Visual Faith Coach Carolyn Bira shares some snapshots of visual faith with her grandchildren, as well as an invitation to some new Bible study resources:
I had rather a stunning experience last Sunday during worship. The pastor was beginning his sermon in what was rather an unusual place. He was talking about shoes. I was with my grandsons, sitting in the back because, well, we’re Lutheran and that’s where Lutherans sit, right? The pastor was telling the congregation about an old spiritual that has the title of “All God’s Children Wear Shoes”. Apparently, in both America and ancient Rome, slaves were not given shoes. Only free people wore shoes. A slave, if fortunate enough to gain his freedom, would immediately find himself a pair of shoes. God’s people are free, so He provides them with shoes (metaphorically speaking, I guess).
As I was pondering this idea, which was new to me, Elijah, my 7-year-old grandson leans over and whispers, “But then there would be Moses, who had to take off his shoes to be in God’s presence.” Suddenly I had a new concept to swirl around in my brain. Eli, on the other hand, took out his bulletin and pencil and began to draw. I was reminded of Pat Maier who compiles these amazing “sermon notes” that are highly visual, perceptive, and worthy of envy.
Eli proceeds to draw a picture of God from the knees down, and he’s wearing shoes. In his picture, Eli’s shoe is off. But then, as if he knew where the sermon was headed, he adds a drawing, now on the back of an envelope, of a cross with shoes falling from heaven and bouncing off of the arms of the cross onto the people below.
Jesus’ death on the cross removes from us our position as slaves to sin. I won’t lie – I cried a little. Of course Eli knows the reason Moses had to remove his shoes wasn’t about slavery but about the glory of God. But he began to make connections, and those connections moved him to illustrate his ideas. We didn’t invent Visual Faith – we discovered what kids already knew.
Aaron (age 10) is our family artist. He’s been creating things since he was old enough to hold a crayon. Whenever I run across an interesting art medium, my first impulse is to put it into Aaron’s hands because I know he’ll enjoy making something and, most of time, that something is Bible based. He presented me with this rainbow drawing made with Scribble Sticks a few months ago.
Finally, I come to Anabel, who is 6. Last year, I put a copy of The Enduring Word Bible into her hands and told her something shocking - “It’s okay to draw in your Bible.” After she got over that, she took up her glitter pens and went to work! According to my daughter, she spends 20-30 minutes a day after school, coloring in her Bible. It’s a time of quiet after the chaos of school.
All of these examples lead up to my point for this article. I don’t know where the kids got these creative impulses, because it wasn’t from their grandma! Creative drawing and right-brained thinking are not my best feature. Cerebral pursuits are my forte. While I was thinking about slaves and shoes, Eli was drawing about it. While I think all the new drawing tools are cool, I hand them over to Aaron, who might actually enjoy making them work. And The Enduring Word Bible – I thumbed through it and decided it would be a nice gift for Anabel, introducing her to the whole idea of Bible journaling. Personally, Visual Faith practices are indeed intriguing, as long as no one else sees the inside of my Journaling Bible.
What I’ve found, over the last few years of trying this devotional style is that it can be quite relaxing and certainly taps into a part of my brain where God waits with insight and inspiration. While my devotional creations are not particularly original, they are satisfying. Favorite passages and stories are seen with new eyes and fresh perspective, and that engages even my “left brain” impulses.
I leave you with two examples from my own Bible that were created with help. The heart corresponds to the passage from Ezekiel 36:27. This idea is one that gained traction from Googling the passage I wanted to illustrate.
The lighthouse, inspired by Psalm 27, comes from a ‘stamping with watercolor’ project I saw in a YouTube video. Again, not an idea original to me, but I knew genius when I saw it.
So for those of us who might be artistically challenged – it’s okay. Do it anyway. There are many things to learn about God and His ways when you tap into “the other side” of your brain. With that said, I encourage you to try out the Bible Studies I’ve written for Visual Faith Ministry. These are designed to engage your left brain a little as you prepare to dive into whatever creative path God leads you to take. No matter what you try, He is faithful to meet you there because He just wants to spend time with His child – and that’s you.
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Carolyn is a wife, mother and grandmother who lives in Flushing, MI where she is the Director of Christian Education at her church. Carolyn is a life-long fanatical follower of Jesus Christ as well as a Bible study leader and teacher - she says "writing bible studies is what I do." A self-proclaimed "non-artist", she says that’s why the practice of visual faith is fun for her - because she’s not good at it!
You can download and print the Bible studies that Carolyn wrote here: https://www.visualfaithmin.org/new-products-2?category=Devotionals There is a series of four devotions to encourage reflection on the four “pillar verses” of Visual Faith Ministry: Remember - Deut. 6:6-7, Trust - Prov. 3:5-6, Disciple - Prov. 22:6, and Tell - Ps. 78:4-6. There is also a devotion on Deut. 17:14-20. All are offered free for personal, family, or ministry use.