Illustrate this!

illustrated-faithI love writing in my Bible. And, I’ll also confess that I take a little pleasure in flipping through the pages and seeing which books I’ve spent a lot of time in. Mostly, I take notes to highlight interesting ideas presented in podcasts and sermons, on the off-chance I’ll need to share these illuminating ideas with the pretend audience I entertain when I’m alone. There are some books that get a lot of play…thinking of the gospels and some Psalms…making note-taking more challenging these days. If you think about your own Bible, the words are really tiny and there is hardly any margin. I have different color arrows telling me to flip to different pages for “the rest of the note.” I’ve played around with a few ways to better collect my thoughts including using separate notebooks and typing up notes on the computer but I have to say, writing in my Bible seems to be the most gratifying. But I’m running out of room.

Occasionally, I think of buying myself a new Bible but I haven’t come across combo #9, the last, most unusual choice that doesn’t make a lot of money. If I were to design one that would meet my note-taking needs, I would most definitely include a large margin on each page. I’d also use thicker paper, which would prevent my Uniball pen from bleeding through. And, I’d include at least 54 blank pages at the end of it all for summary thoughts and references. I certainly would never create a Bible with space specifically for drawing pictures. And that’s just about all I see in gift shops, booksellers and arts and crafts stores.  Illustrating your faith is big business. Imagine the creativity and leaps of understanding that could take place if you were to summarize the point of a passage with a captivating font and stylized image. Certainly, I would save space. I mean, words make sense when they’re strung together; and a paragraph is much more description than a 4 word phrase. With art, you have the freedom for personal interpretation. And adding vivid color would definitely pump up the appeal factor of the boring or scary chapters.

I think each is trying to achieve the same purpose…to be mindful of the overall story that’s being told. Key words help anchor a story in our head because concepts crowd each other and compete for space. Clever artistic designs can integrate symbols and icons that communicate volumes to the viewer. The brain is compelled to make connections and it wants to do this work in the simplest and quickest way possible. Note-taking and drawing do not replace the reading of the text, they serve to illuminate the understanding of it.

On a recent trip to Hobby Lobby, I counted 3 aisles devoted exclusively to framed art featuring inspirational quotes and illustrated faith. I will admit, I’m a sucker for fancy jer-29-quote-illstratedfonts that present tidbit truths in attractive packaging. If I lived in a cute IKEA catalog apartment, I’d likely dot my entryway walls with these glitzy designs. The risk comes when we take these verses at face value and forget the context. Consider a popular verse: Jeremiah 29:11…I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you… At first reading, it appears to be a promise from God to me that I need not worry because God’s got this and I’ll be well-kept and financially secure. But spend time with the prophet Jeremiah it becomes clear that these words were written to the Israelites while they were in exile and that they will endure major suffering but God has a plan for their redemption. A little different than my selfish first-person reflection, I think.

I’m not advocating that we stop sprinkling our lives with scripture rather I’d like to do a better job of dwelling on a thought and talking about it with one other person. What good are the numerous notes I’ve taken if I don’t synthesize the new understandings I’ve uncovered? And, what a treat it would be for me to have a friend share their drawing and spend some time imagining what the text is saying to us today in our context.

For now, I’ll keep my marked up Bible. And maybe, it’s time to begin taking notes in those books that remain unmarked and waiting for God and me to work together to bring new notions to light.