Strong tower name #BibleJournaling

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A short while after I was introduced to Bible journaling, I was reading through Proverbs. When I came to Proverbs 18:10…

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower,
The righteous run into it and are safe”

a picture popped into my head of a tower, the bricks of which would be inscribed with the names of God.

I sat on this idea for a while, fearful that my limited artistic skill wasn’t up to reproducing the picture in my head. But then I decided to give it a try.

To draw the tower, I found photos of an actual tower in Portugal that looked sturdy and strong enough to be a place of refuge. (As I write this and search for the tower image again, I discover that it’s actually called the “Tower of Belem” in English: Bethlehem!)

I copied it as best I could, and then found a list of the names of God in my Thompson Chain Bible. Not all of them fit on the bricks, but many did. Some, like “I Am,” are repeated several times, because that name, associated with God and Jesus comes up many times and in different ways.

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In the Bible, the name of someone represents the essence of all he or she is. We are kept by all God is—His attributes of omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, love, holiness etc. It’s an amazing and comforting thought!

Presence Blessing #BibleJournaling

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Some of the things I’m putting in my journal Bible are pieces I’ve written in the past about Bible characters and events. One such is a poem I wrote in 2003—“Presence Blessing” sparked by 1 Chronicles 13:14.

The backstory: David wanted to move the Ark of the Covenant from someone’s house to Jerusalem, the centre of worship. Instead of moving it in the prescribed way (carried on poles by the priests) he had it placed on an ox-pulled cart. In transit, when it shifted and threatened to fall, a man reached out to steady it. When he touched it, he fell dead. God’s power, that was on the Ark, was not to be tampered with.

David was shocked and grieved. He stopped the Ark right there and left it in the house of Obed-Edom.

It was in Obed-Edom’s house for a mere three months. Yet during that time, it was obvious to everyone that God’s blessing was on him and his family (1 Chronicles 13:14). How might that have looked and felt, I asked myself. “Presence Blessing” was the result of my musing on those questions.

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Rubber stamps

Method and Materials: To do my Bible journal entry I decided to use some decorative rubber stamps of fruits and vegetables I had from years ago (typifying the bounty I imagined Obed-Edom experienced as God’s blessing). The glaze that came with them is long dried, but I found that loading them with brush marker ink worked fine.

I tried it out on scrap paper and saw that the ink bled through even copy paper, so I knew it would wreck the thin, unprotected pages of my Bible. Thus I prepped my page with transparent gesso before doing any stamping.

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Page, stamped & outlined with pen.

The plan was to decorate the right margin of the Bible page and attach the poem, hand-printed on tracing paper, as a tip in. I stamped the page fine, but then the washi tape wouldn’t adhere to the gesso-treated page. Need a Plan B.

I decided to attach the poem to the facing page instead. Once attached, it felt like it needed a little decoration behind, but nothing with words as the tracing paper is pretty thin and words under would make the poem hard to read.

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Pencil-crayoned rainbow.

I came up with idea of a rainbow, which I coloured with pencil crayons.

After it was all done, I was happy with the look of it. And on second thought,  I realized the rainbow is a wonderful symbol of God’s presence.

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The thin tracing paper allows the rainbow to shine through.

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The two-page spread.

Some rainbows in the Bible:

  • Gods first rainbow was a covenant with the people of Earth – Genesis 9:12-17.
  • Rainbow light surrounded God’s throne in both Ezekiel’s and John’s visions – Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 4:2-3.
  • A little article I found on rainbows in the Bible concludes with this thought about them:

    “All mention of rainbows in Scripture have a direct connection to the power and glory of God.

    “The sign of the rainbow was meant to be ‘for all future generations’ (Genesis 9:12). When we see a rainbow now, we can let it be a reminder of our covenant-keeping God and His indescribable beauty.”

    And so with that little experience, I’m finding that Bible journaling is not only fun and creatively challenging but it’s taking me, sometimes consciously, sometimes intuitively, in good, even prophetic directions!

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A Writer’s Notebook

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Image: Pixabay

A Writer’s Notebook

In the last few years I have become bored with journaling. Oh, I still journal a bit. But I sure don’t fill the reams of paper I used to. A downside of this is that I no longer have the bulk of material to sift through for possible writing ideas that I once did. Add to that the importance common wisdom places on writers keeping notebooks and is it any wonder I’m starting to feel left behind and guilty because I’m neglecting something that’s important for a writer?

Perhaps that’s why a while ago the blog Sharing Our Notebooks caught my attention. Maintained by children’s poet, author, and teacher Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, the blog talks only about notebooks and how people—mostly writers and other creatives—use them. Through it I stumbled on an entire book about writers’ notebooks. I am learning so much as I get educated, not about journaling but about keeping a writer’s notebook. Let me share some of these things with you.

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Image: Pixabay

 

What is a writer’s notebook?

“Let’s start by talking about what it is not,” says Ralph Fletcher in his book A Writer’s Notebook. “A writer’s notebook is not a diary”1

Fletcher goes on to give us some ideas of what a writer’s notebook is. He tells us that though writers experience the gamut of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations like everyone else, they differ from others in that they take notice of their reactions to those things. And the place to collect those reactions is the writer’s notebook. He concludes: “A writer’s notebook gives you a place to live like a writer … wherever you are, at any time of day.”2

Alan Wright, an Australian author and educational consultant would agree: “People who write get to live life twice—in the moment and in retrospect. That’s what sets writers apart. I rarely go anywhere or do anything without the shadow of my writing self being part of the adventure. Every experience provides opportunities to harvest writing ideas.”3 And the things stored in a writer’s notebook only increase in value, according to teacher and naturalist Bill Michalek: “…the diary-type entries become more and more valuable the older they get … let months or years go by, and those entries are time machines.”4

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Image: Pixabay

What do we put in a writer’s notebook?

The list of possibilities is long and includes:

  • Our reactions to life, as discussed above.
  • Things that move, haunt, or inspire us. Fletcher says, “People are different. What dazzles one person might bore the next. The question is: what moves you? As a writer, you need to be able to answer that question and take note of it.” 5 Small, telling details of scenes, experiences, and interactions. The advice from more than one notebook-keeper is to train ourselves to notice details and use all our senses to capture our impressions in precise words (not the room “smells nice” but “smells like vanilla”). We need to look for and note the telling detail of body language and facial expression. Fletcher again: “The world is jam-packed with millions of details to notice; in your notebook you’ll only have room for a tiny fraction. Try to select the ones that capture what’s really important.”6
  • Ideas. The advice is unanimous on this:

Alan Wright: “I never know when an idea might arrive, so I must be ready to receive it, and my notebook is my catcher.”7

Ralph Fletcher: “It gives you a place to write down an idea before it wriggles out of your overloaded memory.”8

Peter Salomon (children’s author): “I have a dreadful fear of coming up with a great idea and then forgetting it, so notebooks are a lifesaver.”9

  • Facts and trivia. One notebook keeper tells how his habit of collecting spider facts led to writing an entire book about spiders.
  • Significant objects. Alan Wright collected a group of objects that was meaningful to him, took a photo, and put it in his notebook as a writing prompt. Some people make sure their notebooks come with pockets so they can collect actual artifacts (ticket stubs, programs, photos, and other memorabilia).
  • Great writing. Though Fletcher felt guilty the first time he put someone else’s writing in his notebook, he later changed his mind. He says, “I’ve learned that if I’m going to write well, I need to surround my words with the beautiful writing of others.”10
  • Idea-sparkers like photos, comic strips, and news articles.
  • Overheard dialogue and arguments between strangers, friends, and family.
  • Lists. All kinds of lists like the books we’ve read, favourite words, rhyming words, cities visited, movies seen, favourite characters…whatever!
  • Ideas for future projects.
  • Doodles and sketches.
  • Memories.
  • Sayings about writing and writers that inspire us and help us persevere.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

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Image: Pixabay

 

What makes a good notebook?

I purposely put the question of what sort of book to choose after listing the kinds of things that might go into a notebook, because the choice of book will depend on what we’ll collect in it and how we will use it. Some writers have several notebooks, each for a different purpose. Notebooks vary in size from small enough to fit in a pocket, to large scrapbooks with sturdy pockets. Some people like stitched notebooks with beautiful covers. Others prefer coil-bound scribblers. Sketchers and doodlers may want paper with no lines. Those who write a lot of longhand may want a stiff cover that doubles as a writing surface. Fletcher reminds us: “Your notebook is uniquely yours.”11 Only we can decide what kind of book we will use and what we will put in it.

How can we get a writer’s mileage out of our notebooks?

Read and reread it. Poet Naomi Shihab Nye says: “Rereading notebooks is like reliving your life. I think they’re more important than money in the bank.”12

Fletcher suggests that we reread our writer’s notebooks differently than we read a book. “When I read a book or a poem, I am focusing on being the reader. When I read my own notebook my attention is split: I am half-reader and half-writer all at the same time.”13

Here are some questions Fletcher proposes we ask ourselves as we read our notebooks:

“What seems interesting/intriguing to me? What stuff do I most deeply care about? What ideas keep tugging at me? What seems bold and original? Where does the writing seem fresh and new?”14

Mark the ideas/lines/sections you like, choose one, and on a new page of your notebook, work on that idea, clustering, listing or brainstorming around it as you begin to prepare it for prime time.

We need to realize, however, that most of the writing in our notebooks will never germinate into anything. That’s okay too. Because the very act of noticing and writing things down makes us more observant, alert people—all part of the package we need to be successful writers.

Writer’s notebooks are as old as Leonardo Da Vinci. I’m sure they’re not a novel idea to most of us. But if you’re like me and have been viewing your notebook as a place to dutifully keep track of the details of life, or have become lazy about writing things down at all, maybe you’ll join me in making a new start at keeping a writer’s notebook.

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Footnotes

1 Ralph Fletcher, A Writer’s Notebook, Harper Collins, 1996, Kindle Location (KL) 52

2 Ibid, KL 59.

3 Alan Wright, “The Essential Question – Why?” sidebar box on Living Life Twice , last accessed September 17, 2012.

4 Bill Michalek, “Bill Michalek – The Page is a Listener,” Sharing Our Notebooks < http://tinyurl.com/8p4nhyn >, last accessed September 17, 2012.

5 Fletcher, Op. Cit, KL 122.

6 Ibid, KL 265.

7 Alan Wright, “Alan Wright: My Notebook Is My Catcher,” Sharing Our Notebooks, < http://tinyurl.com/94bxujs >, last accessed September 17, 2012.

8 Fletcher, Op. Cit., KL 333.

9 Peter Adam Salomon, “Peter Adam Salomon: More Emory Notebooks,” Sharing Our Notebooks, <http://tinyurl.com/9ebr6w2&gt;, last accessed September 17, 2012.

10 Fletcher, Op. Cit., KL 1101

11 Ibid., KL 94

12 Naomi Shihab Nye, quoted in Fletcher, Op. Cit., KL 720.

13 Fletcher, Op. Cit., KL 1262.

14 Ibid.

This article has been previously published in the November 2012 issue of FellowScript.

IS IT KIND? #BibleJournaling

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Mother’s Day has just passed and I would be surprised if, in the last weekend of honouring mothers, you haven’t bumped into some reference to the model mother and wife of Proverbs 31.

In a Bible Journal instruction email I get regularly, Rebekah R. Jones challenged us to journal about this chapter. She demonstrated what she did in her Bible using a lettering stencil with a phrase from Proverbs 31.

Trouble is, I don’t have the stencil or the space on my Bible page needed for it. So instead, I thought about my favourite (and probably most challenging) verse from Proverbs 31:
“She opens her mouth with wisdom
And on her tongue is the law of kindness” – Proverbs 31:26.

Considering the space I had on my Bible page, I decided to frame my response to this verse as a short question I can ask myself: “IS IT KIND?”

I made the letters by typing the words in Cooper, font size 120, printing, then tracing them in my Bible.

I noticed a reference to this woman making tapestry (vs. 22) so doodled tapestry-like designs inside the letters using various sizes of Pigma Micron pens.  At first I was going to add colour as well but after doing the flower and heart decorations (pencil crayons) I felt the page was busy enough, so left the words in black and white.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve meditated on the “law of kindness.” My 2015 Mother’s Day meditation in Other Food Devos was on that very subject. It even contains a list of some of the things that are part of the “law of kindness.” You can read it HERE.

I asked myself then, and still today: If someone wrote about me in a Proverbs 31 way, would they say my tongue was governed by kindness? I know the answer. A little more adding and diligence is definitely in order (2 Peter 1:5-7). What about you?

Surrounded by songs #BibleJournaling

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I’ve found several Bible verses to go along with my 2017 word LISTEN. One is Zephaniah 3:17:

“The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Isn’t that beautiful? I had to make an entry for it in my journaling Bible.

The image that comes to mind when I hear that verse is a mother singing to her baby. I decided to try doing a baby sketch, but in a tree. A google image search pulled up a graphic that I somewhat copied.

I found simple bird sketches in The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling and penciled them in freehand, then inked over all the pencil lines with Pigma Micron pens (I have three: .01, .03, .05). I used pencil crayons to do the coloring.

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Entry for Zephaniah 3:17 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

A little sequel:
Last week was my birthday. The morning after, as I lay in bed, the thought came to me: I forgot to spend some birthday time with the Lord yesterday.

As I breathed my “So sorry Lord” prayer, it was like He said to me, “That’s okay. I still have a present for you. It’s the music that I sing over you.”

About an hour later, hubby and I were in church at our early morning prayer meeting. We start that time with worship and this morning our leader, Joel, began with the beautiful song “No Longer Slaves” (Bethel Music). It starts:

“You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance, from my enemies
All my fears are gone…”

{{Shivers}} What a birthday present! Thank you Lord!!

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A new focus—Bible Journaling

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For the last little while things have been quiet on this blog as I haven’t been reading and reviewing as many books as I used to. However, the discovery of a new “art”—Bible journaling—will be changing that.

A little over a month ago I received, for the purpose of review, The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling. As someone who has always loved the graphic arts (though I’ve never excelled at them) this book with its examples of people’s visual responses to the Bible inspired me to try my hand at it.

As I’ve started Bible journaling and checked it out online, I’ve discovered it’s a big and only-getting-bigger area of interest for, especially, women who love the Bible, are visual learners, and good at making beautiful things. There’s so much to learn and so much to be inspired by.

I don’t expect I’ll ever reach the skill heights of lettering and drawing that many of these journalers show in the creations that illuminate the margins and sometimes entire pages of their journaling Bibles. But I love how the practice challenges me to interact with the God’s Word in a new way. And since the focus for my writing over the last few years has become “Bringing the Bible to Life” and I have this blog, I’ve decided to share a weekly Bible journaling post here. I have met other Bible journalers and hope to also feature some of them and their work.

To get started with this I searched my bookshelf and found an old Notebook New Testament from the 1970s. It’s only slightly used and with its wide margins is perfect for lettering and drawing. (I have since also bought an NKJV Journal The Word large print Bible, pictured below.)

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My first entry was for John 10:3-4—the verse connected with my one-little-word LISTEN for 2017. (I used ballpoint pen and pencil crayons.)

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Entry for John 10:3-4

My second entry was journaling my favourite passage in the whole Bible, which I think of as my life’s verses – Philippians 4:6-7. When I recite these words to myself, I envision taking off all my cares, worries, anxieties, and fears as I would a backpack, and leaving them with Jesus.

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Philippians 4:6-7

Verses from Isaiah came to mind as I worked. I especially wanted to remind myself that when I left those cares behind, I could leave wearing something far more wonderful. (I used ballpoint pen and pencil crayons for these drawings as well.)

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The 2-page spread.

I’m finding that in addition to being a lot of fun, these lettering and drawing exercises inspired by Bible passages are quite stickily helping me retain what I’ve learned.

Are you a Bible journaler? How did you discover it? What is it doing for and in you?

No Limits (review)

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No Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your CapacityNo Limits: Blow the CAP Off Your Capacity by John C. Maxwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though he’ll be 70 this year, John C. Maxwell is still going strong. No Limits, his latest book, gives readers an understanding of what drives him with lots of how-to on staying productive themselves long after one would expect their batteries to be drained.

The book’s organization is based on Maxwell’s formula for reaching maximum capacity: “If you grow in your awareness, develop your abilities and make the right choices, you can reach your capacity” – p. 2.

The first section of only two chapters, explores awareness. The second seven-chapter block focuses on abilities. Maxwell discusses abilities in many spheres including energy, emotion, thinking, people, and leadership. The last eleven-chapter section focuses on choices. It challenges readers to increase personal capacity and the capacity of the group they’re leading by making the right choices in areas like taking responsibility, being intentional, having a positive attitude, faith, being a good partner, and more.

Though the book targets leaders in the world of work, it also has much to offer individuals who lead in informal ways.

I found this book wide-ranging, positive, encouraging, and wise, though it did leave me wondering where Maxwell gets the seemingly boundless energy he has for work, family, and friends. His recitation of the activities of only one of his days left me tired. How does he manage to live such a full and productive life? I would say by actually living his own advice.

Even as I read it, I realized, this is not me. So, though I personally will not be trying everything in this book, I did find myself underlining passages all over the place and will, in the days ahead, implement more than one of Maxwell’s suggestions to hopefully boost my own capacity and productivity.

Here are a few of my favorite bits:

From Thinking Capacity: “Writing about an idea gives your thinking intellectual weight. It creates clarity in your thinking. Talking about an idea gives it emotional weight. It connects your thinking to your heart – p. 83.

From Creative Capacity: “You will become as creative as the amount of time you set aside for it…. There is a relationship between scheduling a time to be creative and being inspired to create” – p. 129.

From Production Capacity: “Find ways to focus your time and attention and work toward eliminating from your schedule anything that doesn’t have a high return” – p. 145.

From Character Capacity: “Good character uses the same standard in every situation. It something is right, it’s always right. If it’s wrong, it’s always wrong. People with good character are consistent” p. 190.

From Discipline Capacity quoting Steven R. Covey: “Once you have a burning yes inside you about what’s truly important, it’s very easy t say no to the unimportant” – p. 214.

This would be a great book for leaders in any field, as well as young people entering the work force, middle-aged workers who are considering where they’ve been and asking where to now, and healthy, energetic seniors who want to make the most of the years remaining.

I received No Limits as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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