What they are: Neocolor IIs are water color crayons
Why they are great for Bible Journaling: They are beautiful water colors that do not bleed! They dry smooth so it’s easy to write on top of the color.
Page prep needed: None for most applications.
Ideas: Background color for stamps or writing, painting, coloring, doodling, paint splatters.
After playing with my Neocolor IIs on the 20 pages below, here’s what I can tell you: They are great fun to use. You can color with them just like regular crayons and then paint with water for a water color effect or scribble some color onto a surface and lift the color like paint. You can also use a wet paint brush to draw color directly off the crayon or flick paint at your art project. These do not bleed at all on Bible paper and no page prep is needed, so they are a good choice for adding a last minute dash of color. The paint dries perfectly smooth, so it is easy to write over the paint. They work well with glitter and stickers and other fun embellishments.
Sometimes, I like to challenge myself to use new art supplies by using them with a new devotional. A local friend recently recommended the book “Boundaries: When to Say Yes; How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Cloud and Townsend. I have the workbook that goes along with it, too. As I read the first chapter of the book, I thought: This could be a great devotional. One of the reviews on the back of the book says: “Boundaries is the ‘untold story’–the other side of love and servanthood that we need so desperately, but that we hear so little about.” What I love about the book Boundaries is that it is filled with Scriptures that provide the balance, I know that I need in my life. Most of the verses in the book I’ve yet to journal after two years! I guess I’m more naturally drawn to verses about service and self-giving and love never failing. Cloud and Townsend highlight verses about setting limits and knowing our own responsibility. What I’ve written below in response to the Bible verses they selected largely comes from their book, not necessarily my own understanding.
According to Cloud and Townsend, personal boundaries helps us know what is ours and what is not, what is our responsibility and what not to worry about. Boundaries give us a sense of freedom within our own domain. They help us let go of what is not ours and devote more energy to what is. A lack of responsibility for boundaries can lead to confusion and cause us to carry a heavier burden than God ever intended.
In many ways, the verse below is the theme for the entire first chapter of the book. Its amazing how much wisdom is packed into these few words. What lies within each of our hearts forms the core of who we are and what we are responsible for and whom we are responsible to.
I colored the heart with the Neocolor IIs and just let the wet colors bleed into each other. When I was finished, I spattered paint from the tip of the crayon with a wet brush.
A Bible verse that pops into my mind often is “Bear one another’s burdens”, but I NEVER noticed the verse that follows: “For each must carry his own load.” It was really helpful to me to recognize and acknowledge that there are times when we should bear each others burdens and times we need to get back to carrying our own loads. Cloud and Townsend describe burdens like boulders too big to carry and loads as what’s enough for us. While it’s good to help someone carry a boulder, it’s a mistake to carry another person’s load.
Below is my interpretation of this passage. I just used the Neocolor IIs like regular water color paint, picking up color with a brush. This works well in small areas…
So what belongs in our load? Cloud and Townsend have an interesting list of what’s ours alone to carry, so much of these are matters of the heart:
- attitudes and beliefs
Our Feelings: Let me start with feelings. Cloud and Townsend take a positive view of our feelings and note that feelings often motivate us to take the right action. The good Samaritan felt sympathy for what the other had experienced before he offered help. I put this quote from the book on the backside of my tip-in:
Feelings come from your heart and can tell you the state of your relationships. They can tell you if things are going well, or if there is a problem. If you feel close and loving, things are probably going well. If you feel angry, you have a problem that needs addressed. But the point is your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so that you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.
I would just add, speaking from my own experience, that owning our feelings require developing discernment. For example, sometimes when I’m angry, it just means I need more sleep. When I feel sad, looking for the reason why just makes things worse; I am better off just observing the feelings and letting them pass. And as a person who can cry at Hallmark commercials, I’ve learned my strong empathetic response does not always a good indicator I need to get involved; sometimes it’s enough to pray! Still, reading the story of the Good Samaritan again in light of Cloud and Townsends’ observations, gave me greater appreciation for my own big feelings and for the ways that they often lead me in the right direction.
With the Neocolor IIs, it’s kind of irresistible to draw circles of color, and then just paint them with a wet brush…
Our attitudes and beliefs: These are something else that falls within our property line. Cloud and Townsend note that it’s good to challenge our own attitude and beliefs so that we don’t find ourselves holding to the traditions of men instead of the commands of God. Below I just colored with Neocolor IIs onto the background to add some color.
Our Behaviors: We all have to live with consequence of our own behaviors, and as hard as it may be, Cloud and Townsend say it is for the best to expect others to live with the consequences of their behavoir. At some level, we have to trust that self-preservation will kick in when it comes to watching other people make mistakes. I put this quote next to Proverbs 15:10 (a rather tough verse to accept!): “To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behavior is to render them powerless.”
Below, I colored the scene with my Neocolor IIs and then just went over everything with a slightly wet brush.
Our choices: Below is my favorite verse that I’ve rediscovered as a result of reading this book. It’s better to give others options rather than compel them to do things. In doing so, we let their goodness shine. We all need the freedom to say no in our lives. Often saying “no” enables us to give our best “yes.”
A few helpful thoughts on the word “No” from their book:
People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others. They feel that if they say no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply, but inwardly resent. Sometimes a person is pressuring you to do something; other times the pressure comes from your own sense of what you “should” do. If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of “self-control.”
Below I used the Neocolor IIs for the background color and to paint the butterflies. I spattered a few paint drops, too.
Cloud and Townsend shared several verses about God giving us the freedom to respond to him or not. I was reminded of a story I heard from a children’s minister: “God has no grandchildren,” she said. “Just because your parents have chosen to follow Christ, does not mean that you have. It’s a decision that you need to make for yourself.” As an aside: Today, I am choosing to no longer be upset by anyone who complains about Christians forcing their religion on others. It can’t be done anyway! God has made it so: we each have the freedom to choose.
Below I used the Neocolor IIs for background colors and paint spatters.
Our Values: As I was reflecting on this verse: “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God,” I started thinking of the seven virtues. I found two lists. One comprised of the theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) and the cardinal virtues (fortitude, justice, prudence, and temperance). And the other list had the contrary virtues to the seven deadly sins (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility). Both lists of virtues have been taught by the church for centuries. I feel like the virtue that is most missing in our society today is temperance. The virtue is found on both lists, but means something different in each instance. As a contrary virtue to “gluttony”, temperance refers to moderation. As a cardinal virtue, “temperance” is the proper ordering of one’s own passions. I was talking with a friend who has studied philosophy. He said the ancient Greeks saw temperance (the proper ordering of self) as a prerequisite to justice (the proper ordering of society). The Ancient Greeks couldn’t conceive of a justly ordered society made up intemperate people. I like how all the values taught by the church over time hold together and support each other.
Below I just added a little color with the bullets and the frame around the verse with a red Neocolor II crayon.
Our Limits: The next Bible passage is probably not one that I would have ever chosen to illustrate on my own. For me the words evoke the practice of shunning, taking a group stance against a person because of their behavior. I’ve heard stories of how hurtful this experience can be, and some of the stories have even included a reference to this verse: “Do not associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” Cloud and Townsend write that we can’t change people or make them behave right but we can set limits to our exposure to people who behave poorly. Since I had the seven deadly sins on my brain, I noted how Paul’s list lines up with them:
- Sexual immorality (Lust)
- Greed (Greed)
- Idolatry (Pride is a form of idolatry)
- Revilers (anger)
- Drunkard (gluttony)
- Swindlers (a mix of envy and sloth)
As Christians we should take a stand against what destroys love. I can reclaim this verse as common-sense wisdom to avoid abusive people, even if personally, I feel sad knowing the hurt these words have caused when applied without good understanding. I can see the verse as being protective.
I used Neocolor IIs just to add some background color for my writing and stamps.
Some of what St. Paul writes can be hard for us to embrace as modern readers. In his defense, let me say Paul’s entire message was one of freedom from rules and laws and obedience to Christ who taught us how to love. I probably shouldn’t speak for St. Paul, but his words have carried the love of Christ into my heart and I’ve been reading his letters since I was a child. I feel reasonably confident saying that St. Paul would cringe to see his own words read as law. He was doing his best to write guidance to young churches. Paul expected the churches he encouraged to look different from the rest of the world as a result of a holiness that would come from being in Christ. What was sung at my church growing up: “They Will Know We Are Christians by our Love.”
When Jesus makes a similar point, it doesn’t seem so harsh: “If a brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
In the picture below, I colored the picture with the Neocolor IIs and then used a wet brush to go over it.
It’s a comfort to know that when we let a person behaving badly go, that we can put our trust in Jesus, who is the good shepherd. Maybe the ultimate form of pride is believing that we can personally save a person or a situation. We would do well to remember that Jesus is the savior. All of us have heard how Jesus met with prostitutes and tax collectors. What we sometimes forget is that they were changed after meeting him because he was Jesus. We should be open to the possibility of change, too; our limits are not necessarily permanent.
Our Talents: We have a responsibility to develop and use the talents that God has given us. One things I’ve really enjoyed about reading Cloud and Townsend’s book is the different take they have on familiar passages. I loved their thoughts on the parable of the Talents:
The parable of the talents says that we are accountable—not to mention much happier—when we are exercising our gifts and being productive. It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fair of failure that the “wicked and lazy” servant gave in to. He was not chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult. He was chastised for not confronting his fear and trying the best he could. Not confronting our fear denies the grace of God and insults both his giving of the gift and his grace to sustain us as we are learning.
I paraphrased this and put it right into my Bible. I used a tip-in since I didn’t have quite enough room in my margins to write the whole quote. I used Neocolor IIs for the background color on the front and back of this tip-in.
Our thoughts: I love this verse: “Make every thought captive to obey Christ.” As I thought about what this would mean: I hope that all my thoughts must be healing, truthful, and loving. Probably the most important way to keep our thoughts obedient to Christ is to make sure they are truthful. As Cloud and Townsend point out: “We all have a tendency to not see things clearly, to think and perceive in distorted ways…Taking ownership of our thinking in relationships requires being active in checking out where we may be wrong. As we assimilate new information, our thinking adapts and grows closer to reality.”
This page was inspired by a similar illustration in Rebekah Jones’ Bible. I used Neocolor IIs for the back ground and to add color to the drawing of the brain.
Our Desires: We own our desires and its up to us to pursue them and find fulfillment in life. It’s good to remember that God loves to give gifts to his children and supports us in our goals and plans as we walk in God’s ways. As I reflected on this verse below, I thought of how important it is to express our desires. Sometimes we don’t get what we want simply because we don’t make the request known, both to God and to people in our lives who can help us.
I colored swirls and hearts with the Neocolor IIs and used a lightly wet brush over the top. For some reason, I can’t resist adding glitter to my pages with Neocolor IIs.
Our Love: The Bible teaches us to love and our love is the greatest gift we have within our own control to give. Leviticus often gets singled out an unpopular book of the Bible, but there’s a lot of wisdom to be gained just wondering what led to the rules in the first place. And on a page that encourages us not to put a stumbling block before a blind person (common sense?) and a rule against wearing fabric made from a blend of materials (I would need to throw out 90% of my wardrobe!) and a poignant, timely reminder to be kind to the strangers and foreigners living among us, we find the wisest words ever written: “Love thy neighbor as yourself!” And I love what comes just before: “Do not take a vengeance or bear a grudge.” The often neglected first part of the verse seems like good advice for our times!
I couldn’t decide how to illustrate this verse, so I took two approaches: Colorful stamped houses and writing out the whole beautiful verse!
We need to take responsibility for the love we can offer the world, and also our ability to receive love. These words from “Boundaries” found their way onto my margins:
Our ability to give and respond to love is our greatest gift. The heart that God has fashioned in his image is the center of our being. It’s abilities to open up to love and to allow love to flow outward are crucial to life.
Cloud and Townsend remind readers of the importance of receiving an inflow of love, too! St. Paul encourages us to widen our own hearts.
Boundaries have gates and when our gates function well, we are able to let the bad out and keep the good in. I love how Cloud and Townsend paired the warning from Jesus about what comes out of our hearts that defiles us with the promise from 1 John that if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And the time to let the bad out is when it’s first in our heart. Have you ever heard yourself say, “Well, if I weren’t Christian, I would….” As I worked on this page I was reminded of Zechariah 8:17, which encourages us not to devise evil against another in our hearts. That’s where sin begins. And we need to let it out and bring in the good stuff: forgiveness and love!
I used Neocolor IIs to color in the dirty and clean hearts.
God and Boundaries
This post is getting much longer than I ever could have imagined I first set out to journal my way through the first chapter of this book!!! Cloud and Townsend ask what we can learn about our boundaries from looking to the Bible and learning from God’s own boundaries. I’ll just take one question from the Boundaries workbook at a time and look at the passages Cloud and Townsend suggested for each question and journal one of the passages.
Question #1: God defines his personality by telling us about himself. What does he tell us in the Bible about what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, doesn’t allow, lies, and dislikes? See for instance Genesis 12:2, Jeremiah 3:12, Ezekiel 6:9, 36:26.
I’ve shared before that the calling of Abraham is my favorite Bible story. As I think about the story and how it relates to what Cloud and Townsend suggest is within our boundaries, it does show that God makes choices: He chose Abraham out of all the people in the world to bless us all and to help us develop into our full potential as human beings. God lived with the consequences of his choice. When Sarah couldn’t be patient waiting for the promised child, God did not abandon Hagar and Ishmael. He made a promise to them, too, one that still has an impact on us today. Whether we are Jewish or Muslim or Christian, we trace our spiritual ancestry to this one man (Jews through Isaac, Muslims through Ishmael, and Christians through a spirit of adoption). We are all called to live our lives as a blessing to others. It’s kind of incredible to think how God’s choice to work with Abraham has played out in human history and to know that God’s plans are still unfolding. God was faithful in his promise to Abraham, and we can trust that God is faithful to us, too, in our own calling.
Jeremiah 3:12 and Ezekiel 6:9 both show that God owns his feelings. He angry at times but that His anger doesn’t last forever. God shares through the prophet Ezekiel that He is broken by seeing His people turn to idols.
With regard to likes and dislikes (just based on these four verses), Ezekiel 36:26 shows that God likes when we have hearts of flesh, but not when our hearts are turned to stone.
Question #2 God differentiates himself from his creation, from us, and from others. He tells us who he is and who he is not. What does he say about himself in Leviticus 11:44, Isaiah 48:12, 60:16; 1 John 4:16?
God reminds us that He is different. It is God who is first and last. We are called to be holy, but God is holy, separate from us and perfect. 1 John reminds us both that God is light and in him is no darkness and God is love, and all who abide in love are with God. And God alone is our savior and redeemer.
Question #3: God also limits what he will allow in his yard. What, for example, do Exodus 20:1-17 (the ten commandments) and Matthew 5:21-6:4 (the sermon on the mount) say about those limits?
God sets limits about what is allowed in his yard through the Ten Commandments, which just aren’t that onerous. Many people think that Jesus somehow the law easier, but in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus ramps up the standard. It’s not enough to avoid murdering our friends and family—we need to release the anger in our hearts. It’s not enough to simply not commit adultery—we are not to look at people with lust. As Jesus builds a fence around the Law in a way that shows we ALL sin, Jesus shows the way back to God through his death and resurrection. As we die to sin, we are given new life.
Question #4 What do Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Mark 12:30-31 and 1 John 4:7-12 say about the gates in God’s fences?
It’s not a surprise to me that while I’ve ignored many verses about boundaries, I managed to find and illustrate all these verses about God’s gates (If God has a way in, I’m finding it!):
Hosea 6:6: For I desire steadfast love not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Micah 6:8: He has told you, o man, what is good: And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Mark 12:30-31: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is like this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
1 John 4:7-12: Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Everyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loves us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
I did the lettering for this page many months ago, but I added a few doodles and some color with my Neocolor IIs. It is good to remember this: Its not sacrifice God desires from us but our love and for us to know him. That is enough!
This is only the first chapter of Boundaries. I am not promising to journal my way through the rest of the book, but the remaining chapters have much more food for thought. I hope the illustrations encourage you to have more fun with the Neocolor IIs and that the passages relieve some worry and release some anger and give you more energy for what is truly yours to carry. Blessings!!!