Americans are givers. We find reasons to give gifts at every opportunity: birthdays, graduations, baby showers, wedding showers, retirement parties, housewarming parties, and special days of appreciation for every profession ever conceived.
But giving a good gift can be tricky. We want to give something that the recipient will enjoy and appreciate, not something that does nothing other than take up space and create an obligation of care, but one that says, “I understand who you are, what you are about, and what is important to you.” We want to find that perfect gift for those who are important to us.
A Perfect Gift
If you are looking for a perfect gift for your mom, a mom, or a woman who loves the Word of God, I have a suggestion, The New Living Translation Journaling Bible.
I came across this in a bookstore and it was a revelation. I’ve seen all those beautiful pictures of Bible journaling on Instagram and Pinterest and up until I saw this Bible, I thought all these people were just amazing artists freehanding their illustrations. Guess what? They’re not.
Journaling Bibles do not just have space to draw, they have the foundations of the illustrations themselves preprinted. It’s sort of like a coloring book for grownups but in your Bible. (I also discovered there are journaling guides that can be used with any Bible)
The New Living Translation
The Bible itself is the New Living Translation. Some people get snooty about accessible translations, but this is truly my favorite translation to use as a study Bible. It is a “dynamic equivalence” translation, which means it is translated thought for thought rather than word for word.
I’m not sure why I love this translation so much. It may be because I grew up seeing my mom’s green Living Bible (the first version of this translation.) It may be because of the great commentary and extensive cross-references in my Life Application edition. It may be because this is the translation I used when I first began to really dig into the Word and be diligent about reading my Bible daily.
Regardless, I love it. The Babylon Bee may pooh-poo at any mention of it, but let me say this in its defense. Some of the most dynamic Bible study teachers I have had use the NLT translation. Also, when I took a class on Scripture and Apologetics from Michael Licona, we covered a unit on translations. He also recommended this translation and said that it is one he often gives out, particularly to new believers and those for whom English is a second language.
Journaling Bible Design
Researching this Bible on Amazon, I found that this is their second edition of a Bible with journaling pages, they call this line “Inspire.” The newest edition, Praise, has two versions: one with a lavender, imprinted cover, and one with a butterfly illustration on the cover.
There are some pages that are already illuminated (are full color)
Others have solid outlines ready to fill in.
While others have lighter outlines.
The Bible is designed with wide margins, leaving plenty of space for notes and illustrations.
The name, “Praise,” comes from the theme of the edition, Psalm 145:2: “I will praise you every day. Yes, I will praise you forever.”
Bible Journaling as Meditation
One of my favorite heroines from the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen, is known for her “illuminations,” or illustrated manuscripts. Illustrations help bring words on the page to life. It helps us convert a thought or idea into a concrete form. Because of that, Bible journaling can be a form of meditation on a particular verse or passage.
Bible Journaling to Develop Spiritual Vision
I’ve read recommendations from more than one person who has the gift of spiritual vision that one of the ways they developed this gift is through creating pictures. I occasionally get visions from the Holy Spirit, usually mental snapshots (sometimes it is like a movie) of a symbolic image. After reading this, I realized that those visions came after a period where I drew pictures as part of my Bible study and meditation.
After reading a passage, I would think, “What picture represents this passage to me?” I would draw the picture that came to mind and then write down verses related to the passage I was studying and any thoughts the Holy Spirit inspired.
This developed a capacity to receive visual images. After about eight months to a year of Bible study in this way, Holy Spirit inspired visions were a fairly common occurrence. Exercising my visual imagination gave the Holy Spirit more room to work.
I know that there are some who believe that a vision from God has nothing at all to do with the natural gifts of a person. Of course God can give a vision to someone with no visionary capacity; however, how much impact do you think that vision would have on someone who is not used to thinking or communicating in visual terms? Also, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to exercise the spiritual gifts imparted to him is evidence that there is a responsibility on the part of the recipient to actually learn to use it. (1 Timothy 4:14)
It reminds me of the parable of the talents. Of course, a “talent” was a monetary unit of the day, but it also applies to giftedness. The person who worked and made a return on what he was given was commended, while the person who did nothing with his was told, “depart from me you worker of inquity. “
“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given and they will have an abundance . . .” (Matthew 25:29)
On Journaling Materials
When I drew Scripture inspired pictures, I just used a regular sketchbook. I didn’t have a journaling Bible and not only are the margins of my study Bible not large enough for any significant illustrations, but my artistic skills are not that great. I used pastels because I thought a more abstract and impressionistic picture would be more forgiving of my weak skills. (It’s not a crooked line . . . It’s blended). This would not work well with a journaling Bible because the pastels would smear.
Most of the Bible illuminations I have seen have been with colored pencils, watercolors, markers, or watercolor markers. If you plan to create backdrops for some of your written notes or an overlay for the Scripture itself, I would go with some form of watercolor that is not as opaque. These watercolor markers come highly recommended.
Approaching Journaling for Growth
Whatever materials you use, be sure to approach your journaling with a proper mindset. I think we often approach creative activities with a critical mindset. We see excellence around us, know that ours doesn’t measure up to that, so we don’t do it at all. No one began as a great artist. Skill comes through practice and simply doing.
If you want to do something well, you have to first accept beginning badly. Trust me, God doesn’t care. Just as we post our children’s art work on our refrigerator and save those early works, God delights in what we create. You don’t have to show anyone else. Don’t worry about posting it on Facebook or Instagram. Just draw as the inspiration leads you and look at it as an act of worship to God.