Scapegoating God

Be Still and Know by Gwen Meharg.
Be Still and Know  watercolor on paper 30 x 22



Everybody has heard the term “scapegoat” but most of us aren’t exactly sure what it means.  My understanding is that the term refers to shifting blame.   I looked it up this morning.  Here is what has to say: Scapegoat: A person or group that is made to bear blame for others. According to the Old Testament, on the Day of Atonement, a priest would confess all the sins of the Israelites over the head of a goat and then drive it into the wilderness, symbolically bearing their sins away.

Okay, so I knew exactly what it meant.  I thought I would gain some deep insight by looking up the definition.  Nope.  Same insight.


That is the bleat of a goat as opposed to the baaaaaaa of a sheep.
(My granddaddy Simpson had goats and sheep.  Goat tails go up and sheep tails go down.  Just saying.)

Lion, Lamb & Dove batik & watercolor on paper
Lion, Lamb & Dove
sold, prints available


Symbolically we think sheep when we think of God.  Lamb of God.  Good shepherd.  Lost sheep.  Lion and lamb.  Etc.

Sheep good.
Goats baaaad.

“Maaaaa,” says the still small voice in the wilderness.
The still small voice in the wilderness says, “maaa?”


Heresy is another word I looked up this morning.   Google defines heresy as is a noun : a belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine.
An opinion profoundly at odds with what is generally accepted.
Synonyms:  dissension, dissent, nonconformity, heterodoxy, unorthodoxy, apostasy, blasphemy, free thinking.


A Knock at the Door  by Gwen Meharg.  watercolor on paper
A Knock at the Door
watercolor on paper 30 x 22

That is revealing.  Americans pride themselves in being free thinkers. (Watching this election cycle play out, delude might be a more accurate word choice than pride!)   Free thinking is a form of heresy!  Oh, I what fun I would have had in my high school Sunday school class if I had only known!

Back to the scapegoat theme.  A group of people for whom I care deeply has split into two factions.  Both believe they heard/are hearing from God.  What they are hearing is in direct opposition to the other.  There are no innocent parties, well, God, but the rest of us are complicit.

Accrediting/blaming one’s actions on God makes God the scapegoat.

It makes God look bad.  Really bad.
In the process God is exiled to the wilderness.  Maaaaa!

What am I saying?

A New Thing Springs Forth.  Watercolor on paper.  (Sold. prints available.)
A New Thing Springs Forth.   (Sold. prints available.)

I am confessing charismatic tendencies.  I am one of those people who hears from God.  One of those people who have credited/blamed God for my actions.  Prophetic is the term some use.  Remember the old hymn,   He Walks With Me in the Garden?  Hymns often carried with them a different dogma than the sermons I grew up with in my Southern Baptist churches.  Prophets, those who heard from God, were dead people from bible stories.  All the answers are in the bible.  No hearing from God for today.  The bible was worshiped.  (And yes, bible worship is a form of idolatry.)  And yet, we sang powerful, charismatic songs.   Some of us heard the hymns more clearly than we heard the sermons.

The point I am trying to make is that while the bible was and is very important to my life, God is not limited to a bestselling book.

Valley of Weeping
Valley of Weeping   watercolor on paper 23 x 22


God is represented in the bible,
but God is experienced through the body.

God is experienced in the heart, in the mind, in the soul, in a cool breeze, and in acts of kindness and mercy.  God is experienced through the arts.  (We watched “Warm Bodies” Saturday night and that movie preaches!)

When we are at our best God is experienced through humanity.  The job of the church is to be Jesus with skin on.  We, the church, regularly miss that mark.

God is not a genie trapped in a bible-shaped lamp waiting to be rubbed when we want a wish granted. (Here comes the rub.)

People, good people and bad people, credit (blame) God for their choices and actions.

Harvest Moon mixed media on paper (acrylic, watercolor, collage) 22 x 22
Harvest Moon
mixed media on paper (acrylic, watercolor, collage) 22 x 22

Human beings have used scripture to control and manipulate ever since there was scripture.  (Slavery and misogyny come quickly to mind.)  As easy as it is to manipulate the written word, the prophetic word, the word heard through the heart is oh so much easier to manipulate. The personality and reputation of the speaker determines the potential benefit or damage.

What happens to one’s faith when you find out the sheep is a goat, but not just a goat, but a scapegoat?
How do you trust God when those who claim to speak for God are not acting godly?  How do you pray when the experts are so obviously wrong?

How do you believe when a good word comes from a flawed mouthpiece?
If they are wrong, how can I trust myself to hear God?

The Exchange  22 x 30 watercolor on paper
The Exchange
22 x 30 watercolor on paper

No easy answers! My art has a prophetic edge. I believe in the mystery of redemption.  As screwed up as life can be, I have hope.  I have hope that there is something more than what I see.  I have hope that the ugliness will be redeemed.  I have hope that the confusion, the mistrust, the manipulation, the disappointment and the hurt is for a season.  I have hope that God, the overseer of seasons, has a plan and that we are all part of that plan.

The voice I accredit to God tells me a lot of things.

“You don’t know what you don’t know.”  (“That was fun to hear,” she said sarcastically.)

“Stand firm.”     “Be free.”     “Duh!”     “Hope.”

Can You Hear Them? 22 x 30 watercolor on paper
Can You Hear Them?
22 x 30 watercolor on paper

Do you see that there is a LOT of wiggle room here?  Room for interpreting how this is going to play out in my life and through my art. Room to be complicit. Room to set captives free.

How do you have faith in God when people beat you with the word of God?
I don’t know. I have no answer for you.

I only know what I do. I cry. I spew. I stay up late. I go outside. I walk. I get still. I read. I journal. I paint. I take a nap. It depends!

I tell myself that while I am flabbergasted, God is not surprised. God knew and God knows and God is okay with my befuddlement.

Domino Effect 22 x 30 watercolor on paper
Domino Effect
22 x 30 watercolor on paper

I don’t know what I don’t know, but God knows.

It is not a particularly satisfying conclusion.

I paint hope. I also LOSE hope on a regular basis.  Somehow it seems to come back around.  Hope doesn’t hold a grudge when neglected and neither does God.

For those who are estranged from hope, I will hope for you in this season.  Maybe in the next season you will hold hope for me.



The Uncrossable Line

As an artist I work with lines every day.  Literal and figurative lines.

Picture 757Identifying,
creating lines
is my passion,
my profession,
my way through life.

Finding the line that pulls you into a painting is my joy.

As a human being I deal with lines every day.  Literal and figurative lines. n1102413009_467690_3194645

We navigate through life not all that differently than when we were children skipping down the sidewalk avoiding the cracks.

“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”

It was not until this morning that I realized how much wisdom is hidden in the ancient children’s game.

DSCN7977Beware the cracks.
Beware the lines.
Step on a crack and you can’t go back.

Some lines cannot be uncrossed. 

Late last night I was painting and I did something I almost never do.
I usually let what happens happen and deal with it later as part of my process.
Life happens.
You deal.
It becomes part of the journey.

13139001_1145873785465033_6540681328239293239_n - CopyLast night I laid down painted lines that did not belong.  In a heartbeat I knew it was wrong.

The lines did not move the narrative forward.  Using a large, stiff paint brush and clean water I scrubbed away the offending paint from the canvas.

It was not too late.

13173971_1145926835459728_2620417145335302122_nThe water and friction dissolved the offending lines and the diluted paint ran down the canvas.  Using a bath towel, decorated with purple roses, from my childhood, I wiped dried the canvas.    The “mistake” was erased, the lines were gone, but other areas were erased as well.  “Undo” works great on computers.  Not so well with art or life.

There are always consequences when we go back.

I crossed a line.  I was able to go back and make reparation.

This is not always the case.  Some lines cannot be uncrossed.

13164193_1145952232123855_3387282237895743044_nSometimes it is too late.

The offending lines were caused by my carelessness.
It was late.
I was tired.
I was jacked up on a second pot of oolong tea.
The lino stamp I carved was complicated.
Ever so carefully I aligned the stamp and, with confidence, pressed the stamp onto the canvas.

Stepping back to admire my handiwork.
The right stamp.
The right place.
The right time.
It.  Was.  Upside.  Down!

13226699_1156467584405653_5944989603705554049_nMy heart was in the right place, but the result was upside down.

We don’t always have everything we need to do right.

And sometimes we do have everything we need and it still isn’t enough.

User error. 

We are careless with what is in front of us.
We don’t recognize the dangers.
We don’t recognize the privilege.

We are mindless of repercussions.

13245225_1156519771067101_1591953359326822326_n - CopyAn old towel, a stiff brush, and water are seldom enough to erase our mark.
Some lines cannot be uncrossed.

Awareness of lines is healthy.

Lines delineate boundaries.
Lines define space.
Lines indicate direction.

Lines communicate.

What is the written word but a conglomeration of lines assigned meaning.

And then there are mean words.

(Mean is a complicated word.  A noun, a verb, and an adjective.)

Some lines cannot be uncrossed.

I have been contemplating lines.  Literal and figurative lines.
13237636_1155098661209212_3025817784781848464_n (1)

In life there is no going back, only forward. 

I know what forward looked like today.
I do not know what forward will look like tomorrow.

My paintings are my attempt to encourage myself,
and in the process,
encourage others
to keep moving forward.

My paintings are a declaration that beauty is possible.
The lines on the canvas
and the lines on our faces form our stories.

Some lines cannot be uncrossed.

Some lines, crossed, deserve celebration!  13221553_1156470021072076_2640906238126635106_n

Painting by Gaslight

220px-Gaslight-1944Have you seen the movie Gaslight?
I have not and I am torn between curiosity and fear.   Maybe I’ll watch it next week.

My husband handed me an article, “10 Things I wish I’d known About Gaslighting”  by Shea Emma Fett.  If I read no further than the first sentence it would have been enough:

“Gaslighting is the attempt of one person
to overwrite another person’s reality. “

07 Oct 1935, Finsbury Park, London, England, UK --- A lamplighter lights a gas streetlight in London's Finsbury Park during a foggy morning. October 7, 1935. --- Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS
07 Oct 1935, Finsbury Park, London, England, UK — A lamplighter lights a gas streetlight in London’s Finsbury Park during a foggy morning. October 7, 1935. — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

When I googled the article to find ya’ll the link  I was SHOCKED that so many articles with the same title existed.  This is NOT an isolated or rate problem.  It is good to know when you are not alone or crazy.

Gaslighting is the new black.
It goes with everything!

9b8e4b97d8fcd95d082f8e151ebf146cI grew up believing that TRUTH sets us FREE.
I still believe.  It is the mantra inside my head, my heart, my body and my soul.

A liar knows the truth and chooses to tell a lie.  A gaslighter may not know  they are lying.

Unable or unwilling, to pay the price for freedom, the gaslighter creates a new narrative to change reality.  Each time the narrative is repeated it becomes more concrete until it solidifies into their reality.  At this point the alternative reality has become fact.

ArtForStripes014We all stray from the facts. Honestly, just how big was that fish?    

Fish stories are not gaslighting. Fish stories are entertainment!

Gaslighters create their narrative to justify behavior.  Sometimes gaslighting is a survival technique. When reality becomes too painful another reality is invented.

A gaslighter is often articulate, passionate and sincere.
A gaslighter passionately and sincerely believes the created reality.

To question that reality is to assault their character.  Collected Memories(1)
Facts, as everyone knows can’t be changed.
Facts just are.

Except when they are not.

How do you resolve conflicting realities?
How do you communicate with someone who believes you are the liar?
How do you maintain relationships with someone who questions your heart?

A story repeated often enough becomes truth.  Hitler was a master gaslighter. is a website devoted to dismantling oft repeated stories.

knightronix_3mantle_6v_battery_solar_gaslight_controller“Gaslighting is the attempt of one person
to overwrite another person’s reality.”

Gaslighting is scary s#it!
Having a name for it is helpful.

Freedom is never free.  Truth, the price of freedom, is not cheap.  Some pay a higher price than others.  Life is not fair.

Now that I know the truth about gaslighting, what it looks like, and how it impacts lives, mine and others, WHAT AM I GONNA DO ABOUT IT?

Drumroll ………. What am I going to do with this revelation?
I don’t know.
I do not know.

When I don’t know I write, I knit, I walk, I ride, and I paint what I know.

gaslight_petrol_lamp_by_jantiff_stocks-d6cf08t I paint hope.
I paint beautiful abstracts that embody journey.

Hope and journey.

Parts of the journey are breathtakingly beautiful.

Parts of the journey are mundane.

Parts of the journey are not just ugly but they smell bad, too.

I paint.

Every brushstroke is an affirmation that beauty is possible.

I cannot imagine a way forward.

gaslight-fogThe way forward is not limited by my imagination.

I cannot imagine a way forward, but I hope for a way.
I hope for beautiful endings.

I hope.

I paint.

I search for the next step.
I paint hope.


Buzz on Bees

Wesley-2015Can you hear my dog barking?   Try.  I think you will be able to hear him all the way through the internet wires/waves/whatever the internet is.

Poor Wesley is going to have a sore throat before the day is done.  What is stressing our chill selves?


DSCN8547This morning I learned that bees developed to use hollow trees as homes for their hives.   As the number of hollow trees decreases and the number of hollow EVES increases the bees, opportunistic in the most sensible sense, have been moving into our hollow spaces.

Being on the edge of a wooded area a couple miles from a reservoir, living in a home with lots of cracks, nooks and crannies in the mortar between the bricks, the bees have found our home as cozy as we have.

13179350_10156843780125035_7878660049952257319_nWe lived in peace for 16 years, the bees and us, but this year they started objecting to Peter mowing
the lawn.   He has been stung twice mowing and I was stung once just walking in the front door.   All of us have sprinted from the car to the front door with bees in hot pursuit.

At the Magnolia Street Festival a few Sundays back we met Ryan and George of “Honey Bee Relocation Services:  Bee-friendly Hive Removals”  214 577 9562 .  These guys are DSCN8550great.  They do public education/speaking as well as bee removal.  They began as hobbyist and  the need was so great they started the business.  They remind me of my guyss, articulate, passionate, and focused.   There will be lots of eve replacement to do when they are done, but it is quite possible that I won’t be waking up to buzzing every morning when the sun rises!

Hooray for Ryan and George!  Horray for bee relocation!  Hooray for not being chased by bees at my front door any longer!


  1. Watching from a distance I was stung twice today. I guess I was not distant enough.   I have a cure for bee stings.  We learned it living in Poland.   Forrest was eating a burger and a bee landed on it and stung his mouth.  We were walking through the Bulgarian outdoor market when it happened.  A vendor saw it happen and grabbed an onion and a knife and cut a big wedge from the onion.  He showed us to hold it against the sting and it worked!It worked today, too. DSCN8530


PPS.  The honey combs just keep coming!   George is carving them down to fit into the  rectangle honey comb holders.  Darla would know what they are called.   Some are very dark.  Some are picture-book bright yellow.  I wish we could be outside watching but they are very angry bees.   I am sure they thought they were grandfathered into the house before we got here.
I am inside and my adrenaline is on high!  Getting lots of painting done, and blogging is like talking to a friend so I can do this.   IT IS SO EXCITING!

DSCN8515 DSCN8513

PPS.  I am soothing my bee stung self by having cookies and green tea for lunch.  I am feeling much better.

Penis Butterflies and Wonky Boobs

Have you ever NOT seen something that was right in front of your face?

Maybe you were proofing a resume and you had worked so long and so hard on it that you just could not see the looming typo that sunk ANY chance of gaining an interview?

UntitledYou proofed and proofed EVER so careful and yet a typo slipped right past your brain.

In a proof-reading fog, believing you have achieved perfection, you gingerly fold the resume, printed on cotton rag paper, into thirds and place it into a matching rag paper envelope with a patriotic stamp.  You travel to the post office and pop it into the mail shoot.

Breathing a sigh of relief, you climb back into your car when suddenly your brain awakens from its proof reading coma and – big as day – you see the typo flash before your mind’s eye.

e54rtgwefwefewfeIt is too late … the next resume will be better. 

(Rag stationary might be from the olden days, but typos still carry the power to devastate, only they devastate much faster these days with email and auto-correct.)

This happens with art, too.
Sometimes there is a penis in the middle of a butterfly painting.   Sometimes you don’t see the penis until it is framed and hanging in the group show at the local community center.

Rest assured, YOU might not see it but SOMEONE will!
It will often be the person with the loudest, most shrill voice.  Think 9 year old boy.  They will notice and point and call others over to see the penis. image

Once you and the audience have SEEN the penis you can’t unsee it.
It is all over.  Nothing to do but change the title to Penis Butterfly and pretend there is a deep, but not perverted, meaning to the piece.
“Ah, yes,” you mumble and scurry away hoping the cookie table is well stocked.  Leave them wondering.  And giggling!

Honestly, the painting hung for several years in the boy’s room before anyone noticed.  Once noticed the boys thought it was so hilarious that they re-titled it and proudly show it to all guests.  SIGH!   (I will NOT reveal the child who penned this masterpiece, nor the child who first discovered the penis.  (It just doesn’t matter.)

When you are a grown up artist, it does matter.
Before a work of art is sent out into the world  most of us take the time to look for things that we did not intend to be there.   The big five are:  penises, potatoes, boobs, figures, and eyes.

Heaven help the artist who is working from multiple reference photos.  It is devastatingly difficult to get things “right.”  You want wings on a horse?  No problem, just print off a photo of a bird and a photo of a horse, right?  Yeah, it would SEEM to be that easy, but it is not easy.  It is painfully difficult.   The longer you work on the artwork the harder it is to see it as a whole.   As each part is perfected the whole becomes lost, even to the greats.   (Michelangelo!)

It is easy to miss the image “typos.”
logo-fail-mont-satCritique groups and teenage boys are adept at finding artistic typos.

It is ever so easy to paint rocks that look like potatoes.  And to paint potatoes that look like rocks.  “Those beautiful river rocks, did you INTEND for them to look like a pile of potatoes?”    UGH!
“Nice barn.  Maybe you should add eye lashes to the windows since they look like eyes.”   UGH! UGH!
“Cool phallic image.  Interesting colors.” UUUGGGHHHH!
The human brain is designed to identify faces.  It is also quite adept at finding figures and figure parts!

MOST artists would rather discover that something is not READING as intended before the artwork is finished.   michelangelo-night
Who hasn’t done a portrait with something wrong with the mouth?
Who hasn’t been in a museum and suddenly noticed that legs are attached to the body at an unnatural angle.
Boobs!  Oh my.
What was Michelangelo thinking!

It isn’t a skill issue,
it is a SEEING issue.
As the RockMan said, “You see what you want to see.” screen-shot-2012-04-03-at-11-04-44-am

Dear friends and family. 
PLEASE, if you SEE something BEFORE IT IS FINISHED, please let me know. 

IF I have attached an arm to a torso rather than to the shoulder, please let me know.  If my wings are flapping independently of each other, speak up ASAP!  If genitalia is the focal point of my abstract painting, it was UNINTENTIONAL!

Michelangelo Buonarroti TitleNude Woman, Kneeling Work Type drawing Date around 1500 Material pen and brown ink, heightened with white wash, on white paper Measurements 26.7 x 15.3 cm Repository MusŽe du Louvre, INV 726, recto.
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Title: Nude Woman, Kneeling
Date around 1500
Repository MusŽe du Louvre, INV 726, recto.

(And feel free to giggle in the corner.)

We all have opinions.  

I do a lot of non-objective work.
It is NATURAL to look for SOMETHING in the painting.
IF I do my job what you will find is a memory, an idea or inspiration.



PS There were typos in my last email.  EVER SO SORRY.

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