Some of us would never dream of drawing and painting in our Bible; For Arden Ratcliff-Mann, the Word of God provided the perfect canvas for creativity and spiritual revival.
In January 2015, in the middle of both a literal and spiritual winter, Ratcliff-Mann stumbled upon something she had saved on Pinterest. It was a blog by a woman not unlike herself: The blogger was having a hard time getting into the Word, so she decided to scrapbook in her Bible.
So, Ratcliff-Mann bought a journaling Bible and alphabet stamps. Suddenly, everything clicked.
“I think the physical act of writing it out and stamping out helps me to memorize scripture and connect with it,” she says. “I realized what a help it was in my ministry, too.”
Now, Ratcliff-Mann sits with her watercolors, stamps and pens to creatively worship God. Sometimes she draws inspiration from scripture or a song; Other times she identifies a topic and searches for a verse about it; On occasion she lets the craft material guide her time in the Word.
“It’s not going to be for everyone,” Ratcliff-Mann says. “There’s so many different ways to do it, so don’t feel like you have to do it a specific way. Find a way that works for you and brings you joy.”
Still unsure if this method of creative worship is for you? There are four ways Bible journaling benefits you.
It draws you to the Word.
“For me, I hadn’t ever found a spiritual discipline before that made me excited about sitting down and reading the Bible,” Ratcliff-Mann says. Bible journaling helps Ratcliff-Mann to listen better during church and to read closely when she’s in the Word or reading a devotional. She constantly is asking herself, “If I were to journal this, what would I take away from it and put on the page? What images does this passage evoke for me?”
It helps you leave a visual legacy.
In the summer of 2014, Ratcliff-Mann lost her grandmother but inherited her grandmother’s Bible. The Bible bursted with prayers, thoughts and reminders that all pointed to the legacy of a life well lived with Christ. This family heirloom helped inspire Ratcliff-Mann to not only walk closer to Christ but to create a visual and tangible record of the journey.
It makes memorizing scripture easier.
Ratcliff-Mann tells of one confirmation class she helped lead after she began Bible journaling as a spiritual practice. One of the girls on the retreat remarked that she thought it possible to do something so bad that it would change God’s love for her. Wanting to reassure the girl that this wasn’t true, Ratcliff-Mann flipped to a verse she had journaled recently - “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you,” Isaiah 54:10. “Before I wouldn’t have remembered that verse,” Ratcliff-Mann says. The reading repetition and accompanying creative imagery that comes from journaling Bible verses can aid in memorization.
Its a spiritual discipline accessible to all ages.
Old or young - you can create. We are children of a creative God who made us each unique and different. You can use your creativity to glorify God. Ratcliff-Mann leads a Bible journaling group at Liberty United Methodist Church. This fall, the group began its second season of walking together in this spiritual discipline. Ratcliff-Mann says the first group was intergenerational; Moms would come with their daughters. Groups of college-age girls joined the class. There was interest from an older demographic of the congregation. Yet, together as one, they journaled and walked together in God’s word.
Interested in Starting a Bible Journal?
Ratcliff-Mann says she started her Bible journaling journey in a Bible designed for journaling. But a notebook, journal or blank piece of paper will also do - especially if you’re hesitant to draw in your Bible. Crayons, watercolors, scrapbook paper, stickers and pens make good material. Just be conscious of materials that could bleed through onto the next page, like markers. Ratcliff-Mann’s biggest regret starting out was journaling her favorite verses first. She wishes she’d waited until she’d developed her style and practiced more before tackling her favorite scriptures. But don’t be afraid to jump right into drawing in your Bible, even if you haven’t found your style. Ratcliff-Mann says sometimes journalers get paralyzed and feel like their skills aren’t good enough to draw in their Bible. “It’s more about the reflection process and worshiping through creative expression than it is the end product,” she reminds.