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This is for the Outliers

Visual Faith has been a part of my faith journey for over 3 years now. That doesn’t seem like such a long time, compared to many of you, for whom visual expressions of faith have been happening for decades. I started out as a lurker. I would ooooh and aaaah over Pat Maier’s Bible study margins, as she shared them with me on a casual basis. And I would marvel at the mixed media items that Connie Denninger created when I attended a seminar she was presenting. But my participation when no further than that.

Or did it and I just didn’t know what to call it?

Part of my job as a Director of Christian Education in a church involved providing curriculum for the Sunday School and the Confirmation program. Since I was rarely impressed with the material that was available from the publishing houses, I would create my own or augment what we could get from those places. And, as I think back over 40 years of pointing children to Jesus, there were dozens of visual faith type creations. Dice that when rolled took the player to a Bible verse, origami paper projects that when constructed has Bible passages appear in strategic places, stained glass made out of tissue paper and construction paper, literally dozens of different kinds of Advent Calendars, Good Friday tools that took people on the path of Christ’s Passion … too many projects to remember. But when God drew me into the Visual Faith lifestyle (and let’s be honest – that’s exactly what it is – a lifestyle), I shied a way because it looked like I needed to be “artistic”, and I most certainly am not. I was overawed by the skills of others and I still am.

Sketchnoting after some practice

But, in recent months, casting off those fears of not being good enough to create faith-enhancing projects, the spiritual adventure has shifted. It really began when I put together a Sermon Sketchnoting seminar as a part of my job. I invited Valerie Matyas to our church to teach us how to become sketchnoters. Mind you, the goal was so that the women who attended the event could learn the process. Little did I know, God had a bigger plan in mind. That seminar changed the course of my sermon-listening life.

My first attempt at focusing on a sermon using Sketch Notes

Some back-story might be helpful here. My husband is a pastor, so I got to hear him preach every Sunday for 40 years. Sadly, focus during a sermon was always a struggle and I used to joke that by the time the offering was passed (immediately after the sermon) I had already forgotten the contents of that message. I said it jokingly, but there was far more truth to that statement than I would care to admit. Then the practice of Sermon Sketchnoting was dropped in my lap, and I was hooked. That happened three years ago. Suddenly, I was involved in a Visual Faith practice. I haven’t missed a message since.

If you had told me 5 years ago that this faith expression was going to impact my life, I would have laughed at that crazy idea. But now I am so used to Sketchnoting, I even do it during important meetings.

And just recently, I’ve set aside my fears and negative self-talk and tried some gelli printing, and mixed media projects. The fact that I even used the words “mixed media” in a sentence is remarkable. But in doing those projects, with the help and incredible encouragement of my fellow Visual Faith practitioners, I’ve been trying some new things. And here’s reality – if I can do it, absolutely anyone, and I mean anyone, can get involved with these new prayer skills.

So for all you outliers who are lurking on the Visual Faith pages and finding all of the beautiful things you find there inspiring but intimidating – stop doubting yourself and try something – anything. Get out your colored pencils and pull a Bible margin off of the website. And when you’re done coloring it – glue it in your Bible! The fact that I’ve shared my less than lovely offerings in this blog should help all of you know that it just doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something!

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Love that you took us through your journey. I'm still not sketchnoting but I certainly take notes - mostly I am the only one who can read them. Just notetaking helps me remember - we each find our own way and if it doesn't work, we find another way. Visual Faith Ministry has so many resources to "try."


Constance Denninger
Constance Denninger

I think we have a new term in our community- outlier. Thanks Carolyn for sharing the story of what can really HAPPEN when you respond to a Holy Spirit nudge and allow Him to take you to an unknown place-- such gifts await. May all of us listen carefully for where the Spirit is drawing us to come closer- there are good things waiting....


Susan E Harman
Susan E Harman

I have found myself in a similar situation. Slow starter. Bible reader. Prayer warrior. A great friend kept encouraging me to write in my Bible, even draw in it. Nope can't do it. But with years of encouragement, I jump off and haven't looked back. Best decision ever! Thank you for sharing your heart.


Love, love, love that you shared this! Visual Faith practices are for all of us! I'm praying that your beautiful words and work encourage others to say 'no' to fear and join the adventure.

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