The Struggle: Finding a Bible Study That Works for Me

It has been a while, actually, a lot longer than I realized since I have added any posts. This was a bit intentional on my part. I needed to find focus. I needed to step away and hear what God wanted me to do. Then it wasn’t just me any more. The whole world went a bit topsy-turvy, or so it seemed. I stepped away from social media almost completely. I say almost because there are some cases in which I needed to research a few things which took me to social media to find the answers. This is basically all I use it for now.

Why?

I found myself loosing too many hours in mindlessly scrolling through social media and in the end finding no benefit to it. Then, many times, I found my emotions being triggered by posts that had no purpose other than to project anger, fear and hate. I choose not to have anger, fear and hate in my life if it is within my control. Anger and hate are open doors for the enemy to insert a foot and then a stronghold to pull me away from God. This is not my purpose in life. My purpose is to get closer to God. So, social media is no longer a daily activity it is a tool for research only and I only go there when I need to research something.

I won’t be writing about Covid. I will only say this, we are fine. My daughter and I are fine. We follow our government’s advice, we stay home as much as possible and I follow my company’s requirements. Working in a pharmacy, interacting with people every day, means Covid can be a hot topic, a trigger to mine and other’s emotions, and I prefer to hand all my concerns over to God and let him take care of us. He is.

The past week or so, our air quality has been really bad here, due to the fires in the U.S. south of us. So, with the air quality, on top of Covid, breathing for some can be a huge challenge, and breathing for healthy people can be a challenge they never thought they would have to face. I fall somewhere between those two, as I learned my sensitivity to smoke can clog up my airways. Again, we stay inside as much as possible.

I know some people find restricting their movements, remaining home as much as possible a bit frustrating. I am not one of those people. I love being home whether it is with my daughter or on my own. I am never short on things to do.

I briefly scanned my last post just to remind myself where I was at the last time I posted. It didn’t have to remind me that one of the challenges I faced was in how to proceed with my bible studies. It is probably one of the main reasons I haven’t written, because it continued to be a challenge. Finding what works for me has not been easy. I often found myself asking, “why”.

That hasn’t been an easy thing to answer. I looked at inductive bible study method. I looked at the SOAP method. I tried devotionals. I checked out some Facebook groups devoted to bible study and a variety of bible classes from various sources. The list seemed endless and none seemed to work.

The other thing I was hung up on was my prayer life and wanting to be more focused and not so directionless in my prayers. I am not short on talking to God or praying to Him. I just always felt like they were NOT focused where they should be. Too much whining not enough praise, not enough thanks and so on.

I have been doing a lot of research, a lot of reading, and a lot of trial and error and praying for guidance in regards to both my study and prayer life.

I may address my prayer life later but for now I am working on a prayer journal which may work out but it is still a work in progress.

In my research regarding bible study, I came across Cat Woods on YouTube. I watched several of her videos before coming across one on how she studies her bible. This struck a cord with me and I let it germinate in my mind for a bit.

I tried a couple bible classes by Robin Sampson but they didn’t feel like they were fulfilling what my spirit hungered for. I tried altering one of the courses where I would first read the scripture, find images to correspond with what I read, incorporating those images into a journal where I hand wrote the scripture but again something seemed lacking. My spirit hungered for more.

I asked myself “what do I return to over and over again when things don’t work for me…. writing is what I always return to. I have found that my form of study is more of a written form instead of others, who like to use a lot of images in their bible journaling. I do enjoy searching for images and adding them to my handwritten scriptures which helps me to remember what I read, especially when I flip through my journal.

My study in Genesis using images, an altered version of Robin Sampson’s Creation Era class
Another page in the journal.

However, it takes a lot of time to do this and something was still missing. My spirit hungered for more. So I continued searching even though this partially worked for me.

In the meantime, I remembered Cat Wood’s video and I wondered if I could somehow formulate my own method of study. I knew I wanted to be creative in whatever I did and a new idea started to develop.

I knew I wanted to use lined paper so, the first thing I did was print out some lined paper I designed using a beautiful floral image I can’t share because it came from one of the classes I took and is not my own creation. But, by using Microsoft Word, I created lined paper with a background that looks like parchment paper.

I printed this on copy paper, two-sided, so it could be folded it in half to create a notebook using 5 or 6 sheets.

I, eventually, came upon an idea on how to create a cover that would hold about 5 or 6 notebooks. Each notebook would be like a little traveler’s notebook. The cover is based off of a travel’s notebook cover using crochet thread to hold the individual notebooks in place. I can slide out the notebook I want to write in and then slide it back in.

I created the journal today when my computer was updating. Unbelievably, I was done with the traveler’s style notebook long before my computer completed its update which took 5 hours!!

Of course a bible study isn’t just a notebook or style of notebook, it is about a method in which we can dig deeper into God’s word and learn about Him. However, I knew I needed a journal that would suit my needs and so I created this one in a traveler’s style. This enables me to pull out the journal I want to use when I’m studying.

Why 5 notebooks within my journal? Well, I’m not really sure. Tonight I started with two of the notebooks. The first I use for my reference study. The second for my study notes.

What do I mean by reference study? As an example, I started with Genesis 1:1. I start writing out the verse until I come across a superscript. The superscript points to a verse or group of verses in the reference column of my bible. Next, I flip to the first verse from the reference and write it in my journal, indenting it so I know it came from the reference. I do this for each verse or set of verses the superscript refers to. Then I go back to the verse I was reading and continue to write it out until I come across another superscript. Here is the example:

In the bible:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning,A God created the heavens and the earth.B

Reference: A Jn 1:1-2 B Job 38:4; Ps 90:2….

In my journal I did this, everything is handwritten (you might be able to see this in the 3rd image above):

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning

John 1:1-2

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God

2 He was with God in the beginning.

God created the heavens and the earth.

Job 38:4

4 Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.

Psalm 90:2

2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting

to everlasting you are God.

I continued in this way until I had all the referenced scripture written down under the scripture in the verse I was reading. In the above example there were more scriptures referenced for the B reference, a lot more. In my own journal, I wrote them all out, but for sake of space and time, I only showed two of them here.

What I found when I did this was I gained a greater perspective on what the scripture means, as well as, how it relates in other scriptures. For instance, another scripture referenced in B above (which I did not include) is Isaiah 42:5 “This is what God the Lord says– the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:” and Isaiah 44:24 “This is what the Lord says– your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself,”

In another notebook, I dated the page then wrote down notes relating to “who,what, where, when, why, and how” and then my thoughts. My notes included referencing the two Isaiah scriptures to back up my thoughts about how God didn’t just create the universe and our world and step back. He continually has a part in it every moment of every day. He gives us breath. He creates life in the womb, without Him there would be no life. This to me isn’t a new thought but it does instill a sense of amazement and an understanding of how each breath I take is a gift from God.

In just one verse of scripture, and using the reference feature of my bible, I think I have found what my spirit was seeking. I will know more as I continue to use this method. In Cat Wood’s video she didn’t stop at the scripture referenced in the verse she was reading. If for example she was also reading Genesis 1:1 she would go to John 1:1 and write it out until she came to a subscript and then go to that scripture in the reference, and write it until she reached a subscript and go to that referenced scripture and so on. This would lead to a lot of chained verses and can get quite complicated. Since I’m just starting out with my studies I decided to only go one deep which means only looking at the references for the scripture I am reading and no further.

What amazed me most about doing this is how the scriptures written out in this way have a sense of wholeness/completeness to them. They seem to form a complete thought.

When I realized my computer was going to take a long time to update I knew, this was God’s way of telling me I was on the right track for my studies. He gave me the time away from my computer to get my journal together. Then the time tonight to try out my first study in the method I had chosen. The insights from just the first verse in the bible by going to the references was mind boggling to say the least. If my eyes weren’t already strained from the lateness of the hour I would want to continue on to the next verse.

This also revealed to me, my study now is at the verse level and that I should never be in a hurry to get to the next verse or chapter.

What thoroughly blows my mind is the effort and work it must have taken for the creation of the cross-reference system. This was done before there were computers. How they did it just absolutely confounds me.

I did compare two of my NIV bibles that contain references and they are not identical. My study bible has more references. I decided to go with the one that has less references only because I am just starting out and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Again, this is about taking my time and letting the Spirit lead me.

I am on day 2 now. My study included Genesis 1:2-5 and I felt it no less invigorating and informative. Reading that when God “sends his Spirit, they are created” (Psalm104:30) and “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6) helped confirm a thought I have always had. That the Spirit of God is part of all that he has created.

Learning these things on my own as I am lead by the Spirit is more insightful and embedded than just hearing it in a sermon or in a class. I make a more solid connection with this knowledge in this way than I do if someone tells me. My Spirit also recognizes its truth when I discover the knowledge for myself, whereas, hearing it from another source, there is a certain amount of skepticism.

I am not sure if I will return to my blog to write any more posts. I have been considering removing it but I am not sure if that is what God wants me to do. For now, I’ll leave it here and wait for guidance from God’s Spirit.

The Progression of an Unexpected Journey

“Father, you have called me to write today about my journey, use my hands dear Lord to type the words you wish me to share with those who will read my blog. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

On April 8, 2018, I picked up my bible for the first time in a very long time with the intention of getting to know God. Not the God, I was taught about as a child, or as an adult through the churches I attended. No, I wanted to learn about the true God which is written about in the bible. I wanted to know who he is and the history which is contained within the bible. I was also curious how the history in the bible compares with what archeology has discovered but I knew that would probably come later.

Those who read this are probably wondering what this has to do with my journey as an artist. I had considered creating another blog to write about this journey but in truth, my journey as an artist brought me here, so these are not two separate journeys but one journey. My journey.

This is not the first time, in my 58, soon to be 59 years of life, to have picked up the bible with the intention of reading it from cover to cover. No, I remember at least one other time, but more like at least two other times of attempting to do so. You have probably already surmised that those other attempts, were just that, attempts. Attempts which failed. I have asked myself several times what makes my journey this time different.

I believe there is one significant difference. This time I was called upon to take this journey. The other times, the intent was just to be able to say I did it. This time, I felt a hunger that would not subside. I had to open the bible in my lap and start reading it. This time, that hunger did not subside. It did not dissipate. In fact, it grows. Why now? Why not back then? Maybe because I wasn’t ready for the full impact of what reading the bible would do in my life. But I really don’t know.

I can’t really say that there has been any major changes in my life, external life that is since starting to read the bible. At least not that anyone outside of my home would notice, other than attending church from time to time. Attending church isn’t a major motivation for me right now.  I go when I feel called to do so and when it is possible around my work schedule.

The changes which have occurred in my life are more related to how I see God, the part he has in my life, and how I should be handling my life and decisions. My priorities have changed. My first priority every day is to read the bible. It is the first thing I do, even on the days I have the early shift at work, with the exception of taking a shower first and getting dressed, so I’m not distracted with the possibility of not getting to work on time. I read between 1 to 5 chapters every day. There are not many days in which I didn’t read at least one chapter a day. I finished Isaiah 54 this morning.

I have gone back and forth on what I should do, whether I should just read through the bible and consider deeper study as the next step after I have read the entire bible. Or, should I include deeper study while I’m reading through the entire bible.

I started researching bible study methods and tried a couple of them. One source was from Anne Graham Lotz’s AnGeL Ministries website where I signed up for a daily devotional email. After trying a couple of the study methods, I put them aside for later.

To satisfy some of this desire to dig deeper, I started with a monthly topic prompt list of verses to look up. I type them into my digital journal next to a copy of the list. These help me to get a view of particular topics like the one for this month is “Forgiveness”.

I also type in the daily devotional scripture from AnGeL Ministries email I receive daily.

Then I came across a couple Facebook groups which included some bible study with bible journaling, so I tried including one of them. I did complete one of these studies and went on to the next one. I didn’t complete the next one, as you will see later.

Then another bible study crept in that was a bit different and had a two step study. The first step was writing out scripture that we were reading/studying and the second step was to use a keyword list to focus on particular words in the chapters marking them and then answering some questions about them or writing what we learned. This is called the Inductive Bible study method. To be truthful I didn’t complete that study yet. It is easy to find an excuse why. I don’t like excuses, they are meaningless and usually are not connected to the real reason.  I intend to go back to this study later once I have read the entire bible.  I felt like I was studying something out of context without knowing what transpired before. Then too, I don’t think I am ready yet for that type of in-depth study which is how I felt about the previous study methods I tried.

These two studies also overlapped each other. With the monthly prompts and two different types of bible studies, and my daily reading I was overloading myself. I realized too I was just piling things on possibly as a way to prove to myself that I am a godly person. This was not the right attitude to have so I put them aside for later.

I did love writing out the scripture from the one study so I started writing out a chapter a day when I was in Psalms. This, however, slowed down my progression in reading because I was trying to do it in conjunction with my daily reading. After feeling like I was being held back, I decided to continue my daily reading like I had been doing and not let writing scripture by hand hold me back. I now write scripture by hand when I have time to do so. If I can do it daily, I do. If not, if I skip a day or two, I don’t feel guilty about it.

I knew I was piling a lot on because I was still searching for something. I wasn’t sure what. Something was still missing.

I came across another course or maybe it is more like a challenge, called “Time With God” by Robin Sampson. She was the author of one of the monthly prompts I was doing which is how I came across her course. The course is to help, those who want to study the bible, to make a habit out of it. I had already made reading the bible a habit. It was a habit for me from the very first day I picked up the bible on April 8th to begin reading it. I didn’t have to think about it or make an effort to do it. The desire to do it was there every day. In taking the course, I hoped to find a process for my bible study that would work for me. I wasn’t sure if the course would help with that but since it was free, it wouldn’t cost me anything other than time. So, I added it to my daily study/reading plan. I am about half way through it.

I can’t say the “Time With God” course is helping me find a process that works for me, at least not directly. I am learning about things like Asana which helps me in all areas of my life for tracking the things I need and want to do. I have learned about other resources for learning, like torahclass.com, which doesn’t just teach about the bible but puts what happened in ancient times in context with current times. This is what I have always hungered for. Teaching, not preaching.  So this too was added to my studies but not daily.

I have since come across other bible studies online which excite me and I want to try them. One called “Discovering Hope in the Psalms” which I felt I could do since I have read through the Psalms. Hope is something which has disappeared from my life and I want to bring it back. I haven’t started this because of all the things I already have on my plate.

Then I came across “First 5” which is mostly run on an app but can be read from the computer. I’m just not able to make comments from the computer. Their current study is in Psalms, the exact spot where I am in my handwriting of scripture, so I added it as a supplement to my handwritten study, to read for getting another perspective. I don’t have to keep up with the daily post so that works out well for doing it when I have time.

While looking at “First 5”, I discovered it was part of Proverbs 31 Ministries where they also have another bible study. They have a current study which isn’t in alignment with where I am at, I believe it is concerning marriage/relationships and since I’m not married or in a relationship, I looked at some of the ones they have archived.

One caught my eye.

“It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” And yes, I had to add it to my study schedule. Since it is an archived study, I can do it at my own pace.

I don’t know if it is apparent to the reader the progression of events since I started reading the bible. To me, it is apparent that I am being led. In, other words, shown the way.  In some cases, I am given answers to prayers which I didn’t know I had made. For instance, I knew what had happened three years ago in my life felt all “wrong” to me. So I knew as soon as I saw the title for the bible study “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” was an answer to a prayer I never purposefully formed and asked of God. He knew I needed it and in a progression of steps brought me to where I needed to be to find it.

Outside of my bible studies, what is happening in my life hasn’t changed much. I am still in a minimum wage job that doesn’t pay enough to cover my bills so my financial reserves are dwindling.

What has changed is this:

  1. I am no longer stressing daily or panicking daily over this situation.
  2. I am being taught through my bible studies to turn everything over to God and let him stress over my situation.
  3. I know without a doubt he is telling me to “be still” and let him handle things.
  4. I am learning when good and bad things happen, to equally turn to God and thank him.
  5. I have learned to be grateful for what he has already done and what he will do.

I have been given clear messages. I am given exactly what I need when I need it. There are times I am given things I didn’t even know I needed. I remember writing in my journal one day how frustrated I was over my lack of time to do things. The very next day I learned about Asana and now I’m getting more done every day than I did in the past. Not only does it help me know each day what I need to do but I no longer have to worry about whether I will forget something. When I find out I need to do something I put it in Asana, set a due date and when the day comes it is on my list to do. The interesting part is I didn’t pray about it, at least not in the traditional way. I wrote about it in my journal which tells me even when I don’t direct my thoughts to God he knows what I’m thinking and he delivers what I need when I need it.

This means, my financial situation will be fine. He knows what I need and he will deliver it. He knows better than I do. I don’t have to go out looking for it. He will bring it to me as long as I focus on him and make him my priority.

My faith has grown since starting this journey of reading the bible. I know there have been times when I didn’t believe he would provide for me. Stress would eat me alive as I sent application after application to job after job posting and anxiety would overwhelm me when I heard nothing or went through the process of an interview to only hear nothing. I believe this is God’s message to me to “be still”,  learn to make him my priority. Let the rest of this world be and focus upon him. He gives me more than I need when it comes to learning all about him. I have so many resources now I have to use something like Asana to manage them so I won’t lose track of them and I can go work through them learning more and more.

Even in the process, God revealed to me that my last name is Jewish. I may not be officially Jewish but in learning about God, I am also learning about Israel and the Jewish people. To think I could possibly be tied back to being one of Israel’s children gives me a warm feeling inside I can’t explain. I have always been curious about Jerusalem but now I feel its pull even more. I’m discovering something new all the time which brings me a bit closer to God when I do. As much as, I originally set out to learn what I could about the true God when I started reading the bible, I believe the root of that desire was based in a need to feel connected to God, deeply connected. I’m not there yet, but I can see him working to make that happen.

New idea: Faith Journal

My art  journey is morphing in a way I never expected or could have foreseen. It is quickly becoming intertwined with my faith. My searches now, not only include various art techniques but also art related to bible journaling and bible study.

I have a bible that is designed for bible journaling and has in some of its margins artwork to color in if, I desire to do so. Adding my own artwork isn’t happening but maybe it will in the future.

I did do some testing of a few different mediums in my bible. I discovered a couple of interesting facts. Prang watercolors bleed through the paper. They also bleed through clear gesso! Even 3 layers of clear gesso!!! Daler Rowney watercolors from a tube, DO NOT bleed through unprepped (no gesso) bible pages!!!!!! Sorry for all the exclamation points but I found this rather AMAZING. I may have to invest in better quality watercolors if I want to use them in my bible and not have to prep the pages with gesso. I currently prep them with clear gesso so I can use sharpie markers or other markers, for highlighting or coloring, otherwise they will bleed through the page. I did a test on an untreated page using Inktense pencils, by using a waterbrush and pulling color from the pencil tip and painting it on the page. It has a high ghosting factor, not really a bleed through but possibly could if the application is too heavy. I plan to work with them more in my bible at some point and test them over clear gesso. I was quite frankly amazed regarding what would or would not bleed through the untreated pages of a bible considering how thin they are. I had expected everything to bleed through except maybe ballpoint pen or pencils.

Maybe some day I’ll do my own art in my bible.

Right now, I am more focused on my bible studies. From my searches I came upon a method some people use during their studies. I am more of a writer/note taker when it comes to studying than I am an doodler/artist creating pictures to help me remember what I’ve read. This helped me to understand why I felt a bit blocked when I tried to add artwork to my bible. Instead of drawing, I highlight and write in colorful text which in itself is pretty to my eyes.

I often find myself intrigued by how God influences my life. I find myself drawn towards things not understanding why. I was drawn to sign up for a free tutorial called Magical Manifesting Journal tutorial which I ran across on Facebook. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted yet another tutorial about manifesting. First, because I’ve tried it before with little to no success and secondly, because of my renewed faith in God. I won’t go into the spiritual implications of this. Just know I’m rethinking some of the things I have dabbled in over the years and whether they are appropriate in my life now. Manifesting is one of these things I’m reconsidering so I was intrigued as to why I would be pulled towards this course. I truly believe this was God’s influence, so he could show me how I can alter something that may seem inappropriate for my faith and make it appropriate and supportive of my changes in my life.  I believe he uses everything he can to bring us into his chosen path for us. And this is just one example.

I went ahead and signed up for the tutorial. I watched all the videos. As I reached the end of the videos, I realized I could still use the idea of the manifesting journal but altar it slightly. I had to first understand what it was I wanted. I want to build a closer relationship with God. I needed something which I could turn to and have it help restore my faith or turn my thoughts from feelings of negativity to positive feelings. I, all too often, sink into despair and depression when life just doesn’t seem to be going well for me. I wanted a quick reference to particular versus which resonate with me and help me on my spiritual journey.

So… I altered the idea of a manifesting journal to a faith journal.

What I would do is create a simple booklet from one page. You know, one of those one page wonders, where you fold a large sheet of paper into a booklet containing about 8 pages, including front and back cover. Adhering the bottom edge of the pages and not the top or sides, creates pockets, which I’ll show in another post when I start to create items to insert into the pockets.

Here is what I have created so far. It isn’t done yet, but I was so excited about how this is turning out, I wanted to share it, in case, anyone else might want to try it as well.

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Front Cover

 

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Page 1 and 2

  Pages 1 through 4 were inspired from last Sunday’s sermon at CAC.

Page 1: “when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” James 1:2

Page 2: “when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” James 1:3

The point of the journal is to add scripture which I can refer to when my faith begins to wain or I feel challenged and need to feel God’s support. Since I am currently facing some personal challenges these particular verses in James resonated with me and help to give me hope that there is a purpose behind these challenges.

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Page 3 and 4

Page 3: “when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” James 1:4

Page 4: “if you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you” James 1:5

Page 5 came from my daily reading from a week or so ago. “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.” 2 Kings 20:5  You might recognize it from the art journal page I showed in my previous blog. This one gives me hope that God hears my prayers and is actively helping me.

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Page 5 and 6

I still have page 6 and the back cover where I can add more scripture as I come across something that resonates with me. But don’t think this is all I have room for. As I mentioned earlier, if I only glue the bottom edges of the pages together it will  leave the sides of a couple pages and the top of a couple other pages open forming pockets. I can add decorated tags or decorated paper which I can also add scripture to and store in the pockets, plus I could add tip-ins or fold-outs for even more space to add scripture. This means I have a lot more I can add to this journal. When I feel it is full, I can create another one.

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Back Cover

For the text I found free fonts online I can download for personal use. I printed the scripture on computer paper and tore them out and used a bit of slightly watered down glue to adhere them to the page.

The background is several layers. First, was a collage of different paper, text, decorative paper and music pages. Next came a layer of napkins, followed by a layer of maybe 4 different colors of paint some of them metallic. The last layer was some stamping and mark making using different items like bubble wrap, a lid, the side of a gift card and so forth. I did paint the back of the page, partly to help it lay flat and secondly so the inside of the pockets wouldn’t just be white.

These pages are not done. I plan to do something to help the white paper, with the text printed on it, to blend into the background more, just haven’t settled on what I’ll do yet.  I think I want some embellishments, but again I’m not sure what. Ideas are flowing. I just need to settle on which ones I want to try and just how far I’ll take this project.

I finally feel like I’m finding a focus for my artwork, which is such a wonderful feeling.