Time to learn some Gelli Printing techniques with Visual Faith Artist- Diane Marra.
Lent is a season of solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar of some church denominations. It traditionally begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days until Easter Sunday. (The 40 days commemorate Jesus’ time of fasting and temptation in the desert; Sundays are not included in this count.) Lent is a time set aside for people of faith to focus on prayer and to consider the life and death of Jesus, specifically the events beginning on Palm Sunday and climaxing with Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.
During the 40 days of Lent, Christians often commit to fasting from luxuries like dessert, social media, or other pleasant past times, while in recent years there has also been focus on “taking up” rather than “giving up” something for Lent. This might include a daily act of blessing others or taking up a spiritual discipline, such as Lenten devotions or following a prayer calendar each day.
However you might decide to rearrange your time during Lent, time given up or taken up is meant to create an awareness of our own personal failings and need for a Savior, and turn our hearts toward the God whom we so often turn away from. As we spend time in the Word and in prayer, we find time to slow down and contemplate all that Jesus did for us - His life, His suffering, His death. A “Lenten Path” or devotional calendar provides the space and visual accountability for this practice. Spaces can be used to record a one-word “take-away”, a short summary, or a visual image after reflecting on a reading or devotion. The spaces also provide a place for the option of gathering personal prayers or prayers for others - so that they might be seen and remembered.
A regular calendar template works well, or you might print one created especially for Lent. Taking time to add color creates a little more time for reflection; and if too much color is distracting, choosing 4 colors to use for your calendar is a good solution. As you can see by the calendar at lower left above, color is also an option - this one was created with a black pen and gray marker. It’s really about what works for you and brings the most blessing to your time with the Lord.
There are several “Lenten Path” calendars on the Visual Faith Ministry website, which are available for free download and printing for personal or ministry purposes. You can find them here: https://www.visualfaithmin.org/seasonal (Scroll down to find the “Lenten Path” resources.)
New this year is artist Rachel Hinz’s beautiful calendar which connects the symbolism of mankind’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden - and our need for a Savior - with Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane as He wrestled with His Father’s will and the suffering to come. The thirty-six “leaf spaces” plus space within the tree, stone, or crown of thorns provide room for a 40 day recording of devotions or prayers.
Also new is this image of 40 “heart spaces” for reflective response - a reminder that everything Jesus did and endured was out of love for the world.
If you don’t have a Lent devotional, Creative Communications for the Parish and Concordia Publishing House both offer some excellent, and inexpensive devotional booklets for Lent - their resources include selections for families and children. Find them here: (search “Lent Devotions”)
Portals of Prayer is also an excellent resource - available here: https://www.cph.org/portals/ or through an app on your iPhone (search “Portals of Prayer”).
An added blessing is being able to look back and “see” the time you met God in His Word or spoke with Him in prayer. A yearly practice of priority …..
…. so we might understand God’s love more deeply and open our hearts a little bit wider that our Easter joy may be all the more overflowing with the realization of His great grace!
God bless you with a true spirit of repentance, a heart of gratitude, and a deeper faith
as you mark your spiritual path through Lent.
On February 9, 2019, a group of women set sail on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas for a 5-day “Extravagant Love Cruise”, sponsored by Educational Opportunities Travel.
The cruise had about the same Teaching Time as a Women’s Weekend Retreat. The rest of the time was spent personally experiencing either the Royal Caribbean ship or time off the boat. This cruise landed in Labadee, Haiti and Falmouth, Jamaica.
You may not need a concrete, written out plan for working on your spiritual goals. We all have different needs in our spiritual walk and that discernment comes only from God. Prayerfully consider seeking out any spiritual practices that might bring blessing to your life.
Some suggestions might include:
Praying in color, prayer cards for others
Bible journaling- Sermon Notes
Solitude and silence in God’s beautiful world
Coloring and praying Scripture in your Bible
Creating an area for your time with the Lord-for listening
Keeping a gratitude journal
Making a prayers-for-my children calendar flip chart
Be active in your spiritual journey. Don’t be afraid to evaluate. Admit shortcomings and feel and accept God’s grace when you miss the mark. Forgive yourself for failings. Try something new in your spiritual practices this year and see how God blesses you.
So what might a Spiritual IEP may look like?
I’m still in edit and revise mode, but I will share with you what I’ve written so far. I wrestled with the idea of writing parts of an in-depth draft like I would for one of my students with special needs, or creating a simple chart with the main points. There is something you miss when you just do the chart. The history of my spiritual walk, my current strengths and weaknesses, and answering the question of how does this area of need in my spiritual life affect my overall spiritual growth. The more lengthy process really helps me to focus on what should my spiritual growth goals be based off of my areas of weakness. When developing a goal we want it to be SMART (specific, manageable, attainable, relevant and timely). Goal writing is an area where I really spend a considerable amount of time in the development of an IEP. If the goal is not SMART then we are wasting our time. We often find ourselves creating goals for ourselves in various areas of our lives, (health, education, careers, financial, etc…) but I feel like we rarely put our spiritual goals on paper or spend the time to make them SMART.
We can identify that we need to improve in our spiritual walk, but how often do we closely examine the why it’s not working? Are their various tools and accommodations that could assist me in these spiritual growth weaknesses? Do the various resources match my learning style? Do I take time to make these goals concrete and set review dates? Have I gathered the various accommodations and tools I will need to meet these spiritual growth goals?As I have mentioned before- it starts with an honest conversation with the Lord and an openness with Him to reveal areas where He is leading. Don’t ignore His voice and take the time and initiative to prioritize your spiritual growth journey.
Draft Spiritual IEP for Sara:
PLOP Page: Present Level of Performance:
Sara is 31 years old and currently a stay at home mom in Springfield,VA. She has been married for 5 years to her highschool sweetheart, Joshua. They have a 3 year old son, 10 month old son and are expecting their third child in June 2019. She was raised in a loving, Christian household with a mom and dad who worked hard to raise three daughters to be like Jesus in all they do.
Based on Sara’s most current self-evaluation and reflection on her weaknesses and strengths of spiritual practices, prayer and daily life examinations; it’s been determined that Sara could benefit from annual goals in the following areas: prayer, spiritual growth and studying God’s Word.
Sara struggles to prioritize daily windows of time with Jesus. She has many tools and strategies offered to her to utilize in the areas of prayer and time in the Word, however has had difficulties with picking one Spiritual Practice and focusing on one area. She would benefit from more frequent self-reflection, specific prayers and petitions to God, and a mentor to pray for her and be an accountability partner to check in with how she is doing to help her become more diligent.
Due to Sara’s history of becoming easily distracted, she would benefit from creating a specific area for her time with Jesus. She will then need to assess if that was a workable location for her to focus and turn off the world around her to listen to God’s voice. Sara would also benefit from a prayer journal that is easily accessible and outlined by the month. Her visual learning style would be best supported with the use of colors, shapes and easy to read formats to keep her focused on the practice of prayer and her time spent reading the Bible.
Annual Goal #1- Area of Need: Prayer
Present Level of Performance:
Strengths: Sara is strong in the area of constant conversation with God throughout the day.
Needs: Sara would benefit from the use of a monthly visual prayer journal. Sara can use this journal for personal prayers for herself and others. Sara would also benefit from the practice of prayer cards made for others God has put on her heart to pray for.
How does this area of need impact this individuals’ spiritual growth in this specific discipline?
Sara’s lack of consistency in her prayer life, impacts her ability to listen to her Father and discern His voice from her own, others around her, and her environment.
Sara will demonstrate a more consistent prayer life by using a monthly prayer journal daily and by creating 4 prayer cards per month for others God has placed on her heart.
Short term objective:
Sara will complete a monthly prayer page by the end of each month to help her consistency with spending time with God in prayer.
Short term objective:
By the end of the month, Sara will complete 4 individual prayer cards for those God has placed on her heart.
Annual Goal #2- Area of Need: Reading her Bible
Present Level of Performance:
Strengths: Sara has a strong desire to read her Bible and learn more about the Lord.
Needs: Sara often becomes distracted while she reads her Bible. Sara would benefit from the use of premade Bible Journaling Margins to help her focus on some specific verses. She can use these margins to color in and reflect on the verses read and by the movement of the colored pencil help her kinesthetic learning style maintain her focus.
How does this area of need impact this individual’s spiritual growth in this specific discipline?
Sara’s lack of consistency in reading her Bible, impacts her ability to learn about Jesus and build her knowledge and relationship with her Heavenly Father. Knowing Him allows her to more easily see His work in the World.
Sara will complete two Bible margin per month in her selected book of the Bible.-Isaiah.
Annual Goal #3- Area of Need: Prioritizing time for Soul-Tending reading for Spiritual growth
Present Level of Performance:
Strengths: Sara has a love for reading. She is motivated to read material that will help her grow spiritually.
Needs: Sara would benefit from the use of a mentor to read a book with her so she can have scheduled check-ins for both accountability for reading and to discuss what she has read. She would benefit from prioritizing a time in her day or even her week when she will read for certain period of time.
How does this area of need impact this individuals’ spiritual growth in this specific discipline?
Sara’s lack of planning ahead and personal accountability impacts her ability to prioritize her time.
Sara will select a spiritual growth book to read and schedule in reading the book for at least 30 minutes a week.
Short term objective:
Sara will finish reading her spiritual growth book within 6 months of the start date.
Short term objective:
At the beginning of the week, Sara will schedule in her planner when she will complete her 30 minutes of reading. Currently reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
Here is the IEP in chart format:
Part 2 in the Series—The thought of a Spiritual IEP came to me like a ton of bricks while I was showering. You know-one of those amazing luxuries that I use to take for granted. It was nap time and both boys were sleeping- Praise Jesus! Then I called my mom and rambled on about these thoughts. I couldn’t get them out of my head. As a Special Education teacher prior to being a stay at home mom, I estimate that I have outlined, drafted and written more than 500 IEPs. An IEP is an Individualized Education Plans for students with disabilities. It’s their yearly plan that closely considers their strengths and weaknesses, learning styles and most critical areas of need.
Sara DeYarmond is a preschool teacher Our Savior Lutheran School in Lansing, Michigan. She herself is a graduate of Our Savior and returned to teach at her elementary alma mater. Sara and others from the Our Savior staff attended their church women’s retreat, called “Linger Longer”, where they learned about visual prayer. Excited about including visual faith practices in the classroom, Sara decided to use an Advent coloring calendar to help her little students focus on prayer in the weeks before Christmas.
Sara printed off Advent coloring calendars from the Visual Faith Ministry website. There are many images to choose from under Seasonal Resources. This simple star image by Bev Wicher is perfect for young students. You can find it here: https://www.visualfaithmin.org/seasonal/advent-calendar-23-spaces-by-bev-wicher
Sara explains: “They pray out loud as they color and then we help them write the name of the person they prayed for in the box.”
As part of this group process, Sara encourages her students to all pray out loud at the same time. Sara adds: “It’s a little crazy...and adorable. They have the option to find a quiet space away from the group if they choose.” Just imagine the sweet harmony of so many tiny voices talking to Jesus!
If you have experience with teaching preschool, or have had the chance to observe an early elementary classroom, you’ll probably agree that attention spans are limited and distraction is a given! Visual prayer corresponds with the skills of little ones who like to color and helps with focus and attention as they learn to pray. The children can “see” their conversations with God, go home to “tell” about them, and keep this new skill to use and develop as they grow in their faith.
Visual prayer is for all ages. It’s for careful colorers, for those who color ouside the lines, and for those who might write words but choose not to color at all. It works for boys as well as girls, for women and men. Visual prayer has great impact on personal prayer time and, as in this case, lends itself well to the group prayers of even the tiniest of God’s people.
Thanks for sharing, Sara DeYarmond!
- Pat Maier
Giving gifts to family and friends during the Christmas season is a tradition followed by most people, regardless of their beliefs. Although the Wise Men figure prominently as historical gift givers, it is God who “so loved the world that he gave” the Gift of Christmas - Jesus. This tiny baby, God’s own Son, came to our world bringing hope and salvation to all who would believe. It is this amazing love that inspires us to give gifts to each other out of gratitude and joy.
When I married my husband David, I was introduced to his wonderful family tradition for opening gifts at Christmastime. It included reciting the Christmas story from Luke 2 prior to opening presents, bringing focus to Jesus as God’s gift to the world. I loved how this practice created a pause for gratitude and reflection, which added rich meaning to our time of gift giving.
As our family grew, we continued to read Luke 2:1-20 and sing a few Christmas carols before our gift opening each Christmas. Students or friends whose homes were too far for travel were often invited to join us. If they were not people of faith, I often wondered if they minded sitting and listening - or if our practice made them feel left out.
When our children grew up and began bringing home special friends, I wondered how it might look to include everyone in this tradition in a way that would be comfortable for all and help them feel part of the family. We needed to have something on hand that would help us point to Jesus and enable each person to participate - something that would be a visual reminder for keeping the tradition, a “hands-on” faith tool for all ages, and a treasured memory for our children and grandchildren. In thinking about what it would sound like, what if each verse from Luke 2:1-20 could be typed up separately so that the voices of all - young and old, family and friend, faithful or seeking - could be heard proclaiming the precious account of Jesus’ birth to each other?
Honoring the True Gift of Christmas: A Luke 2 Tradition
The project involves making a series of hole-punched cards that can be organized onto an “O” ring and then handed out for reading. An inexpensive white 4 x 6 index card is used as the base; old Christmas cards and scrapbook paper are cut to size to decorate the front and back and affixed with double-sided tape. (You can also use a glue stick.) You could omit the index card, however, it adds a nice sturdiness to the cards.
The verses, words of explanation, and prayer are printed out and then torn or cut out to add to each card. Tearing around the words creates a vintage effect and is fun for children. A bit of distress ink dabbed around the edges adds visual appeal, or you might add a thin line of gold gelato and blend with a sponge (pictured). Punch a hole in the upper left-hand corner of the card, assemble on an “O” ring, and add some yarn and ribbon embellishment if desired.
For the cover, choose a card that takes your breath away (because then you will see it every year!) I loved the rich hues of this image and added ribbons and yarn in similar colors.
Scrapbook paper adds visual appeal to the back of each card. The explanation and optional idea for carol singing fit well on the back of the cover. The second card provides words to share prior to the reading of the Christmas story - words to reflect on and call hearts to focus on the Christ Child. This is not meant to be scripted - a family leader may choose their own words - but for those who are not sure or who are new to the faith this may provide needed support.
More words describing God’s Gift may be added to the back of the focus card - these are especially appropriate for an older crowd. As the years pass, you might add an extra card or two with your own reflections or meaningful words from a Christmas devotion.
Each verse from Luke 2 is on it’s own card. It works well to gather everyone in a circle around the room and then pass out the cards - this will make it easier for the reading. If your group is small, verses card can be divided up between everyone; a small child might want to participate on cue with special words like “Fear not!” or “Glory to God in the highest.”
Large verse numbers are provided for the back of each card to make it easier to put back in order afterwards. (It might also be a fun job to give the kids later on!)
As you choose a card for each verse, may it be an enjoyable task to find an image to reflect the text. In the weeks before Christmas, you might find time to flip through the cards with your children - ask which one is their favorite or talk about how the words connect with what they see.
It’s these processes of taking time, of slowing down, of hearing and seeing, and repetition that will help hide the Word in little hearts.
The project text is sized to fit vertically on the card -- but the verses will all fit horizontal orientation as well. It’s really up to YOU how you want to put it all together!
And finally, a closing prayer.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” - 2 Corinthians 9:15
Download instructions and text for this project here:
~ Pat Maier
Visual Faith Ministry is excited to share some new resources available on our website to bless you, your family, and your ministry during this Advent Season of reflection and preparation.
The Advent season varies in length, starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and always ends on Christmas Eve. The word “Advent” comes from a Latin phrase meaning “coming”. It’s important (as we struggle with hectic schedules, distractions, and expectations) that we remember the many years God’s people were longing for the coming of the promised Savior, give thanks that Jesus did come for our salvation, and anticipate the sure hope of His second coming. How do we do this with the distractions of holiday schedules, expectations, and to-do lists? How can we help ourselves to hear His “still small voice”? (1 Kings 19:12)
This year Advent begins on Sunday, Dec. 2 - it will help to have resources ready and on hand to bless your time with the Lord. Here’s what you will find on our website under Seasonal Resources.
The Jesse Tree resource is a free download which comes in two parts and was created by Visual Faith Coaches Valerie Matyas and Katie Helmreich. Part 1 includes a listing of the complete readings and ornaments to cut out and color, and Part 2 is a Devotional Booklet that includes the readings plus a short devotion that can be read in addition to the reading and coloring of the ornaments.
Use the Jesse Tree resources by setting aside a few moments each day to dwell in His Word. Meditate on His truth and promises for you as you color or decorate each ornament. Place the ornaments where you and your family will see them often and recall God’s goodness together. This project lends itself to personal study, family or classroom devotions, or as a multi-generational church gathering project. You can download this project here:
An Advent Devotional Calendar is a visual faith focus tool that creates space in your busy day to record a prayer thought or image from your daily devotion. The printed page encourages daily faithful consistancy yet requires only a few extra minutes of time. After reading a short devotion or Bible reading, take a moment to ask yourself what word(s) or image might remind you of God’s Word for you this day. Add this to a space on the calendar - color is optional and can be added during later reflection if time is short. The end result with be a “selfie” of your time with God and help you remember the specific blessings of time in His Word.
Another fun option - which works well for families with older children or small groups - is to choose an Advent devotional series and challenge everyone to reflect and add a hashtag for each day. Pat Maier created a group text for her family and sent a picture of the devotion each day. As hashtags were texted throughout the day, they inspired further reflection or anticipation of the devotional truth in order to understand the hashtags! [Personal note: “Not all my children used the calendar, so the hashtag idea can stand alone. Whatever works!”]
These Advent Calendars are new to our website this year. You can download them, as well as others, under Seasonal Resources here:
The Advent Calendar templates can also be used as a prayer focus tool by adding a different person or circumstance to pray for each day.
A final resource to bless your heart preparation this Advent is The Visual Church Year - available under the Worship Resources Tab on our website. It is a collaboration of many volunteer artists - and includes a sermon note insert and children’s bulletin. The images and text reflect the assigned gospel readings of the lectionary of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod each week. (If you belong to another church, many of the images will likely illustrate the Advent readings of your Christian church as well.)
“My Worship Notes” are engaging children’s bulletins which encourage children to participate in worship. This is a 4-page booklet style resource which includes the margin image of the corresponding sermon note insert as well as other images to color or fill in. Our hope is that it will encourage conversation within families during time together following a service and even into the week.
You can find The Visual Church Year here - the Graphics Only choice provides graphics for church offices to use as bulletin covers or to print within their own bulletins:
God bless you as you prepare to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, our Savior and King!
-- The Visual Faith Ministry Team
Sharing the story of a recent Visual Faith event in Springfield, Virginia.
Visual faith practices look different for each person - it might be coloring a prayer card, creating a margin in your Bible, or adding a word to your devotional Bible. Artist Rachel Hinz creates visual faith in a big way with her abstract paintings, inspired by Scripture and deep with meaning. Her first large scale painting was “Redemption”, completed in 2006 when she was a student at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This was the beginning of her journey into using Bible verses for the basis of abstract work. We’ve asked Rachel to share her process with us here:
My senior art exhibition, titled "Meditation," featured abstract paintings and other mediums. In each of my paintings, I begin with a Bible verse and - using color, composition, and movement - I proceed to paint the verse. By keeping the subject abstract, I want the viewer to spend time meditating on the verse. "Redemption" is based on 1 Peter 1:18-19- "For you know that it was not with silver or gold that you were redeemed...but with the precious blood of Christ" and also Psalm 103:4- "[God] who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with love and compassion."
Just like in Bible journaling, I'm picking out the words in the verses (redeemed, blood, pit, etc.) and thinking: what colors would these be? Is the action vertical (God and us) or horizontal (between us and others)? What is changing in the verse and how can I show this? Finally, I love using scale! My paintings are meant to surround the viewer so that they can get the best sense of this visual experience.
In "Redemption," the blood is red and the darkness of the piece is the pit. God's love as seen in the blood of Jesus descends down from the top of the piece and scoops in, out, and along the bottom of the piece. We are "bought back" and returned to the Father above. This happened in Christ's sacrifice, but we can also look at the picture of eternity and how we are daily renewed- hence a subtle infinity symbol that is created in the center of the composition.
After finishing “Redemption,” I was interested in further exploration of color and their transitions. This time, I was captured with the words of the Apostle John, who writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…Through him all things were made…In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. We have seen his glory…” (John 1:1-5, 14b, NIV-Bible).
The idea of God being eternal - without beginning or end - and the imagery of “the light shines in the darkness” are both reflected in the circular shape in the middle of the canvas. In considering how color might cause a movement and dimension, allowing the viewer to interact within the space, the color scheme contains two complimentary color poles - yellow and purple. Blue and orange were also a part of the transition, with green - symbolic of the idea of “In him was life” connecting the warm lights to the color darks. This full transition of color perhaps starts in the circular center and begins spiraling out. Such a movement is due to the transition of colors and the sole hard line that divides the “light” from the “dark” on the right side of the center color. Here is the highest contrast. On the other side of this otherwise symmetrical composition, the light yellows and oranges blend into a green that stretches like a wave into the sea blues. These darken as they spin towards the bottom of the canvas. Like “Redemption,” this darker bottom composition is symbolic of the world, but also gives the piece a platform on which to enter. Whether the light is shining out or receding into the space in “Light” is for the viewer to experience.
The third and final painting of the “Meditation” exhibit is “Humility.” The focus of this painting comes from Philippians 2:6-9 (NIV): “[Jesus]: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name…”
There are many actions occurring in this selection. However, similar to “Redemption,” the movement is very much that of coming down to earth, dying, and then being exalted to the highest place. Like “Light,” this motion is also very circular, coming down and returning up into the simple form of a line in the center of the canvas.
On the left side of the piece, soft lines and transitions force a descending movement and yet, also the motion of lying down. Towards the bottom, the lines begin to fan out into the darker greens, looking almost like roots - stabilizing the viewer. As it continues up the right, the lines have twisted back, behind the initial line, and then upwards again. This motion is much more direct as the lines are much more vertical. At this point, the greens escape into the gold and white hues. Although the lines are slightly different in direction, the transitions are symmetrical. Still, the green remains as the overwhelming hue, symbolizing the life of Christ who, laid himself down for us in death and then was raised and exalted. Upon further study of the composition, the greens fill over half of the composition, implying a cross composition with the center line. The title “Humility” then, goes to emphasize this theology and focus of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.
We asked Rachel what advice she would share with anyone about using abstract painting as a “tool” for visual faith sharing. Here’s what she said:
I would invite anyone interested in painting to consider using it as another tool for connecting to God and His Word. I would especially encourage people to consider working abstractly- it's SO freeing!! Not only can you shed off the pressures of making something look "real" or "representational," but it allows you to just let something as simple as one of God's gifts of color be a way that you can meditate on His Word and how it relates to your life.
Another tip: go BIG! Don't let a big space/canvas/paper intimidate you! Use your hands... get moving... God made art to be so therapeutic.
Your painting can tell a beautiful visual story of a time when you were very present with God in mind, body, and spirit. I can guarantee that such a painting will be impactful not just to the creator, but anyone who sees it. Add an original painting to the visual legacy that you leave, which reminds me of the theme verse for my senior show, "Meditation" :
"Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will mediate on your wonderful works."
[Rachel Hinz resides in Ypsilanti, Michigan - but is in the midst of moving to St. Louis, Missouri! She is a wife and stay-at-home mom to three children. A former Art and Theology teacher, she is a visual artist, and her artwork has been shown in both local and international exhibitions. She also leads her local MOPS Bible Study that incorporates visual faith, creating teaching materials for that group. She believes in the power of art to convey Truth.]
Emily Ransdell lives in Dover, Delaware where she is in 8th grade at St. John’s Lutheran School. She is the daughter of Pastor CJ and Melinda Ransdell, who teach and support visual faith practices in their home and with their church family. Emily practices visual prayer and Bible journaling, and when we saw a picture of her beautiful pumpkin, she agreed to tell us a little bit more of the story. Here is our interview with Emily:
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO CARVE SUCH A CREATIVE PUMPKIN?
Emily: My school had a biblical pumpkin carving contest. The winner goes to another contest at Dover Place, a senior living center near my school.
WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION?
Emily: I found a cute angel gourd while searching ideas on Pinterest. Then I saw a picture of a stable carved into a pumpkin.
On my own, I came up with the ideas to put our nativity figures inside, carve a star, and paint a galaxy. Then I added the bible verse from John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
HOW IS THIS A VISUAL FAITH PROJECT?
Emily: I was expressing my faith through something you can see while crafting, carving, and painting. It represents the birth of Jesus, which I reflected on while I created it.
Thank you, Emily, for sharing your project with us! We love it!
🎃 UPDATE: Emily’s pumpkin won 3rd place in the big contest at Dover Place! Congratulations, Emily - thanks for letting your (visual faith pumpkin) light shine for Jesus!!!
Maybe this is the year to start a new family tradition. One to capture visual blessings and story and to create a very tactile way of sharing the journey.
Sometime a Visual Faith practice is about the obedience of moving in the same direction over a long period of time…. like a month or a year.
My husband recently preached a sermon based on Acts 16, which includes Paul’s “Macedonian Call”, as well as his encounters with Lydia and the Philippian jailer. Re-reading the text and reviewing my sermon notes created some pretty big take-aways for me: Pay Attention (to God’s voice), there is Blessing in the Good, as well as Blessing in the Bad, and I should Look For God Opportunities. Paul and Silas certainly could have lost hope and even blamed God for being beaten and thrown in prison, but they praised God, trusted Him with “the plan”, and as a result were there to keep the Philippian jailer from killing himself after the earthquake broke their chains. They were able to lead the jailer and his whole household to faith!
So I “framed” the take-aways in the margin with summarized notes beneath each one to help me remember how they related to the scripture. (Adding color to each frame and highlighting the supporting verses with the same color helps me see the application in the account.)
But the story of Paul and this new Philippian church doesn’t end here - it continues in his epistle to the Philippians, which is the letter which Paul wrote to them some years later.
The words shared in the sermon were an “aha” for me to realize that the opening of his letter, filled with gratitude and love for this church, was deeply connected to Paul’s initial experience recorded in Acts. So I added Philippians 1:6 to the margin in Acts - and wrote the Acts reference next to those words in Philippians 1.
It’s important to consider the context when reading Scripture, and adding contextual details in your journaling often helps with personal application. For me, I’ll remember that I need to spend time in God’s Word to really know His voice and be able to recognize His promptings in my life. I’ll learn to look for His blessings in both good and bad times, and wait confidently (with eyes open for opportunities He puts in front of me) for his blessing to be revealed during difficult situations.
And hopefully — I will be able to remember enough to look back with gratitude over my life of ups and downs, and give thanks for God’s patient leading along the way from start to finish …..because whatever God starts, He finishes!
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
- Pat Maier
I always scribble notes on my bulletin - not just sermon notes, but thoughts about what I see, word art doodles, or just drawing a line around significant words from the liturgy or a hymn. The bulletin usually gets tucked into my Bible if the rest of the day is busy. I have to be honest -- these "bulletin bites" often get tossed in the trash when too many pages stuffed-in-and-sticking-out signal that a cleaning out is needed! But when I’m moved by words or an experience that I don’t want to forget, returning to reflect and re-organize my notes & “take-always” creates an enjoyable devotion time and marks a step in my faith journey.
I recently attended a church that was celebrating their 150th anniversary - the planned celebration and service was a visual delight, starting with the magnificent sunrise. Members had thoughtfully created a special "booklet bulletin" for worship that day, with lots of story and explanation about what and why they were celebrating.
This visual inclusion made me want to capture this worship experience, learn from their looking back, and be able to share this with others - so I held onto the booklet. It sat on my kitchen counter until I found time to journal. A journaling Bible can be the place for these memories of faith and worship, to mark a tiny space in time where God encourages you in your walk with Him.
I traced the doodle from my bulletin right onto my Bible page and copied a photo of the beautiful window from the booklet to add as well (didn't want to forget that!) To finish the page, I added personal words of thanks to God for the beauty of the worship space, and a "take-away" at the top which was inspired by the theme words. These "R words" - remember, reflect, reconfirm, renew, rejoice - really caught my attention as they mirror some of the same ideas behind the visual faith theme words of read, reflect, respond - to reach out. I included the date and a note about my husband's uncle, Dr. Paul Maier, who had been called to this church to begin a student ministry at nearby Western Michigan University. It's important to pass down details about the legacy of faith in your family.
You can see that the margin might be a place to record the visual blessings of a worship place, the sharing of fellowship within a church family, and words of liturgy and song, as well as God's Word. And as you move through multiple steps of journaling - from "bulletin graffiti", to reflecting on the worship experience, to penciling in the page, to re-writing with pen, and then finally tracing over with colored pencil - you are creating a space of time for the Word to soak into your heart.....so that you remember. And most importantly, so that you can share. -- Pat Maier
Many people ask me, “How do I begin?” when asking about Visual Faith.......I have to ask myself, “When will I stop?” We are talking about two separate things that actually end up with similar answers.
My “stopping” is with all the little bags I have to organize my artsy tools....how did I end up with so many? I tried to put pencils in one, markers in another, scissors and tools in another. That worked for awhile but I tend to mix up the contents (similar to my worktable!) My dilemma and solution may be familiar to your work habits. So, let me explain what I’m doing now.
I still have my little bags with tools in them but I had to develop something that I could “grab and go” and artist Jane Davenport from Australia solved that problem for me, and she doesn’t even know it! Jane designed the coolest little pocket that has a stretchy strap attached to the back. The strap wraps around my notebook or Bible. A few of my tools are stored inside. When I head out the door to a Bible Study or a doctor appointment, I don’t have to look for anything. Everything is together for me to grab and go. What a timesaver that’s become! By the way, Jane calls the pocket a girdle - mine is shown in the image below. She also has them in a shiny gold. (at Michaels)
(Side note - I used to be a flight attendant way, way back......a girdle was part of our uniform - it’s not one of my favorite words, as you can imagine!!!)
So, where to begin. Take your Bible and/or a notebook, fill the girdle with what you use the most for visual prayer or Bible journaling, zip it up, attach it to your book and off you go.
I have 2 of these handy little pockets, one for my Bible and one for a favorite notebook. One usually has an automatic pencil, eraser pencil, fine point permanent black pen, white pen, small ruler. water brush, and a pen or pencil that holds colored lead or inks. By the way, for longer trips, I usually take colored pencils and/or watercolor pencils.
I may change out the things in the other pocket, adding GelatosTM, scissors, water brush, a tiny watercolor kit, and designate it for my notebook.
One of my very favorite notebooks is the one in the third photo below. This was purchased at Staples, and I love to work up ideas in it. The notebook has 3 sections with 480 different pagers - lined, grid, and plain. It’s called “Markings “by C.B. Gibson There are other cover designs than the CREATE one that I buy.
My new organization method really has helped me stop adding little bags to my collection. Make it easy on yourself and begin your journey in Visual Faith, or at least continue it with fewer decisions to make as you spend time with our Lord.
Blessings on your journey! Candice
p.s. I have no affiliation with any projects mentioned in this article.