as well.

I couldn’t help but think that the film and books touched so deeply on this theme of shame. How it was a profound part of the Japanese culture but is just as much a part of ours today.

In the New York Times article titled, “Shame Culture”, David Brooks writes, “The desire to be embraced and praised by the community is intense. People dread being exiled.” We tend to think of shame as something that happens very readily in Asian culture (I am a missionary kid from the Philippines and have seen first hand the effects of this “saving face” mentality and how it is handled) yet we never seem to see that it is right in front of us here in our western culture. In the article Brooks quotes from Andy Crouch who writes, “Any talk of good or bad has to defer to talk of respect of recognition…Asia’s shame culture is to have save, “face” or honor but contemporary culture is to be unique, attention grabbing…” We have become a social media society that seeks to be liked, loved, envied even but dare not be disagreed with. Crouch is quoted, “Shame culture can be unmerciful to those who disagree and to those who don’t fit in…”

In the film we see that the Japanese devise a deeper way of persecuting the Christians by using shame. They see that if they get the very Jesuits to apostatize then they can make them an example to the other Christians. They could root out this religion through the means of stepping on the fumi-e (cutting down any respect they might gain by their shamefulness).

Dan Allender, renowned psychologist, writer and founder of the Seattle School of Psychology and Theology writes, “Shame is one of the most effective weapons to silence us and shut us down. It is where Satan (his very name is “Accuser”) divides our heart most effectively from God, others and even from oneself.” In fact, Dan writes, “I often try to escape my own suffering and equally refuse the kindness of God in the midst of my struggle…yet God waits, exposes and constantly invites back.”

The film seems to play on two central figures that of Father Rodriguez and Kichijiro. Both travel through the film and become different people by the end. Father Rodriguez seems to discover his own humanity (and in it his humility as well as a deeper love for the sufferer more likened to Christ than he ever was). Kichijiro is the Judas figure of the story. He keeps betraying yet wanting to confess and be forgiven. Both men know what it means to live in shame. Yet, as Tish Warren writes in Liturgy of the Ordinary, “Our failure or successes in the Christian life are not what define us or determine our worth before God or God’s people. Instead we are defined by Christ’s life and work on our behalf.” Rodriguez literally hears Christ tell him to stomp on the fumi-e. Kichijiro relentlessly shows the ability to keep getting up and striving to live in grace even when it doesn’t seem fair to be tried so cruelly by the world.

Hebrews 12:1-2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I heard a sermon on this passage two days after watching the film. Naturally, my ear was struck by the word, “shame” in the Scripture. What did it mean that Jesus “despised the shame?” My Pastor, David Rogers said, “Jesus FELT the cross. Don’t forget that He knew it through His own flesh and blood.” I forget as I see Jesus, the Son of God, almost inhuman at times. But He was human. FULLY human.

John Piper writes about this passage, “Shame was stripping away every earthly support that Jesus had: His friends gave way in shaming abandonment; His reputation gave way in shaming mockery; His decency gave way in shaming nakedness; His comfort gave way in shaming torture. His glorious dignity gave way to the utterly undignified degrading reflexes of grunting, groaning and screeching…”

How could the Son of God let Himself be shamed to such a level? This scripture points out the JOY set before Him. Jesus believed that shame, fully exposed, fully in the open, could be grace for all of mankind.

Rodriguez is able to let the Catholic Church believe he has apostatized. He is able to take on the role of a married man (even after taking vows that he would not do that). He is able to take the ridicule of the village children (the people) because he fell past the shame into a deeper place of love. He became one of them. No longer is he above them or using them for some deeper meaning to his life. He sees with truer eyes: They are you and you are they. And in a nutshell we aren’t enough. Not one of us is. We all fall short; we all step on our fumi-e perhaps unnumbered times a day. AND YET GOD LOVES. Phillip Yancey writes in, What’s So Amazing About Grace? “God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are…”

There is another beautiful nugget I left with and that is true empathy. There is a line in the movie
where Inoue says to Rodriguez, "Your glory is their suffering!" Glory is not through that path at all
but in letting go and BEING with another person in their suffering, just as Christ did for us.
How does our true compassion meet shame? How does empathy help me see more clearly
the truth of how I am loved? How does Emmanuel meet me today?

Calvin Miller writes in The Table of Inwardness:

"Did I talk to God today?
Yes, some, but more than talk, I listened.
Did I see Christ in my world?
Yes, I saw nothing but Christ."

Shaming Shame, Ecclesia Houston Podcast, Dan Allender, May 15, 2016.
What’s So Amazing About Grace? Phillip Yancey, Zondervan, September 30, 1997.
Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Warren, April 1, 2015
The Table of Inwardness, Calvin Miller, July 1984.
What Does It Mean for Jesus to Despise the Shame? Article for Desiring God, John Piper, March 29, 2013.
The Shame Culture, New York Times, David Brooks, March 15, 2016.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Brushworks, Classes Starting in Juvi

Two Emotions: Anger and Peace
(My Example Piece)

A few months back I was encouraged by a dear friend to be as intentional in my observations in Juvi (Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center here in Dallas) as I was in Big Bend when I was there painting. I've been praying about how to communicate about it. My heart is not to exploit these kids in any way. I want very much for the Brushworks class to be a safe place for them and not part of what I'm going to blog about this week. You know what I'm mean? So I'm treading carefully here. I will not be sharing their real names or any pictures of them. I will ask to share some of their artwork with you but only with permission.

The one above is mine. I did it in just a few minutes. I'm trying to show them how to loosen up and start to convey a feeling on canvas quickly. Not trying to paint something really tangible or with words just the way the paint is applied and thought through.

Last week I had 6 boys and 3 girls (all teenagers). It was a crazy class with just an hour and 15 minutes. I launched right into the first project which was to paint the left side of the canvas (first box) with the emotion they picked. They ranged from: Greed, Love, Envy, Anger, Depression, Happiness etc. In my haste to get the materials out and running I didn't go over the RULES of the class. Needless to say I will be going over rules this week... *blush* I am learning too!

In all, I felt that I had a great group of kids. They were interacting with me and were really trying to do the assignment. One boy in particular was hitting the work so well. I told him several times to put his brush down or he was going to overwork the piece. He kept painting and painting and it finally turned to mud. I could sense his frustration but I wanted him to see what happens when you go past the feeling to trying to "fix" it.

We meet in a small room that is designated for art with art materials given through a grant to Juvi. The kids come in with Detention Officers (who are very kind and helpful). I was also honored to have the Director of Volunteers in there with me who was a tremendous help. As they came in to paint I was reminded that these kids have been in trauma for so long that for them to have any space, time or reflection can be very difficult. Not only are they working through the normal adolescent angst and posturing but also the violence and abuse that has been a part of their lives for too long.

I feel very honored to be with these kids and I pray the Brushworks class can be a safe place to create, explore and have some fun. We meet every Thursday night from 6:00 - 7:15 pm.

Please pray for these precious ones. They are the Daughters and Sons of our Community, our city. Many of them haven't had the Mom's and Dad's we have had or a safe place to call home. Pray for God to show His love in real and tangible ways. Pray for me to have a balance between discipline in the class and freedom to explore and thrive.

Big Thank You to ALERT Ministries, particularly, Christina MacKenzie, Director (who has let me do this class in Juvi) and to Cynthia Wallace (Director of Volunteers at Henry Wade) who handles special programs for the kids.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"To the Lowest Place" 60x48, Oil on Canvas Available at Joseph Gierek Fine Art

I've had the wonderful honor of being with Joseph Gierek Fine Art for over a year now. This is the ad that Joe put out in the area. I can't tell you how many times this painting has almost sold. I hope and pray that it will get a good home in 2017.