Friday, December 28, 2007


You know how the approach of the New Year sometimes makes you nostalgic for old friends, long gone. Here's one. He was a magnificent Golden Retriever. Actually, 1/16th Coon Hound, which meant he had a magnificent nose to go with that handsome face, and some red in his curly coat of hair. He was my husband's best friend before I met him, and he became my best friend, too, after we married. Such a lover he was! He had been a hunting dog, a retreiver of ducks, geese and pheasant in water or out. But when my husband gave up hunting in exchange for a more compassionate heart, Max was left with no choice but to retrieve newspapers and shoes. Once, he brought us every newspaper in the neighborhood! I spent all morning returning them.
Friend of all, he didn't have a mean bone in his body. Children and toddlers were safe in his care. Kittens, too, nestled between his legs for a warm, secure nap. We were foster parents to a dogey lamb one season, and Max took over its care until a more suitable mom could be found. His love was no respecter of specie!
He lived a long and happy life of sixteen years, and we know exactly where he is right now.
He's fishin' with Leo, my father-in-law, down on the River, there on the Other Side!
We'll see you later, Ole Bud!
"Maxwell in the Mountains"
Graphite on paper
11" x 14"

Monday, December 24, 2007

San Franciso de Assis

This is a painting of the front that famous church in Taos, New Mexico, San Francisco de Assis, or St. Francis of Assisi. You know, the one that Georgia O'Keefe made famous. She painted the back of it because she was drawn, as are many artists, myself included, to the abstract geometric forms of the massive adobe walls, and the way their uneven surface reflects the ethereal light of northern New Mexico.

On Christmas Eve, the walls and roof of that church are lined with little brown paper bags filled part way with sand. A votive candle is placed in them, and lit at sundown. They are called "farolitos" in Northern New Mexico, and "luminarios" in Albuquerque and points further south. There's an ongoing dispute about the proper name, but it's all in good humor. Sort of like whether biscochitos should be made with lard or butter. It's our state cookie and there is an official recipe, of course. I make mine with butter and brandy, but have no argument with those who prefer lard and sweet wine.

The luminarios are a long established part of New Mexico Christmas culture. Right now, my husband is busy filling our little bags with sand and we'll light the candles at sunset, before we go off to church. There is a full moon tonight. The only thing that would make it even more perfect is if it would snow. We'll come home to the flickering glow of those candles, warmed by the humble brown paper bags, and eat our posole and have a biscochito with some brandied coffee for desert, while we light the final candle in our Advent Wreath. A uniquely New Mexican Christmas Eve and a tradition we have followed for many years!
Those flickering candles have more meaning to us than mere decoration on a special night. On a long journey to Bethlehem, they illuminate the path for the donkey to trod, carrying his precious cargo of Mother and Child, soon to be born in a stable, filled with the warmth and adoration of the animals there. And into this dark night, this world filled with war and death and hopelessness, the Christ Child comes to bring true Peace of the Soul. Joy, unspeakable, overflowing our hearts until tears pour from our eyes with the excess! Love, unexpressable love, that will not let us go! Receive Him tonight! Light the way in your heart for the Christ Child to come in and give you the Gifts He has promised! Love, Peace and Joy! Merry Christmas, Saviour Divine!

(This painting is sold, but a similar one is available at

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dysfunctional Families

I heard a character on a TV program say recently that, “we’re all damaged goods.”
She spoke truthfully. I certainly am. My family, my husband’s family, all bear signs and marks of sin’s effect on our lives. Broken relationships, damaged spirits, shredded hearts that may never be whole again, this side of Heaven. Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds. Sin leaves a scar; by definition, a scar is a sign of a wound. This time of year those wounds, old and new, seem to fester and cloud our joy with resentment, depression, sadness and unresolved grief.

Love covers a multitude of sins, the Word says. I believe it. I have experienced the healing power of love. But love, true, selfless love, also bears a heavy price. We risk everything when we love. We risk having our hearts broken, our spirits shattered, our lives torn apart. Why, then, love at all? Because that’s what we were created to do. That’s the lesson we were put on earth to learn.

I believe that Jesus, the Messiah, came to earth to show us how to love, to show us what love costs. He was wounded for our sins. But his great sacrificial love overcame them. Through His willing sacrifice came forgiveness and reconciliation for the whole world.

Have you ever read the Genealogy of Christ in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (Chapter 1, 1-17)? What a dysfunctional family Jesus came from! From Adam to Joseph, Jesus’ ancestors included children born of an incestuous relationship, children born of former prostitutes, children born of adultery. You just know that those relationships weren’t all warm and cozy. One thing about the Word of God: It is unsparing in its recording of human depravity. God’s Word makes no excuses. Warts and all, here it is, folks. Just like the lives we all live.

I don’t have a perfect family. Neither did Jesus. And so, I make no excuses for our dysfunction. I accept my family, and myself, for what we are, not what I wish we were. But, I continue on in that love that Jesus brought to me, that lives in me because of Him. And through that love, though it be painful at times, I plan on , someday, becoming a whole, fully functioning Spiritual being. Perhaps not until that glorious day on the Other Side, but yet, one day! And with that Wholeness comes True Love, that will not let me go!

We have now lit the third candle on the Advent Wreath. Come, Oh Come! Emmanuel!

Art Quilt
Hand dyed & printed fabric
Collection of Northern Baptist Seminary
Chicago, IL

Saturday, December 15, 2007

God Bless All Those Cold Little Critters!

It got really cold last night. It was 12 degrees F this morning at sunrise. And it's a whole week away from being officially winter.
When I let the chickens out of their coop, it was all warm and steamy inside from the collective body heat of 11 chickens and the light that had come on an hour or so earlier. The goats came out of their warm, dry shed all blinky from a good night's sleep, clean straw clinging to their bodies.
That early, that cold, not a wild creature was stirring, not even the ravens. But I heard some nearby dogs barking. I hear them barking late at night, too, even on extremely cold nights, well below zero. My heart goes out to them, and to the other domestic livestock and critters who must endure sub-zero temperatures, freezing winds and blowing snow without adequate shelter. The weatherman will often conclude his nightly winter forecast by imploring people to bring in their pets for the night. Maybe some do. Maybe some of them had warm shelter, protected from the cold wind. But I know for a fact that some do not.
What are people thinking when they leave their dogs and cats out on a cold winter night? When they leave their domestic livestock unprotected from the harsh elements? Then, the next day, they receive a bowlfull of dry kibble and maybe someone breaks the ice on their water. So, they use up even more bodily resources trying to warm up their cold bodies with cold food and ice water. They survive, generally. But the reality is that it shortens their lives. They use up precious resources trying to stay warm. Their immune systems are compromised and they are prone to early death from a variety of causes. Winterkill. It's caused by the cold.
Please, people. Have a heart. Take care of your critters on a cold night. Make sure they have warm shelter protected from freezing wind. And warm water to drink, at least once a day in the winter. They are the "least of these", too.
Note to friends and family: Apologies for misleading you in our Christmas letter. You can see those "adorable pictures" of our critters at instead of the Forever Friends page at the blackberry site.
"Blue Bird in Winter"
5" x 7"
Oil on board

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Prayer as We Light the Second Candle of Advent

"In the darkness we light a flame of hope.
May it dance not only upon our Advent wreath but within each of our hearts as well.
Hope is the flower that blooms from the ground of faith.
And so, with joy, we keep the tradition of ages past as we encircle our Advent wreath with love
and prayerful expectation.
May this Advent season bring us a new birth of hope in the ancient promises of God.
Amen" (author unknown to me)
We finished our Christmas shopping this morning, while the snow floated to earth soft like a feather and covered all we could see with its gift of moisture on a parched land. An Advent Gift from God! But what can we give Him? What do you give Adonai, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe? Like the Little Drummer Boy, who played his drum for Him, and offered the only gift he had to give, we, too, seek to gift the Christ Child with something from our heart, something with meaning for Him.
Jesus the Christ said, "Whatever you give to the least of these, my brethren, you give to me." So, we who have much offer gifts to the least of these, those who live in fear and despair, lives torn apart by war, disaster, poverty and disease. We offer gifts of transformation of lives through a wonderful organization called "Samaritan's Purse". We gave a brood of chicks, a dairy goat, a school of fish in a fish pond, help with farm and garden projects, emergency food. We gave to help train a native believer to proclaim the gospel message of hope and salvation, the gift of Good News to suffering people.
If you're tired of the meaningless orgy of greed and gluttony that consumes our hearts and souls every December, visit this website and offer a gift to the least of these, to the Christ Child whose humble birth in a stable we supposedly celebrate.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Bobbie Sue

She was born in Paris, winter child of the Ozarks, firstborn of Carl and Trilby.
Raven hair and amber eyes, dark as the deep shadow of the piney woods;
Child of the unopened door.
What omens opened her heart there?
She was water cress in rushing stream and green musk melon, red squirrel with bushy tail
escaping long rifles in tall trees.
Gap-tooth barring smiles she smiled with her eyes instead, twinkle on a moonless night.
I remember her laughter, deep and throaty.
And her tears, falling into sudsy water.
Life dealt her bitterness, and she almost gave it up.
Pain, but she persevered.
Rescued by angels she was born again and died in triumph o’er the grave.
Heroine of mine, muse of my soul, she watches from the Other Side and is remembered well.
Happy birthday, Mom!

"Girl with Feather"
22" x 24"
Oil on Canvas

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Who Is This Man, Jesus, Anyway?

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, in the Christian calendar. Blue and Gold are the colors of royalty and they signify the coming of our King! We acknowledge and celebrate during the four Sundays of Advent that Christ Has Died; Christ Has Risen; Christ Will Come Again! The first candle we light on our Advent wreath is called the Prophecy Candle as we look forward to His Coming Again. We are admonished by Christ himself in the gospel recorded by Saint Matthew to "Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come...Be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
So, who was this man, anyway, that Christians worship as the Son of God and Son of Man? Who was supposedly born to an unwed teenage mother, a virgin, no less, in a steamy stable full of sheep and cattle one star-filled night on a winter long ago? Who Christians are expecting to come back to earth again? And why should we care.
I'll let Him explain it to you in His own words: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:15-20)
Pretty awesome, huh! I have meditated on the mysticism of those words for years; it would take eternity to fully comprehend their meaning. I made a quilt, called "Reconcilliation" that now hangs in the library of a seminary in Chicago as a result of that meditation. (You can see it on my art site under the art quilt section.)
Do you sometimes feel a little empty at this time of year, dashing through the chaos with your hair on fire? Slow down, and consider that there is a real reason for this season, after all.
Jesus, who died for your sins and mine.
Jesus, who rose from the dead to defeat sin and death.
Jesus, who is coming again to complete the reconcilliation of all things to God.
"Blue and Gold"
Oil on canvas, framed
11" x 14"