Mar 4 2015

Reading Scripture Visually

Psalm 1A few months ago my pictures began to be used to illustrate prayers by John Philip Newell on his Facebook page.  The person who puts the images and prayers together does a fantastic job.  There is always something about the image that corresponds to the prayer.  I always look forward to seeing which image is chosen.

Psalm 21Getting to see my photographic work appear with Newell’s prayers inspired me to begin working on a new project.  In January I was invited to participate in a peer group of ministers from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Kentucky.  We began by spending three days together at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana.  We will continue to meet together once a month for the next year to year and a half.  Prior to leaving St. Meinrad we committed ourselves to reading through the Book of Psalms together.  We then established a Facebook page for our group and everyone was invited to share reflections on the various psalms we read each day.

Psalm 31On the first day we read Psalm 1.  Verse 3  of this psalm says the person whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on that law “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.”  When I read this I immediately thought of an image I took several years ago of a tree situated right next to a stream of water.  I located the file of the image and posted it on our Facebook page, along with the verse.  When we moved to Psalm 2 the next day I had another image come to mind so I did the same thing.  A number of weeks later I’m still doing the same thing each day.  I decided it would be a good discipline to examine each day’s psalm and try to connect it to one of the images of Creation I have captured over the years.  Some of the psalms are easy to find images for, others not so much.

I have found that reading the Psalms while searching for pictures to illustrate a verse or two is both challenging and helpful.  It forces me to look at the scriptures in a new way—visually.  I am convinced that reading the scriptures this way can help one find new meaning in the Bible.  It is something anyone can do; you certainly don’t have to be a photographer to approach the Bible this way.  Just use your imagination when you read the scriptures and see where it takes you.  Try to visualize what you are reading.  Perhaps ask yourself what type of image you would use to illustrate what you are reading.

Psalm 11The Book of Psalms is probably the easiest book in the Bible to take this approach but it will work with any book or passage from scripture.  I encourage you to give reading the Bible visually a try.  See if it doesn’t help you and open new doors of understanding for you.  “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)


(I used the first image to illustrate Psalm 1:3, the second image for Psalm 21:13, the third image for Psalm 31:3, and the fourth image for Psalm 11:1.)

Apr 7 2010


violet 872I live in Kentucky, which is known as the Bluegrass State.  Here recently it has looked more like the Purplegrass State.  My entire yard has been covered with lovely violets!  

Violets are quite abundant in this area and come in a variety of colors (purple, white, yellow and blue being the most common).  They all look, however, pretty much the same.  If you have ever examined a violet up close you know that on the lowest petal you can see a series of lines.  Naturalists tell us that these lines help guide insects to the source of nectar contained in the flower.   The center of the flower is the lightest in color and this, too, might further attract insects to this spot.

I find it fascinating that when the Creator designed violets that He placed upon them “guide lines” that would help insects out.  To me this says volumes about God.  It shows us that God is concerned about the “little details” of life and that He is there to assist all of His Creation, not just humans.  (I once heard someone say God must really love insects since He made more of them than any other creature.  The design of violets might be proof of that!)

Seeing the guide lines in violets also reminds me that God has given us guidelines, too, to help us out in life.  The Bible is filled with instructions meant to make our lives richer and sweeter.  As a pastor I’m often surprised at how biblically illiterate many Christians are.  Our failure to pay attention to Scripture is about as foolish as a bee not paying attention to the violet’s guide lines directing her to the nectar within. 

The Psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (119:105)  I think if we gave more attention to the Bible our lives would be enriched and we would find ourselves drawn closer to the One who made us all (violets included).  If you’ve not read the Bible lately, what are you waiting for?


(I photographed the violet above in my yard yesterday.)