Like most things in my virtual social world, I don’t know exactly how I stumbled upon “Bible Journaling” but I’m glad I did. It has completely changed the way I look at and read Scripture. Plus, I’ve met some amazing people in a short period of time who have a gift for art and putting their thoughts and reflection in the margins of their Bible. Some are more artistic than others, but they are all pieces of worship and THAT is a beautiful thing. Bible journaling, at its core, is another way to read God’s word in a personal and creative way. Since I was in college, I have always underlined, highlighted, and circled words or passages in whatever I’m reading, including my Bible. I guess you could say I’m a doodler, but I never thought to make the connection with personal reflection and creative illustrations in my Bible reading time. When I discovered Bibles specifically for journaling (extra wide margins on each page), I knew I had to get one and give it a try. Though some Bible illustrators are really talented and artistic and have a professional’s arsenal of scrapbooking supplies, I’m starting with materials I’m comfortable with: pens, highlighters, and colored pencils. The 12-year-old girl inside me is jumping for joy right now. I love the smell of new colored pencils (and school supplies in general). I don’t think I’m crafty or artistic, places like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s scare me, but journaling in my Bible is a continuation of my personal time with God. And, as a result, I’m spending more time with Him and in His word. It’s a win-win. Even though I was raised in a Christian home and attended church since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve never read the Bible in its entirety. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. But I made a resolution (a goal, really) to read more Scripture this year and I’m making an honest effort with this year-long plan. Thirty-six days into 2015 and I’ve read 146 chapters in seven books. Not too shabby, huh? For some reason (divine intervention? clearer focus? more mature faith?), reading Scripture is easy right now. The stories are applicable and the people in them are real. This is likely due, in part, to my participation in The Story study at church every Wednesday morning. Having been to The Holy Land also helps me read Scripture. Seeing some of the places mentioned in Scripture puts it all into a clearer perspective. I’ve been in a cave where shepherds might have slept the night Jesus was born; I’ve stood on the ruins of Jericho; I’ve walked the Via Delorosa; I’ve trodded through the “wilderness” where Jesus went for 40 days to pray; I’ve explored King Herod’s palace ruins at Herodian; I’ve ridden a boat on the Sea of Galilee; I remembered my baptism beside the Jordan River and floated in the Dead Sea; and I’ve seen an empty tomb near the hill of Calvary. That trip of a lifetime made Scripture real. It’s no longer a book or just some stories of people in faraway places living in different times. No, the humans that lived then are just as relatable to me today. They endured hardships (Sarah’s infertility), suffered consequences of their decisions (David’s infidelity), and stayed the course when the cards were stacked against them (Ruth’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law, Naomi). Turn on the TV or scroll through the homepage of MSNBC and you’ll see similar headlines and stories today. The Bible is real, folks, I’m telling you. But, I digress. My current Bible study and doodle and journaling materials include:
1. Pens, highlighters, mechanical pencil and eraser, and colored pencils I like to write and I’ve been blessed with decent handwriting. I would like to eventually learn more creative lettering and font styles though. But I have these pens, these highlighters, and this set of colored pencils. I’m a SUPERFAN of these Micron fine-tip pens too.
2. Notebook I like this journal because it has lined and unlined pages, perfect for jotting down prayer requests, Scripture reflections, doodles, and, I’ll be honest, grocery lists. Not to justify my easily distracted mind, but, if I remember something in the moment, I have to write it down before I forget about it. I’ve considered keeping a prayer journal or reflective Bible study notes, but I haven’t found a system that works. I’ve tried the S.O.A.P. and S.O.A.K. methods but I don’t think I’m quite ready for this yet. Maybe I’ll get there someday. Maybe I won’t.
3. Twelve Women of the Bible DVD and Study Guide I’m leading a small group this summer with this study material, so I’m going through it now to be prepared. I’ve read through the participants’ guide but I haven’t watched the DVD yet.
4. ESV Single Column Journaling Bible This is my newest Bible. A blogger friend of mine suggested the ESV translation and, since being introduced to “Bible journaling,” this seemed like the obvious choice. I’d still like to get this one when it’s available next March as an additional study and reference Bible. I have just about every translation of the Bible, except King James because thou canst gez past thy fancy language.
5. NRSV Wesley Study Bible This is my daily reading and study Bible. The New Revised Standard Version is a popular translation in The United Methodist Church, as is the Common English Bible. This particular NRSV Study Bible incorporates a lot of notes and reflections from Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, too.
6. The Story (a Bible, participants’ guide, and The Heart of the Story) By far, nothing has captured my heart, my spirit, or my attention quite like this study. My church began this comprehensive Bible study last September and it has been such a blessing and learning experience. As previously mentioned, due in part to this weekly study, I am diving into God’s Word on a regular (daily) basis and loving every minute. The Story is a new way of looking at Scripture from two perspectives: the Lower Story (our story) is really many stories of men and women interacting with God during the daily course of life and the Upper Story is God’s story and the meticulous way He interweaves all of the stories together in a beautifully woven masterpiece.
I’m happy to share with my local (and virtual) friends that a small group is forming for Bible journaling at the First United Methodist Church in Joshua, Texas. We’re hosting an informal and very *BRIEF* information session on Sunday, February 15 at 10:30am in the gymnasium. Anyone and everyone is invited to attend, even if you simply want to get more information about Bible journaling. Plans are currently underway for an experienced Bible illustrator to come and lead a workshop for Bible journaling BEGINNERS. Yes, that’s me! Even if you are not able to attend this information session or join the small group, you can still create your own Bible journal and share your work online via social media. If you’d like to learn more about Bible journaling or start your own creative reflections, visit Pinterest or join the Journaling Bible Community on Facebook. There are A LOT of resources and tutorials available on blogs and YouTube. If you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, visit the Little Blue House in Keller for Bible journaling workshops. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or intimidated by the incredible talent of some journalists and illustrators but remember that Bible journaling is a personal reflection of YOUR time spent in God’s Word. This isn’t a competition! So, dear friends, I’ve been digging deeper into God’s masterful and powerful words and I feel (no, I KNOW) it’s a good (GREAT) thing. I’ve even gone as far as to create a personal space just for my quiet time. Yes, the table is small and the lamp is too tall, but it’s the perfect place for me to read, doodle, color, write, or type this blog post while Kamden sleeps! Regardless of my artistic or illustration abilities, I’m excited to see where my study of Scripture and new set of colored pencils take me on this journaling journey. As my Bible becomes more colorful and filled in, I’ll be sure to share some of my creations in future blog posts. Tell me, what are you reading or studying or thinking about today?