Reaching the Soul – Bible Journaling with James Presley

Thank you Lisa Nichols Hickman for featuring the stunning artwork of James Presley!

The pen and ink marginalia of James Presley stands out within the Journaling Bible Community for its crisp, dynamic and masculine form.

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Time and time again, an image would catch my eye when scrolling through the Facebook page.  Each time it was the work of James Presley.

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While these images are unique in their black and white contrast and shading, James’ work gets more and more colorful the closer you look towards your feet.

You know the verse – “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God.”

Walking humbly, for James, begins on the soles of the feet and radiates upward to heart, mind and soul.

“Reaching the Soul” is a project James started back in 2008 while a youth camp counselor at Word of Life Bible Institute Florida. One of his campers that summer had a pair of white canvas style slip on shoes. I felt this urge to bring scripture to the soles of his feet.

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Since that day of summer camp, my artwork (Inks) has grown from just being on shoes to being on everything from hats, totes, backpacks, coffee mugs, travel mugs, and more. When it come to “Reaching the Soul,” James reminds us that sometimes it begins with the very place we stand and how our feet are the very basis for spiritual formation and daily discipleship.

James began Bible journaling on white canvas shoes and then turned to the pages of his Bible to work in the margins by the encouragement of his friends Jennie and Curtis Tyson who own Serenity Coffee Shop. His first Bible journaling entry was Psalm 34:6, which James consider to be his life verse due to it being the perfect explanation of his experience with salvation and how he came to know the Lord.

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When I asked James about his favorite Bible journaling piece he has ever done, he said, “My favorite entry is alway my next one because the Lord always teaches and shows me something new each time I journal.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, James knows a bit about life and its struggles.  He grew up with his grandparents after the death of his mother at age six.  His father was absent from his life.  He moved to Florida in 2001 and attended Word of Life Bible Institute/Word of Life Culinary Apprenticeship Program from 2006 until 2011.

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During that culinary apprenticeship program, at the age of 22, James claimed the faith.  In 2012 he met Jennie and Curtis Tyson, owners of Serenity Coffee Shop located in Okeechobee Florida, and was given the opportunity to display and sell his artwork.  Now, James is months away from getting married..

The tools James appreciates the most  for Bible journaling are  the Copic Multiliner SP 0.5 and Bic Atlantis ink pen.

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And when it comes to the shoes, hats, totes, backpacksimage9, and other merchandise — I simply use Sharpie permanent markers.

If you are interested in exploring more of James’ work, you can check out his artwork at the Serenity Coffee Shop in Okeechobee Florida.  His artwork can also be seen on the format of Bible journaling stamps through Sonshine Stamp Co. And his work can be seen on Instagram at:  Jep0731 and through the hashtag:  #ReachingTheSoul

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Midterm Summer Camp Report

One of the reasons that I share my Bible Journaling is just to show that anybody can do this.  It’s all about the process and the way that we are able to connect with the Word in creative new ways.  I’ve been working my way through the online workshop from Illustrated Faith called Revival Camp.  I’ve been enjoying the videos, the devotional, and travel journal; most of all the time with God.  I’ve been surprised by how much I have learned by deeply reflecting on the selected passages in Nehemiah.

In the passage below, Nehemiah asks for letters of safe passage and for resources to build up his temple, his community, and his home.  I might have easily read quickly through these words, but by slowing down, it occurred to me what a beautiful prayer this becomes when paraphrased for today:  Lord, grant me safe passage and help me to build up the church, our community, and home.  It was only by taking time to write the verse out that this became clear.  I loved the camp badge for this week.  I definitely feel like I need God to be my compass.  I added a reminder of the Thomas Merton prayer, which I learned from Connie Denninger of Vintage Grace:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I feel so comforted knowing that God goes before me.

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In the next passage, Nehemiah takes a walk looking at all the damage to the wall.  We were each encouraged to take our own walk.  Shanna Noel said in the video, everyone’s walk will look different.  Mine was long.  I wrote down everything I could be doing better at work, for our family and our home, how I could be serving better and worshiping better, how I could be taking better care of my own health.  As I took a long, hard look at my life, I noticed lots of holes that could be patched and things that could be better.  I wrote everything down on a very long page of paper from an old-fashioned calculator.  Then I stared at the blank page beside it with the word strips “research” and “count the cost.”  I felt paralyzed.  I didn’t know what to write.  The words came to me:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled by many things, but one thing is needful.”  I’ve never known what that verse meant, but what it meant to me in the moment:  The troubles of the day are sufficient; take care of what’s before you.  You can do only one thing at a time.  Do what’s most important in the moment.  And when Jesus is in the house, being with him takes precedent!  Mary sat and listened.  That was the wise choice.

The Casting Crowns song “Just Be Held” keeps making an appearance in my art.  I also added a note that a friend on Facebook posted.  She says sometimes when it feels like the things in life are crumbling what’s really happening is what doesn’t work is being cleared to open space for what will.  That’s been a comforting thought to me lately.

I also added a prayer that I’ve been saying every day lately from St. Therese of Liseaux:

Jesus, help me to simplify my life by learning what You want me to be – and becoming that person.

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The next passage from the devotional jumped to Jeremiah.  As I read this verse, I thought of a book that helped me keep the faith through college:  Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing by Soren Kirkegaard.  It’s been many years since I read the book, but what I remember is that to be pure in heart, we have to will one thing, to seek God’s face.

I loved the words from the devotional this week:

I only want to continue with His blessing and in His strength.

and they ended up as a prayer on the right side of my page….

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Here’s what found it’s way to the margins of my Bible after these three weeks….

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The Inspire Bible

This is a bit of an unplanned post.  I just had so much fun tonight that I needed to share.  I ordered a copy of The Inspire Bible from Amazon.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long while, and I am so glad that I finally did.  It is a beautiful Bible and it’s the best coloring book I’ve ever owned rolled into one.  Pure happiness!  It’s a bit of a different experience that Bible Journaling.  When I play in my regular Journaling Bible, I tend to think about the verse that I plan to illustrate for a long time before I get started.  I do a lot of processing before hand.  With the Inspire Bible, I just opened to a page and started coloring, which was both relaxing and edifying at the same time.  There are plenty of blank pages in the Bible, too, to add your own artwork, and you can always add tip-ins if want to add your art to a page that has already been illustrated, but for me, I’ll keep journaling in my other Bible and color in this one.017.Here’s the page, I opened to.  I really felt encouraged as I worked on this page.  It’s good to think that God made us who we are for the times and experiences that we meet in our lifetime.  Colored pencils are a great option for coloring this Bible.

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We took a drive as a family last night, which gave me time to look through all of the illustrations.  As I looked at the verses that were so carefully selected, I thought, “This is my Bible.”  Whoever put this together did a wonderful job picking a familiar verse for the start of each chapter and highlighting other well-known verses that have spoken to generations.  One of the things that has meant so much to me as I see posts in the Journaling Bible Community or on Instagram is just seeing so many people sharing words of encouragement and hope from the Bible.  You can find difficult passages in the Bible, of course, but for those of us who read the Bible as the inspired Word of God, the verses that breathe life into us are the ones you’ll find scattered throughout the pages of the this Bible, ready to color!  Feeling happy!

 

Getting to Know Distress Inks

When I was first Bible Journaling, one of my goals was to figure out how to add background color.  Distress Inks have become a favorite choice.  The inks are vivid and bright, and the colors blend nicely.  The inks dry smooth, and provide a good surface for most pens.  If you stamp your inks onto a craft mat or plate, they instantly transform into awesome water color paint.  The inks will bleed through the thin, Bible pages, but some gesso applied to the page first is an easy fix.

What they are:  Water-based ink in vivid colors with interesting properties

Why they are great for Bible Journaling:  They provide vivid color with a minimal amount of water.

Page prep needed:  Definitely apply gesso to page first!

Ideas:  Adding background color, playing with stencils, using with a paintbrush as watercolors, stamping, distressing edges, adding color to paper before printing.

I’ve been gradually collecting Distress Ink pads since I started Bible Journaling.  I noticed while pasting the links to Amazon that the prices on these inks varies widely from color to color; sometimes if you wait, you may see the color you want at a better price or you could try a different source.  The ink pads come in two sizes.  I chose the larger 3-inch squares, but they also come in cute mini sizes, which are just 1-inch squares.  The smaller size would work fine for most Bible Journaling applications.  They come in fun starter sets.  I love the Distress Ink palette.  I found this blog post to be extremely helpful:  Distress Ink Recipes from Simon Says.  I am not always the best at guessing what colors work well together, so I tried a number of these recipes and was very pleased with the results.

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I’ve been storing my Distress Inks in a spice caddy that my husband made for me, before we had a spice rack (or a home!).  I’m so happy this pretty wooden box has been repurposed.

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Here’s a quick picture of some other supplies I’ve been using along with the Distress inks.

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Here’s a quick list of what’s above with links to Amazon:

As I put together some examples of how to use Distress Ink, I focused on the theme “Distressed”.  Just from reading the news, it seems that there are so many in distress right now.  As I read the stories of the Old Testament and think about what happened to Jesus and the apostles, I am reminded humanity has never lived in a world free from trouble.  The word “distressed” appears often throughout scripture.  Still Jesus gives us this command again and again: “fear not!”

If Distress Inks had only one trick, I think they would be worth it:  using the foam applicator to pick up ink and blend it onto the page.  One of my favorite Distress Ink color combinations is a sunset mix:  Black Soot, Chipped Sapphire, Seedless Preserves, Victorian Velvet, and Antique Linen.  I used a gold gel pen for the lettering.  I found a YouTube tutorial helpful for learning how to blend a sunset.   These words appear early in Psalm 18:  “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.”  I decided to focus on the phrase:  “My God lightens my darkness.”  Whatever we are going through staying focused on God will give us the light to see our way forward.

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Distress Inks can also, of course, be used with stamps.  Distress Inks don’t provide the crispest stamped image, but they do provide color and provide an overall pleasing effect.  I like to layer the colors, by first adding color to the background and then stamping.  For the following two pictures I used Mustard Seed, Spiced Marmalade, Picked Raspberry, and Peacock Feathers.  These colors are all included in a mini-ink starter set, too.

I think at times we all feel under siege by something that makes us feel weak or ineffective.  The Israelites cry out to God when they are outmatched in battle “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  This is a different kind of fear from the fear I felt yesterday when my four-year-old daughter, who just figured out how to swim, was swimming in a pool with 18 other partying adults and children, which kept me vigilant and protective.  It’s a fear of something beyond our control, beyond our own ability to react.

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God’s response:  They don’t have to do anything.  God will fight for them.  It’s often hard to take this advice, but there are times when the best thing to do in times of distress is to sit back, be patient, pray to God, and let things work themselves out.

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Psalm 30 reminds us to remember God’s abundant goodness.  God has our times in His hand; they are working toward His good purpose.  Some neat effects can be achieved by using Distress Inks together with a stencil.  For this pictures I used picked raspberry, mustard seed, twisted citron, and salty ocean.

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Sprinkling water droplets over Distress Inks can create some interesting effects.  I did find in the page below that wherever I dropped water, I had bleedthrough on the backside—just fair warning.  The page below was inspired by this sweet video tutorial from Jess Crafts.  I adapted her birthday card design to fit the story of Jonah.  I especially loved the perfect, little whale stamp, which I ordered directly from Gerda Steiner Designs.  The Distress Inks used:  cracked pistachio, peacock feathers, and salty ocean.  When I looked at the completed page, I had the thought:  “Even if I am at the bottom of the ocean, inside the belly of a whale, I know God can hear my prayers!”

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Distress Inks make great water colors.  I painted the tree below by splattering Distress Inks with a paint brush over a stencil and then using a paintbrush to paint the tree trunk.  On the right side, I used the same colors as for the tree blended onto the background.  The verse that inspired the tree:  “You have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in distress, a shelter from the storm, and a shade from the heat.”  The verse from this passage that grabbed my heart:  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.”  How have I not known this verse before?  There are so many treasures to be discovered in the Bible, so many words of assurance.  I’ve been wanting to add the lyrics to “Just Be Held” somewhere in my Bible.  It seemed a perfect match for this verse.  I discovered that it’s easy to add color to cardstock with Distress Inks.  I colored the page first, printed the page, and then cut it to size.  I applied the forest moss ink with a foam applicator to distress the edges of the page.  Other colors used include old paper, shabby shutters, bundled sage, and brushed corduroy.  Here are just a few in-process photos.  I hope they speak for themselves…

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An alternative way to apply Distress Inks to the page is to stamp the inks onto an acrylic block.  Next, you simply spritz the ink and then press the acrylic block onto the page.  I’ve heard this technique called “Ink Smooshing.”  Since this approach is a little wetter, I did have some bleedthrough with this technique, even with the gesso applied first.  The colors used:  rusty hinge, broken china, peeled paint, and walnut stain.  The overall effect is exceptionally vivid color and a beautiful color mixing.  This passage from 2 Corinthinans often comes to mind for me in times of trouble:  “We have these treasures in jars of clay.”  When we feel afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down, we can be assured that the resurrection power of Jesus will renew us.

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Another thing I love to do with Distress Inks is to stamp an image with a permanent ink like StazOn and then use the Distress Inks as water colors with a paint brush to fill in the stamp.  I included the following passage for personal reasons.  It seems every time I’m in distress, someone will remind me of this verse or just send me a text “Phillipians 4:4-7”.   This is also my mother’s favorite verse.  It seems to be a recurring theme in my life, maybe something God wants me work on!  Even when we can’t rejoice in our circumstances, we can rejoice in our Lord, avoid worry, and give thanks.  If we do these things, God will give us the peace that passes all understanding.

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A fun way to use Distress Inks is to simply stamp the same image in multiple colors.  For this page, I used spun sugar as a background color and shaded lilac, dusty concord and peeled paint for the stamps.  I’ll leave you with this benediction from 2 Thessalonians.  My prayer for all of you is that you will know the peace of God, no matter what type of distress you may face in life!

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Bible Journaling in Miniature with Anneke Korfker

Thank you Lisa Nichols Hickman for this interview!!!

 

Perhaps you’ve seen Anneke Korfker’s ‘miniature’ Bible journaling illustrations tucked between the columns in the ‘inner’ margin on the center of her Bible’s page.  A native of the Netherlands, Anneke’s whimsy and creativity have captured the attention of many in the Journaling Bible Community.  Anneke answered a few questions to share her love of Bible journaling and the healing strength it has brought to her life.

 

Anneke, tell us a little about yourself.  Where do you live? What is your job? What are your hobbies? 

I live in a small but cute 1930’s loft apartment in one of the bigger cities in the Netherlands. When I came here almost seven years ago I fell in love with the historical buildings and parks in this neighborhood.

I am a maker by heart, whether it is drawing, painting, photography, cooking or writing ; creating something new just makes me happy! I also always have had a passion for learning and how people learn, which led to getting my Master’s degree in Education. I was working towards becoming a full time creative entrepreneur (working jobs on the side with elderly people and young children) when my health suddenly deteriorated dramatically. In a matter of weeks I became from a a very active person to somebody who is homebound because of disability and severe neuropathic pains.

Unfortunately this illness hasn’t changed (yet!), but what did change is that I now can honestly say (although it is takes a conscious decision every day) that I don’t ‘live like someone without hope’(1 Thess 4:13). I’ve learned so much in the past two years about my faith and journaling the Bible has played a major role in this.

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When and why did you start Bible journaling? 

I started Bible journaling around the same time that these health problems started, in 2014. Looking for a way to focus on the positive, I started making creative photo-albums. I was browsing for ideas for his project when I stumbled on Shanna Noel’s blog. I was so excited to find out that this she was a Christian too (I even texted my sister about it) and the scrap-booking she did in her Bible instantly clicked with me! The funny thing is that I have been a faith journaler for years, I even taught a couple of workshops on how to journal your prayers, but somehow I (subconsciously) never gave myself permission to do this in my Bible.

What was the first scripture verse you journaled? 

I didn’t date my entries (maybe I should have), so I don’t remember exactly which scripture but I remember I mostly journaled the Psalms in the beginning. I think they are so perfect to start with, they are very visual and talk about situations we all deal with every day.

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What does Bible journaling mean to you? Is there a moment when you had an ‘a-ha’ – like an answer to prayer? Or an insight? Or help with a problem? If so, what happened? 

Looking back I realize, Bible journaling was kind of like an answer to my prayers. I felt really lost and confused when the health challenges I mentioned crossed my path, and that backfired on my faith. I knew I couldn’t do this without God, but I felt so disconnected from God’s love and in the beginning I didn’t know how to fix it. Bible journaling helped me to make that connection again.

I remember a time I read about how God loves us, but had a hard time grasping that God really cared for me so I went through magazines and found pictures of a father lovingly holding his child, and collaged them into the small spaces in my Bible. It was like I wasn’t just gluing them into Bible, but also into my heart.

The creative aspect makes me want to spend more quality time in the word and the colors and images help me connect with the the words on a deeper level and also help me to overcome some of the barriers I experienced in the past, like being too restless to concentrate. It is so much easier to focus on God when you are actively interacting with God; really listening to what God wants to tell you that day through the Word.  Responding to the message with colors, prayers and images makes for fresh and lively communication!

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I haven’t always realized how much God destined us to be creative, but now I know it’s one of the tools God gave us to help us process and understand. And to enjoy of course!  Creativity and God’s Word are a match made in heaven if you ask me!

What are some of your favorite tools to use? 

I like experimenting with different tools, but I don’t want to overcomplicate it, because that sometimes can get in the way of the actual creating in my experience. I mainly use (brush)pens, to be precise my Faber Castell artist pitt pens, I think they work like a charm in most Bibles; They are bright and they don’t bleed (although without preparation there can be shadowing).

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For the lettering I use a combination of my illustrated faith pen and different sizes (xs and s are my go to sizes) of the black Faber Castell artist pitt pens. These I can bring with me anywhere. I also cut out tiny images out of magazines to incorporate in my Bible with modpodge (I like that it works as a glue and a sealer at the same time). When I have more time and energy I like to use watercolors (mainly by stamping distress ink-pad on a pallete and add water with a brush) and I also love to use small icon stamps originally designed for planners.

Anneke, we have all been wondering:  Why are you drawn to the center margin – instead of the outside margin? We love this! What made you choose this? 

Thank you! Using the center column actually was born out of necessity, but now I love it. When I became a member of the Bible journaling group I wanted to jump in right away, but I didn’t have a budget for a new bible yet. So I was looking for ways to journal in my normal Bible and tried out the center column.

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I felt a bit like ‘the odd man out’, when I shared my first journaling pieces, but after people telling me how much they appreciated this simple style I felt encouraged to share more. It made me especially happy to hear that it opened the eyes of some people towards the different possibilities of a non-journaling bible and/or for a more simple approach. I do in fact think that the restrictions of the limited space help me be more creative and be creative more. It fuels my anticipation that I can only highlight a condensed thought, because I always wonder which little treasure will God show me today. When I share a verse or a thought I pray in advance that the words may encourage someone else too. That is the power of so many people sharing so many different things; you never know who might be inspired, encouraged or who it might give the permission they needed. (Thanks Shanna for starting this domino effect!)

Kindness

In a sermon at church on Sunday, the preacher encouraged us all to think of a way that we can make the world better and to go out and do it.  He encouraged us to use the gifts we are given at our baptism:  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, and generosity.  This is as good a starting point as any for fixing some of the problems that ail our nation.  As I reflected on the troubles, it seems so much depends upon little every day actions and patterns of behavior on the part many, many people.  I can start with myself.

I was reading Romans 12 and Romans 13.  There’s so much good advice in these words for our present time:

  • Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
  • The one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
  • Love does no wrong to a neighbor.

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Words of wisdom…

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Why, God

I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about the death of Philando Castile.  Then I woke up to the news of five police officers shot.  My heart is breaking.

What I kept thinking about:  A month ago, I ran a red light.  There was a tall, very long truck in front of me, which I followed through the intersection.  I couldn’t see the light until I was half-way through the intersection.  Then I realized my mistake and said, “Oh no.  I just ran a red light.”  Then I saw the lights flashing on a police car.  I pulled into a nearby parking lot, hoping the police officer would know I was just concerned for his safety.  I didn’t want to pull over on a narrow busy road and have him standing where he could get hit.  He was kind and respectful as he told me my mistake.  He asked for my driver’s license and registration and I couldn’t find my driver’s license.  I went through all the cards in my wallet.  I finally found it in the front pocket of my purse.

As the police officer went back to his car, the man sitting in the passenger seat of my car, an out-of-town guest, said to me “It’s good you are not black.  You would have been shot for taking so long to find your driver’s license.”  I was quiet, but I was thinking, “You don’t get shot in a routine traffic stop.”  I was crying last night thinking I was wrong.

I ended up with a traffic ticket.  Our four-year-old daughter was also in my car, too, at the time.  My daughter said with innocent faith, “The police are always right, Mom.  Don’t run a red light.”  I kept contrasting her statements with the comments from the dear four-year-old girl in Philando Castile’s car.  Her faith in police officers, if she had any, forever shattered.  I couldn’t stop crying.

Where was Philando’s angel? Where was his protection?  Why did this have to happen?

My heart breaks for Philando’s mother, who raised a man who fed crowds in a school cafeteria and welcomed children.  I know that Mary is in heaven weeping with his mother, weeping bitterly.  I know that the four-year-old had an angel whose eyes were on the face of God. I know that Christ is with the suffering.

I pray for an end to the shedding of innocent blood and I pray for the safety of police officers, too, in this tumultuous time.  May this situation call us all to our highest selves, cause us to choose love over fear, and teach us to cherish the value of human life.

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Update 7/11:  I thought this article is worth sharing as an update to the above initial thoughts and questions.  A Harvard economist took a close look at the data regarding police use of force and police shootings and race.  The numbers painted a much more nuanced picture than I expected.  When it comes to the use of deadly force, there does not appear to be a racial bias against blacks, but when you look at lesser uses of force (generally speaking, the use of physical intimidation) there does appear to be racial bias.  Looking at these numbers, my guess is that these smaller uses of force create real fear as people talk.  Then when a black citizen really is shot by the police, it throws fuel on all those fears in a way that doesn’t happen when a white citizen is shot and killed.  Maybe what needs to be addressed are the smaller displays of police force that might contribute to feelings of fear.  I think it’s helpful that Roland G. Fryer Jr. took time to collect and study all this data.  Numbers always help me put a situation in perspective.  It’s also interesting to read data regarding the likelihood of being pulled over for a traffic offense based on race (especially in the suburbs).  This is a complicated issue.  I continue to pray for healing and understanding and for the perfect love that drives out all fear.

As I reflect on the data, my take-away is that what makes it into the headlines does not show the root of the problem;  really, it’s the smaller stuff we never see:  Every time a citizen shows respect it makes a difference; every time a police officer acts in accordance with professional standards it helps; every act of kindness matters.  So I am praying big for millions and millions of small kind acts in the right direction!

Wild and Free: Summer Reading

I bought a fun stamp set by Kristin Wolbach from Illustrated Faith when they still had an Etsy shop.  I love Kristin’s art, but from the moment the stamp set arrived, I’ve been wondering where I could use the phrase “Wild and Free.”  It’s not a phase I could easily connect with scripture or my life as a Christian.  Mostly the phrase “Wild and Free” reminds me of the wonderful German exchange student, who lived with us my senior of high school.  I can still her singing “I’m Free” by the Soup Dragons—oh the nineties!  My parents were not particularly strict, but they did sort of want to know when she would come home at night—even that felt like too restrictive to my friend and roommate.

When I saw that Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan wrote a book called Wild and Free.  I thought, “I’ll get the book and then I’ll know where to use the stamp!  Problem solved.”  But I went from having no clue where to put the stamp to way too many options!!!

It strikes me funny in a way how Jess and Hayley understand the phrase “Wild and Free.”  Were I to describe the same feeling, I would simply say, “In Christ.”  And it’s absolutely true:  There’s something wild and free about being in Christ.

  • In Christ we are a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Henry Thoreau is famous for saying:  “All good things are wild and free.”  There’s theological soundness to this statement:  When the world was created, God called all of creation good.  In Christ we are made new, wild and free!  We are God’s good creation.
  • In Christ, nothing can separate us from the Love of God. (Romans 8:39)  We are wholly loved, no matter what!  We are more than conquerors!
  • In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing. We are holy and blameless.  We are predestined as sons and daughters.  We redeemed and forgiven.  We are lavished in grace.  (Ephesians 1:3-8)
  • We are saved and given a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of God’s purpose and grace, which were given to us before the ages began! Crazy wild! (2 Timothy 1:9)
  • God lifts us up to sit in heavenly places! (Ephesians 2:6)
  • All of God’s promises find a Yes and Amen in Christ. We are established, anointed, sealed, and filled with Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 1:20-22)
  • We can trust that all our needs will be supplied: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19)
  • In Christ, we can find the peace that surpasses understanding. (Philippians 4:7).
  • We are given the free gift of eternal life. (Romans 6:23)

I don’t know why it makes me giggle to say this, but yes, all of the above is pretty wild stuff!  And I’ve been blessed to live “wild and free” my whole life.  I just never quite called it that.

And the consequence of living wild and free in Christ isn’t what you might expect from the words.  In high school, I generally went to youth group or hung out at the park playing volley ball, but the semester I had a German exchange student, I got invited to a “wild” party.  That night after passing a group of kids with needles in their arms and a room full of smoke, I bumped into someone who looked to me in relief to say, “I’m so glad I’m not the only one drinking.”  In that moment, where I was so out of place, I was still completely free to be myself, not worried what others might think, and this other young lady found some encouragement in that.  It’s been a blessing and protected me in more ways than I can count to be wild and free in Christ!

Here’s how Jess describes a “wild and free” woman…

Her eyes are on Jesus.  He determines her path, and she trusts Him.  She isn’t concerned with fitting in or standing out, since her identity is in step with her Father.  She knows better than to expect to be tidy and put together, since that is not her aim—but she also doesn’t feel an ounce of pressure to be set apart from the crowd.  She would point any attention offered her to her Father, anyhow.  Her hands are open.  Her rights are relinquished.  She holds the staff of the daughter of the Most High God and believes Isaiah 54:17, which tells her that no weapon forged against her will prevail, and Romans 8:37, which tells her that she is more than a conqueror through Christ.  The world can get hung up on the word wild and what it means to them—and anytime they want, the world can throw a big side eye at the woman set wild and free in God.  She doesn’t live for them; she sees only her Father.

Wild and Free was fun to read, and I think it could be wonderfully healing reading for anyone who grew up thinking that being a Christian was about fitting certain norms and expectations.  The book made me feel grateful for my childhood church who helped me to understand the true meaning of being free in Christ!

I asked myself the question:  What Bible verse makes me feel most wild and free?  Proverbs 16:9 came to mind.  Somehow knowing that God establishes my steps, even as my heart plans the way, allows me to feel both wild and free.

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Report from Revival Camp

I was a little reluctant to share my Illustrated Faith Revival Camp journal, just because it’s so deeply personal.  In his book, Reaching Out, Henry Nouwen challenges us to consider that “what is most universal is most personal and indeed nothing human is strange to us.”  So with that good thought, I will go ahead and share.  Maybe some of you are following along with the Illustrated Faith Revival Camp devotional, too, or would like to see how an art journal can serve as a tool for planning a Bible Journaling page.  The most helpful practical tip I discovered:  Working with a single color scheme really helps!  I love that the Revival Camp materials include a color guide!!!

The first three weeks of Revival Camp focus on Nehemiah and the theme has been our passions and dreams.  At first, I felt confused and wondered what Nehemiah crying over the destruction of Jerusalem and his desire to bring restoration of the law to the people of Israel could possibly have to do with my own dreams and passions.  There’s no comparison.  Maybe some might be even be offended at drawing the comparison between Nehemiah’s deep care for his nation and his love for God’s law with my own hopes and concerns, which seem rather trivial.  I put aside my objections and moved forward.

The first week was all about igniting passion.  After reflecting on Nehemiah long enough, I discovered he does go about igniting passion the right way.  He starts in tears with prayer.  Holly Rigsby, an online fitness coach, says to ignite passion and motivation, you have to ask why and you have to keep asking why until you cry, before you even begin.  What would happen to you if you don’t take care of yourself?  What if you don’t help your children grow in faith?  What if you don’t make your marriage a priority?  What if don’t do your best at what you are called to do at work?  What if you don’t make time for your parents as they get older?  What if you don’t pray for your country?

When you can find the emotional response to these questions, you are one step closer to taking the right action.

revival camp ignite

The next week was about restoration.  So often when we start something new, we look for new answers, but Nehemiah simply goes back to the Word.  These words leaped off the page to me:  “…if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them…”  Most often, we don’t need a grand new revelation.  We simply need to walk in God’s ways or do what we know works.  This verse also pops to mind:  “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.”

revival camp restore

And the third week was about the importance of beginning with prayer.  Nehemiah prays boldly:  “Give success to your servant today.”  That’s a great prayer! Sometimes when I look at my list of passions that includes all the normal human desires:  health, our children, my husband, our marriage, vocation, friends and family, service, worship, faith, and spreading kindness and one weird desire that seems unique to me:  I JUST NEED TO UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING (people, the Bible, nature, the economy, everything!) and I love to read widely.  We are all weird in some way!  When I look at the long list, I can start to feel overwhelmed or not know where to start.  But in the devotional, we are reminded that:  “our version of this calling may be good, but His version with His yoke will be doable.”  That promise is peace for me.  If we do what we are called to do in the moment, the rest will take care of itself in time.  We don’t have to tackle everything at once.  Our loving Father holds all our passions and desires and with Jesus at our side we can be assured that the burden will be light.  We can rest in him and go out with joy.  I added the word strip to this page:  “I can do all things through you.”  (and a rainbow as a symbol of promise!)

revival camp kavanah

I really enjoyed doing work in the art journal, and I love how all these threads came together on the pages of my Bible.  I will probably never read Nehemiah quite the same way again.  God spoke so much into my heart through this whole process.

revival camp nehemiah 1

revival camp nehemiah 2

Like Nehemiah, I should be praying for my country with tears and fasting this Fourth of July weekend.  Praying for God’s continued blessing on our nation and for revival as more people illustrate their faith and share the goodness that God teaches and promises through His Word!