Moving from fidgets to concentration
I think it was my mom who first gave me pencil and paper. She read to her six children, often all of us together, and doodling helped me sit still when I was really too young to follow the story line completely. It worked so well for me, that she continued the practice as a long-term middle school substitute and as a junior high Sunday school teacher. She somehow knew intuitively that it helped fidgety kids concentrate.
Looking back at the notes I’ve taken–college lectures, conferences, sermons–most of them contain at least one doodle. Often a random pen stroke developed into a representation of the information my brain was receiving. The doodles also aided my memory of what was on the page. All I needed to do was picture the doodle on a particular page to be able to tease the information out of my brain. Very handy when you are taking a test.
I’ve learned to love my brain even though it refuses to run in a straight line, but darts off on rabbit trails just to see what is there, when it defies memorizing, when it jumps to connections that others don’t follow even when I explain, or when it can’t pull up someone’s name but remembers all of the emotions of our last meeting while leaving out specific details. My brain detests staying in one place, focusing on one small detail, going in a straight line, and refuses to remember dates, times, and numbers with any degree of certainty. But it loves pictures and stories of any kind, and it’s great at sorting, categorizing, connecting, and forming analogies. If you need to brainstorm ideas, you want my brain to be there. Plus, I’ve learned multiple tricks and tools that I can depend on for linear tasks.
Doodling to focus on God’s voice in your life
A workshop was offered at our church based on the book Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth in which she introduces an active, visual, and meditative form of intercessory prayer. Basically, it was a way to use doodling to quiet your mind and focus your attention on the conversation you were engaged in with God. While many of those around me struggled to think of any kind of picture to put on paper, my mind was doing back flips of joy shouting, “Yea! Somebody finally gets it.” My prayer life grew to be more meaningful and interactive.
Following one of my mind’s rabbit trails, I landed on the idea of using the same coloring technique to really dig into scripture. When you have read the Bible over and over, it’s easy to skim instead of dig in. I had used many methods to dig in during the years: rewriting scripture verses in my own words, investigating history and archaeology of passages, and discussion with others to apply these words to our lives.
I found that if I needed to draw something to represent God’s words, I had to take them in, digest them, and reform them. That process involved categorizing, sorting, linking, and focused listening–all things I do as I doodle. I’m not looking to produce works of art (obviously, if you’ve seen my blog entries), but rather pictures that cement God’s words into my being. And I can embellish them and add to them as my understanding grows. I move toward having his light shine into and out of me via these doodles that help me focus on living by his voice in my life.
Try it. You’ll like it.
Here’s the method I use: Read the verses and pray about them. Is there a word or phrase the jumps out at you? Is there a picture that comes to mind? Do the verses remind you of something in your life? Draw a picture or write the words and let the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts.
Why study the Bible this way? If you take it into your mind and heart enough to translate it into a picture or word, it becomes part of you. If you add a sentence or two of explanation, you then engage another part of your brain which cements God’s words even firmer into your heart and mind.
Draw your own pictures and visually express what God is saying to you.