Choosing a Journaling Bible

When I started Bible journaling, there were only a couple of journaling Bibles to choose from, and I am so glad that was the case!  I don’t know how I would choose today.

I hope to simplify the choices for you.

If you already have a translation of the Bible that you prefer or that is used in your church, you might start by looking for a journaling Bible in that translation.  To start searching, just go to Amazon and enter the translation you prefer and “Journaling Bible”.  (Catholic friends, a New American Bible, Revised Edition, will soon be available as a Journaling Bible.)

If you don’t have a strong translation preference, then I would recommend the English Standard Version (ESV).  Like the King James Version, this is a word-for-word translation of the Bible.  The Bible is suitable for scholarly study, reading in worship, and devotional reading.  I like this translation of the Bible in every way.  The Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) are the previous generations of this Bible.  The RSV is the translation my church gave me when I was little, and the NRSV is what I studied in college.

Crossway makes beautiful ESV journaling Bibles that hold up well to all kinds of art supplies.  Don’t be confused by the number of different covers.  There are just three basic models:

  1. Double column, a smaller Bible (Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 7.2 inches)
  2. Single column, just the right size with plenty of room for art (Dimensions:  6.5 x 1.6 x 8.4 inches).  There are large print options, too!  (Dimensions:  6.7 x 1.6 x 9.8 inches)
  3. Interleaved, a bigger Bible with a whole blank page for art (Dimensions:  7.1 x 2.5 x 10.1 inches)

Personally, I prefer the single column.  I like the way that the art and the text intermingle with the single column format.  If you want lots of room for art, you might prefer the interleaved.   I find the big blank page to be intimidating.

Below is a picture of the three Bibles to help you see the relative size…


And here is the inside so that you can see the different format options…


Beyond the basics, there are now coloring Bibles and so many to choose from.  Coloring Bibles are fun because they draw you right in.  You don’t have to plan out or design the page yourself; you can just start coloring and spending time in God’s word.  If you don’t like how a page is decorated or you just want to do something different, you can either add a tip-in or just cover up the original artwork.  I just find it’s nice to have a starting point.

I’ve been quietly collecting coloring Bibles.  Often people say that the best place to begin reading the Bible is with the Gospel of John, so I started there and colored the first page of the Gospel of John in seven different Bibles.  What surprised me was how each version helped me to reflect on the opening passage from the book of John in a new way.


The coloring Bibles come in different translations.  Just to provide some perspective I’ve listed some common translations from the most literal word-for-word translation (King James) to the most paraphrased (The Message).

  1. The King James Version (word-for-word)
  2. The New King James Version (word-for-word)
  3. English Standard Version (word-for-word)
  4. The Holman Christian Standard Bible (a balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought)
  5. The New International Version–More Bibles are sold in this translation than any other.  (A balance between word-for-word and thought-for-thought)
  6. The New Living Translation (Thought-for-thought, a successor Bible to “The Living Bible”)
  7. The Message (Paraphrase)

We are blessed as English-speakers to be able to read the Bible in our own language at just about any reading level. I think the goal of all Bible translators is to convey the original meaning of the ancient texts while making Scripture inviting and readable.  And if we have questions, about a specific translation we can compare it to others or even go online and explore the original Hebrew and Greek.

I’ll share a little about my experience with the various coloring Bibles…

The Inspire Praise Bible:  This is a brand new edition of the Inspire Bible with all new line art and a theme of Praise.  It is available in the New Living Translation.

What I liked?  This is a wonderful devotional Bible.  The illustrations are fresh and fun.  The Bible has a youthful feel.

Who would like this?  This is a good choice for most women, of any age, and a fun Bible to share with those that may be new to the Bible.

How I plan to use it?  I plan to use this in my every day devotions.  I’ll use it together with my Illustrated Faith Bible Journaling kits, starting this month with Gratitude Documented.

The Inspire Praise Bible devotes a whole page to this passage.  The verse that stood out to me with this illustration:  “And his life brought light to everyone.”


The Inspire Bible:  This is the first edition of the Inspire Bible.  I thought it was wonderful.  I can’t believe they started from scratch!  And I like the new one even more.  It’s available in large print.

What I liked?  My favorite thing about the Inspire Bible is the selection of verses that are illustrated.  They are verses that have spoken to generation-after-generation.  I love being about to open the Bible and just start coloring.

Who would like this?  A good choice for most women, of any age.

How I plan to use it?  I haven’t filled this Bible up, so I’ll continue to use it for my daily devotions when I’m not using the Praise Bible.

In the Illustrated Faith Word Nerd Devotional Kit, the author suggested journaling the first passage of John and focusing on something new.  Every time I read this passage, I discover something new!


The Message Canvas Bible:  The Message now is available as a journaling Bible and the editors and artists did an amazing job.

What I liked?  The illustrations are amazing and so much fun to color.   I love how the thoughtful illustration made me reflect on the text.

Who would like this?  Anyone who loves The Message or who loves to color.  The illustrations are less flowery than other coloring Bibles.  I would feel comfortable giving this to either a man or a woman.

How I plan to use this?  This is a Bible I would grab to relax, read, and color.  It’s a joy!

The illustrator combined the ideas of light and life in this sun with vines.  I love the light bursting over the open grave as an image of a light that darkness cannot overcome.  As I colored I thought of Jesus as the life and the light.  I wondered about the “I am” statements of Jesus in the gospel of John and wrote them all out:  The bread of life, the gate, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life, the vine.  This was my very favorite page for coloring and meditating on scripture.


My Creative Bible:  This is a coloring Bible in the King James Version with many nicely done illustrations.

What I liked?  I enjoy coloring and reading the beautiful language of the original King James.

Who would like it?  Anyone who prefers the King James Version of the Bible.

How I plan to use it?  The Bible has a bit more of a vintage feel to it, so I was thinking of using it together with my Distress inks and markers to create a Bible that has the feel of an art journal.

The Creative Bible puts the most famous verse from each chapter of the Bible on the first page of each chapter.  I wanted to focus on John 1, so I made a tip-in inspired by an art journalng page from


Praise:  A Creative Journaling Bible:  This is another illustrated Bible of the King James Version.  The illustrations are largely plants and flowers.  One strange thing about this Bible:  Most journaling Bibles have faint lines for writing.  This Bible has thick black lines, thinly spaced.  I’m not sure who writes that small?

What I liked?   All the artwork is drawn by artist Laura Elizabeth Marshall, which gives the Bible a cohesive feel.  I love the gold edge on the pages.

Who would like it?  Gardeners and people who like flowers.

How I plan to use it?  I’ve been dreaming of doing a Bible journaling project on plants of the Bible.

I colored each of these leaves with three shades of green.  As I colored this simple illustration I was filled with awe about how much color and detail goes into all of creation. Since I plan to use this Bible to celebrate God’s creation, I thought it made sense to focus on the verse:  “All things were made by him.”


The Beautiful Word:  The Beautiful Word Bibles from Zondervan are a series that comes in both small and large print and in two versions (NIV and New King James Version).  Some Beautiful Word Bibles come with full-color art.  Check and double check that you have the version you want!  (Zondervan also produces lovely journaling Bibles without line art in the NIV translation.)

What I liked?  I like the simple art.  It provides a good beginning for adding detail.  For a verse selection starting point, this Bible worked with BibleHub to identify the most searched for Bible verses.  The art will draw you into the Bible verses that people are searching for!

Who would like it?  Sunday school teachers.

How I plan to use it?  The NIV is the translation currently given to children at my church. Since I teach Sunday school,  I plan to journal the memory verses and the Bible stories in this Bible.

I added some artwork from Karla Dornacher’s book Bible Journaling – Everlasting Hope to the simple illustrations already on the page.  The verse is:  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  I enjoyed how the message paraphrases this:  “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”  As I worked on this page I thought about how hope lives in the Gospel of John and also how hope lives in our neighborhoods as Christ lives in each of his followers.

word became flesh

The HCSB Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible for Teens:  This Bible says that it is for teens; I think what makes it for teens is that there are some pages inserted with questions that teens often ask about Christianity and the Bible with thoughtful answers.  I think this Bible would be fine for any age.

Just speaking personally, I don’t find HSCB translation as inviting as some of the easier to read translations like the New Living Translation.  And it doesn’t have the comforting, familiar feeling of word-for-word translations like the King James or the English Standard Bible.

What I liked?  I like that the illustrations are more abstract, the text is nicely laid out on the page, and the paper is a crisp white.

Who would use it?  Suitable for men or women.

How I plan to use it?  I was thinking of using this Bible to write prayers, thoughts, and memories for my husband.

I pulled some colors from the cover of the Bible and just focused on God’s grace.  I do love how the HCSB translates John 1:16:  “Indeed, we all have received grace after grace from his fullness.”


Can you have too many Bibles?  It may take me the rest of my life to fill these in.  I think each of these Bibles will end up having a distinct feel and purpose.  All of them gave me plenty of inspiration.

Thoughts on Journaling Bibles for Children.

For my kids, age 5 and 10, I simply bought them each a Crossway ESV Journaling Bible.  Once a child starts coloring in a Bible and adding stickers and detail, any Bible becomes a children’s Bible.  I think The Message Canvas Bible would be a good choice for boys or girls.  The Inspire Bible would probably appeal more to girls.  Another option for younger children who want to join you in Bible Journaling is My Own Keepsake Bible, a storybook coloring Bible…


Ultimately, the best Bible is the one that you will use and my prayer is that you find one that fits your needs and draws you into the Word and closer to Jesus Christ, light of the World, the Word made flesh.


The Inspire Praise Bible

I signed up to receive an early release copy of the new Inspire Praise Bible.  (I’m not sure if they are still available or not, but I got the Inspire Praise Launch Team Package.)  When I saw the purple cover and heard that it had all new line art and thicker pages, I couldn’t wait!


When it arrived, I looked at my Illustrated Faith “Word Nerd” kit and I looked at my “Inspire Praise Bible” and froze with a silly fear:  “I don’t know how to do purple.”  Don’t get me wrong, I really like purple, but I’ve been working with Illustrated Faith supplies since they were introduced, and historically, purple has been missing for the most part.

I took some pictures of my Bible and started a Pinterest board to get some color inspiration.  Now that I am over that initial hurdle, I am delighted!  (And I’m finding that most of my Illustrated Faith supplies still work great.)  This Bible has a theme:  Praise!  And it just feels natural to want to add my own words of praise as I illustrate the passages.  The Bible is just a little big bigger than the original Inspire Bible.  The pages are slightly thicker, but still feel like Bible paper.  I can still trace images through the paper.

What I love most about the Inspire Bible:  The illustrators of both the original Inspire Bible and the new Inspire Praise Bible have selected wonderful Biblical texts.  They have highlighted the verses from each book of the Bible that have spoken to generation after generation.  Someone new to the Bible could literally get drawn right into these beautiful passages.

A few thoughts about the translation:  The Bible is in the New Living Translation, which conveys the meaning of the ancient Hebrew and Greek on a thought-for-thought basis as we might speak today.  I find that translations that strive to stay word-for-word like the King James Version and the English Standard Version (which evolved from the Revised Standard Version) have a rhythm about them that is familiar even when the exact wording is slightly different.  That being said, the New Living Translation is inviting and clear.  As I read it, I find myself checking it against other translations, especially when I hit a passage I may have memorized before.  Generally, I have been pleased with how the thoughts are expressed, especially in terms of preserving the meaning while making the text easier to understand.

The combination of the illustrations with the easy-to-understand text make this a good Bible for both beginners and people who want to hear and experience the Word in a fresh way after having heard it all their lives.

Let me show you some pictures.  Here’s the inside cover…


The back cover has a little pocket with some ready-to-color stickers….


There is line art in the margins, but there are still plenty of pages with blank journaling space.


And full pages to color.


The Inspire Praise Bible also has some elegantly illustrated full-color vellum pages with room to journal…


To get started, I printed out some different pages from the Illustrated Faith Print and Pray Shop.  I held the pages up to the Bible and found one that harmonized with the purples.  When the color is right everything just pops, and for me, it takes a little trial and error to find that magical moment of “Yes!”.  The page below is from the Seek Inspiration Journal Kit.


Then I looked for colors in my art supplies to match the colors in the printable.  I’ve discovered that when I am drawn to a piece of artwork done by others, it’s often the colors that I love.  If I stick with the same color scheme in my own work, I’m almost always pleased with the final result.

After printing out the printable onto card stock, I cut the shapes with scissors, leaving a border of white around the edge, which makes cutting easier and also tends to look better than cutting too close the design.

Here’s my first page…


I plan to be following along with Illustrate Faith’s Gratitude Documented this November, and I’ll be sharing my pictures on Instagram if you want to follow along.  I’m a little late to the Instagram party, but I so enjoy seeing the many, many Bible Journaling posts there.

Here’s a link to the free printable with prompts for the month of November.  Shanna Noel is hosting a pop-up group for this challenge if you would like to join in!



The Fullness of God Is Grace upon Grace

I am a little bit artsy, but I am over-the-top nerdy.  When the Word Nerd kit from Illustrated Faith Kit came out, I couldn’t wait for it to arrive.  I have been blessed as I let my inner nerd guide me through the devotional.

The first page I did was the dedication page in my Inspire Bible

IMG_7964 1

Week one of the Word Nerd kit from Illustrated Faith suggested reading the first chapter of John and responding to the text by taking note of something new.  I opened my Inspire Bible and the page had some line art on it.  I thought, I never thought about that verse before, so I’ll just color this page.  As I did so, something about the following translation of John 1:16 did not sit right with me:  :  “From His abundance, we have all received one gracious blessing after another.”

So I opened a ESV translation, which read. “From his fullness, we all have received, grace upon grace.”  And I felt a sigh from my heart:  “Ah, yes.”  But I didn’t fully understand.


I looked at the “Week 4” card next:

Open to the Psalms and find one that speaks right to you.  What stirs your heart about it?  How does it feed you?

The Psalm that I picked for the “Week 4” card was Psalm 119, which seemed like a good idea at the time, since it fit the “Word Nerd” theme.  I ordered some cute background paper from the Illustrated Faith Print & Pray shop along with some additional printables that fit the Word Nerd theme.  The alphabet paper made me think I should learn the Hebrew alphabet as I journaled through Psalm 119, which is an acrostic poem and mentions a letter of the alphabet at the beginning of each 8-line section.  I practiced writing in Hebrew.  (I hope that I wrote:  “Blessed be God who teaches my hand to write.”)


A minister who travels often to Israel told me that all Hebrew letters aren’t just letters, they represent a picture of something and the names of the letters are used as words and the letters all correspond to a number, so I decided I would make myself a little table.  What I didn’t know when I started this project is that people have spent decades studying the Hebrew alphabet and nobody agrees about all the pictures or the meanings.  What I was trying to do was not neatly possible.  I tried, but I left the table below in pencil so that I can revise it as I learn more and clarify my thinking.  For the spelling of Hebrew letters, I just used what was in my Bible, but don’t be surprised if you see alternative spelling elsewhere.

The letter “Beth” made it all seem so simple:  Early forms of Beth looked like a tent; the word is translated as “house” and the letter represents the number “2”, which is about division and the appearance of choice.  The chart below is as far as I could get in one week…


If you look into the meaning of Hebrew Numbers, there are countless interpretations! I took what I read into consideration and then simply anchored the meaning of the first 10 numbers to the creation story.  Beyond 10, I held to the rule that the fullness of a number multiplied by 10 must show the fullness of meaning.  I have a deeply held conviction that numbers need to make sense and relate to one another!  (The numbers associated with the letters is part of a system called gematria, which seems to have emerged after the Bible was written.)

1 = God creates light and saw that it was good (God is one and God is good!).

2 = God separates the heavens from the earth (it’s the only day not declared good).

3 = Green life starts to grow (strength and hope).

4 = God puts the sun and the moon in the sky to mark the seasons (seasons).

5 = God creates the graceful birds of the sky and makes the water alive with fish (grace).

6 = God completes the work of creation (the whole of creation).

7 = God establishes us the Sabbath; a rest reminds us that God is sovereign; the world carries on without us (God’s sovereignty?).

8 = One beyond (life and eternity).

9 = New beginnings (Adam and Eve are told be fruitful and multiply; 9 months is the length of pregnancy).

10 = The fullness of God.

Curiously, once I finished my table, I understood why I struggled with the New Living translation of John 1:16:

God’s fullness (10) = Grace (5) + Grace (5)

I wondered if other combinations adding to ten would tell me something about the fullness of God.  I may be full of beans, but for me personally, it was a very satisfying result:

10 = The oneness of God (1) + new beginnings (9); God created this world and could start again.

10 = Choices (2) + life and eternity (8); God shows us fullness in that He gives us choices; the right choices lead to life and eternity and God gives us the Word to guide us.

10 = Hope (3) + Sovereignty (7); God is the one who gives us hope and is on the throne no matter what happens in the world and working all things together for God’s purpose.  (As a Presbyterian, this combination held a strong resonance for me.)

10 = Seasons and elements (4) + the whole of creation (6); God’s fullness is seen in the seasons and elements that make up this world and how everything in this world is connected.

10 = Grace (5) + Grace (5); God’s fullness is grace upon grace.

What still kind of astonishes me about the last equation:  the letters represented by the equation form God’s name.


The “yah” is the number 10.  The “he” is the number 5.  “Vav” can mean “and”  Like I said, I may have made many wrong turns, but I understood or think I understand (on a very deep level!) what seemed not quite right about the New Living Translation of John 1:16.

I think that John may have tried to express his understanding of the meaning of God’s name. He was saying something that he held to be as true as 5+5=10.  I’ve seen grace defined as “unmerited favor.”  God is the one who gives favor to whom he pleases.  God will do what God will do.  God is who God is.  Praise God’s Holy Name!!!  God’s fullness is “awe” and “awe”!

That was my major blessing and discovery:  A sense of feeling God revealed in a most curious way.  And I just set out to learn a little about the Hebrew alphabet!

As I journaled my way through Psalm 119, I found it was very easy to learn new Hebrew words once I learned the alphabet.

One of the things that I love about Psalm 119 is how the whole Psalm affirms the relationship between virtue and happiness.


I looked up the Hebrew word for love, which is “ah-ha-VA”.  But it turns out the word I should have been looking for was “chesed”, which is translated below as “unfailing love.”  My pastor tells me that “chesed” is the most frequently used Word in the Old Testament and that it is often translated as “loving-kindness.”  I suspect the New Testament writers were thinking of “chesed” when they wrote about love:  Love is patient; Love is kind.  We use the word “love” to describe all kinds of likes and fleeting feelings, but God’s love for us is the kind that never lets us go, that holds all of creation in a loving embrace.


I just enjoyed reflecting on the goodness of God and God’s Word as I made this page.  There is truth to Psalm 119:45:  “I will walk in freedom for I have devoted myself to your commandments.”  As more and more people live by the ten commandments, we all experience greater freedom.


The verse:  “You have done many good things for me” made me think of the Johnny Appleseed song that’s often sung as grace.  My favorite word that starts with “Teth” is “tob”, which means “good”.


I am very blessed to have my grandmother’s Bible.  I pulled out her Bible to read Psalm 119 in it and found these notes from her:  “Why read the Bible?  To know salvation, to know how to be holy, to find comfort, to get values, to get wisdom, to have joy.”  I can tell from the notes in my grandmother’s Bible, how much comfort she took from the Word of God.


There were too many fun verses to illustrate on this page!  I played around a little with trying to better understand the way that God’s word is a light.  The word for light is made up of the characters “aleph”, “vav”, and “resh”.  I got a little frustrated with the various definitions people provided for “aleph”.  I broke down and bought a Biblical Hebrew dictionary with Scripture references.

By far and away, the most common use for the word “aleph” is “one thousand”, which is a little confusing because the character “aleph” is used to represent “1”.  “Vav” is a connecting symbol.  And “resh” means beginning, but the picture represents a head.  So I was thinking of light and the Word as “strength for our heads.”


I like how The Message translates Psalm 119:130.  “Break open your words.  Let the light shine out.  Let ordinary people see their meaning.”  Learning just a little bit about Hebrew has helped me break open some words, to see nuances that I didn’t see before, and to have better understanding.


I could find eight different words for “The Word” in Psalm 119.  The number 8 is often about life and eternity.  The “chet”, the eighth letter of the alphabet, looks like a doorway.  Maybe the Word is a doorway to life and eternity.  (When I go looking for meaning, I often find it; I’m not always right!).


Psalm 119 keeps giving me more and more reasons to love the Bible!


Just learning the Hebrew letters gave me so much food for thought.  I had so many “ah-ha” moments.  I feel like I have a deeper understanding of many passages in both the Old and New Testaments.  I’ve felt God revealed in a way that I did not expect.  God wants our hearts, more so than our heads, but it can be a delight to make connections and seek out meaning.  I’ve discovered that it’s not about having the right answers, but about the journey of discovery as we continue to seek out the fullness of God.

If you would like to learn Hebrew Alphabet, make it easy on yourself and begin with a song.

I learned to write the Hebrew letters by watching a YouTube video by a Baptist pastor.

The website Ancient Hebrew Research Center, which was created by a man who simply got pulled into the study of Hebrew letters, shares what he has learned from looking at the history of the Hebrew alphabet from early forms of the letters to its present from.

Rabbi Trugman will take you deeper into the alphabet with his YouTube video series Secrets of the Hebrew Letters.

The best sight I found online was Hebrew for Christians.  He shares what he has learned from the Jewish tradition in a respectful way and yet see things from a Christian perspective.

If you want to see the Hebrew for a verse, Bible Hub shows it side-by-side with a word-for-word translation.  (Type in any verse.  The first page will be parallel translation.  Just click on the word “Hebrew”)

It’s been a great journey, but the final page I journaled on Psalm 119 is just a simple prayer to return to the ordinary focus of my days.




Everlasting Hope by Karla Dornacher

I pre-ordered a copy of Everlasting Hope by Karla Dornacher because I love her inspired art and I knew she would create a great Bible journaling resource.  It arrived yesterday.  Just looking through the pictures, stickers, and images made me want to play in my Bible.  So many fun ideas.

Here’s some pictures from the book and below I’ll share the page I did this morning.

There’s the cover…


Karla shares some illustrations from her Bible and also pictures to trace…


There are two alphabets to practice.  Here’s one of them…


And teacups!  Oh how I love teacups!


Several pages on vellum to cut out and trace…


And stickers!!!


Every time I open my Inspire Bible, I turn to a page that has been colored on one side with oranges and greens and on the other side with pinks, purples, and bright yellows.  It’s a small thing, but I keep thinking that I need to redo the right side of the page with colors that match…


Karla’s book gave me just what I needed for a redo!  I copied one of the illustrations onto cardstock and colored it with Distress inks and markers.  I cut it with a paper trimmer and glued it to the page.


Problem solved!


I’ve been asking for a way to fix this page and found an answer!

Whenever you aren’t happy with how a Bible page turns out, just keep working on it until it makes you happy.  There are many ways to fix a mistake.

The book is not a comprehensive introduction to Bible journaling, but with so many ideas and illustrations it will give you plenty of inspiration to spend time in your Bible!

There are two other books by the same publisher with a similar format.  One features the beautiful art of Krista Harnrick and the other has illustrations by Anita Haines.  So fun!