Psalms Alive! (review)

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Psalms Alive!Psalms Alive! by David Kitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Psalms Alive! author, pastor, and dramatist David Kitz takes us on a journey through thirteen selected psalms. In the Preface Kitz explains why he wrote the book:

“For the past number of years I have been bringing the Psalms to life for audiences through the medium of live drama. Here now in book form, from a dramatist’s perspective I provide a glimpse into the prayers and praise of the psalmists” 18.

Each of the book’s 26 chapters begins with the quoted scripture passage under discussion. This is followed by Kitz expanding on it in a variety of ways that include personal stories, explanations of biblical customs and settings, devotional inspiration, and challenges to apply the scripture’s advice to life. Each chapter ends with a “Bringing Life to the Psalms” section consisting of three to four discussion and personal application questions.

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Bible art journal on Psalm 19:14 using a quote from Psalms Alive! (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Kitz’s writing is lively, picturesque, and wise. He expands liberally on the ideas presented in the Bible passage. He doesn’t leaves us in the theoretical clouds though, but makes sure his conclusions connect to everyday living. My book is full of underlined sections. Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

From the Preface: “When we handle the Word of God, we are handling life. When we take hold of the Word of God, it takes hold of us” – 17.

From a chapter on Psalm 19: “Your heavenly Father does not need a stethoscope to check on the condition of your heart; he needs only to listen to the words coming out of your mouth” – 43.

From a chapter on Psalm 103: “Relationship is always the wellspring of all revelation. It is while we are in God’s presence that we discover the mind of Christ” – 149.

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Bible art journal detail (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

I used this book, along with others in an online creative Bible study and found much inspiration in it for Bible art journaling. It has deepened and broadened my appreciation of the psalms discussed. It would make an excellent textbook (along with the Bible, of course) for men’s or women’s Bible studies.

I received this book as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review and participating in the study.

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Blessed by Psalm 84 #BibleJournaling

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I love Psalm 84!

David Kitz writes three chapters on it in his book Psalms Alive! I did a Bible journal sketch for each of them.

The first section (Chapter 12 in his book focusing on Psalm 84:1-4) is about living in God’s house. I love the word pictures of sparrows nesting there—all the more because my maiden name was “Sperling” (German), which translates to “sparrow.” I doodled this picture in the margin of my Bible, based on Psalm 84:3,4.

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Bible Journal entry for Psalm 84:3,4 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

The middle section (Chapter 13 – Psalm 84:5-9) is about the faith journey or pilgrimage. I focused on verse 5: “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion” – Psalm 84:5.

Because my Bible margin was already full, I did a journal entry in my sketch book. Ever since I saw the idea of using footprints in a Bible journal entry, I’ve wanted to do that. This seemed like a good place to use that idea.

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Bible journal entry for Psalm 84:5 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

The quotes on the shoe soles are from Chapter 13 of Psalms Alive! (pp. 121-128):

Right (top) shoe:
“He brings hope into the Valley of Despair”
“We are called to a faith journey.”
“He is the great transformer. He brings light into darkness.”
“Read God’s Word daily.”
“It is the way of the cross that will bring us safely into His arms.”
He will be living water.”

 

Left (bottom) shoe:
“The place of weeping becomes a place of living springs when Jesus passes by.”
“We are to undertake this walk together.”
“He brings joy into sorrowful hearts.”
“Bread of Life sustains us.”
“Pray.”
“Hear His voice.”
“Our strength is in the LORD.”
“Strength for our pilgrimage comes only from Him.”

The last section (Chapter 14 – Psalm 84:10-12) was about how this is really a love psalm to God. I chose to illustrate it with a wonderful quote of David Kitz’s that fit on the overleaf side of my Bible—“Love is at the core of every special day”— paired with Psalm 84:10: “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.”

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Bible Journal for Psalm 84:10 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

After all that, I love Psalm 84 even more!

(David’s book Psalms Alive! is really quite wonderful as an in-depth study of selected psalms. His writing is full of vivid word pictures and meaty quotes that make it a perfect resource for those of us attempting to personalize and add colour and images to our Bible pages.)

 

Psalm 23 — a lifetime in my Bible margin #BibleJournaling

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I’ve read Psalm 23 many times (perhaps you have too). And so when I saw that David Kitz gave it two chapters in his book Psalms Alive,* I was curious what he’d all find to say about these six familiar verses.

After reading it, my chapters now have many red underlines. Several of those quotes figure in the doodle I call a lifetime in the margin of my Bible.

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Bible art journal entry for Psalm 23 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

The words I printed on the path are a compilation of a couple of sentences from p. 49 which is so true of the Christian life. Working up from the bottom to the top: “Surrendering the leadership role in my life to the Good Shepherd is a daily conscious decision to follow where He leads.”

The many challenges to that daily conscious decision to follow His lead are depicted by the highways (to Ease, Wealth, Pleasure, Fame, Popularity—and I could have added many more) branching off from the narrow road.

Near the top of the path (near the skull depicting the “valley of the shadow of death”) is this bit that I find most comforting: “During our darkest hour He holds us closest” – p. 54.

And finally at the very top, when we’ve reached our Welcome Home banquet and the golden city: “A good life extends through all eternity”– p. 59. (Hallelujah!)

Singer Audrey Assad sings a lovely song based on the memorable phrase “I shall not want” from this psalm. Enjoy!

*The book of Psalms in the Bible and Psalms Alive by David Kitz are the books some friends and I are reading and responding to creatively in a several-week study.

When You Lose Someone You Love (review)

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When You Lose Someone You LoveWhen You Lose Someone You Love by Joanne Fink

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Author and artist Joanne Fink’s husband Andy died suddenly at only 53 years of age. After 29 years of marriage, Joanne was devastated by his death. A few weeks after he died she began journaling and drawing her thoughts. When You Lose Someone You Love is the result of those cathartic writings and sketches.

This pocket-sized book (it’s 4×6, the dimensions of a photo, and ¼ inch thick) would fit in a small handbag. The pages alternate between artistically whimsical black and white line drawings and easily readable text utilizing a variety of casual craft-type fonts.

Here are some of my favorite pages (I can’t quote page numbers because there aren’t any):

“When you lose someone you love everything seems disjointed.
TIME seems to move at a different pace for you than for everyone else.”

“When you lose someone you love, you can be OK for hours or even days at a time and then totally lose it for No reason at all.”

“When you lose someone you love, you begin your life journey anew.”

Did I say the drawings were black and white. Well, that’s not entirely true for toward the book’s end color begins to make an appearance on the pages (a wonderful metaphor for what’s happening in the bereaved one’s heart and life) … just a bit at first with a little more color added on each succeeding page until the last full-color pages.

This book would make a perfect gift for a new widow, widower, or person who has just said goodbye to a parent, child, sibling or close friend. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen another publication quite like it. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful way to share sympathy and caring.

I received this book as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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Well (review)

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Well: Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West AfricaWell: Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa by Sarah Thebarge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Well, Sarah Thebarge immerses us in her three-month experience of working as a Physicians’ Assistant in a missionary hospital in Togo, West Africa. From her first days of climate and culture shock to her trip back home, she shares not only what she sees, hears, and smells, but also what she feels on many levels—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Many chapters are short. Some are narrative—wonderful storytelling. Others read like essays that speak to large themes of love and the meaning and purpose of life in the shadow of unspeakable suffering and the inequality of the developed versus the developing world. Scattered throughout her chronological account of her Togo experience are flashback stories about her medical training, her battle with breast cancer, and her experiences in Portland.

Thebarge is an excellent writer and a delight to read. She remembers events in amazing detail—though I’m sure some credit goes to her journals, which she repeatedly refers to keeping. However, many of the stories are hard to read because of their content. The book is heavy with heartbreaking tales of death disease, and primitive conditions. Over and over Thebarge refers to Togo as the saddest place on earth. She is deeply affected by the inability of the medical staff to help more people and prevent what appear to be the meaningless deaths of newborns, children, mothers and fathers needed as parents.

Thebarge’s dedication and love are Mother Teresa-esque. One of the most beautiful passages in the book for me was this short exchange between her and Omari, her Togolese work partner:

“I want to see patients like you do.”
‘You already said that,’ I teased him.
“No, no, I mean, I want to look at people like you do.”
“What do you mean? How do I look at people?”
“You look at people with love,” Omari said.
O thought about Massiko’s words, that love looks around.
And the father’s words, “There is love in your eyes.”
And now Omari’s words, ”You look at people with love.” – Well, p. 219.

I would like to recommend this book without reservation, but can’t quite do that. For Thebarge’s theology does not, as I’ve picked it up from Well, agree completely with the Bible. She seems to take a Universalist approach toward the mostly Muslim patients that come to the hospital, implying that in death all will find themselves transported in love to the same loving God.

She is sharply critical of what she calls the “fundamentalist” Baptists who support and run the hospital, offended that the chaplains speak to the dying of hell and how to avoid it.

I found her explanation of the Incarnation interesting as well.

I wondered what, if anything, was the point of Jesus being physically present in our world. What was the significance of Emmanuel—of God being With Us?

If we look at everything Jesus left undone when he departed from the earth, then his presence hardly mattered at all. People were still sick, they still died, they were still oppressed, and they still suffered.

So why did it matter that Emmanuel was here?

As I thought about it, the question became its own answer. Emmanuel’s value did not lie in what he did or didn’t accomplish while he walked the earth. What mattered was that he was here. – p. 294

Maybe I missed it, but in Well I never came across the crux of the Gospel—that Jesus came to earth to show the Father’s love and be with us, yes, but to also die in our stead, to pay the death penalty our sins deserve. His atoning sacrifice is the reason we can look forward to spending eternity with Him and God the Father. Though this is a free gift, it’s a gift we receive when we, with our volition, accept it.

I have nothing but praise for Thebarge’s loving empathetic heart and tireless work. I have much to learn from her. The theological critique notwithstanding, this book is a worthwhile read because of the part of the world it shares and the way it challenges the reader to grapple with issues that Thebarge has faced and worked out in her way.

I received a copy of Well as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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God’s Word #BibleJournaling

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I recently joined a group of friends for a creative Bible study in Psalms. Using the book Psalms Alive by David Kitz, we’ll be working our way through several Psalms in the next weeks. We share our thoughts and creations in a Facebook group (since we’re far apart geographically).

We started our study by reading David’s Preface. I underlined statements like:

“Within the Psalms we hear the deepest longings of the human heart.”

“When we handle the Word of God, we are handling life.”

and

“When we take hold of the Word of God, it takes hold of us.”

That last really grabbed my imagination, so I decided to reflect on it in a drawing. I paired it with Psalm 119:25-32, which is full of how God’s Word, interacting with us, brings changes—positive changes.

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Bible Journal  entry for Psalm 119:25-32 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Let’s accept the challenge to allow God’s word to revive us, teach us, strengthen us, give us understanding, remove things from us, and more as we move toward the goal of a God-enlarged heart:

“I will run the course of Your commandments,
For You shall enlarge my heart” – Psalm 119:32.

 

Stillness #BibleJournaling

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There is something about walking in moonlight that makes me feel reflective. Experiencing the mountains on a moonlit night is also a good place to feel the mystery of light and be awed by the beauty and bigness of creation.

Stillness, awe, and majesty were feelings I was trying to portray in this water color painting to go with Psalm 46:8 and 10: “Come, behold the works of the LORD, … Be still and know that I am God.”

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Bible Journal entry for Psalm 46:8,10 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

(I prepped this page with clear gesso before doing the water color painting and used a white GellyRoll pen to do the lettering and highlights.)