My Story of Visual Faith
by Pat Maier
In November of 2012, God blessed me with a new friend. I met Connie Denninger at a church leaders’ conference. Being the wives of the leaders attending, we made plans to meet for conversation. That’s when I saw her Bible…..
Connie’s Bible was fat and full of color! In the margins she’d written or tucked in Bible truths, notes, and prayers. Hand-written fonts and colorful doodles pulled me in for a visual treat as I paged through thinking, “This lady spends a lot of time in God’s Word—and it looks like fun!” As a Lutheran educator and pastor’s wife, I’d always been drawn to the creative use of language and art to enhance communication, learning, and spiritual refreshment. It was my joy, but I had never considered it for my own personal Bible study. I knew I would love the process and have fun doing it—but was that reason enough? Having spent my whole life in Christian education—shouldn’t I have been aware of this as a valued process?
After asking a million questions, exploring online sites, and still not quite understanding what this would look like, I read the book, Writing in the Margins by Lisa Hickman. I discovered that writing and responding to God in the margins of the Bible is an ancient practice, and I read the stories of what and why people wrote in their Bibles, and how this impacted the faith of themselves and others. To my surprise, I learned that J.S. Bach wrote in his Bible—observations which inspired him to write such beautiful music—and that his Bible exists today in the library of the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. (Who knew?!?)
Visual Faith is any form of connecting in a visual or kinesthetic/tactile way during prayer or time spent in God’s Word. It includes visual prayer practices, creative Bible journaling, and much more—the common denominator being God’s Word and prayer as the umbrella over all. There are two reasons that these processes are beneficial for both men and women of all ages.
First of all, they allow us to see and remember—and then tell—the story of God’s faithfulness in our lives. Visual responses are like a snapshot, or “selfie”; they are recorded evidence of time spent with God. I often hear a great sermon, but am unable to verbally express those thoughts coherently a short time later. If I take notes and, later that week, revisit the text, jot down a few “take-aways” in my Bible, and pause to pray or apply it to my life—then I do remember and God’s Word goes with me into my week!
Secondly, educational research shows that the majority of us learn best when a visual or kinesthetic process is included. When we read, pause to reflect, and then respond with words or images, our brain makes connections that help retain information. If we value these processes for teaching math or reading—and we do—then why not for faith teaching?
Not brave enough to begin in my Bible, my entry point into Visual Faith began with visual prayer. I found that having an image or coloring template on hand gave me a place to record prayer requests as they came in and to remember them throughout the month. Finding moments to color during prayer helped me to actually “be still” – my mind strayed less towards the day’s schedule and the time coloring created a focused space to allow for the Holy Spirit to turn my mind toward other prayer thoughts. Creating smaller “prayer cards” allows me to give someone the visual gift of time and prayer on their behalf.
This was my door into journaling and drawing in my Bible. I love slowing down to take in every truth and detail of a verse, to create an image or wording that will bring me back and remind me to share it, and leaving a legacy of God’s faithfulness to our family. At times throughout all my life, I’ve been convicted of my need to be in the Word more – but now I crave it and think about it every single day. I treasure my time in God’s “text” message of love…… and I am delighted to be able to “text” back.
Pat Maier has a passion for using creative communication to bring about joy and connection. A pastor’s wife and former Lutheran educator, she enjoys writing, drawing, and “imagining” to inspire others in their walk with Jesus. She is involved in planning and presenting at retreats and women’s events in the Michigan District, where her husband serves as District President, and is especially glad to encourage others through Visual Faith teaching. She finds great joy in nature and gardening – but most of all – in her children and grandchildren.WLI