visual faith

No Excuses - Just Try It!

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Ezekiel 36:27

Ezekiel 36:27

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.

Psalm 27

Psalm 27

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.

God bless!

Carolyn

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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.



Teens and Visual Faith


Visual Faith Coach Laura Bauer explains her heart for sharing visual faith with teens:

As a teenager, I have very vivid memories of waking up in the morning and stumbling into the kitchen to find my father sitting at the table with his Bible open. At the time I did not think anything special of it, but looking back now I view this memory as a precious gift. My parents diligently took us to church every Sunday morning as many families do, but finding my dad sitting regularly immersed in the word of Christ throughout the week reaffirmed the knowledge that Christ and the Bible were not simply a program that parents dumped their children at once a week, but rather the place to find Truth in a world that felt tumultuous. My dad didn’t just give Christ lip service, Christ is his foundation and therefore spending time daily in the word was natural for Him.

Laura with two of her children - spending creative, meaningful time in the Word together.

Laura with two of her children - spending creative, meaningful time in the Word together.

Sitting at the table with my Bible and colored pencils is becoming a more common thing in my home and more often than not, when I am working on a journal entry or a page in my Bible, one of my four children will approach me and ask if they can Bible journal alongside me. My teens many times do not ask to join in, they simply grab some supplies and sit down.


Creative response to Proverbs 27:17 by Micah Bauer, 14.

Creative response to Proverbs 27:17 by Micah Bauer, 14.

Activities that are multi-generational and enjoyable regardless of your gender are very hard to find, but visual faith seems to be just that. We often joke that as adults we need an invitation to color, the same can sometimes be said of teenagers. So many teens have such amazing artistic talent and simply need an invitation to use it.

Visual faith responses by teens

Visual faith responses by teens

The great thing about visual faith is that it busies the hands which frees up the mind for meditation on a verse or even deep conversation with another individual. A teen may not spend time meditating on a verse alone or working on a journal entry by themselves. Many teens will be quick to jump at the opportunity to sit with an admired adult free of phones and social media and chat while illustrating a verse. As an adult and parent it is so easy to convince ourselves that our teenagers really do not want anything to do with us. In some cases this may be true, but for the most part I truly believe that most teenagers long to know that the adults in their life have time for them and a desire to spend that time with them.


An “accordian book” visual faith project

An “accordian book” visual faith project

At Redeemer in Interlochen, we have attempted to add visual faith periodically to our youth group lessons sometimes on their own and sometimes combined with adults. It does not take much encouraging to convince teenagers to grab some art supplies and illustrate a verse whether at home or at church!

During a lesson on learning how to study the Bible, we created accordian books and filled the inside with ideas and directions about where to begin. On one side the youth included questions to ask themselves when looking at a section of scripture: Are there other verses that apply to my understanding of this passage? Who was the author and the audience? What is the theme? Are there any key words or verbs? What people and places are talked about? When does this take place? What, if any, challenges are faced? How does this apply to me?


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On the other side, the kids came up with topics that they would be interested in studying, such as: anger, conflict, money, dating, love, animals, and friendship. The idea behind the accordian books is that it would be something they could use as a guideline when they want to spend time in God’s Word, but have no idea where to begin.

Faces tell the story of an enjoyable visual faith experience!

Faces tell the story of an enjoyable visual faith experience!

As with any visual faith practice, the best way to encourage others to join is by doing it yourself in a visible fashion. When you exude excitement about an activity, that excitement becomes contagious and others naturally want to be part of it!

A few pages from Laura’s personal Bible.

A few pages from Laura’s personal Bible.

Give teens permission and encouragement to color and illustrate verses and you will find that the verses that they take the time to work with will work their way into a permanent spot in the teenagers mind and heart which will later be useful when the world threatens to distract him or her from Christ. The youth in your life whether they are your children, grandchildren or friends are watching you and learning how to be adults.

Painting by Rachael, age 16, who created this as a confirmation banner for a friend.

Painting by Rachael, age 16, who created this as a confirmation banner for a friend.

Most teenagers will never come right out and say it, but they long for deep solid relationships with adults as well as other teens. Visual faith can be a marvelous bridge between our youth, adults and even older members of the congregation.

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Laura is mother to four energetic children, wife of an adventurous LCMS pastor, and a baptized child of God. With background as a DCE (Director of Christian Education) and in Elementary education, she was introduced to Bible journaling in 2016 and has been amazed at the depth and richness it has added to her devotional time and prayer life. Creative - but not necessarily artistic - Laura enjoys working with groups of all sizes to share practical ways that even the “artistically challenged” can benefit from and experience the hope and peace that comes by spending time in God's word. She is also excited to share ways that families and youth can use visual faith to grow closer to each other and more importantly to Christ.

A Prayer and Devotional Path Through Lent

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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.

Lenten devotional book and calendar done by Bev Wicher.

Lenten devotional book and calendar done by Bev Wicher.

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.

Some examples of visual calendars for Lent.

Some examples of visual calendars for Lent.

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.

“Lenten Path” by Rachel Hinz

“Lenten Path” by Rachel Hinz

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.

“Lenten Path” by Pat Maier

“Lenten Path” by Pat Maier

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”)

http://www.creativecommunications.com/ and https://www.cph.org/

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”).

Early Lenten calendars by Connie Denninger - templates by Sybil MacBeth of  prayingincolor.com .

Early Lenten calendars by Connie Denninger - templates by Sybil MacBeth of prayingincolor.com.

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 …..

Connie uses the simple “four color” method during her devotional & prayer time.

Connie uses the simple “four color” method during her devotional & prayer time.

…. 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!

Lots of choices - also a wonderful resource available for those who work with children and youth.

Lots of choices - also a wonderful resource available for those who work with children and youth.

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.

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Visual Faith on the Extravagant Love Cruise!

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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.

We were blessed with this gathering of Visual Faith coaches that assembled for the cruise.  Front- L to R- Teresa Davis, Connie Denninger, Liz Murphy, and Webmaster- Diane Marra.  Back- L to R- Peggy Thibodeau, Eden Keefe, Sara Wilson, Lisa Brass, Pat Maier and Valerie Matyas.

We were blessed with this gathering of Visual Faith coaches that assembled for the cruise.

Front- L to R- Teresa Davis, Connie Denninger, Liz Murphy, and Webmaster- Diane Marra.

Back- L to R- Peggy Thibodeau, Eden Keefe, Sara Wilson, Lisa Brass, Pat Maier and Valerie Matyas.

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.

Pat Maier helped us to see Visual Faith processes as an Act of Worship—Read, Reflect, Respond, so that you can Remember and Reach Out. She also brought helpful tools for lettering and working with color in our margins and Bibles.

Pat Maier helped us to see Visual Faith processes as an Act of Worship—Read, Reflect, Respond, so that you can Remember and Reach Out. She also brought helpful tools for lettering and working with color in our margins and Bibles.

WendySue Fluegge and her daughter, Miranda, wove together worship and praise with their gift of music.

WendySue Fluegge and her daughter, Miranda, wove together worship and praise with their gift of music.

Bible Study Leader-Deb Burma led participants through a wealth of riches in God’s Word with the story of God’s Extravagant Love for each of us.

Bible Study Leader-Deb Burma led participants through a wealth of riches in God’s Word with the story of God’s Extravagant Love for each of us.

Connie Denninger led us into an introduction of Visual Faith through Doors into Prayer. The Co-Founders of Visual Faith Ministry had a wonderful experience of connecting to so many who are already faithful practitioners and those who were new to the practices.

Connie Denninger led us into an introduction of Visual Faith through Doors into Prayer. The Co-Founders of Visual Faith Ministry had a wonderful experience of connecting to so many who are already faithful practitioners and those who were new to the practices.

We gathered in the evenings in the Windjammer food court for times of sharing and encouragement.

We gathered in the evenings in the Windjammer food court for times of sharing and encouragement.

it was fun to meet each other In Real Life and share our Visual Faith journey.

it was fun to meet each other In Real Life and share our Visual Faith journey.

We valued our time together and seeing all the ways we are unique in this part of the Visual Faith Journey.

We valued our time together and seeing all the ways we are unique in this part of the Visual Faith Journey.

We were blessed by this inter-generational experience aboard the Royal Caribbean- Independence of the Seas.

We were blessed by this inter-generational experience aboard the Royal Caribbean- Independence of the Seas.

We even had 17 brave men along for this cruise. Hardy souls and we spotted them here and there.

We even had 17 brave men along for this cruise. Hardy souls and we spotted them here and there.

We were thankful for the beautiful flowers spotted mid-Winter…

We were thankful for the beautiful flowers spotted mid-Winter…

The delightful presentation of food for every meal……

The delightful presentation of food for every meal……

The blessings of conversations around the dinner table…….

The blessings of conversations around the dinner table…….

A magnificent wait staff, beautiful sunny days in port, calm seas, and accommodations galore.

A magnificent wait staff, beautiful sunny days in port, calm seas, and accommodations galore.

This group of women from all over the country forged a new friendship of ministry blessings.

This group of women from all over the country forged a new friendship of ministry blessings.

A heartfelt thank you to Diane Biel (blue shirt- center) for all of her coordination and hard work and making this Education Opportunities event move from a dream to a reality.

A heartfelt thank you to Diane Biel (blue shirt- center) for all of her coordination and hard work and making this Education Opportunities event move from a dream to a reality.

God’s Extravagant Love? Yes, we have been richly blessed. Maybe you will join us on a future cruise?

God’s Extravagant Love? Yes, we have been richly blessed. Maybe you will join us on a future cruise?

Visual Faith .... and a Real "Great Pumpkin" Project

Emily Ransdell’s pumpkin for her school’s Biblical pumpkin carving contest.

Emily Ransdell’s pumpkin for her school’s Biblical pumpkin carving contest.

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.

Emily’s inspiration from Pinterest - an angel gourd from  christiangamesandcrafts.com .

Emily’s inspiration from Pinterest - an angel gourd from christiangamesandcrafts.com.

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!

The pumpkin contest at St. John’s Lutheran School in Dover, Delaware - Emily’s pumpkin won!

The pumpkin contest at St. John’s Lutheran School in Dover, Delaware - Emily’s pumpkin won!

🎃 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!!!