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What is Bible Journaling?

Bible Journaling is when you illustrate a Bible Verse with a picture or with creative lettering in the margins of your Bible. It is a creative way of expressing prayers and thoughts and meditating.

I have always liked highlighting and writing notes in my Bible and notebooks to help me remember what I have read or to organise my thoughts. Bible Journaling is doing this in beautiful ways. The idea is that when you flick through your Bible there will be an eye catching and visual journal of what God has been teaching you as you read and study his word.

How did I start?

I came across it on Facebook  and then I joined a Facebook Bible Journaling group to find out more. I looked at what other people did and lost a fair few hours watching You Tube videos of tutorials and women flipping through their Bible Journal.

At first, I didn’t like the idea of drawing in my Bible, it was already cluttered with my notes! So I began by using a scrapbook and having a go at a couple of the monthly challenges that were set in the Facebook Group. These were really good prompts to get me started. One of the first challenges I did had this prompt:

This month we are looking at Colossians 3:23
‘Whatever you do,work at it with all your heart,as working for the Lord,not human masters.’
The art work or presentation is totally free choice. The challenge is to respond on the page with a prayer.Looking forward to seeing what God says to us all.

I spent time thinking about this verse and it challenged me. When I finished my piece of Bible Journaling piece I posted this on the group:

This verse got me thinking about my attitude to being a mum. Sometimes looking after a baby is so relentless that I begin to resent the time I have with my daughter, as if she is keeping me from doing my ‘real’ work for the Lord. My prayer is that I will instead see that raising my baby is the centre of my ministry. That being a good mum can be an act of worship and service to God, as much as worship leading or preaching is.

Once I knew what I wanted to express the artwork came together quickly.  I wanted to put Orla at the centre of my life’s work so using Google images, tracing paper, watercolour paints and a black pen put this together:

I loved that image so much that when I did eventually get a Journaling Bible I transferred it to the cover of my Bible so that I would always remember my true priorities.

How do I journal now?

After a couple of months of using my scrap book I felt that I wanted to start journaling in a Bible. Rob got me the Bible above for my Birthday, it has big margins so it is perfect for Bible Journaling.

Here is my current process:

  1. I read my Bible and if anything stands out to me  I make a note of it on a mini post it note and stick it in the page. In my old Bible I would just highlight the verse or write a note straight on the page, but for my journaling Bible I want to keep the pages clean until I have decided what to do with it.
  2. When I have decided on a verse to journal, I will read it a few times, research the passage and spend some time thinking and praying about it. I may make notes about it in a separate notebook.
  3. Often as I do this an image will come to mind. If I can I will draw it myself, or if it is beyond my artistic ability (which doesn’t take much) I will look up similar images online to copy or trace.
  4. I then will spend a couple of evenings actually doing the artwork. Sometimes I do a practice run in my scrap book, sometimes I just go for it.
  5. When its done I add the date and a tab made out of washi tape to help me find it easily.

Is it helpful or is a distraction from actually understanding and obeying God’s word?

If I illustrate my Bible with the skill of artists or Instagram Bloggers, but do not follow the word, I am only a scribbling toddler or a messy scrawler. If I have the gift of acrylic and can paint without bleed-through, and if I have calligraphy that can rival wedding invitations but do not understand what I write, I am nothing. If I decorate each page of my Bible in array of colours and wonder but do not love God, I gain nothing.   

The criticism of Bible Journaling is that it is a hobby that feels spiritual but actually doesn’t encourage growth in faith or love. The videos and blogs and Instagram accounts filled with illustrated verses encourages people to compare and compete with one another more than it does to encourage them to be like Jesus.

Nearly every blog I have read about Bible Journaling has been pre-faced with ‘it’s not about being perfect’, which is good but the fact that it needs to be said shows that there is a potential trap there.

It is also really easy to give ourselves a pat on the back for creating a pretty picture about loving our neighbour, but painting the picture is no substitute for actually loving our neighbour. If Bible Journaling is doing it’s job it should motivate us to not want to leave the words in the page, it should be part of the process to turn the words into flesh in our lives. The time we spend drawing and thinking about the verse should be building up our will to live the verse; to be more generous, more patient, to trust in God, to forgive that person.

And actually, for me, I have found Bible Journaling has strengthened my resolve to follow God’s leading. It has become a way for me to mediate on things God has said and it has stuck with me.

One example I can share is this verse:

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions, stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. 2 Chronicles 20:17

I thought about this verse for weeks. There was a situation that I was worrying about because I couldn’t see a way to fix it without having to cause a fight. Through this Scripture I felt God was telling me not to try and fix it but to trust in Him. I was not to bow to pressure or change what I believed but that it wasn’t on my shoulders to rush in and sort everyone out. (as if I could anyway!)

Since then this verse and image has appeared in my mind whenever I am worrying about things I can’t possibly control. When I remember this verse I stop worrying, I say to God ‘I trust you’, and I go and do something else.

I find that Bible Journaling is a good tool for meditation especially if you are not good at sitting still and just thinking. It normally takes me about two evenings to complete one entry and all that time I am painting, drawing, planning and writing I am also thinking about God’s word, and that can only be a good thing.

The other thing I have benefited from is the Bible Journaling Facebook Group, far from being a snarky environment of competition and shallow perfectionism, the group has been a supportive and celebratory culture to belong to. It’s really good to talk about the scriptures with a new group of people, especially when we all draw out different thoughts from the same verse. I have found what other people share to be inspiring and encouraging and it opens the door for us to connect with one another.
My conclusion is that Bible Journaling is a great activity to slow you down and help you to engage with God and to connect with others and I would recommend anyone who is interested to just have a go and see how you find it.