You may have seen Bible journaling, or Illustrated Faith, filling up your Instagram feed over the last year or so. Popularized by Illustrated Faith and its founder Shanna Noel, Bible journaling is a popular spiritual practice for many Christian women. At Minno, we see a lot of potential for Bible journaling to be an amazing family experience and a great way to get your kids into the Word of God! Arden Ratcliff-Mann, a popular Instagram artist and children’s pastor in Kansas City, writes below about her introduction to Bible journaling and the impact it has had on her spiritual life. Over the course of our blog series on Bible journaling, Arden will cover how to start Bible journaling and how to Bible journal with kids.
If you’re anything like me, at some point in your life you’ve gone through a period where you’ve struggled to connect with God. In my case, this season of spiritual barrenness arrived not with a bang, but a whimper. In college, I’d begun to feel God calling me into children’s ministry and so I entered seminary fresh off my undergraduate degree. I learned so much about myself and God’s call on my life in seminary, and I graduated feeling on fire for God. I couldn’t wait to get out there and really start doing God’s work to build up the kingdom of Christ.
And so I moved across the country and started my first full-time job in ministry as a children’s and youth minister. But over time, I became so busy teaching Sunday School and leading youth group and planning worship that I began to neglect my own spiritual life. I allowed nurturing my personal relationship with God to fall to the bottom of my to do list. Many weeks, the only Scripture I read was the text for that Sunday’s worship service or children’s lesson. I suspect this can be a problem for anyone who’s ever served in a leadership role at church—sometimes you get so caught up in the logistics of preparing and leading a Bible study that you forget to actually study the Bible yourself.
I was in denial about the situation for far too long. I would lie to myself, “Oh, teaching this children’s Sunday School class is just as good as reading a devotional.” I continued to starve myself spiritually while telling myself that I felt was full. Then one day, I was searching through Pinterest for a knitting pattern I had saved, and I came across a blog article about Bible journaling. Intrigued, I clicked on it. I learned that women had started taking Bibles with wide margins and drawing in them—using paints and crayons and stamps to illustrate their faith. And I heard a small voice inside of me—maybe even the voice of God Himself—whisper, “You could do that.” I still had some Christmas money saved up, so I ordered a journaling Bible and never looked back.
Within a few weeks of creatively responding to God’s Word, I could already see the difference in my life. After a long spiritual winter, I felt like I was finally emerging into spring. Bible journaling completely changed my relationship with God. It awakened me to a new season of spiritual growth and devotion. Now that I have been journaling in my Bible for over a year and a half, I can look back and see that there are three major ways this spiritual practice has impacted my faith.
1. First, Bible journaling helped me fall in love with the Bible. Even in my best moments earlier in life, reading the Bible could always feel like a bit of a chore. Reading the Bible everyday was always something I knew I should do, but far too often I fell short of that goal. But now, I am legitimately excited to open my Bible every day. When I read the Bible now, I have a goal in mind:
- what words or verses really speak to me when I read this passage?
- What images come to mind?
- How is God trying to speak to me in this passage at this point in my life?
I read the Bible with these questions in mind, because I know that after I finish reading through a passage, I’m going to try to respond creatively to it. Remembering this goal helps me read the Bible more critically, and actually remember what I read.
2. In addition, journaling in my Bible has helped me immensely with Bible memorization. Before I started this practice, I was pretty terrible at memorizing verses, or remembering where a certain story fell in the Bible. But artfully writing or stamping out verses on a page definitely allows me remember them later, and that has only helped me become a better spiritual mentor and teacher to the kids in my life. Last spring I was teaching a confirmation class at church, and one of the students said that she thought that she could make a mistake so bad that God wouldn’t love her. Thanks to my Bible journaling, I instantly knew a verse to direct her to—Isaiah 54:10, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.” “Look,” I said, “this verse tells us that the mountains will move before God’s love will leave us. Plus, this page is pink! It must be true!”
3. And finally, I believe that my journaling Bibles are leaving a legacy behind for my family. One reason Bible journaling appealed to me in the beginning was that I had recently inherited my late grandmother’s Bible. Her Bible had notes and bookmarks all through it—a tangible legacy of a life lived with Christ. When I inherited it, I couldn’t help but look over at my pristine Bible that didn’t even have one verse underlined in it. I realized that if anyone were to ever inherit my Bible, there would be no evidence at all of my spiritual life. But that’s not the case anymore. Now I have two Bibles full of notes and paint and lessons from God. I actually take my colorful Bible, filled to the brim with tabs and bookmarks, with me everywhere I go. It is a physical symbol of my spiritual walk with God.
Bible journaling isn’t just about painting in a Bible. For some, it’s writing notes in the margins of their Bible. For others, it’s about keeping a separate faith journal. There’s no wrong way to do it, as long as you’re creatively responding to the Word of God and what God puts on your heart as you interact with His sacred text. I’ll be sharing more examples and tips in the weeks to come, but if you’ve been longing for a new way to connect with God, I encourage you to give Bible journaling a try. You never know, it might change your life!
Arden Ratcliff-Mann has an MDiv from Candler School of Theology and currently serves as the Associate Director of Children’s Ministries at Liberty United Methodist Church. Originally from Franklin, TN, she now lives in Kansas City, MO, with her husband Biff and adorable cat Loki.