From Margin in Scripture, to Margin in Service

Part three of a guest-post by Lisa Nichols Hickman!

Melissa’s Story Part III

For the past two weeks, we’ve been learning from Melissa Brumbelow Noren about her Bible journaling journey. The beautiful thing about her journey is that her margin time in scripture leads to service. When she needs further encouragement, to continue and deepen the service she is called to do, she returns to her margins for further guidance and discernment. I love this about Melissa.

After her first Illustrated Faith workshop, she knew she had to “go and share.” She called her pastor’s wife to tell her about the workshop and to brainstorm ways to help kids in the community and ladies in the church.

She knew, without a doubt, what she had learned would allow people to connect with God in new and creative ways.

Her first step was to collect donations of Bibles, journals, colored pencils, colored pens, stickers, small glue sticks and pictures from Pinterest and magazines that could be used for collaging. She kept a box by her desk at work, outside the walls of the church, where folks knew they could leave any Bibles no longer needed in their household.

With an eye toward reaching out to kids in the community, she created pencil pouches per child with colored pencils, colored pens, stickers, small glue sticks, ABCs of Faith and a few pictures from Pinterest on Illustrated Faith to get their gears turning!

The “Winter Camp” her church hosts for 12 – 18 year old youth was the perfect place to introduce Bible journaling. I loved seeing Melissa prepare illustrations and examples that were perfect for young women, and a second set designed to catch the eye of young men.

Camp Crazy Faith Bible Journaling

I appreciate how Melissa adapted some of the activities taught at the Illustrated Faith/Writing in the Margins event in Springfield, Virginia and made them work for the theme of the camp that addressed the work of the Holy Spirit to guide you through temptation.

For the opening activity to explore temptation as a theme in a young person’s life, Melissa had them turn to 1 Corinthians 10:13 where they did a “3-2-1” connecting activity. The group wrote down 3 recent temptations in their life, 2 ways Jesus helped them through those temptations, and a 1 sentence prayer thanking Jesus for his help in that tough situation.

On Saturday, the group looked to the Holy Spirit as a guide through temptations. The group focused on Galatians 5:16-21. Melissa’s instruction was for them to write down the clear signs described in verses 19-21 and then had the individuals consider a time they had experienced or seen one of those signs. Then the group wrote down ways the Spirit helped them make a decision Jesus would love to see come to fruition.

Finally, on Sunday morning, the group studied the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Melissa’s instructions were clear: write down each of the nine fruits, write down the name of a person who has revealed each of the fruits to you, and then consider a person to whom you can model that particular fruit to in a time of need. I love picturing all the names that would begin to emerge in the Bible margins through an activity like this. Nine fruits. Eighteen different names.

For Melissa, her emphasis was clear. Connect to scripture first. Doodle, paint, draw and write responding to that scripture second.  They discussed their interaction with scripture in small groups that were a safe space to share.

Camp Crazy Faith Bible Journaling teaching

The fifty kids at the retreat absolutely loved this and the results were awesome. Even months later they returned to Melissa during church and asked for ideas, more supplies, help in connecting, or told me about another piece of ‘fruit’ they had shared with classmates.

And that, is only one of the circles to whom Melissa is called to share her love for Bible journaling. She finds herself ministering more and more to a larger and larger community.

After posting on Facebook, photos from her Bible, a long-lost cousin of sorts reconnected with Melissa after seeing the Facebook posts. They hadn’t truly spoke or had a relationship with each other in almost a decade until the cousin spotted Jesus at work in Melissa’s life. Now, they were able to pick right up where they left off and they have been journaling and sharing and reconnecting ever since.

Men on Facebook are also seeing the posts and asking me questions or sharing with my husband how ‘connecting’ has either improved their relationship with the Lord (and even with their spouses) or how it’s helped their wives relax more at home and therefore there is peace in their house they hadn’t experienced in a while. This made Melissa and her husband both cry when that was shared with them by a coworker about his home and wife.

Women are picking up the journaling at first because they like the ‘adult coloring book’ craze and trend at the moment, but when Melissa shows them deeper connection activities their lightbulb goes off and that ‘Ah-Ha’ moment emerges. I love how Melissa describes her joy, “It just fills my heart up seeing them connect with Jesus!”

Once she shows some of the women the connection activities and journaling techniques, they’re paying it forward to their kids and others they know of who are interested and wanting to grow deeper in their faith.

In the past few months, a man from another church reached out for Melissa’s help. He’s a Sunday school teacher and wanted a new way to involve his middle & high school boy’s classes. Melissa found several ‘boy’ and ‘manly’ type verses about strength, war, fathers and sons, outdoorsy activities such as sports and hunting, and leadership. He chose a handful he liked best to fit their themes, then he and Melissa applied connecting activities to the verses and made an activity sheet. One of Melissa’s favorite male Bible journalers is Wes Molebash – a pastor and cartoonist in Ohio. And she loves seeing other men on Facebook who are also journaling and sharing.

Other churches in the area are hearing about the Bible Journaling and seeing the kids come back from Sunday School / camps / etc. and are reaching out to Melissa about coming to teach at their church. Melissa reflects and gives thanks, “Connecting and Bible Journaling are spreading by word of mouth and Facebook and it’s fantastic!”

Her public witness continues to teach, for example, this recent post when she depicts what it means to “turn the other cheek…”

2 cheeks

Melissa engages the margin in scripture, and then the margin in service. Once she has exhausted her energy out in the world, she returns to God’s word to find strength and renewal and guidance, once again, in the margins.

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