Below I share my journey through the Illustrated Faith Created to Create Devotional…
When I began my Bible Journaling journey, I was taking a walk around the block. I felt the nudge by the Holy Spirit to get started right away, to start a blog, and even to call the blog “Journalingthebible.com”. I remember protesting, “I don’t know anything about blogging, and I’m not an artist.” And the response I felt was: “You just have to show others that anyone can spend time in the Word this way.” (I have no art background and a very full life!) All along, I have kind of hoped that I would be able to show progress. Some things have gotten easier, like I have a better sense of word and letter spacing, but I’m still me, and I still wrestle with “I’m not an artist.” When I saw that Shanna Noel created a devotional to encourage us to see ourselves as artist, I thought “Wow! She must have written this for me!”
Shanna Noel asks: “At what time in your life did you stop believing you were an artist?” First, I definitely can remember a time in my life when I felt like an artist. As a young child, my mother took me to the Nelson Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City with my best friend, and I have such fond memories of recreating the art in the museum. And I’ve always especially loved lettering. During fourth grade, I would stay in from recess to learn calligraphy from my fourth grade teacher. Second, let me say, it actually pretty easy for me to pinpoint the moment I gave up being an artist, and it seems sort of silly to me now: I tried to draw a dog sometime in fourth or fifth grade and someone told me that my dog looked like a frog. I remember thinking: “Well, maybe I’ll get good at drawing frogs.” Unfortunately, a bigger part of me, started comparing my art work to what others could do, and I was critical enough to see that my own works were not as good. When I say the words “I am an artist”, the next thought is “just not a very good one”. So yes! This is a struggle for me!!! The first passage for reflection comes from Exodus 35:31-32. It’s inspiring to know that God has always equipped people with the skills to be artists:
Since I’ve been Bible Journaling, 1 Corinthians tends to be a place where God meets me to tell me he loves me just as I am. Shanna’s words brought tears to my eyes: “After all, God put a lot of heart into making you exactly the way you are. You were made in His image—in His likeness.” Sometimes these are words I just need to hear.
For this next passage, Shanna encourages us to let our failures be part of the journey. The verse was about forgiveness. I had the idea of spilled ink as a good image for this page. I used Distress inks and a stencil. Then I tried to write the verse. The pen was dry and didn’t write as well as I would have liked. I felt like I messed up the page. Then at church on Sunday, the worship leader used this verse as an assurance of pardon, and I knew exactly where it was found in my Bible. I suddenly felt grateful for the time I spend with this verse:
The next day took me to one of my favorite promises from the Bible: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach.” It is such a comfort to know that if I need wisdom or guidance in a new endeavor I just have to pray. God always sends the right people and information into my life. I’ve been especially blessed by the book Writing in the Margins by Lisa Nichols Hickman and the Journaling Bible community. I’ve learned so much from these sources!
A simple, but encouraging reminder…
Shanna Noel writes (and it’s so true!): “Many times we will hear a message or read a devotional, and after prayer our heart settles in a completely different place than we could have imagined. That my friends, is the power of prayer.” I can’t even begin to describe how many times I’ve started with a concept, prayed about it and then had the page turn out radically different from what I expected. This next passage is a case in point. Originally, I thought I would do a large drawing of an old-school phone with the corded receiver off the hook and write out the verse. As I read the whole Psalm, I was taken with the words “One generation shall laud your works to another” and then I started to think it would be super fun to go with a retro look. As I prayed, I remembered that I had one of Tai Bender’s stamps from Growing Meadows with a phone. Here’s how the page turned out (Not at all what I planned!)
Shanna Noel shares how she creates space for Bible Journaling. She often wakes up first thing in the morning and reads her Bible. Then sometime around 2:30, just before she picks up her kids from school, she feels the inspiration to create. Waiting for the inspiration is a big part of the process for me, too. For me, it looks a little different. I usually read a devotional or the next Bible story that I plan on illustrating. Then I wait until I feel inspired and catch a few moments. Then as soon as I finish one page, I read what comes next and begin thinking of what to do next.
The next page of the devotional relates to how to select a verse to illustrate. Shanna Noel shares that she is often inspired by a song stuck in her head. She’ll uses the Internet to search for a verse to fit the theme or song. (There are two really good online sources for looking up Bible verses if this helps: I tend to switch back and forth between BibleHub and BibleGateway.) Maybe this is odd, but rather than pick my own verses, I prefer to be led through the Bible. I really enjoyed doing all the prompts in the book Writing in the Margins; I am loving going through all the stories in my children’s Bible now; and I love going through this devotional. I especially like the discomfort of being drawn through more challenging passages. Somehow I feel I need to guard against only reading what’s easy for me. And since I always know what’s coming next this gives me something to think about. The Bible passage that Shanna picks for this devotional reminds me that all Scripture is breathed out by God. Scripture can lead you to wisdom; prepare you for salvation through Jesus Christ; train you in righteousness; offer teaching, reproof and correction; equip you for every good work; make you whole and complete; and fill you with the breath of God, which is life! This page I did while working my way through Writing in the Margins. I kept it simple, just using Micron pens. If a song leads Shanna Noel to scripture, I often find that scripture leads me to song! The lyrics to Breathe on Me, Breath of God found their way into my margin…
The next page of the devotional is titled “Create It”. In the devotional Shanna warned against perfectionism wrote:
What matters is what is happening between you and God here. This is your letter to God. Do you think He is going to look at it and say, “You could have done better”? No friends, He is going to kneel down and weep that you have met Him there on the page. Right where He was waiting for you. You have used that gift He has given you and GIVEN back to HIM! You have spent not only time, but also heart and passion on this piece of art. You have taken what God has given you, and have stood up proudly with your paintbrush in the air and declared, “I am an artist and I will share You through my art!”
Shanna paired this reflection with 1 Timothy 4:14-15. I backed up just a little and read St. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Devote yourself to the public reading of scripture.” It’s one of those verses I never gave much thought to, but in a way that’s what this Journaling Bible movement has been about: it is a visual way to share scripture whether it be Facebook, Instagram, a blog, or just sharing with friends and family, or leaving a legacy for future generations. And I think it is positively wonderful to see real Christians share Bible verses that are dear to their hearts in a positive and creative way. People are dusting off their Bibles and buying news ones just to start participating. And it’s been so much fun. Through the grace of God being part of the Journaling Bible Community has been, at least for me, an entirely uplifting experience. Seriously WOW GOD!!! Pretty cool. I’ll lift my paintbrush high and continue to pray, color, and repeat!
The next challenge is to honor our art. As I reflected on Deuteronomy 6:5, it struck me that the very best way to honor our art as Bible Journalers is to live our art. Spending time coloring in the Bible, ultimately is about making our lives beautiful for God. The header in my Bible tells me this is the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” What follows is a long list of instructions about how we can honor God and love God by staying immersed in God’s Word through everything we do: Keep the word in your heart, teach your children, talk about the Word, bind it to your hand and forehead, put it on doorpost of your house. Morning, noon and night, we can fulfill the command to love God by being in the Word….
Shanna’s next advice is to share your art, which I’ve done since I started this crazy journey. I don’t know why I began this, other than I felt led to do so. It is deeply humbling to think of this blog as a way of fulfilling the great commandment to go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole Creation. (I thought maybe my mom might read it!) I’ve always felt that if I simply put out there what God has placed on my heart that whoever needs encouragement to begin a Bible Journaling journey would find it! WordPress provides me with all kinds of daily statistics and search queries, which is always fun to see (mostly people want to know what supplies to use). What amazes me is that people from over 80 different countries around the world have visited my blog so far this year.
As I worked on this page, I thought once again about these troubling words: “whoever does not believe will be condemned.” I have MANY close friends and family members that are not believers. A few have asked me directly: how can I believe in a God that would condemn others for having a different belief system? Whenever I have prayed about this, the answer I always receive in the quiet of my heart is this: “Sally, you don’t have a choice about whether to believe or not. You do. You simply have to trust me with the others.” It goes without saying that I would not love and worship a God that I thought would throw the people I love into hell, but my faith is greater than all my fears. I take a lot of comfort in Acts 2:21: “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” My friends and family ALL at least know the name of Jesus and something of what it means that Jesus is my Lord and Savior.
Speaking of trusting in God, the final page of this devotion encourages us to continue trusting in God as we stay on the creative path: “Continue to work in the Word. Allow it to help you grow, and allow God’s grace to help you along the path.” The verse Shanna Noel chose was Proverbs 3:6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.” I shared earlier that my love of art began as a child doing my best to copy the art in the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, so it seems fitting to finish this post with a piece that I did copying the style of one of my very favorite margin artists Karla Dornnacher. I borrowed elements from a number of her works and put them together in a new way to create this page. (This page I shared once before many months ago.)
And one more picture…just to make sure that I really own up to this idea of being an artist, I used a stencil to create this page in one of the blank pages at the beginning of my Bible…
Thank you for reading along in my journey through the Illustrated Faith Created to Create devotional. May you be richly blessed as you bring your creativity to the margins of your Bible!