Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Is Bible Journaling Good For Bible Study? Three Cautions to Consider

Hi there Gracefilled Lillies,

I recently came upon this article and wanted to share my thoughts with you: Please read the article first so you can understand what I am responding to:

Is Bible Journaling Good For Bible Study? Three Cautions to Consider

Here are some examples of my natural process when expressing my faith and worship:
Journaling in a notebook what I learned from the Word and responding to it
creatively and adding my prayers. 

Another notebook journal entry

My very simple Bible...not a journal Bible, but well used. 

Notebook journaling

Using one of my digital stamps in a notebook journal entry

Journaling in a notebook

Adding stencils to my normal Bible...didn't really give me any satisfaction.
It is just not a habit I want to pursue any longer. 

Tip-in added to my normal Bible. 

Bible journal close-up of entry

Notebook entry

Notebook entry
I hope you can see that I was able to be very creative in my journals and express my faith, my worship and prayers all in one place...much more than in my Bible. Not because it's not a journal Bible and has space, but more because I just didn't feel that it was a process I wanted to continue within a Bible. There are alternatives that may offer more peace, more depth of processing and learning as well as satisfaction. If it is just about the art for you, then there are many many alternatives for artists as used by many. Why not utilize the place created for it: an art journal or canvas. 

My story:

I have been a born-again Christian passionately following Jesus Christs since the age of 15. I love God's Word. I love digging deep into it. I love sitting for hours on end allowing the Holy Spirit to plant the Word in my heart. I love teaching and sharing it with others. 

I am also very much an artist and designer. I love expressing myself creatively. Always have. 

The last couple of years Bible Journaling as marketed by Creative Industries, companies, and individuals, have spilled over to South Africa and the local Creative Christian woman community.

Despite this, God has had me on a journey of my own over nearly two decades and one of the things He instructed me to do was to "publish". I believe whether it is writing a devotional study, creating content that encourages women to create, writing my story and sharing my lessons learned, I am being obedient to that instruction to "publish". 

One of the things I knew God wanted me to write about, was my Dreambook process of Praying and waiting on Him to answer. How I use the process in my spiritual journey, is unique to me and I felt lead to share it with others. I also had some fear God needed to deal with in me. Fear that if I stepped out and shared my journey, it wouldn't mean much to anyone or it would be flat out rejected like so many other experiences I had. As a sensitive person, I didn't want to face more of that, so I held back.  In the meantime, I ventured out with Ivytree Studio together with my sister as a creative partner. We stepped into 'industry' and commercialized our work for the benefit of creative woman and creative women in business. 

In 2017 at long last I had the courage and stepped out in faith writing the first little book about the Dreambook process and I created a workshop around it. 

The first workshop went so well. It made me feel like this was the open door I have been praying for over a decade. Suddenly I had inquiries and an invitation to travel and do another workshop. Exciting stuff. I quickly realized that what people wanted was the product and techniques they saw hyped up online by the "Illustrated Faith movement" and not the story...my story....and not me.  When I asked for feedback, an elderly lady who attended the second workshop even said, it's great but she could have done with less of my personal story. I really felt that it was the wrong crowd and the wrong place...a scrapbook corner in a local shop. Perhaps that was my mistake. 

Then Bible Journaling as promoted by Illustrated Faith really took off locally. Anyone who was anyone in the creative community now wanted to do Bible Journaling. You see, locally our country's statistics show that nearly 80% of our population is Christian and most people believe it is enough to grow up in a Christian family or go to church and own a Bible to call yourself a Christian. I was part of that statistic until the age of 15 when I was confronted with Jesus and He invited me to have a relationship with Him and not just be a religious person. 

What I feel happened here was a lot of creative women really loving the colorful new products that they could actually relate to also in their Faith life. That's great. But as the industry pushes sales via products and techniques, I felt God was (because of my own creative business) giving me the inside view on things. The same shops, the same people, the same types of products and techniques were now focussed on targeting the Faith community and God's Word. It is, after all, a large segment of the market and thus a very lucrative business. Everybody in the creative community, well most everybody is now suddenly focussed on putting products out that can be used in Bible and Faith journaling. And because of my own experience with the industry, local industry, my heart was sinking in my shoes. My spirit responded with uneasiness. Peace is a sign God is present and approving. No peace...not so much. 

I also felt that at Ivytree Studio we have always shined our light for Jesus in everything we do. All our products are free from occult images and content like mandalas (yes horribly occult!!), Halloween, fairies, dreamcatchers (also occult and I see ladies add it to their Bibles...jikes!)  Because of our journey with Jesus, both me and Surita, have a witness in what we create. We started out years ago doing prophetic art and developed content for companies with a kingdom perspective on it. God has walked a long road with us to get to this place of freedom where we created what we like and feel He leads us towards. Recently we have been moving more boldly into developing content specifically for Faithgirls. My passion is to guide women towards living a holy worship...to think about what they are using to worship a High and Holy God. Is Spongebob SquarePants really the right content for that? 

Think about why the journaling in your Bible is such a fun way of learning? Isn't that where we all started out in Sunday School or at school learning about Jesus and the Bible? Colouring in those pretty Bible Story pictures and using art products got kids on board easily. It's fun. Isn't that what forms the basis of why girls are now feeling like they are connecting again with their inner child, having fun and when we have fun, we learn better. It happens without effort. Many ladies comment on how it has brought them closer to Jesus. Wow! Great! I love that this is possible, but it is not the only consideration. 

I thought it a great idea to add Gracelilly faith based elements to our collections. I love it. I love using it myself. Suddenly when we added these Gracelilly elements to our products, our sales started dropping. It made no sense. When I stepped out to create Gracelilly printable kits and wrote devotionals, things did change for us and I am so happy we changed direction. Even those diligently promoting Bible Journaling and related products wanted our paper elements, but they didn't want us, or our workshops or use our devotionals. Strange, right.  When I stepped out to actually step into my calling as a teacher, as a writer (remember God instructed me to "publish"), I felt the rejection like never before. So the enemy was pushing back...and it was actually my sign that we were on the right track. And God brought me to a place where He shared the story of the Sower and the seeds with me again. A familiar passage, but suddenly it had new meaning. He said that the problem wasn't with the seed I was sewing...the problem was the ground I was sewing it into. I had to take a hard look at all the places I was sowing my seeds. 

He lead me to close some doors...difficult to do, but eventually, I got it right and closed it. No more retailers. No more shops. I felt cut off and without community but I realized that I never had real community with them anyway as they were always just interested in the product and the profit they could make from it and never even once interested in me or Surita, to make friends with us, love and support us. Not once in one instance did I feel that and that was my sign...the wrong ground. 

Then God did wonderful things for us. Things we would never have been able to hustle up ourselves. We connected with the Editor of the Lèèf Magazine about getting some old magazines I could use for the Dreambook Workshops and Christine connected back with us. I ended up doing TWO radio interviews with her and she published two articles about us in the online version and recently in the physical printed version of the magazine. I was really blown away. I have always dreamed about featuring in my favorite magazine and God accomplished it without me trying to end up there myself. It just happened...naturally. I would much rather be part of a Faithgirl community of women who follow hard after God and whose intentions and habits are grounded in Jesus Christ and His Word. Women who love to honor their King with what they do. 

I don't want to be part of creative industry who push products on us so we can 'cover' God's Word until nothing much shows and our time with Him is limited because we are spending the majority of it on art process and decorating. The same marketing, the same techniques, the same results....but now in the Word...focussed on the Word.  We end up buying more than we can use or need for that matter...hoarding stuff again just so we feel we can keep up with our friends. We lose sight of what is really important. And that is not what God wants for any of us. That is why I have to write about my story, my personal journey, my doubts, my fears, and outcomes. If I want to lead and guide woman towards Jesus, this is my responsibility. God honors honesty. God honors transparency. 

I was recently invited to a local event and I would really have loved to attend. I had to take a hard look at where I was and I realized God had me writing an online experience for Creative Christian women. Something that would take up most of my time and efforts, would re-direct Ivytree Studio totally and could change lives. I had to decide what was more important. Obedience to God and waiting on Him to write this Retreat with me...so a LOT of time with Jesus or to go and teach at a Christian camp for Christian women and get my name in "lights" with all the other teachers attending. God challenged me with the words the organizer used when she invited me: "Let me know if you can think of other teachers I could invite. I would like all the BIG names in Bible Journaling in South Africa to be there". I stopped me in my tracks and I heard Jesus say: "This is also not for you". I felt sad. I needed community. I really wanted to be part of the picture. And I realized that it had nothing to do with the organizer or her invitation. It was kind of her to think of me. I think she is really sincere. I just knew that the hype that was built up around Bible Journaling had trickled into the Body of Christ and Christians were affected in their thinking and speech.  Big names?? And I heard Jesus ask me: Who is the Biggest Name in Bible journaling? Who is supposed to be the Big Name?  That is how the industry has come to change how we think. My heart was answering: You, Jesus...you are the Big Name. And I knew He was asking me to sit this one out. 

I have a song I really love by Francesca Battistelli called "He knows my name": "I don't need my name in lights, because He already knows my name....it is all His stage." And these lyrics ring true:

"Spent today in a conversation
In the mirror face to face with
Somebody less than perfect
I wouldn't choose me first if
I was looking for a champion
In fact, I'd understand if
You picked everyone before me
But that's just not my story
True to who You are
You saw my heart
And made
Something out of nothing"

 When listening to this song, it reminds me of who I am in Him. It also encourages me to step out in faith and tell my story, because my story matters to Him. I have always known that is my ministry...through sharing my very real experiences, He can use me to touch lives. So, I won't keep quiet and like Francesca says in her song, I am meant to be a lion, fearcly moving forward in what Jesus calls me to do. 

And that's why I declined and didn't grab the first opportunity to be part of the local Bible journaling teaching community...meet up with the girls in person...get to know them...as my heart so longs to do. I felt Jesus saying: "I have a better way for you. Follow me." It doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with the invitation, organizer or other teachers she invited. One of them I call my friend and most of them I know and have talked with on Social Media. It's not about them. It is about what Jesus is saying to me. What I encourage is obedience to that Voice. 

Becoming a Bible Journaling teacher is easy. You just need a love of the Word and be a little creative and your in. Have some access to products and a local scrapbook shop or your church group and you have a ministry going. Start a channel on YouTube like I have done, blog or Instagram and Facebook. Things will start to happen. And believe me, it is not supposed to be just for some to teach the Word. I believe we only need the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us, but then we DO need to have Him live inside of us otherwise we are going to open doors in our own lives that should have stayed shut. God's Word teaches us that to be a teacher of the Word, means also that we are held to a higher standard. If we lead people astray, God will deal with us. So, you see, it is not just about you, or what you enjoy to do and share with others. It is about the message, the habits the encouragement, the Word of God you spread. God says He will not let His Word return empty. It has the power to change lives, but if we water it down, if we cover it up, if we distract from it by the pretty things we love, then those actions will take us all somewhere. We need to be mindful and think this through. Can you do a Bible Journaling class with just a Bible, a pen and a notebook? What would you teach then? Would girls attend your class and pay for just that? Probably not. I need to ask the hard questions: Are we in it for the fame, the accolades, the fans, the money we perhaps can make, the fun of it, the process, the products, the techniques, the acceptance, the social interaction? God says we cannot serve two masters. We need to really take a good look at what we are doing and how we are doing it. I know I had to...still do each time I step out to do something. Is it for me or is it for God? 

So, I posted the article I found on ReasonableTheology.com over the weekend in the Gracelilly Faith art community group on Facebook. I wanted to share the article for the benefit of those who, like me perhaps, are struggling with what industry pushes on them or how your personal time with the Lord has changed due to this.  

I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I have been testing the process and here is what I have found: 

I used an old NIV that my Dad received from an old age home...pages were ripped and missing. I decorated it, added tabs and started using it as a "Journal Bible". Don't get me wrong, I treasure it as much as any of my other Bibles. I gave it a new life and purpose again. That makes me feel good. But it doesn't offer much in terms of space to journal or respond creatively. It ends up putting you in a predicament after adding tip-in pages upon ti-in pages to art and scribble notes on, that you end up doing exactly what the Word teaches us not to do...covering the text.  It is inevitable and you will probably end up there. Because you can only add so much to a Bible before the spine splits, you need to think about what you are doing and where it is taking you. You are adding to the Word and you are taking from it when you add the product to the extent that you cannot read the text any longer and abandoned that Bible for another and yet another.  I even considered buying a journal Bible at one point. But something stopped me...or rather Someone.  The only type of Bible I would, however, consider buying is the large Illustrated Faith Bible with the big margins, but I would have to save up for many years before being able to afford it. It's just not gonna happen. It doesn't make financial sense. So, back to square one. I can't do what I see other girls are doing. So is that really a problem then? And for a while, it bugged me until God gave me my peace back. I have always journaled about the Word. I have always been engaging with it in my own creative way. I am a journaler. See, He took me back to who He made me to be...who I was already and that settled me right down. I need to enjoy my time with Him even if it doesn't look designer or like anything other girls are doing or promoting. 

Then I also realized that it was putting so much pressure on me to be creative each time I entered the Word, that I was spending less and less time just studying. The prep of getting everything together...from paints, craft mats, all the tools and and and...it drove me nuts. So, I am back at just my Life Application Bible, a  notebook and a pen and a couple of colour pencils to highlight...and I am connecting with Jesus like I use to. Just me and Him and His Word. That is important to note...back in the Word...learning, reading, talking to God and Him talking to me through His Word. Why should it be any more complicated? 

Then there is the need for community we all have and it is encouraged by the Word to not neglect that. We are also encouraged to disciple others and lead them to the Lord. My husband has been encouraging me lately to just live out my ministry and leave the "doing business" behind because he can see how industry has affected me and how I blossom when I am busy with the things of Jesus and His Word. I am a much nicer person when I just live out my calling. But like Paul and many of the apostles, I would love to pay my own way and I feel God gave me a Word about eating from the fruit of my hands. He will bless it and He has never let me down. 

I would like to share with you my comments on the post I shared on our Facebook group in response to the article on ReasonableTheology.com 

What is important to note is that it is more about your personal journey with Jesus and what He speaks to you. Sharing my own thoughts here is not about judging my fellow Bible Journaling community or teachers for that matter. We are each called to a ministry that is unique to each of us. 

What I am trying to encourage teachers with, is:

1. to be careful of worldly industries and not to lose focus and be lead astray by the importance you place on products and techniques. 
2. Also to be careful with what you teach others to do in and with the Holy Word of God. It is not the book that I am referring to, but we should always be careful when we step out to teach God's Word. Make sure you have His seal of approval on what you are doing and where you are doing it and with whom. 
3. Make sure He calls you to do that specific thing the way you are doing it. 
4. Make sure your motives in doing it is pure and that it is not about getting your name in lights, but putting the Big Big Name of Jesus up there. If He is satisfied with you, He will bring you to the stage to sing His praises. Don't work to put yourself up there. Don't do it for the accolades and the congratulations and the "Oh it's wonderful or beautiful" or "you are the expert" or "you are the best".  Jesus deserves ALL our praise ALL OF THE TIME. What we are, is all from Him and because of Him. Without Him, we are nothing and what we do, is nothing...really...it means nothing in comparison. 
5. Never let the words of people determine your worth...no matter if it feels good to hear or not. It will mislead you every time and if you find yourself on a stage in the lights and Jesus is in the shadows behind you, then you can know you are in the wrong place. But if He puts you there and you shine His Wonderful Name in the lights for all to see, then you are exactly where He wants for you to be. Let Him lead you there on His own time. 

So here is my Facebook comments to the post on "Is Bible Journaling good for Bible Study?":
The peace that God gives, is important. My habits over the years to study the Word and write down what I learned, adding my prayers to it, shouldn't change now because industry pushes a new 'way' on us. I feel that it is important to be able to access and read the Word. Journaling artistically is a natural thing for me too but doing it in a Bible or on top of the text that I want and need to read, isn't. I love notebooks and journals…always have and that will never change so my habits of working and growing spiritually in my notebooks have grown so much over time. It gives me so much satisfaction to fill my journals. I just don't feel like I would pay R600 to R2200 plus for a journal Bible just to have my creative expressions and notes next to the Word…even though it might be practical to have it all in one place.

Some feel it is OK to cover the text, but because I know what the Word says about this, I feel that we should honor the Word and how we engage with it, with our habits too. I don't have peace about covering Bible text with paint...I just don't. The action of 'covering' what God wants us to see, read and become part of us, the habit of doing that, can end up becoming a spiritual habit more than an artistic choice. That is what I am worried about and what comes out in the article. God says the Holy Spirit will be a Voice that directs us and if we go down a path He didn't intend for us to go, we will hear that Voice that tells us to turn back and get back on track. I feel that is how He is leading me. That is why I feel like I want to offer women an alternative. So, just on the issue of covering the actual text, I am convinced by the Word and the soft Voice and prompting of the Holy Spirit, not to do it.

I talked it over with my family too and another Bible Journaler recently and I feel that this is the major issue for me...the covering of the text and the pressure of now feeling required to art each time I spend time in the Word. If Bible journaling comes between you and God or quietly moves you further from that connection with Him, I recommend you don't do it. BUT if it brings you into a deeper connection with Jesus, please continue. It comes down to what God works in your life and if you respond and HOW you respond in return. 

This is an important conversation to have as we are called not to follow the wisdom or leading and influence of this world blindly. It is harder to refrain from doing something you believe God is calling you not to participate in than to follow popular culture and what everybody seems to be doing without a problem. It is also not about judging what anybody else is doing. We are called to be fruit inspectors, not judges. It is therefore about what you yourself decide to do...it is between you and God and I will always encourage woman to listen to God's Voice above what people say. That includes me. 

For me as an artist expressing my deepest feelings or what I have learned, will be creative in some way. I want access to the full text of God's Word and I also would like to have it all in one place so I can track what God teaches me. I believe in dating my reading and journaling. I believe in physically responding to the Word. I am also a teacher so being tactile in the learning process is beneficial.

So how can we apply these things to the way we do 'Bible journaling'?
1. Honour God and His Word by how you do it and this would be through the habits you form.
2. Don't let pop culture change the way you have always grown spiritually
3. Let your worship be sincere and motivated by the right reasons.
4. Don't get distracted by the products or techniques or industry when Jesus should be your focus. If you have allowed the artistic side of it sidetrack you from putting Jesus first, then be determined to get back on track. Be intentional about your habits.
5. A final comment would be that if you feel pressured into things or feel like what you are doing is lacking in some way because of what you see online or experience in classes, just remember that God doesn't accuse or makes you feel less than. He disciplines in love and guides us gently. The fear of missing out or keeping up with friends to feel included or part of the picture or accepted...the dynamic of group pressure is still very much a factor to consider even for grown-ups.

If God is convicting you to speak out about something, be obedient. He will reward you even though people may not. I pray that we all act from a place of conviction, love for Jesus and His Word and a desire to connect with Him, the Word and then finally sharing our experiences and stories with each other bravely without fear.

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