I want to preface this post by stating something obvious: I AM NOT AN EXPERT.
I'm just another bible journaler, and I claim that title with joy and gladness. I'm eager to share with you though because bible journaling has transformed my walk with Christ, and it's impacted my life in a huge way, so I want to encourage you to give bible journaling a try, too!
A few of you have reached out to me lately with questions about the basics: Where do I start? What bible should I use? How do I choose which scripture to illustrate? Which pens and paints work best? What do I need to get started?
I'm going to use this Bible Journaling Basics series to (try to) answer as many questions as I can. Please, please let me know if I leave any of your questions unanswered!
So listen. My short answer to "where do I begin," is always this: all you really need to begin bible journaling is a pen and a journaling bible. And I'm not even trying to talk in clichés, I'm serious. In fact, you don't even really need a journaling bible -- you can use a separate notebook for art journaling!
The details in regard to which brands to use for this-and-that don't really matter Once you get started though, you'll begin to understand and enjoy learning about and experiencing the differences between products, and you'll have your own preferences. I'll get into add-ons in the next post. For now, I'm going to walk you through a very basic process to start journaling your faith by!
Right. Let's get down to it!
BASIC BIBLE JOURNALING PROCESS & SUPPLIES
- THE NECESSITIES -
BIBLES & NOTEBOOKS
What I use: Charles F Stanley Life Principles Bible, She Reads Truth app, Crossway ESV Single Column Journaling Bible, Crossway ESV Interleaved Journaling Bible, Midori/Fauxdori inserts, Moleskine Cahier notebooks, Illustrated Faith notebook
What I do: First, my friends, this time always begins with prayer. To me, that's the most important step of all of this, because I want to make sure that my own mind isn't getting in the way of God's Word. After that my process varies, depending on whether I'm working on reading by my own plan or am reading through a devotional or study.
When I'm reading by my own plan, I always begin in the Charles F Stanley Life Principles Bible [CFSLPB]. As I read, I highlight directly in the bible, and take notes in a separate journal. I always read the full scripture first, and if there was any commentary I go back to it when I'm finished reading the scripture. If I want to read something in a different version (my CFSLPB is NASB), I'll choose a translation from the She Reads Truth app. My go-tos are usually NIV and The Message.
When I'm following a devotional or study, I read from the devotional app or study guide, and then I start the above process. ⤴︎
Then, once I'm through reading and studying, I choose which page I'll journal on! To choose the page (which verse I want to reference), I pray again, and then I look back through my notes and decide which part of the reading spoke to me the loudest, or had the clearest message. (Sometimes there isn't a free page where I want one, and I'll address creative alternatives -- besides choosing a related verse on another page -- in a later post.)
This is when the journaling begins!
PENS & PENCILS
What I do: For note-taking in my separate journal, I just use any old pen -- usually the pen nearest to me. My favorites right now are Staedtler colored fine-liners, but you do have to be careful with them because they can bleed through if the paper isn't thick enough. Another brand of pen I love for note-taking is Stabilo, but again, I only use them in a separate journal; because of the possibility of bleed-through and the almost certainty of "ghosting" on the opposite page, I never use these pens in my bible. This I had to learn the hard way, so take it from me!
Once I'm ready to start journaling in my bible, I almost always turn to my pencil first! Maybe you'll be confident enough to skip this step, but I am not ready to part ways with my beloved pencil and eraser, yet. I have attempted going sans-pencil two times because I wanted skip that step, but both times I psyched myself out and misspelled words or made wonky letters. At least I'm allowing room for error when I use a pencil first! (The only time a pencil is not the first supply I go to is when I'm painting a full page. More on this in a later post.)
So by this point I've got the verse or quote I want to journal, I've turned to the page in my journaling bible and am ready to starting getting creative! Now here's where your own creativity really kicks in. Everyone's style differs and this isn't meant to be a tutorial on how to bible journal, but rather a suggestion of the things I think you need in order to get your creativity and thoughts down in the pages of your own bible!
I'm just going to leave you with these two suggestions:
- Use either Illustrated Faith or Micron pens. The possibility of bleed-through and even ghosting is minimal, and these pens write so smoothly you'll wonder how you ever did a thing without them.
- As a beginner, use erasable colored pencils like Crayola's Twistable pencils. (Leave room for error, right?)
So! We're going to take a break from the suggestions for now, because like I said, this is a very basic list of what I believe are the bare necessities to bible journaling, and I wasn't kidding when I said that all you need is a pen and a journaling bible!
Leave a comment at the bottom of this post with any questions you have about the process/supplies covered here, and let me know if you have any questions you'd like answered in a later post!
Before you go, though... maybe you're on the fence about the whole thing:
WHY ILLUSTRATE YOUR FAITH?
A BIT OF A BACKSTORY
I've always had a fairly high level of reading comprehension, but the bible was one of those books that -- every once in a while -- would have me thinking, "huh?" and at some points had me questioning my intelligence. 🤔 As a child, the stories they told in Sunday School had seemed so simple, but when I tried to study the bible with fresh and reborn eyes as an adult, I found myself getting lost. I wasn't lost in the good way that you get lost in a story, though; I was just lost, as in I had no idea what was going on, or where I stood in the big picture.
Enter the NASB Charles F Stanley Life Principles Bible. [Since that title is a mouthful and makes my brain hurt, you'll have seen me refer to it as the CFSLPB.] When I found the CFSLPB, after reading through a couple of chapters in Psalms and the New Testament, and then reading and being able to apply to my current life some of the books I considered obscure from the Old Testament, I decided that I'd do what I'd never done before: read the whole bible. And not only that... I decided to read the whole bible from cover to cover (from Genesis to Revelation, as if it were a novel or any other "book"). That's been a long journey with many distractions, and I'm still working on it. Nevertheless, what I've learned while reading through the CFSLPB has been priceless. This is the study bible that I always recommend to those who ask.
Now that I had my CFSLPB, I would read (either cover to cover or along with a particular study or devotional), and I illustrated my faith -- that is, I took pretty notes -- in a blank journal. Taking notes and making little doodles helped me with scripture memorization and with getting verses to really "hit home" in my heart.
This new walk I had with the Lord -- reading His word along with the commentary in my new bible, and then taking pretty notes in my journal -- was incredible for my spiritual health. Things got even better though when I was introduced to bible journaling.
I explained a bit about why I illustrated my faith in this post, but because I love lists so much I'll provide a quick one for you here.
A few of the ways illustrating my faith has impacted me, personally:
- It's helped pull me out of bouts of depression and anxiety on several occasions.
- It's helped me memorize parts of scripture.
- It's provided me with opportunities to share my faith publicly.
- It's given me a creative outlet for worship.
So like I said before, I know I'm not and I'll never claim to be an expert bible journaler, but that isn't the point of this journey. My prayer is that through this new series of basics, and through my series of blogging through the bible, you'll be encouraged, inspired, made hopeful, and will maybe take a couple of steps of faith on your own bible journaling journey!