Love everlasting (#BibleJournaling)

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“I have loved you with an everlasting love…” – Jeremiah 31:3

This is the verse on which the Rebekah R. Jones’ Original Bible Art Journaling Challenge series, Week 36 is based.

As soon as I saw the word “everlasting” I thought of dried flowers, which are sometimes called everlastings. My mom used to grow gorgeous everlastings—strawflowers, statice, love-in-a-mist (nigella), Chinese lantern, and more.

She got me interested in trying my hand at it. I did, and for a few years I made dried arrangements out of my dried roses, statice, hydrangea, baby’s breath, tansy, nigella pods. So fun—but messy!

I decided to decorate this page of my Bible with everlastings. Working on this drawing of straw flowers, statice, celosia and nigella was like stepping back into time. I just wish I could have shown Mom, who died in 2006, but whose love I sensed as I worked on it. Of course God’s love lasts longer and is stronger than any mother’s!

Thank you, Jesus, for your truly everlasting love!

Jer 31_3 (BJ)

Bible Journal entry for Jeremiah 31:3 (Photo © 2018 by V. Nesdoly)

Media used: Pigma micron pens and pencil crayon.

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.)

 

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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Casting out Fear #BibleJournaling

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Hi! It’s Tuesday again–already!– and time for another Bible art journaling project.

The challenge:

In the Rebekah Jones Original Bible Art Journaling Challenges that I’ve been getting, Week 7 focused on a verse from 1 John that I’ve always struggled with: 1 John 4:18:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18 NKJV).

I do not live a fear-free life and have often berated myself with this verse. What’s wrong with me!? My imperfect love notwithstanding, I welcomed a chance to meditate on this verse in a visual way.

The project:

Rebekah’s blog post and video lesson is HERE

If you check it out, you’ll see that her visual is a set of tags (like one would find attached to new clothes), with the words “Perfect love casts out fear” on them. The word “fear” is untied from the rest, and about to slip to the ground. It’s simple and beautiful.

As at other times, I didn’t have her supplies but loved the idea of getting rid of fear in some way. As I pondered this, a picture came to mind of “Love” as a heart, pushing “Fear” off the page.

I sketched it with pencil, outlined with Pigma Micron pens, and used pencil crayon to do the coloring.

I added the house at the top, from which fear was cast, as a symbol of my life. For in verse 16 I see:

“God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him.”

That tells me that God lives in me and if He is there, there is no room for fear in the same house.

Fear’s chain and leg irons symbolize Fear’s torment, which are thrown out together with their master.

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As I worked through the process of illustrating these verses, I believe I came to a better understanding of this difficult (to-me) passage than I ever have before. I continue to be surprised by how art journaling is adding life, color, and relevance to my Bible study.

Messy Grace – review

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Messy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing ConvictionMessy Grace: How a Pastor with Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction by Caleb Kaltenbach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Caleb Kaltenbach’s story of how he came to faith in Christ while being raised by two lesbian moms and a closet-gay dad is fascinating in its own right. The biblical teaching on homosexuality and the church that he weaves through the telling make this a must-read for 21st century Christians grappling with current cultural norms of sexual identity.

Though Kaltenbach never strays from supporting what the Bible says about homosexuality (he spends an entire chapter reviewing what both the Old and New Testaments say), neither does he minimize the difficulty of living by its culturally unpopular position. The word “messy” probably occurs more than any other adjective in the book. Again and again Kaltenbach reminds us that God’s dealings with all us flawed, sinful people is a messy business and a church’s grace-filled response to people within the LGBT community will be no different:

“Messiness is what happens when you try to live out God’s perfect grace as a flawed person in a flawed world” – Kindle Location 212.

The book is easy to read. Kaltenbach’s tone is one of a fellow traveler who is on the road to the same place as the reader. The narrative and teaching parts are interspersed in such a way as to maintain the story’s pace and keep our interest.

In my opinion, several aspects of Messy Grace make it an important book:

* Kaltenbach’s unique perspective of having grown up in and thus understanding of the LGBT community. His mom and her partner routinely took him to parties, marches, and Gay Pride parades. Both sets of parents were devastated when he “came out” as a Christian—an experience he likens to what LGBT folks experience when they come out to their families.

* Kaltenbach’s exemplary treatment of his parents. Even though he didn’t approve of their lifestyle, he never broke off his relationship with them, but instead loved and supported them through their ups and downs.

* The pastoral perspective Kaltenbach brings to the issue. As a pastor himself, he makes a passionate and compassionate case for the church to welcome, love, and care for members of the LGBT community. In this department he also challenges pastors and church leaders to think through their responses to twenty questions that pose difficult but relevant scenarios: E.g.:

“Would you allow a same-sex couple to attend your church?”

and

“If a man who had a sex change to be a women started attending your church, could that person attend your women’s ministry?”

and

“What is the plan for the student ministry staff and volunteers when a teenager comes out or expresses same-sex attraction?” – Kindle Location 2365-2390.

Messy Grace is moving and timely. Kaltenbach’s insistence on supporting the truth of Scripture while maintaining a loving attitude toward LGBT individuals is an example of how the church can break down walls of denial, isolationism, verbal abuse, hatred, and fear—even though the process is guaranteed to be messy.

I received Messy Grace as a gift from Blogging for Books for the purpose of writing a review.

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It’s time to see “God loves me”

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Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly

 

For the last few years, many of the clocks that I use—like the ones on my computer, ipod, kitchen stove, bedside, car, and digital photo album—display the time in a three- or four-number readout. Often when I check the time, I notice what one could call a lucky hand if playing cards—like 11:11 (four aces); 2:22, 4:44 or 5:55 (three of a kind), or 12:34 (a straight).

However, I don’t believe in luck. As someone who knows that God is present moment-by-moment in my life, I decided, a few years ago to interpret those “lucky” series of numbers as little love notes from God. So for the last few years, each time one of my digital clocks displays a good hand, I take it as a little nudge from God—His way of saying, “I see you, Violet, and I love you.”

It’s amazing how often I happen to glance at a clock at the exact moment it displays one of those times. And it’s amazing  too what a difference it makes in my day to be reminded that God sees and loves me.

 

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This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning. This week the theme is “He calls you Beloved.”

Courting Cate (review)

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Courting CateCourting Cate by Leslie Gould
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At 23, Cate Miller is considered practically on the shelf by the Amish community of Paradise, Pennsylvania. A serious bookworm of a girl, tall, with dark hair, she lacks everything her small, blonde, happy sister Betsy has at 17, including a boyfriend. That’s something their widower father is determined to change, however, when he announces, one spring day, that Betsy will not be allowed to marry before Cate does.

Cate meets Pete Treger at the bookmobile and there’s instant interest on her part. But the way his eyes sparkle when they first light on Betsy convinces Cate he’s just another of Betsy’s potential conquests.

Lots of plot twists and turns make this an Amish fiction like no other I’ve read. There’s no focus on a Rumschpringe (an Amish teen girl or boy’s running-around time), no hankering after the non-Amish life, no Amish girl falling for an outsider or vice versa. But there are lots of complicated family dynamics in this book about loyalty, sacrifice, and love.

Courting Cate is another book I read just for fun this summer and I found it a great read!

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