Connie Denninger, Visual Faith and Creative Havens

Many of you know the amazing work of Connie Denninger and her vision for “Visual Faith.”  Recently I had a chance to ask her about the story behind her work.  Here’s what she had to say:

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I have been a visual kinesthetic learner since my earliest memories. SHOW me and let me DO IT. Then it connects. I have been teaching Visual Faith practices for over twenty years with Keep the Faith projects that connect my personal faith story and His faithfulness, After meeting Sybil MacBeth at a Praying in Color event we hosted, I have been teaching Visual prayer practices for ten years. I jumped into the Bible Journaling communities when it first started. I think I was #43 in the Illustrated Faith Community that now has 42, 900 members. One of the early fascinations was the incredible need for community in the Bible Journaling world.

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Often members could not find anyone else that was “processing” life and Word this way. It was both permission-giving and affirming. The Holy Spirit used both of those in such a way that people were not able to “be silent” about what they were seeing and learning. They HAD to tell others.

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I had finished reading Lisa Hickman’s Writing in the Margins about 6 months before I stumbled onto Bible Journaling online. When I found out that Shanna Noel and Lisa didn’t know about each other and how the Lord was working in their own lives, it was time to bring them together. So Illustrated Faith- Virginia happened in Nov 2015, in Northern Virginia and I saw what it could possibly mean to raise up teachers and coaches to bring these visual faith practices to our families, churches and neighborhoods. Now that has evolved into the launch of Visual Faith Ministry- a website and ministry that brings together resources and a coaching and encouragement team that seeks to raise up the gifts of the laity in the Kingdom in a collaborative learning community. The Lord has been faithful. My role in all of this has been to be a “condoit” of grace that connects the gifts of His people.

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I don’t consider myself an artist in that I can draw “images”, but delight in using creative approaches for making a section of Scripture highlighted in a way that makes it easier for me to see and remember. These tools have been very helpful in dealing with my diagnosis of “spiritual amnesia” and the challenge to remember God’s faithfulness to me on a daily basis. Many of my additions in the margins center around events and celebrations and worship services. That connects to may support role to my husband who serves as a Bishop of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod in the Southeastern District. Often the entries are just the lectionary connections to the readings for a worship service. We refer to this as the simple practice of “worship into the week”. How does a worship service experience become the center of my meditation in His Word for the rest of the week? This has brought me much Joy- to simply spend more time in God’s Word.

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Most of my margin work is simply rewriting a small section of a Scripture reading that “stands out” in my reading. I often use an ancient practice called Lectio Divina that moves me to read a portion of Scripture a number of times and seek the words the Holy Spirit needs ME to SEE. One of the things I teach people is to turn their own handwriting into a font. So the words often are simply my own handwriting, with a “wild outline” that creates a space for adding colored pencil. I have not done well with looking at a font and “recreating” the letters. This has been my simple adjustment to allow my own writing to be the center of my marginal interactions. So a margin might start out with a rapid writing in the margin during a worship service and then the rest is finished during the week. It became an amazing blessing to realize that those scribbles, when pinned on Pinterest or shared in an online community becomes a witness of blessing to hundreds and thousands of people. My go to supplies are regular colored pencils, alpha stickers, a Micron or non-bleeding fine-point Sharpie and washi tape. However, anything is game to be in the margins- from magazine photos, to worship service images, or a pretty napkin.

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I love hosting open studio events called Creative Haven that invite a host of people to stop by, pick up a new visual prayer handout, try a new product or assemble a Make and Take project.

In November 2016, I got an email from Joanne Fink asking if I would help to 46take an editing look at her book- The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling. She found me on Instagram. She saw that my work is to teach others to teach others about visual faith engagement practices. What a fun experience and the forging of a wonderful relationship with Joanne. Our team now seeks to design ways to use her product line for Michael’s Stores in our Visual Faith communities. It has been a blessed connection to share in the 14 Facebook Visual Faith Communities in the United States and one in Israel outside of Jerusalem.

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One of my greatest joys is that Visual Faith connections has blessed the lives of my three daughters as they personally use these tools of engagement and bring the practices to others. It is truly a gift that blesses from one generation to another as we gather around tables in our homes and worship centers.

Connie Denninger—November 2017

My Promise Bible

Just when I thought that I had reviewed every coloring Bible, I received a request to review one more!  Christian Arts Gifts was kind enough to send me two copies of their new coloring Bible:  “My Promise Bible.”  I’ll be giving one away on Facebook soon!  Watch for it.

This Bible is in the King James Version and is the successor Bible to “My Creative Bible” with all new line art.  The Bible has a theme of God’s promises through both the art and the selection of verses that are illustrated.  It has two cover options:  Blue Butterflies and Pink Roses:

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The translation is the King James Version (KJV).  Much has been written and I can hardly do justice to the impact the KJV of the Bible has had on our culture and the English language.

I woke up this morning reflecting on what has helped the King James Bible stand the test of time.  (I was an economics major, so the exact question I was thinking: “What has given the KJV its durable advantage?”  As a matter of practical reality:  The KJV Bible has spent a seriously long time on the best seller list!  Why this 400-year-old version?)

  • The translation uses a word-for-word approach that must capture something of the rhythm and beauty of the original Greek and Hebrew.
  • It has been read aloud in congregations and been absorbed; it has a comforting familiarity.  Hundreds of words and phrases from the King James Bible have become part of our every day language.  If you are interested in just how many, I would encourage you to read the book:  Begat:  The King James Bible & the English Language by the linguist David Crystal.  The hymns we sing often include verses from the KJV.  Even with its “thees” and “thous”, which have fallen out of contemporary usage, the KJV still reads like one expects the Bible to read.
  • One English word that first appeared in the KJV is “network.”  I think the KJV of the Bible may be the first example of what’s known in the business world as “a network effect”.  The fact that so many people have used it over time increased the “value” of reading it.  There was a time when many people had just one book in their home and it was a King James Bible.  And the King James Bible has been read widely by influential thinkers, writers, and poets.  There are countless stories about the Bible changing the lives of individuals; it could be said without too much hyperbole that the King James Bible transformed the language and culture of the English-speaking world.
  • Another reason behind the success of the KJV must be Tyndale.  I just began reading a wonderful biography of Tyndale by David Teems.  In his own life experience, he shared much in common with the early Christians who wrote the New Testament.  He lived in exile and was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1536 because he translated the Bible into English (Latin was the language of the church).  His work of translating the Hebrew and Greek into English helped created the demand for an English Bible and demonstrated the beauty and power of the Word of God in English.  His life was cut short, so he did not translate the whole Bible, but many of the most memorable verses from the King James Bible, published in 1611, were first found in his work.  How the Bible spoke so clearly to him in his trials and his colorful gift for language still shape how we read the Bible in English.

Just as an example regarding the power of word choice:  Tyndale first crafted the heroic question:  “O Death, where is thy sting?”  Before Tyndale, Wycliffe translated the Latin Bible into English.  Here is his translation of 1 Corinthians 15:55:  Death, where is thy victory? Death, where is thy prick?  “Prick” just does not work as well!

I loved reading this whole passage from Tyndale…

Deeth where is thy stynge? Hell where is thy victory?  The stynge of deeth is synne: and the strength of synne is the lawe.  But thankes be vnto God which hath geven vs victory thorow oure Lorde Iesus Christ.  Therfore my deare brethren be ye stedfast and unmovable alwayes ryche in the workes of the Lorde for as moch as ye knowe how yt youre labour is not in vayne in the Lorde.

Spelling had not yet been standardized, but the words are totally and completely familiar, and it’s a comfort to me to think of Tyndale penning these words as so much of his work was thrown into the fire and he himself faced death.  In the Lord, his work was not in vain.  Nearly 500 years later, his work endured; praise God!

Thinking of Tyndale inspired my first page in this Bible…

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This “My Promise Bible” is a joy to work in.  I’ll share just a few more pictures.  I can hardly wait to color the inside cover.  At this point, I have seen many illustrations of the first passage of the Gospel of John.  I think this is my favorite!

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There are many whole pages to color.  Here is one:

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Here is the same page after adding some color.  I used Prismacolor Premier colored pencils and some gelly roll pens for detail…

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Many pages have line art in just the margins…

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The Bible provides an introduction to each chapter:

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At the back of the Bible is a section all about God’s promises with coloring pages for each theme…IMG_8363 1

The Bible also has some pages with room to write prayers and notes at the back:

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The very back page has a pocket with stickers and really pretty Bible tabs, pink for the rose Bible and blue for the butterfly Bible.

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The My Promise Bible is a relaxing and beautiful way to spend time in the King James Version of the Bible.

Growing up, I remember my mother telling my father that there were newer translations of the Bible, which took into account more recent scholarship and were easier to read, but my dad always read his King James Version.  I called him up today to ask what he liked so much about it.  He said that the Bible was his favorite because it was given to him by his grandmother, and it had her handwriting in it.  He went on to tell me about her kindness, her life of faith, and her complete dependence on God.  When I called, he was preparing for a Bible study on aging, and of all things, he was reading the passage:  “O death, where is thy sting?”  He said that was the last chapter on his book about aging.  We enjoyed a good laugh about the word “prick.”  God wink!

The KJV connects the generations.  I hope to give this Bible to my son so that he knows what it meant to my great grandmother, grandmother, father, and me!  My hope is to highlight in this Bible all the ways it has impacted our family and our culture and our language.  My prayer is that he will know the promises of God are for him, too!