He will Sustain You

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In my Journaling Bible, before creating this ‘Geode’ page, I prepared the page first using one coat of Dina Wakely Clear Gesso, dried with a craft heat gun. It just helps to make the page a bit stronger and helps to avoid bleedthrough of colour and pens to the other side.
To create this page I used Inktense pencils, which are so rich in colour and are watersoluble, they are a delight to work with – so much fun! After drawing the outline of the geode lightly with a pencil, I used the pencils to add colour, and used a waterbrush to make the colours come to life and to blend them a bit. I then dried with a heat gun.  

Next I used a clear embossing pen to mark where I wanted the glittery bits, and sprinkled some sparkly embossing powder over the top, shook off the excess and used the heat gun to melt and fix the embossing powder in place. Finally I added some extra glittery highlights with a Gellyroll ‘Moonlight’ pen. This photo probably doesn’t show just how sparkly this page is in real life! 

Cast your cares on the Lord & He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous be shaken.

Psalm 55 v 22

What’s bothering you?

What’s on your mind, what might you be struggling with?

I wonder what you may be carrying around, finding it hard to let go of? Does it feel like a great big rock on your back? Or more like a pocketful of pebbles?

Geodes look like ugly bits of rock from the outside, yet inside are beautiful, colourful crystals, formed as a result of pressure, heat and time (millions of years!). They can come in many different colours, shapes and sizes – I think they are really beautiful.

geode-purple

He has made everything beautiful in its time.

Ecclesiastes 3 v 11

God is making something beautiful out of our troubles. It might not look like it, or feel like it. We may not understand it. And we may not even see it in our lifetime.

How wonderful that we can ‘cast’ our cares and burdens onto Him, this can mean to literally throw them and fling them up to Him!

It’s about surrendering.

His power is made perfect in our weakness. When we relinquish control (often of things we can’t control anyway!) and surrender all to Him, we find strength in Him. I have found this to be true, time and again.

Let’s keep on trusting Him, handing over our cares to Him. And God will sustain us & give us the strength we need to keep going, to keep serving, to keep loving. He won’t let us fall.

Heavenly Father, thank you that we can throw all our cares and burdens onto You, for you care for us and will never let us fall. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on You, and to live our lives in surrender to Your mighty power that gives us all the strength we need. 

We look to you amid the desperation of some situations that may weigh heavy on our hearts, and we believe and trust that you are making something beautiful. 

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be Like Jesus

Image & design (c) Deborah Jane Gregg 2016

 

I just love how God loves to surprise us!

He always manages to catch my breath with the unexpected, out of the blue, jaw dropping twists and turns that He brings my way.

When we walk in step with the Spirit, it’s a remarkable adventure.

When we step out in faith, we know He’s gone before us, He goes behind us and is right there with us.

This has been a rather remarkable week!

Last Sunday, when I was washing the dishes I was just thinking about the ‘be like Bill’ meme that everyone was sharing on Facebook.

I just felt God reminded me that we should be like Jesus.

And the idea came, to draw a stickman picture, with simple words of truth. After 20 minutes (of mostly deliberating about the wording) it looked like this:

Image & design (c) Deborah Jane Gregg 2016

And that’s when it took off…literally. I mean, it went viral!

I was looking at my iPad and the ‘like’ and ‘shared’ notification counter was literally going ping!ping!ping!  All evening! And for the next few days, this simple picture has been sharing the simple gospel truth around Facebookland, Instagram and Twitter, I mean it even has a hashtag! #belikejesus. At last estimate it would be at least well over 100,000 likes and shares. Not that I’m counting 😉 but I have to admit that it was surreal and extraordinary and completely unexpected. I am just so humbled that God would use this simple sketch in this way.

And I particularly love that he used the most simple thing I have ever drawn. When I think about the hours and hours I’ve poured into other Bible Art pieces, artwork and journaling, but no, it’s the stickman that gets His message out there! 🙂 I mean, I didn’t even do any proper hand lettering on it! But isn’t that just what God loves to do? To use the most ordinary for His extraordinary works.

So looking back, I remember that on that particular Sunday morning I had specifically prayed for opportunities, whatever they may look like, and also I put on my shoes of the gospel of peace and I prayed that I would not be ashamed of the gospel. So I’m thankful for a very surprising answer to prayer – He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine! And I’m looking to continue to follow His direction, to make the most of every opportunity.

All for His glory!

Let’s be like Jesus.

 

P.S. Please feel free to share this ‘Be Like Jesus’ picture on social media, use in churches and outreach, copy into your Journaling Bible, and it’s fine for general reasonable use, without any copyright or acknowledgement needed. Just please don’t make or sell stuff with this image without asking me first. Thank you!

‘Be Like Jesus’ Image & design (c) Deborah Jane Gregg 2016

On a challenging day

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This journal page was simply made using a fantastic picture I came across in a catalogue. I identified with the person pushing a bike uphill, and on a day that felt like an uphill struggle, I felt God reminded me of this verse which encouraged me greatly. The verse was written out on plain white paper using a stencil, cut out in strips and stuck on the page.

Tip: I like to keep a selection of cut out magazine images in a small box, and will sometimes spend a happy hour just ripping up a pile of old magazines to use later. Sometimes when looking at a verse, God will remind me of a particular image I’ll go and find to use in my journal. Other times, I may have a ‘prayerful rummage’ through the images and often find God draws me towards a picture, and then reminds me of a verse.

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

‘Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.’

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’

I know we all have days like these. Where they start out well, or at least well intended, and the busy sets in, and the flow starts to go, and the ‘to do’ list gets buried under a pile of stuff. When the unexpected needs to be responded to. When things start to go a bit wrong, then a lot wrong. When mistakes are made, communication gets lost along the way and tensions can rise. Usually not over anything significant, just stuff.

There are days when it feels like an uphill struggle. And you can’t wait til bedtime, because God’s mercies are new every morning and you’ll get a fresh day tomorrow. Which HAS to be better than this one.

Thankfully on difficult days like these, God is still good.

And I can remind myself that His love remains, and endures, and cannot be shaken even when I am in the middle of chaos. He is always close by, watching and waiting for us to turn and ask for help. The tiniest whisper of a thought ‘Father, what should I do?’ can bring peace.

When I lean on Him in the midst of the challenging bits, I can find peace. I can ask Him for wisdom, and He helps me find a way through it all.

These two verses remind me to be content, because He is with me; and to not be afraid or live in fear, because He is with me. Found in both the Old and New Testaments, this is a promise of God that is relevant today and every day. He is our Immanuel, God with us!

Sometimes we may ask, why does God allow things to go wrong, and for days that are, frankly, a bit of a disaster (to be melodramatic) why can’t things just go smoothly and swimmingly all the time, we’d all be so much happier without all this rubbish to deal with!

But, what good would that do us? To sit in comfort, to take things easy? We would stay in our comfort zones, never venturing out, never challenging ourselves to take on the truth of the Word of God and APPLY it to our lives. We would miss the opportunity to GROW, to LEARN and to BECOME TRANSFORMED.

Children learn how to do things, how to become mature and independent, by doing things. By trying. By watching. Asking. Copying. By making mistakes.

I am a child of God and need to learn from Him by leaning on Him, in the tough times. This is what builds and forms my character, so that I can become more like Jesus.

I don’t always feel like I’m being transformed, as my failures and mistakes are a constant reminder that, in actual fact, I can’t do this. It’s impossible. I’ve never been brave enough to buy and wear a WWJD bracelet –  ‘What would Jesus do?’ Honestly much of the time I don’t really have a clue what Jesus would do, so I just give it my best shot and hope and pray that He guides me, covers me and prevents me from making too much of a mess of things, and yet somehow when I do this He always makes it good. Maybe that’s how we learn to trust. When we see Him doing just that.

His grace is sufficient.

Far better to walk through difficult days with God at our sides, than to walk through this without Him.

Heavenly Father, thank you that You are with me, at all times. You will never leave me or forsake me. Thank you that I can lean on you through the difficult times, and that Your arms are strong enough to hold me close and carry me.  

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Finally: If you are going through difficult times right now, I hope and pray that you will be encouraged today. And know you are not alone, don’t be afraid to ask for prayer and/or practical help from family, friends and your church. We are part of God’s family and are here to support one another. God bless you – may you know that He will never leave you or forsake you, today and every day.

Take Off Your Shoes

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Art Journal Note:  To create this page, I was trying out some new distress inks, and just used a few sprays of a denim blue and magenta pink directly onto this double spread page. I loved the effect as it was, so (unusually for me!) decided to leave it as a simple background. 

Tip: knowing when to stop adding things and fiddling around can be tricky! Sometimes it’s a great idea to leave your artwork for a short break, before deciding whether to go in for another round of layering, stencils or collage! Sometimes less is best.

I added the lettering a couple of weeks later, while at New Wine. ‘Take off your shoes’ was written using a stencil and purple Staedtler fineliner, and ‘Here I am’ was written freehand using a black Micron pen, copying a font from my little collection of favourite alphabet fonts to copy.

Tip: it can be a good idea to prepare a few backgrounds ahead of when you may need them, so that they are ready to put words on, that’s handy when you don’t have much time but really want to record what God has shown you.

Take Off Your Shoes

For me, this has been a summer of learning to take off my shoes.

In Exodus chapter 3 we find Moses in the wilderness, far away from home tending his father-in-laws flocks. God manages to catch Moses’ attention through a burning bush, that doesn’t burn up completely. As Moses is drawn closer out of curiosity, God speaks – calling him by name.

It seems to me that Moses could have chosen to run away, yet instead he chose to stay and replied, ‘Here I am’.

This struck a chord with me – when God gets our attention, when he calls to us from whatever our ‘burning bush’ moments may be to us – this should be our reply:

‘Here I am!’

And then there’s the shoes. God could have given Moses any number of instructions – maybe ‘go home and fast for seven days and then come back and I’ll talk to you then’ or ‘build me an altar and slaughter half the herd on it’. No.

God just told Moses to take off his shoes, for he was standing on holy ground.

The shoes were simply a barrier between Moses physically experiencing this holy ground for himself. With his own bare feet. God wanted him to connect with His holiness. To feel it between his toes, under his skin, for his whole body to be resting upon it. His shoes were a barrier, that could potentially help him to run away. With no shoes, Moses was vulnerable and present, experiencing God’s company.

We struggle so to be holy. We yearn for the divine. Yet, how often we are standing on holy ground and need only take off our shoes to strip away whatever prevents us from experiencing the holy.

(Macrina Wiederkehr ‘Seasons of Your Heart’)

There are so many verses in the Bible that say that God is always with us. Just for example, ‘Christ in you the hope of glory’, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ and ‘I will be with you always even to the end of the age’. It occurred to me that if God is truly in us and with us always – then surely the very ground we tread on is holy ground.

Every step we take, God is there – holy ground. 

Everywhere we go, God is there – holy ground. 

I’ve been learning to be on the lookout, and to take off my shoes more often.

God often tries to get our attention through the ordinary and the extraordinary,

and sometimes both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.

In the wonderful book ‘Seasons of your Heart’ by Macrina Weiderkehr, she reflects on this beautifully:

If you should ever hear God speaking to you from a burning bush, and it happens more often than most of us realise, take off your shoes for the ground on which you stand is holy.

Father God, thank you that you do speak to me in so many ways, to try to get my attention. May I constantly be on the lookout for what you are wanting to say to me, through the ordinary, the extraordinary and sometimes both. And Father, may my response be to take off my shoes and say ‘Here I am’.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Look to the LORD

 

imageArt Journal Note:

For this page I used a simple beautiful picture from my rummage box of magazine clippings. I think the ‘stack of cosy blankets’ image came from a department store catalogue originally.  To me, this image speaks of that cosyness and comfort that you can feel inside when you are fully relying on God’s strength.

I often like to rip around the edges of the images I use when making a collage, as it gives a soft edge and adds movement and interest.

I used my favourite White Uniball Signo broad gel pen to do the lettering. I did outline the letters first in pencil but decided to erase them before going in with the pen, as I wasn’t sure if the pencil would show through the white ink.  So I did the wording freehand in the end, though I had a rough idea of where the lettering would go.

TIP: make sure you let artwork dry properly in your journal to avoid smudges – some inks take a while to fully dry, especially gel pens! 

Give thanks to the LORD, proclaim his name;

make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him;

tell of all his wonderful acts.

Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Look to the LORD and his strength;

seek his face always.

Psalm 105 v 1-4

This Psalm opens with wonderful words of thanks and praise! And an encouragement to everyone to rejoice in all that God has done for them. The psalmist goes on to tell the story of how God rescued his people from Egypt and brought them into the promised land, listing miracle after miracle, as a testimony of all that God has done for his people.

The key verse that spoke to me was to look to the LORD and his strength. We simply cannot go though life in our own strength, it’s impossible. At some point, from time to time we all come to the end of ourselves and feel that we just cannot cope with all that life is bringing us. Things get too much, burdens weigh heavy and however strong we are, we crumble. Whether inside, or outside. Some of us are better at hiding this than others, but the truth is this, that we all struggle.

This Psalm encourages us is that it is perfectly possible to live this life in the strength that God Himself can bring us.

How? All we need to do is to look to the LORD. Change our focus from us, to Him. We can do this by remembering who God is and what He has done for us, and giving him thanks and praise.

This helps to change our perspective and makes it easier for us to trust God with our present situations and difficulties, and to feel at peace about what the future will hold.

I only know this because I have lived it. One specific experience that I have walked through was incredibly challenging and painful, yet through that time I just tried to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus. In my mind I could see myself clinging on for dear life to the mast of the ship in the storm – in fact I had chained myself to the ship’s mast! I wasn’t going anywhere without Him. I just knew He would see me through.

And He did. And still does!

Like many people, I have the tendency to forget, so this blog post is a reminder to me and hopefully an encouragement to you.

Jesus said:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11 v 28-29

John Otberg puts it this way, in his book, ‘Soulkeeping’:

“The soul was not made for an easy life.

The soul was made for an easy yoke.”

You can find strength in the LORD when you look to Him. Can I encourage you to seek His face? Talk to Him, lean on Him, and you will find Him there, at your place of brokenness, ready with His strength.

Father, thank you that you have always been faithful to me. You have never left me, even when I have come to the end of myself, you have always been there ready to give me your strength. Help me to remember all that you have done for me. And to remember that I can fully trust you to see me through whatever I am facing, whether good or bad, seasons of growth or struggle.

Father my heart says, ‘Seek his face’. Your face, O LORD I will seek.

In Jesus’ name, 

Amen

That my love may abound

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Art Journal Note:

For this page I glued down this wonderful magazine picture of colourful pencils and paintbrushes, layered over some paper I had previously painted with a blue watercolour wash. I then wrote the verse along the edge using a plain black roller ball pen. The top ‘Looking Forward’ was simply cut from a magazine, and seemed apt as this page was the inside cover of a brand new journal.  The small ‘sticker’ at the bottom was taken from an Ann Voskamp printable (aholyexperience.com) – it fitted the beginning of my new Bible Art Journal, just to state from the start ” God’s Word Make it your Habit” – note the inspired play on words here: ‘God’s Word’ is ‘God Sword’. I love that!

Tip: to create your own background papers in all different colours, just use some watercolour paints and some plain white paper. Watercolour paper is best, but most thick white paper or card will do, if you are happy to experiment and are not too fussy about the end result! Generally, the thinner the paper the more it will crinkle, which can give a nice effect but can make it trickier to write on or to glue down smoothly.  You can also experiment with how much coloured paint/water you use to make the colour stronger or more watery.  Also try different types of brushes, or a sponge; try gently flicking or dripping the paint or letting it run down the page. Or get a drinking straw and blow the paint across the paper! Have fun! For best results you might want to dry the paint before changing colours (with a hairdryer if you’re in a hurry!) unless you want to experiment with what’s known as a ‘wet on wet’ technique, the colours may bleed into each other sometimes with beautiful results but do beware it can sometimes all turn brown!   

Philippians 1:9-11

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”

Paul and Timothy’s prayer for the Philippians is so full of wisdom, deep encouragement and longing, and is written so eloquently. I love how they know just what to pray for – using the spiritual gift of wisdom  themselves – they pray that their ‘love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight’ – to enable the church to grow in wisdom and live holy, fruit-filled lives, all for the glory and praise of God!

This is what I long for too, for myself. I don’t often pray for myself in this way, normally when I pray for myself, it’s more of a list of fairly practical requests and an off-loading of worries and concerns into God’s hands. But when starting this new journal, I felt led to re-write this prayer inside the front cover simply changing it to the first person, and to pray this to God about myself, over myself. This is my heart’s desire. And as a timely prayer at the start of a new journal, a new chapter, I wanted to express my desire for new growth and an abundance of love, wisdom, discernment, holy and fruit-filled living, all to the glory and praise of God!

If you have a journal, try writing out a familiar passage or prayer, changing a few words here and there to insert your own name or to speak it over yourself, or to yourself. You may find that God speaks and encourages you through this in a fresh and new way, today.

Heavenly Father, thank you that I can be confident that you – who began a good work in me – will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. I believe you will finish what you have started in me. Help me to read, soak in and absorb your Word, and let your Word change me. Grow me. 

Father, I pray that my love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that I may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God. 

in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Now and Then

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Art Journal Note:

For this page I used oil pastels to create a vibrant background of flowers and leaves. To protect the page I added a sheet of tracing paper, to stop the oil pastels from smudging onto the next page. I really liked the layered transparent effect, and was reminded of the verse from 1 Corinthians 13 v 12, which I copied out onto white paper, cut into strips and glued to the front tracing paper sheet.

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Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;

then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part;

then I shall know fully, even as I am known.

1 Corinthians 13 v 12

God knows that it does us good to remember that there’s better things to come!

This wonderful world is so incredibly beautiful, yet that all that God has created here is just a shadow of what is to come. Our very best experience of this world, of life and of love, is a mere reflection of what we will one day see face to face, experience and understand.

And just as God will make all things new and will create a new Heavens and a new Earth, the same is true for us. We are created in God’s likeness, in His image, yet there is more to come – we will be made perfect in Him. We have been promised new heavenly bodies, with no more pain, illness or suffering. And to spend eternity in the presence of God is what our hearts long for, and desire.

He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3 v 11

I don’t pretend to understand all that is to come, so much is a mystery (I certainly cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end). But what I do know is simply all that God has chosen to reveal to us through His Word, which gives us hope and a glimpse of better things ahead.

And yet we can easily forget about this when we take our eyes off God’s big picture and perfect plan, and when we get bogged down and burdened by day to day busyness, illness, grief, disappointments, tiredness, problems and issues.

Jesus knows life can be tough. He knows first hand. He knows all about temptation, and has experienced – as a man – the pressures of living God’s way in a broken world. He understands our need for hope, as without it we are simply lost.

And Jesus himself – God who became man – became our Hope.

Jesus made sure that He taught his disciples – and us – so much about the Kingdom of God and the ‘end times’, so that we would be able to find the exact healthy balance we need between fearing the Lord and being encouraged as we live our daily lives. We are free to live in holiness and walk with perseverance, with Jesus as our Hope.

“We know not what we shall be”; but we may be sure we shall be more, not less, than we were on earth. Our natural experiences (sensory, emotional, imaginative) are only like the drawing, like pencilled lines on flat paper. If they vanish in the risen life, they will vanish only as pencil lines vanish from the real landscape, not as a candle flame that is put out but as a candle flame which becomes invisible because someone has pulled up the blind, thrown open the shutters, and let in the blaze of the risen sun.

C.S. Lewis from ‘The Weight of Glory’

Heavenly Father, thank you that the very best that this beautiful world has to offer us will pale into insignificance at the richness of the new creation to come. All that you have given us here is just a mirror, a reflection, a transparent image hinting of more richness, incredible vibrancy, fullness and perfection in Your presence, O God. Thank you that we can look ahead with the Hope that You have given us, personally, through Jesus, and that brings us joy. 

Thank you that I am fully known by You.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

Learning, growing and expressing my Christian faith through the pages of my art journal