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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Promises for new beginnings #BibleJournaling

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The day after Labour Day (that would be today) always feels like an end and a beginning: summer vacation has officially ended, the new school year begins.

New brings excitement and anticipation. But it can also hold dread, worry, and anxiety, especially for students and their parents.

Two passages that have meant a lot to me when I face the future, worrisome or not, are from Isaiah 41 and Matthew 6.

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Bible art journal for Isaiah 41:10 (© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly)

“Fear not for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10.

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Bible art journal for Matthew 6:25-30 – (© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly)

“‘Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body what you will put on…

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them …

Consider the lilies of the field how they grow: they neither toil nor spin ….

Now if God so clothes the grass of the field… will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith’” – Jesus in Matthew 6:25-30.

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“teach me” poem tip-in (© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly)

And the tip-in poem:

teach me

the sweet leisureliness
of being a lily
the implicit trust
of my child-hand
in Yours
the unlikely joy
that sings sparrow-songs
even when I’m on the ground

VN – 2007

The lettering and doodles were done with pen, coloured with pencil crayons. I printed the tip-in poem on tracing paper and stuck in place with Washi tape.

Wishing all students and their parents a “God-with-you” first day of school!!

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Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

We need the rain! #BibleJournaling

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Who would think, after the long, cold, wet winter and spring we’ve had, that our province (B.C.) would be panting for rain? Yet the hundreds of wildfires that have been burning for several weeks now have us praying for the relief of a physical downpour.

Hubby and I spent last weekend at a series of gospel music concerts in Red Deer, Alberta. Our drive home, though on a route well away from the fires, took us through kilometre after kilometre of smoke-filled air.

 

And so today I am attracted to the Bible art journal entry I made on July 6th. It was in response to this refreshing verse:

“For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
And floods on the dry ground;
I will pour My Spirit on your descendants,
And my blessing on your offspring.” Isaiah 44:3.

The verse brought to mind a cloud pouring drops of rain. Rain is falling on the willows (Isaiah 44:4) which are already green because they live beside the river.

My Bible study in relation to it had me hunting for passages that spoke of how Holy Spirit’s rain benefits us. I printed the verse references inside the droplets and the description beside:

A Gift – Acts 2:38
For Prophecy – 1 Peter 1:10-12
On Young and Old – Joel 2:28
We can ask – Luke 11:13
Life-Giver – Romans 8:11
Baptizer – 1 Corinthians 12:13
Prays for us – Romans 8:26,27
Spirit of Grace and Supplication – Zechariah 12:19
Helper – John 14:6; 16:7
Teacher – John 2:27: Luke 12:12
For Power – Luke 24:29; Acts 1:8

I used Pigma Micron pens for the drawing and lettering, and pencil crayons to add color.

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Bible Art Journal for Isaiah 44:3 – (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

Our surroundings—the tinder-dry forests and grasses, the smoke-filled air—are eloquent reminders of how we need physical rain. Do we as readily recognize our need for the rain of the Spirit? How might our spiritual drought manifest itself?

Permission Pages #BibleJournaling

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A while ago I came across blog post: “Permission Pages: the perfectionist’s approach to the journaling Bible.” Lauren, the creator of that post, explains well what “Permission Pages” are and why one might want to create one, or several, in a journaling Bible.

I loved the idea and added two as tip-ins at the front of my Bible. If you view Lauren’s original post, you’ll see that I included many of her ideas on my pages and added a few more of my own.

The pages are parchment paper, attached to the inside of the front cover pages with washi tape. The lettering was done with Pigma Micron pens, the coloring with pencil crayons.

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“This Bible is for…” permission page 1 (V. Nesdoly)

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“This Bible is not for …” and “These pages may …” permission page 2 (V. Nesdoly)

Creating these pages was a good way for me to revisit why I’m doing this, and my expectations of myself and what the process of Bible art journaling will do for me. If you’re a Bible journaler, you might want to create permission pages for your journaling Bible.

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Sing … #BibleJournaling

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Music plays a big part in my life. When I’m not doing brain intensive work, I almost always have music playing. I do listen to some oldies from the past, but mostly praise, worship, and gospel music is the sound track of my life.

The challenge to do an art journal project on Psalm 98—a very musical psalm—came from Rebekah Jones (Original Bible Art Journaling Challenge Week 4). She used stamps of piano keys and a musical score to create a stunning illustration for her Bible.

I decided to use my own imagination in a doodle that included some of the instruments mentioned in the psalm, along with others.

When I did this project (mid-May) I had just received a set of water colours and I wanted to try them out. So I treated the page with gesso (though I’ve been told that water colour doesn’t bleed through even without treating).

The image in my mind was a waterfall of music, tumbling down the margin of the page, from my focus verse (conveniently situation at the very top). I included a harp, other stringed instruments, a pipe and, because I think it’s so important to start early, a drawing of the Fisher Price rainbow xylophone my kids loved, along with a child’s drum. Of course people, belting it out had to be in there too, along with notes.

I sketched all with pencil, painted everything in, and used my micron pens to sharpen the details. I highlighted the verse with a BibleJournaling highlighter, coloured the green area beside the waterfall with water colour pencil and then added water to create a wash effect. I finished everything off using my white gel pen to make glistens in the drops.

This is still one of my favourite Bible art journal pieces. It makes me feel like singing!

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Bible art journal project – Psalm 98:5,6: “Sing to the Lord” (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

 

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.

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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