Painting The Word

I would have been in sooo much trouble with my Bible teacher for this, back when I was a kid!

I suppose some people might think painting on a Bible is disrespectful, or somehow damaging or vandalizing the Word of God. But I prefer to think of it as choosing a cover, just in a more hands-on, interactive way than clicking on options online. And it’s actually much deeper than that, because I’m in a conversation with God the whole time when I’m embellishing my Bible. You know that central place in my being where Jesus abides? Yeah, that’s the same spot where my creativity originates. Christ is not just walking “with” me; he is my journey, spiritually and artistically.

compass bible winter tree

Plus! (…there are so many cool things about this!) … There’s the loveliness of visual up-cycling, especially if you find a lonely Bible in a thrift store. What can be more gratifying than obliterating a gaudy or boring cover (an unfortunate fate of many Bibles), to more fittingly reflect the beauty inside this holy book?

Anyway. Acrylic paint loves to jump right onto my Bible covers. Sometimes abstractly, sometimes representationally. With my friend Sarah Goetter’s permission, I painted this imagery yesterday, inspired by my friend’s contemplative photographs. On my front cover I made a winter tree, representing the different seasons God has ordained in my life and how I can trust him with everything, even in the seemingly dormant times.

I made the back cover into a reflection piece, flipped upside-down… or is it right side up?… reminding me that Christ’s kingdom is in fact upside-down to humanity’s way of thinking…. or is it the other way around?

compass bible back reflection

The cover of this one came in “leathersoft peacock,” like velvety leather, so I didn’t rough it up with sandpaper making it more receptive to paint like I usually do, and I didn’t prime over that nice, soft cover with gesso like I usually do. (Man! I wish it was real leather.) The acrylic paint might soon scratch off for lack of adhesion, but that’s okay– it’s just an experiment. I can always re-paint it down the road.

Plus, it just occurred to me that a scratched-up cover could signify that I’m diving into the Word so often that it doesn’t stand a chance of staying pretty.

That could be a good thing. I really love this Book.

This particular version of the Bible, if you didn’t know, is the one God spoke to me so clearly through two days ago. It’s the Compass Study Bible, written in “The Voice” translation, and for some reason it causes the heavens to crash down around my ears. In large part it’s because this translation was written by artists and scholars, specifically for artists. Yes– it is glorious… “Step into the Story of Scripture,” the first page invites. I did.

Yesterday at our church staff meeting, for example, they were talking about the bulletin, and I couldn’t stop reading the Psalms. That was the coolest. Now, I’m not trying to attribute a particular version of scripture as being responsible for this breakthrough in my life; it’s God who is blowing my mind, healing my heart, nurturing my soul, and expanding my strength in him. Dang.

I’m following The Voice Bible on Twitter because I want to see how others are experiencing God through this translation. The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson also blesses and enriches my God-life. Another artist.

How has God revealed himself to you through his Word? Do you ever personalize or alter the physical attributes of the Bible through your favorite artistic medium?

2 thoughts on “Painting The Word

  1. You did it. Somehow you reached into that whizbang bag of Jessie creativity and imagination and came up with a back that tops the cover! Beauteous, Jessie. Well done. And sin more by reading Scripture during staff meetings. Please. I loved catching the delight on your face as you did. 🙂