BIBLE JOURNALING AND WORSHIP…Worshiping in Color with Melinda Ransdell

Visual Faith (Bible Journaling and Praying in Color) is something that brings me closer to God. Praying in color makes me more aware of God’s presence in my life. Visual Faith helps me remember God’s promises and hold tight, steadfast, to them. Visual Faith (VF) is me listening to and then responding to the Holy Spirit.

I first learned about VF when I met our church district’s president’s wife, Connie Denninger, about two years ago. Right away, I was enthralled! I am very much so a visual learner and processor. I have to take notes in classes and write my thoughts out in order to think straight. I am also an artist (even though you do not have to be one to practice VF). Visual Faith appealed to my creative side instantly.


What really drew me in about Bible Journaling and Praying in Color (visit to see what it is all about) is how interactive it is. It wasn’t just sitting and reading or praying or even just writing. I was visually expressing my time with God in a way that was memorable. The color, the shapes, the words all came together as a significant reminder of my time spent with God. It was not about the finished product as much as it was about the amazing experience of the connection felt with the Holy Spirit during the process of creating.

It did take me a good few months, maybe nine, to find a flow, routine and define my style. Even though the focus is not on the end product, I had to be comfortable with how I create, know that God loved what I made and not compare it to anyone else’s creations. “This is my style, this is me,” I had to declare.


In the meantime, I shared Visual Faith with my husband and kids. They took to it right away. Kids love art projects and art is an important part of our lives. VF took our family faith life from a sporadic time of a few scripture readings or kids bible books and reciting some prayers to a full on interactive, creative crafting session with bursts of color, shapes and washi tape. It was like VBS every day! (visit for more of our family’s story) It quickly became a part of our regular routine that the kids look forward to.  Here is a picture of my son’s faith book and Bible journaling:


We all use Journaling Bibles for notes and faith expression. A few of us have coloring bibles like the Inspire Bible, the HCSB Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible and The Message Canvas Bible. We have prayer journals and what we call Faith Books. Faith Books are where we put our Sermon Notes, prayer sheets and do some scripture doodles. It is a small binder that keeps everything all in one place. Mine also functions as a planner with calendar inserts that I use every day. It has my check lists and prayer lists. It has become one of my favorite faith tools to point me to God. (visit to learn more about my Faith Book)

That is what it is all about, Visual Faith, equipping people with tools to strengthen their relationship connection with God. It helps to keep you from forgetting His great love for you. We tell our kids this over and over again, this is why we do Jesus Time. And it works for adults, too!

My husband and I have also integrated Visual Faith into the ministry of our congregation. When you have such an amazing tool that has made such a difference in your faith walk, you have to share it. I have taught a few classes on Bible Journaling and Praying in Color. As a result, I developed a faith tool called ‘Sermon Notes’ for our worship services. Each week, the bulletin has an insert to use during service.


They are based on the idea of learning styles. Some people like to doodle, some like to take notes and now we have the ever so popular adult coloring trend. We want people to be able to better interact with the lessons and retain them. I had already been note taking and doodling all over the bulletin cover, so why not create a designated space for it.


After service, the Sermon Notes can be taken home (that’s usually when I color mine) and used throughout the week. We put ours in our Faith Books.

The layout is simple. There is a box with lines for notes, a blank box to doodle or more notes and a simple outline image the size of a Journaling Bible margin. There is the option of cutting it out and putting it in your Bible or tracing it in. I wanted the Sermon Notes to be usable by all ages and any gender. I also have them all available for free download on my blog . If your sermon series or scripture readings are different schedule from ours, you still may be able to find something that works. I also have teaching tools to help you share with others what Bible Journaling and Praying in Color are all about.  Below is a page we used during Epiphany:


I realize I have a unique advantage being married to the pastor and having a graphic design degree. But, what I encourage people to do is to pray and look for opportunities that Visual Faith can be used in your ministry. You may be surprised by the creative way God gives you to introduce VF. It may be sharing with a few friends how Bible Journaling has transformed your faith life. I have shared VF through my social media, my blog, adult bible class, our women’s group, Sermon Notes, VBS, the youth, lay care ministry and confirmation. The more we can encourage people to connect with God, the more we all can share His message of hope and salvation with the world. (visit to see how I shared VF with St. John’s in a two part blog post)

Visual Faith has allowed me to process and connect with information, specifically Gospel information, on a deeper more meaningful level that has resulted in remembering God’s love for me and how to love others. I have seen true transformation in myself and my family since we have been drawing and creating closer to God. Remember that the Creator makes creative beings in His image that He invites to be creative with Him.


If you are just starting out, my advice is to keep it simple. See where God takes you. You only need some basic tools of a bible or journal and some colored pencils. This blog has some amazing resources. It isn’t about a work of art, rather it’s about a work of the heart.

Bible Tabs for Perfectionists

Adding tabs to your journaling Bible, which show the books of the Bible, should be relatively easy, but as it turns out, there’s a lot of little things that can go wrong.  (Trust me, I learned the hard way!)

Here’s a few tips:

  • I think the “Books of the Bible” tabs work better along the side than on the top.
  • Leave the tabs open as you place them along the page, so that you can be pleased with the spacing; it’s easy enough to re-position the tabs before you close them by gently lifting them up.
  • Check that you didn’t miss a book of the Bible.
  • Be careful closing the tabs so that you don’t catch an extra page along with the first page of the chapter.  (I managed to do this three times!)
  • Do this job while you have plenty of time and ability to concentrate; adding Bible tabs is one of those relatively mindless tasks where it is easy to make a mistake.
  • Some people find that the tabs become a place where the page rips.  It doesn’t hurt to reinforce the tab with washi tape or even packaging tape on both sides.

This tip is not specific to Bible tabs, but I happened to learn it putting tabs onto a Bible:  If you really mess up a Bible to the point where the perfectionist within you can’t be overcome, it’s ok to start a new Bible and use the old one for practice, especially if you haven’t gotten too far into the process.  You are likely going to be spending years with the Bible, you might as well be happy!  It’s a small price to pay.

It always makes me smile to see a picture of a chubby Bible with tabs and book marks on the top.  I have never used tabs in my Bible Journaling, but I decided if I started a new Bible, it would have tabs.  My daughter is interested in starting Bible Journaling, and picked out a sweet Bible with a bird on the cover.

We bought some tabs and put them in the Bible at the top.  The Bible didn’t close right.  It didn’t look cute and chubby.  It just looked odd.  I stopped after putting in the first set of Bible tabs from Illustrated Faith, which only covers half of the books in the Bible, and I pondered what to do.  The Bible tabs are nearly impossible to remove.  Making matters worse, the first page we did in the Bible was kind of a disaster; the page tore.

Bible tabs 3

After about a month passed and I still was unhappy, I decided God allows do-overs.  I can save the Bible above for trying out different supplies or doing a trial run before putting something in the Bible that I use all the time.  I may also cut the tabs out and figure out a way to doctor up the corners.

I bought a new Bible for my daughter.  We tried again with the tabs along the side.  This time, I carefully placed the tabs along the side of the Bible, making sure that I was pleased with the spacing before my daughter closed the tabs.  The tabs are easy enough to re-position before you close them.  I skipped the book of Haggai and made it all the way to Luke before I noticed.  I just plucked them off, made room for the Haggai tab, and put them back on.

bible tabs 1

I was much happier with the finished results!  I love the cheerful tabs!

bible tabs 2

And the Bible closes nicely….

bible tabs 4

Hope his helps!  I think I will eventually add washi tape to reinforce each tab because I want this Bible to one that my daughter keeps forever!

Review: Complete Guide to Bible Journaling

I’ve had so much fun over the past week with the new book:  Complete Guide to Bible Journaling:  Creative Techniques to Express Your Faith by Joanne Fink and Regina Yoder.  Generally, I pick a Bible passage and then think about how to illustrate it.  With this book in hand, I picked illustrations that would be fun to trace and thought of a verse to go with the pictures, but I stuck to the book of Psalms for something of a theme.  What I discovered:  Spending time in Psalms, tracing images, and meditating on the Word is profoundly relaxing.  Illustrating a verse always helps me understand it better, but this experience was somehow different, maybe more peaceful.

If your journaling Bible is just sitting on your shelf, this book is a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing!!!  The book covers many different artist supplies and techniques, features artists, provides a beautiful gallery of ideas, and best of all includes a bonus section of traceable images and stickers.  It’s great for beginners and has plenty of tips and advice for those with more experience, too.  It’s clear from the pictures below that my favorite part of the book was the bonus section!

I really like Joanne Fink’s simple patterned illustrations.  I can definitely see incorporating more of this style of drawing into my Bible journaling.  I love that she starts with simple easy to draw shapes and makes the picture look interesting with varied line widths and patterns.  It’s relatively easy to do.  You can find even more inspiration in her book called Zenspirations.

One item that I would highly recommend getting along with the book is a set of black micron pens in different widths.  I usually reach for my Micron .05s, but I found that that width was too thick for some of the images in the book.  (It will be more clear when you see some of the first pages I did below!)  I found that I was happier with the results when I used a thinner Micron .01 and added weight to the line as needed.

Here’s a few images from my adventures putting the resources to work in the pages of my Bible.  One of my hopes with sharing my art has always been to show progress and to show that ANYONE can Bible journal.  As I glance over the pages that I did after working with this book, I really can see some improvement.


The first page I did was quite simple.  I just traced the image with pencil and used a black Micron .05.  For this simple image, the .05 weight worked ok.  I may add color to this page at some point, but I kind of like it quiet and still.


I traced another image from the Bible, and this time added some color and some stickers from the book.  With this image, I really wish that I had traced the images with a pen with thinner weight.  I used the Micron .05 again, and it was just too thick!  The book includes several examples of lettering with complete alphabets.  In the page below I played around with the “Simple Monoline Mix”.  It feels so unnatural for me to let the letters bounce around the baseline, but it does create a nice effect.

Do not be discouraged if your traced image does not look as good as the original.  Even tracing takes practice!  Some pages don’t turn out quite as well as I hope, but adding stickers always makes me happier with the page.  All the stickers below are in included in the book.

And spending time in the Word is always good!  The Psalm begins:  “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good”, but then goes onto describe a number of really terrible situations where God responded to different cries of distress.  As I reflected on Psalm 107, I pondered the different ways that God responded to times of crisis both in this Psalm and in my own life, “God Answers Knee Mail.”  seemed to be the perfect sticker to accompany this Psalm.  There are times that drive us to our knees.  Still, we trust in God’s goodness.


A super simple page:  I just used a margin sticker.  What I love about this image is the reminder that while I play at being an artist God’s creation is truly majestic.


I doodled on a tip-in and added some stickers from my stash…


I always find the following verse to be reassuring.  It’s something I tell myself often whenever I start to feel worried; it’s good to know that God has us covered.  I thought the pretty illustration of the feather fit well with this passage.  I colored it with water colors and markers.  The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling also shows how to make your own handwriting look more fancy by adding weight to the downstrokes.


It happened to be my father’s 80th birthday over the past week, so I used some washi tape from the book to add his picture to my margins and doodled a little border following Joanne’s instructions from The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling.


The book shares several examples for how to illustrate Psalm 96:  “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.”  It shares pages with various themes:  music, singing birds, and also the earth.  I felt drawn to the cute singing birds.


I loved this butterfly.  I was trying to think what verse I could pair it with when my Pastor posted the paraphrase of Psalms 103:4-5 below on Facebook.  Both the verse and the butterfly spoke to me.  Here’s how it came together in my margins…


These pretty flowers seemed to fit well with a passage dealing with the ephemeral nature of humankind and the everlasting nature of God.



I was thrilled to learn how to color a beautiful gradient.  This is one of those artistic techniques that looks amazing and pretty easy to achieve.  I just could never figure it out before!  The instructions in the book are perfect.  As I colored this simple leaf while meditating on Psalm 6, which speaks to the experience of being inconsolable (the Psalmist talks about flooding his bed with tears night after night), I felt an assurance from God that those time where we can’t find our joy are much like the times when a tree loses its leaves.  It’s just a shedding that prepares us for a new season of life.


I knew that I wanted to place this tree next to a verse about steadfast love.  I was drawn to these words:  “Because your steadfast love is better than life.”


The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling is an incredible resource.  I improved some skills and had so much fun with all of the traceable images.  With a Journaling Bible, some micron pens, some colored pencils, and this book, you would be well on your way to a wonderful journey!


Learning from my Mother’s Hand…Penmanship, Calligraphy and Lettering with Monica Griffore Malbouef

Guest post by Lisa Nichols Hickman, author of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible.

Perhaps you’ve seen the offer from Monica Griffore Malboeuf for “creative lettering” pages.


Here is a link to a PDF of seven pages of her Creative Lettering  techniques.  She is kind to share!


Once I saw their joy and beauty, I knew I needed to talk with her about her Bible journaling journey.  Here’s what she said:

“I am a wife, mother of two growing boys, a high school art teacher and freelance artist. My mother influenced my penmanship from a VERY early age. She was a calligrapher ( and a beautiful one at that). I remember her teaching small classes in our home and being right there next to her practicing my “good” letters.


As a kindergardener our rural school in northern Michigan ( I am from a small town called Mancelona – it is in the snow belt- just east of Traverse City, west of Gaylord and south of Petoskey)  was without bussing- so her being pregnant at the time and not wanting to drive through crumby snow conditions, homeschooled me until bussing started up again. One of my very earliest memories was filling out line after line of letters – and her putting little smile stickers next to the ones that were almost perfect! It was to her then, as it is to me now to study lettering and make words beautiful.

I am a super newbie at bible journaling- although my experience with sketchbooks, visual journals and hand lettering have been a part of my personal and professional life for years.


I am always excited to practice, learn and to be challenged- which is exactly how I got into this! A friend approached me a few months before starting and asked if I would be willing to teach a class. I thought about it for awhile, bought a Bible and was addicted immediately.


(Side note from Lisa – I had to linger with the beauty and whimsy of the Bible journaling verse from Hebrews 13:16.  When I told Monica how much I liked it she added:  The people represented are each from the passage in chapter 13 – the prisoner, the lover of money,the bride, the angels in disguise.)

My biggest AHA moment so far in my experience is just the mere attraction to reading my Bible. I mean, I’ve always known how Great God’s WORD is, but reading has never come easy to me. Its not that I am a struggling reader- its that 1) my brain was wired for busy- and sitting down to read feels like a chore- like holding still just to get through a chapter of my sons novel ” the Indian in the cupboard” feels like torture. 2) I am a busy working mom- lets be honest anytime I sit still for more than a minute- I am fast asleep- even if I am soaking in the tub (not like I am speaking from experience or anything)!

My point here is just to say that being able to digest small bits, verses, segments- and to spend time working it into my creativity has been nothing but life- changing. It has given me a deeper desire to know the Lord, talk to him, mediate on the goodness he brings to all of us.

My favorite verse is Philippians 1:6:For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.’ I don’t know how you interpret this verse- but it is my life verse. It is my daily reassurance that I am a work in progress- that perfection isn’t necessary- that the good that came into my life the day grace saved me is there because of Jesus- that he is going to grow me, and mold me and he isnt going to back out- ever- and say “you aren’t good enough” ” you messed up one too many times” ” I quit!”


Asking an art teacher what her favorite art supply is , is like asking a mother who her favorite child is- THEY ALL ARE- but recently I have discovered GELATOS. I mean its like painting with lipstick- how can you not love them! One of my favorite parts about them is that although they are an investment, it is an investment that takes the place from so many other materials- oil pastels, watercolors, ink pads ( for stamping), misting spray, etc.  They offer versatile and creamy color. I also love that they are generally able to be applied both before and after written text!

I worked in between teaching jobs as a waitress and got hired on the spot once they realized I could do their chalk boards.


This “job qualification” and years of experience with chalk, encouraged me to start my own little side gig I call “Slingshot Slates– Chalk designs that leave a mark!” It is a fun and exciting way to use my hand lettering! You might also see in many of my journal entries a heavy illustration emphasis- I loveeeee my pen and ink and watercolor! Two years ago I wrote and illustrated a book in memory of my Grandmother June, my biggest artistic influence, It is to date, outside of my own children, my greatest accomplishment!”


Getting to Know Neocolor IIs


What they are:  Neocolor IIs are water color crayons

Why they are great for Bible Journaling:  They are beautiful water colors that do not bleed!  They dry smooth so it’s easy to write on top of the color.

Page prep needed:  None for most applications.

Ideas:  Background color for stamps or writing, painting, coloring, doodling, paint splatters.

After playing with my Neocolor IIs on the 20 pages below, here’s what I can tell you:  They are great fun to use.  You can color with them just like regular crayons and then paint with water for a water color effect or scribble some color onto a surface and lift the color like paint.  You can also use a wet paint brush to draw color directly off the crayon or flick paint at your art project.  These do not bleed at all on Bible paper and no page prep is needed, so they are a good choice for adding a last minute dash of color.  The paint dries perfectly smooth, so it is easy to write over the paint.  They work well with glitter and stickers and other fun embellishments.

Sometimes, I like to challenge myself to use new art supplies by using them with a new devotional.  A local friend recently recommended the book “Boundaries:  When to Say Yes; How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Cloud and Townsend.  I have the workbook that goes along with it, too.  As I read the first chapter of the book, I thought:  This could be a great devotional.  One of the reviews on the back of the book says:  “Boundaries is the ‘untold story’–the other side of love and servanthood that we need so desperately, but that we hear so little about.”  What I love about the book Boundaries is that it is filled with Scriptures that provide the balance, I know that I need in my life.  Most of the verses in the book I’ve yet to journal after two years!  I guess I’m more naturally drawn to verses about service and self-giving and love never failing.  Cloud and Townsend highlight verses about setting limits and knowing our own responsibility.  What I’ve written below in response to the Bible verses they selected largely comes from their book, not necessarily my own understanding.

IMG_6190According to Cloud and Townsend, personal boundaries helps us know what is ours and what is not, what is our responsibility and what not to worry about.  Boundaries give us a sense of freedom within our own domain.  They help us let go of what is not ours and devote more energy to what is.  A lack of responsibility for boundaries can lead to confusion and cause us to carry a heavier burden than God ever intended.

In many ways, the verse below is the theme for the entire first chapter of the book.  Its amazing how much wisdom is packed into these few words.  What lies within each of our hearts forms the core of who we are and what we are responsible for and whom we are responsible to.

I colored the heart with the Neocolor IIs and just let the wet colors bleed into each other.  When I was finished, I spattered paint from the tip of the crayon with a wet brush.


A Bible verse that pops into my mind often is “Bear one another’s burdens”, but I NEVER noticed the verse that follows: “For each must carry his own load.”  It was really helpful to me to recognize and acknowledge that there are times when we should bear each others burdens and times we need to get back to carrying our own loads.  Cloud and Townsend describe burdens like boulders too big to carry and loads as what’s enough for us.  While it’s good to help someone carry a boulder, it’s a mistake to carry another person’s load.

Below is my interpretation of this passage.  I just used the Neocolor IIs like regular water color paint, picking up color with a brush.  This works well in small areas…


So what belongs in our load?  Cloud and Townsend have an interesting list of what’s ours alone to carry, so much of these are matters of the heart:

  • feelings
  • attitudes and beliefs
  • behaviors
  • choices
  • values
  • limits
  • talents
  • thoughts
  • desires
  • love

Our Feelings:  Let me start with feelings.  Cloud and Townsend take a positive view of our feelings and note that feelings often motivate us to take the right action.  The good Samaritan felt sympathy for what the other had experienced before he offered help.  I put this quote from the book on the backside of my tip-in:

Feelings come from your heart and can tell you the state of your relationships.  They can tell you if things are going well, or if there is a problem.  If you feel close and loving, things are probably going well.  If you feel angry, you have a problem that needs addressed.  But the point is your feelings are your responsibility and you must own them and see them as your problem so that you can begin to find an answer to whatever issue they are pointing to.

I would just add, speaking from my own experience, that owning our feelings require developing discernment.  For example, sometimes when I’m angry, it just means I need more sleep.  When I feel sad, looking for the reason why just makes things worse; I am better off just observing the feelings and letting them pass.  And as a person who can cry at Hallmark commercials, I’ve learned my strong empathetic response does not always a good indicator I need to get involved; sometimes it’s enough to pray!  Still, reading the story of the Good Samaritan again in light of Cloud and Townsends’ observations, gave me greater appreciation for my own big feelings and for the ways that they often lead me in the right direction.

With the Neocolor IIs, it’s kind of irresistible to draw circles of color, and then just paint them with a wet brush…


Our attitudes and beliefs:  These are something else that falls within our property line.  Cloud and Townsend note that it’s good to challenge our own attitude and beliefs so that we don’t find ourselves holding to the traditions of men instead of the commands of God.  Below I just colored with Neocolor IIs onto the background to add some color.


Our Behaviors:  We all have to live with consequence of our own behaviors, and as hard as it may be, Cloud and Townsend say it is for the best to expect others to live with the consequences of their behavoir.   At some level, we have to trust that self-preservation will kick in when it comes to watching other people make mistakes.  I put this quote next to Proverbs 15:10 (a rather tough verse to accept!):  “To rescue people from the natural consequences of their behavior is to render them powerless.”

Below, I colored the scene with my Neocolor IIs and then just went over everything with a slightly wet brush.


Our choices:  Below is my favorite verse that I’ve rediscovered as a result of reading this book.  It’s better to give others options rather than compel them to do things.  In doing so, we let their goodness shine.  We all need the freedom to say no in our lives.  Often saying “no” enables us to give our best “yes.”

A few helpful thoughts on the word “No” from their book:

People with poor boundaries struggle with saying no to the control, pressure, demands, and sometimes the real needs of others.  They feel that if they say no to someone, they will endanger their relationship with that person, so they passively comply, but inwardly resent.  Sometimes a person is pressuring you to do something; other times the pressure comes from your own sense of what you “should” do.  If you cannot say no to this external or internal pressure, you have lost control of your property and are not enjoying the fruit of “self-control.”

Below I used the Neocolor IIs for the background color and to paint the butterflies.  I spattered a few paint drops, too.


Cloud and Townsend shared several verses about God giving us the freedom to respond to him or not.  I was reminded of a story I heard from a children’s minister:  “God has no grandchildren,” she said.  “Just because your parents have chosen to follow Christ, does not mean that you have.  It’s a decision that you need to make for yourself.”  As an aside:  Today, I am choosing to no longer be upset by anyone who complains about Christians forcing their religion on others.  It can’t be done anyway!  God has made it so:  we each have the freedom to choose.

Below I used the Neocolor IIs for background colors and paint spatters.


Our Values:  As I was reflecting on this verse:  “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God,” I started thinking of the seven virtues.  I found two lists.  One comprised of the theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) and the cardinal virtues (fortitude, justice, prudence, and temperance).  And the other list had the contrary virtues to the seven deadly sins (chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility).  Both lists of virtues have been taught by the church for centuries.  I feel like the virtue that is most missing in our society today is temperance.  The virtue is found on both lists, but means something different in each instance.  As a contrary virtue to “gluttony”, temperance refers to moderation.  As a cardinal virtue, “temperance” is the proper ordering of one’s own passions.  I was talking with a friend who has studied philosophy.  He said the ancient Greeks saw temperance (the proper ordering of self) as a prerequisite to justice (the proper ordering of society).  The Ancient Greeks couldn’t conceive of a justly ordered society made up intemperate people.  I like how all the values taught by the church over time hold together and support each other.

Below I just added a little color with the bullets and the frame around the verse with a red Neocolor II crayon.


Our Limits:  The next Bible passage is probably not one that I would have ever chosen to illustrate on my own.  For me the words evoke the practice of shunning, taking a group stance against a person because of their behavior.  I’ve heard stories of how hurtful this experience can be, and some of the stories have even included a reference to this verse:  “Do not associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”  Cloud and Townsend write that we can’t change people or make them behave right but we can set limits to our exposure to people who behave poorly.  Since I had the seven deadly sins on my brain, I noted how Paul’s list lines up with them:

  • Sexual immorality (Lust)
  • Greed (Greed)
  • Idolatry (Pride is a form of idolatry)
  • Revilers (anger)
  • Drunkard (gluttony)
  • Swindlers (a mix of envy and sloth)

As Christians we should take a stand against what destroys love.  I can reclaim this verse as common-sense wisdom to avoid abusive people, even if personally, I feel sad knowing the hurt these words have caused when applied without good understanding. I can see the verse as being protective.

I used Neocolor IIs just to add some background color for my writing and stamps.



Some of what St. Paul writes can be hard for us to embrace as modern readers.  In his defense, let me say Paul’s entire message was one of freedom from rules and laws and obedience to Christ who taught us how to love.  I probably shouldn’t speak for St. Paul, but his words have carried the love of Christ into my heart and I’ve been reading his letters since I was a child.  I feel reasonably confident saying that St. Paul would cringe to see his own words read as law.  He was doing his best to write guidance to young churches.  Paul expected the churches he encouraged to look different from the rest of the world as a result of a holiness that would come from being in Christ.  What was sung at my church growing up:  “They Will Know We Are Christians by our Love.”

When Jesus makes a similar point, it doesn’t seem so harsh:  “If a brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.  And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

In the picture below, I colored the picture with the Neocolor IIs and then used a wet brush to go over it.


It’s a comfort to know that when we let a person behaving badly go, that we can put our trust in Jesus, who is the good shepherd.  Maybe the ultimate form of pride is believing that we can personally save a person or a situation.  We would do well to remember that Jesus is the savior.  All of us have heard how Jesus met with prostitutes and tax collectors.  What we sometimes forget is that they were changed after meeting him because he was Jesus.  We should be open to the possibility of change, too; our limits are not necessarily permanent.

Our Talents:  We have a responsibility to develop and use the talents that God has given us.  One things I’ve really enjoyed about reading Cloud and Townsend’s book is the different take they have on familiar passages.  I loved their thoughts on the parable of the Talents:

The parable of the talents says that we are accountable—not to mention much happier—when we are exercising our gifts and being productive.  It takes work, practice, learning, prayer, resources, and grace to overcome the fair of failure that the “wicked and lazy” servant gave in to.  He was not chastised for being afraid; we are all afraid when trying something new and difficult.  He was chastised for not confronting his fear and trying the best he could.  Not confronting our fear denies the grace of God and insults both his giving of the gift and his grace to sustain us as we are learning.

I paraphrased this and put it right into my Bible.  I used a tip-in since I didn’t have quite enough room in my margins to write the whole quote.  I used Neocolor IIs for the background color on the front and back of this tip-in.


Our thoughts:  I love this verse:  “Make every thought captive to obey Christ.”  As I thought about what this would mean:  I hope that all my thoughts must be healing, truthful, and loving.  Probably the most important way to keep our thoughts obedient to Christ is to make sure they are truthful.  As Cloud and Townsend point out:  “We all have a tendency to not see things clearly, to think and perceive in distorted ways…Taking ownership of our thinking in relationships requires being active in checking out where we may be wrong.  As we assimilate new information, our thinking adapts and grows closer to reality.”

This page was inspired by a similar illustration in Rebekah Jones’ Bible.  I used Neocolor IIs for the back ground and to add color to the drawing of the brain.


Our Desires:  We own our desires and its up to us to pursue them and find fulfillment in life.  It’s good to remember that God loves to give gifts to his children and supports us in our goals and plans as we walk in God’s ways.  As I reflected on this verse below, I thought of how important it is to express our desires.  Sometimes we don’t get what we want simply because we don’t make the request known, both to God and to people in our lives who can help us.

I colored swirls and hearts with the Neocolor IIs and used a lightly wet brush over the top.  For some reason, I can’t resist adding glitter to my pages with Neocolor IIs.


Our Love:  The Bible teaches us to love and our love is the greatest gift we have within our own control to give.  Leviticus often gets singled out an unpopular book of the Bible, but there’s a lot of wisdom to be gained just wondering what led to the rules in the first place.  And on a page that encourages us not to put a stumbling block before a blind person (common sense?) and a rule against wearing fabric made from a blend of materials (I would need to throw out 90% of my wardrobe!) and a poignant, timely reminder to be kind to the strangers and foreigners living among us, we find the wisest words ever written:  “Love thy neighbor as yourself!”  And I love what comes just before:  “Do not take a vengeance or bear a grudge.”  The often neglected first part of the verse seems like good advice for our times!

I couldn’t decide how to illustrate this verse, so I took two approaches:  Colorful stamped houses and writing out the whole beautiful verse!




We need to take responsibility for the love we can offer the world, and also our ability to receive love.  These words from “Boundaries” found their way onto my margins:

Our ability to give and respond to love is our greatest gift.  The heart that God has fashioned in his image is the center of our being.  It’s abilities to open up to love and to allow love to flow outward are crucial to  life.

Cloud and Townsend remind readers of the importance of receiving an inflow of love, too!  St. Paul encourages us to widen our own hearts.



Boundaries have gates and when our gates function well, we are able to let the bad out and keep the good in.  I love how Cloud and Townsend paired the warning from Jesus about what comes out of our hearts that defiles us with the promise from 1 John that if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  And the time to let the bad out is when it’s first in our heart.  Have you ever heard yourself say, “Well, if I weren’t Christian, I would….”  As I worked on this page I was reminded of Zechariah 8:17, which encourages us not to devise evil against another in our hearts.  That’s where sin begins.  And we need to let it out and bring in the good stuff:  forgiveness and love!

I used Neocolor IIs to color in the dirty and clean hearts.


God and Boundaries

This post is getting much longer than I ever could have imagined I first set out to journal my way through the first chapter of this book!!!  Cloud and Townsend ask what we can learn about our boundaries from looking to the Bible and learning from God’s own boundaries.  I’ll just take one question from the Boundaries workbook at a time and look at the passages Cloud and Townsend suggested for each question and journal one of the passages.

Question #1:  God defines his personality by telling us about himself.  What does he tell us in the Bible about what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, doesn’t allow, lies, and dislikes?  See for instance Genesis 12:2, Jeremiah 3:12, Ezekiel 6:9, 36:26.

I’ve shared before that the calling of Abraham is my favorite Bible story.  As I think about the story and how it relates to what Cloud and Townsend suggest is within our boundaries, it does show that God makes choices:  He chose Abraham out of all the people in the world to bless us all and to help us develop into our full potential as human beings.  God lived with the consequences of his choice.  When Sarah couldn’t be patient waiting for the promised child, God did not abandon Hagar and Ishmael.  He made a promise to them, too, one that still has an impact on us today.  Whether we are Jewish or Muslim or Christian, we trace our spiritual ancestry to this one man (Jews through Isaac, Muslims through Ishmael, and Christians through a spirit of adoption).  We are all called to live our lives as a blessing to others.  It’s kind of incredible to think how God’s choice to work with Abraham has played out in human history and to know that God’s plans are still unfolding.  God was faithful in his promise to Abraham, and we can trust that God is faithful to us, too, in our own calling.

Jeremiah 3:12 and Ezekiel 6:9 both show that God owns his feelings.  He angry at times but that His anger doesn’t last forever.  God shares through the prophet Ezekiel that He is broken by seeing His people turn to idols.

With regard to likes and dislikes (just based on these four verses), Ezekiel 36:26 shows that God likes when we have hearts of flesh, but not when our hearts are turned to stone.


Question #2  God differentiates himself from his creation, from us, and from others.  He tells us who he is and who he is not.  What does he say about himself in Leviticus 11:44, Isaiah 48:12, 60:16; 1 John 4:16?

God reminds us that He is different.  It is God who is first and last.  We are called to be holy, but God is holy, separate from us and perfect.  1 John reminds us both that God is light and in him is no darkness and God is love, and all who abide in love are with God.  And God alone is our savior and redeemer.


Question #3:  God also limits what he will allow in his yard.  What, for example, do Exodus 20:1-17 (the ten commandments) and Matthew 5:21-6:4 (the sermon on the mount) say about those limits?

God sets limits about what is allowed in his yard through the Ten Commandments, which just aren’t that onerous.  Many people think that Jesus somehow the law easier, but in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus ramps up the standard.  It’s not enough to avoid murdering our friends and family—we need to release the anger in our hearts.  It’s not enough to simply not commit adultery—we are not to look at people with lust.  As Jesus builds a fence around the Law in a way that shows we ALL sin, Jesus shows the way back to God through his death and resurrection.  As we die to sin, we are given new life.

Question #4  What do Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Mark 12:30-31 and 1 John 4:7-12 say about the gates in God’s fences?

It’s not a surprise to me that while I’ve ignored many verses about boundaries, I managed to find and illustrate all these verses about God’s gates (If God has a way in, I’m finding it!):

Hosea 6:6:  For I desire steadfast love not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Micah 6:8:  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.

Mark 12:30-31:  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is like this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.

1 John 4:7-12:  Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Everyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loves us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God, if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

I did the lettering for this page many months ago, but I added a few doodles and some color with my Neocolor IIs.  It is good to remember this:  Its not sacrifice God desires from us but our love and for us to know him.  That is enough!


This is only the first chapter of Boundaries.  I am not promising to journal my way through the rest of the book, but the remaining chapters have much more food for thought.  I hope the illustrations encourage you to have more fun with the Neocolor IIs and that the passages relieve some worry and release some anger and give you more energy for what is truly yours to carry.  Blessings!!!



Guest post by Lisa Nichols Hickman, author of Writing in the Margins: Connecting with God on the Pages of Your Bible.

There are some awesome guys in the Bible Journaling Community. Today I want to introduce you to Adam Walker Cleveland – father to a new baby and founder of Illustrated Children’s Ministry (Click onto his website if you would like to download a sample pack.)


I asked Adam about his entrance into journaling and faith formation.  Here’s what he had to say:

“My entrance into the coloring craze was quite accidental. I always loved coloring and drawing as a kid, but it wasn’t until my mid-30s that I got back into drawing and sketching, and eventually doodling. The doodles/patterns that I started doing turned out to work really well as coloring page designs, and a friend of mine encouraged me to consider enlarging them into posters to sell for churches and families to color during Advent, and other church seasons.



For over 15 years, I worked in both camping ministry and youth ministry in the parish setting, and now that I am outside of the parish and doing non-traditional ministry, I feel like I am impacting even more people and churches around the world. For example, over 1000 churches around the world used our Advent Coloring Posters this past Christmas, and almost all of them found the posters to be able to provide them with very meaningful intergenerational opportunities.  We have the hope that our Lenten resources will reach even more folks!



It’s extremely fulfilling to know that work I created at my kitchen table in Skokie, Illinois, is creating these types of programs and opportunities for children, youth, adults and older adults throughout the world.  I have received too many testimonials of communities and congregations who have used our materials. It’s been especially meaningful to see photos of parents and children coloring together or doing Advent or Lent devotions together and finding that with a downloadable PDF resource and some crayons, that Illustrated Children’s Ministry could help them find a space to be together and have conversations they wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.


When I first started, I was doing everything by hand – but when our production picked up, I switched over to the 12.9″ iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil and the Procreate iOS app. They’ve been amazing additions to the tools I use – and although I really do enjoy using real pens on real paper, I also love drawing on the iPad and seeing it come to life.”

For those of you who like topical studies, you might enjoy Adam’s scripture verses and coloring pages for an Il-lustrated Earth devotion.


Here, he lists four scripture verses in three areas for reflection on water stories, plant and food stories, and animal stories of the Bible.  Try journaling the verses in your margins – and then compare your images to his illustrations.  Or, use his illustrations for inspiration for your Bible!