On Bible Journaling—verse mapping

Sacred Scripture comforts in our sorrows, soothes the aches and pains of this valley of tears that we walk through, and finally, fills and sustains our souls as bread does for the body.  Through reading and meditating, we receive new mercies, applicable to our need, and we are nourished.

Last year, I accomplished my resolution to read through the entire Bible (including the Deuterocanonical books of the Catholic Bible).  Also last year, I began collecting different ways to study and memorize Scripture.  I found several new (to me) Bible study methods that I’ll share with you, learning as I go…the first is called verse mapping.

Verse mapping is defined by Kristy Cambron as “a method of studying the historical context, transliteration,translation,connotation, and theological framework of a verse in the Bible. Plain and simple? Verse mapping is getting real about studying the Bible. All of it. It’s not just reading. It’s researching everything you can in a verse to learn more about Who God is, and how He wants to speak to you through His Word. In short? It’s serious study.”  This is the best definition I have found to explain the scribbles, bubbles, and lines that make up the pages of my Bible journal.

She has a wonderful post that explains very well the basics of verse mapping, and even offers a worksheet for beginners to use.  I have taken her approach along with some other methods and styles I have seen in online communities, and am in the process of tweaking it all together to make it mine…that is the cool thing about verse mapping, there doesn’t appear to be one correct way to do it, but can be custom fitted to your own personality, preferences and time availability.

This year, I haven’t made a resolution yet.  But I am drawn to journaling and Bible study, and am happy to share my process, with the knowledge that it is a process, and apt to change at any time.  This is what mine looks like right now:

1.  Choose a verse.  I like using a verse from one of the passages in the daily readings of the Catholic Church.  I love how those verses-even though they were selected hundreds of years ago-are so often relevant to my life, speaking specifically to an area that needs affirmation, consolation, or correction. I write this verse out in black ink in either the middle of the page or at the top…depending on how I’m feeling at the time.  I read it over a couple or three times, changing the focus and inflection of the words, really mull it over…there are always words that stand out.   I Highlight those, more on that later.

2.  Read it in different translations.  This is a personal preference, and I typically choose only approved Catholic translations.  My go-to versions are: the New American Bible Revised Edition, New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, and Douay-Rheims.  I occasionally use the New International Version, or the Message…mostly out of  curiosity, but occasionally, I will like the way it is worded and add it to my notes.  I still find myself quoting from the King James Version that I memorized as a child, so there is that.  For a fun exercise after you are finished, read the passage in the Amplified version of the Bible, and see how many of your thoughts overlap with the translation there.

3.  Look at related verses, Catechism, and commentaries.  I draw a light green squiggly line under words or phrases that I want to cross reference, then I record those verses or citations in green with an arrow connecting them.  Sometimes I box them in, other times, I fill in areas between boxes with this kind of info…none of my pages ever look the same, that is why I feel constrained by a worksheet, as much as I want to use and love it, I haven’t found one that fits my style yet, so mine are mostly freestyle for now.

Years ago, my husband invested in the Logos Bible software and has an extensive digital library that can be hyper-linked to Scripture, commentaries, and dictionaries.  A few years ago, he was ecstatic to find that they offer a Catholic version of this called Verbum.  Of course we upgraded to that, and have been blessed to add to our library with Catholic sources.  The hyper links make quick work of cross referencing, looking up definitions, and toggling between translations.  I love the hyperlink from Scripture to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I want to make sure I am understanding Scripture in the original way it was intended to be understood, and in agreement with the Magisterium’s translation and interpretation of Sacred Scripture.

If you can afford to invest in this awesome resource, I highly recommend it.  If not, there are free versions of Bible software available online.  I have had good success with Bible Gateway (I use the desktop version online because the last time I checked, the app did not have the Catholic versions of Scripture available) and Bible Hub.  I record the differences in translations on my map…note the translation in initials, and draw a red box around it.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church can be found online here, as well as in the Laudate app.  I use all of these in the course of my studies, are we not so blessed to have the myriad of resources available today for studying and applying God’s Word to our hearts and lives?

4.  Define and/or clarify key words.  Those words in #1 that I highlighted…sometimes looking up the definition and or Hebrew/Greek word it was translated from can be so enlightening to the message of the verse.  I use a tan/brown pen for this step, sometimes I box it in. Verbum has links to the Greek and Hebrew, and will also shed more light on the original meaning of the verse.

I also like to add the dictionary definition and list synonyms for the word.  I typically use dictionary.com and thesaurus.com for this and write it in blue. I will upload a picture of my latest entry so you can see how it all comes together.

5.  Sometimes I will have thoughts that I want to record…I do this in my favorite purple color…you can see this on today’s map that I am sharing here.

This is one of three techniques I use for my journaling Bible verses. The other two will be in separate posts…later.  What do you think?  Do you map out verses or journal them in some way?  I find it a good exercise for hiding God’s Word in my heart, and processing it out loud, so to speak, for later use.  I’d love to see your maps, thoughts, or entries.


Sacred Scripture – what’s the point?

My poor, neglected blog…I wonder if I can remember how to do this.

I have been mostly on track with my resolution to read through the entire Bible in 2017. I fell off the wagon a few times when life got a little busier than my schedule could compensate for, and I am still playing catch up, but if my calculations are correct, I should be finishing the New Testament in a couple weeks, and the Old Testament by the end of December.

This is a first for me on several levels. One, I have never kept a New Year’s Resolution any deeper than the resolution not to have any resolutions. Two, I have been a baptized Christian, attended Bible School, Christian School, and attended church faithfully since I was six years old; I have read a lot of Scripture, done countless Bible studies, even memorized large portions of Scripture, but have not ever read through the entire Bible, until this year. It is SO COOL to see the big picture. All those passages that I have committed to memory take on a whole new level of understanding when read in the context of the whole story of salvation. If you have not done this, I highly encourage you to do so. I also encourage you to memorize portions of Scripture. You will be amazed at the times those words that you have put to memory will come to mind in a season of need.

So…what is the point of reading and memorizing Scripture?

There are several (Biblical) reasons why reading and memorizing Scripture is beneficial.  I will list the first few that came to my mind, and if you have others, I would love to see some discussion here at New Things…leave me a comment, and let’s chat!

Psalm 119:11 I treasure you word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

Romans 1:16 says that Scripture is God’s power that leads every believer to salvation.

Hebrews 4:12 states that Scripture is active and powerful; sharper than a double-edged sword, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Isaiah 55:11 reassures us that God’s Word does not return to Him void (or wasted, or empty), but accomplishes all that He desires, and will prosper according to His intentions.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 instructs us that Sacred Scripture is inspired by God; it is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, to make us competent, and equip us for every good work.

Sacred Scripture is God’s recorded voice. It is His words, given to us, His creation, for the sake of a relationship!  The very thought!  The same God who created this world and everything in it wants a relationship with me!

He speaks His words to me in these Scriptures…warning, comforting, and reminding me of His loving will for me, His own beloved child.

Seeking God through Sacred Scripture in faith, hope, and love is part of prayer. We are much more familiar with the prayer that WE speak to God, but can easily forget that prayer is a two way street.  He is speaking to us as well…prayer is both speaking and listening…just like any healthy relationship.

How would you feel if your best friend monopolized all your conversations with all the details of her life, her drama, her joys, sorrows, and various issues, but never gave you the chance to get a word in edgewise? It would get old.  Isn’t that what we do to God?  No wonder He seems so quiet sometimes, huh?

Reading and learning Sacred Scripture is our loving response to the God of the Universe who stepped down from His glory for the sake of a conversation with His creation. Seeking Him and His will through His Word is our response to His initiation of a relationship with Him. It is us affirming that what He has to say to us is important, and in obedience, we enter into His Presence by opening the door, His Word.

It is no surprise, then, that Jesus is called “the Word” (John 1), and also “the Door” (John 10).

We enter into the Presence of God through Christ (Hebrews 10), who boldly stated that His very words are spirit and life (John 6:63). When we treasure God’s Word in our hearts, it becomes active and powerful in us and discerns our innermost thoughts and intentions of our heart. Jesus, the Word,  is God’s power in us, leading us to eternal life with Him. When we treasure Him in our hearts, He will accomplish everything that God wills in our lives, and none of it will not return void–or empty–or wasted to the Father.

Jesus gave us an example of how to rightly use Sacred Scripture to overcome temptation. Rich Mullins referred to this as “quoting Deuteronomy to the devil”. When Jesus was tempted by satan in the wilderness, he responded with Sacred Scripture. We can too! When we are tempted to doubt the love of God, we can pull up a defense of the love of God from His very words to us in Sacred Scripture. When fearful circumstances arise, and we are tempted to fret, we can answer with confidence, “The Lord is my helper!” and be assured that His Word is true…because He cannot lie. We can actually use Scripture to retrain our brain, did you know that? In fact, we are INSTRUCTED to do so.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

When our minds are renewed, we can understand what God wants from us.

How do we renew our minds? How can we hide God’s Word in our hearts? This is what I have been asked to share, and hope to so in the coming weeks. I believe the first step is the simplest, ask Him to plant and grow His Word. As you seek Him, He promises to be found. Make yourself available and ready to hear and obey what He tells you in His Word.

A disclaimer here: ATTENTION! Reading and memorizing God’s Word will do you NO GOOD if you are not willing to do what He tells you in it.

If you are not ready to obey His Word, memorizing it will only make you headsmart…(and probably obnoxious to others) and you will miss the mark of storing it in your heart by 18 inches.

Heavenly Father, thank you that you have not hidden from us, but have revealed yourself and your will to us through your Holy Scriptures.  Thank you that they are a lamp for our our feet and a light for our journey.  Teach us to read and obey what you have spoken to us. Comfort us in our sorrows with the consolations contained there and help us to speak forth your Word at appropriate times to build up your body, the Church here on earth. Most of all, Lord, we ask that your Word will guide us into doing your will. May we be doers of your word, and not hearers only as James instructed. In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we ask, for your glory only. Amen.

Scripture testifies of itself

One of my resolutions for 2017 was to read through the entire Bible.  I heard that if you read a chapter from the NT and 2 from the OT, you can just about get through the entire Bible in 365 days, so I decided to give it a try.  Just in case I reach a slump, as I have heard is a common occurrence, I determined to read two chapters from the OT Law/Prophets/History, one from a book of Wisdom/Poetry, and one from the NT.

This has been one of the best gifts I have ever, ever given myself.  Seriously, I am disappointed with myself for missing out on all the blessings and special graces included in this venture for as long as I did.  I have been a Christian since I was a young child, attended Sunday School, and Christian school, memorized Awana verses with my kids, and listened to awesome Bible teachers, but none of these, as good as they are, have given me the insight of just reading through the Word with the help of the Holy Spirit and His Holy Church.  Reading in the OT and the NT simultaneously, has been a fun dynamic to watch unfold.  I have always been told that the OT points to the New, and the New testifies of the Old…it is seriously awesome to see it with my own eyes!

A good example of this happened last night.  I was listening to John’s account of the Resurrection in John 20, and just as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard:  “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet”; and I had a vivid flashback to what I learned about the ark of the covenant.  Remember the two angels (cherubim) at either side?  Two angels guarding the ark which held the manna, Aaron’s rod, and the stone tablets (also called the Word of God).  This is a picture of John’s account thousands of years prior….and here they are again, one at the head, the other at the feet…where was laid the Bread of Life, our High Priest, and the Word.  Shivers.  Angels have been accompanying Him since the Annunciation.  We see them at His birth, in His agony at Gethsemane, and here in His empty tomb.  WOW!

Have you ever read through the entire Bible?  I would love to hear some of the God Whispers that your received in your quest.  I plan to make this an ongoing resolution, not stopping in December, but starting again.  I also plan to incorporate reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church from front to back, if I wait until January to start that, I would love to find a one year Bible reading plan that incorporates it in…I wonder if there is such a creature?

My Amazing “I can’t believe it’s low carb” Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

My husband was diagnosed with diabetes last summer, and we have been on a journey of discovery in the kitchen.  Learning to cook low carb has been a fun challenge, and he has lost over 50# since we started.

He has never been big on sweets, so that part has been easier than it would be for me. Still, he occasionally does want a cookie, and his favorites are oatmeal craisin.  I have been playing with a few recipes I found online and have finally got it to what I consider the perfect cookie.

Here it is.  Don’t say I never gave ya anything.


1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cups almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup SPLENDA® Sugar Blend

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups steel cut oats, uncooked

1 cup craisins

1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Stir together flours, soda, and spices in a separate bowl for later.

Beat butter and SPLENDA® Sugar Blend at medium speed in the Bosch Universal (using whisk attachment) until fluffy. Add eggs, molasses and vanilla, beating until blended. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Change to cookie paddles, as this gets very thick and will bend your wire whips.

Stir in oats and craisins.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto lightly greased baking sheets.  

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly on baking sheets. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.  The consistency of these cookies is very dense, so I like to kind of smoosh them flat after putting them on the cookie sheet, otherwise they cook in the rounded shape, and get too done on the outside and not enough on the inside.  Smooshing seems to do the trick 😉

I make a double recipe of this, unless we are having a crowd over, then I triple it.  While the first batch is baking, I drop dough as above onto a parchment lined cookie sheet (as many as will fit on that sheet, barely touching) and place in the freezer for later.  When they are frozen, I collect them all into a large ziplock baggie and keep on hand for a rainy day.  These last about forever for just the two of us, but they are nice to have on hand when the grands come over and help us eat them.

These make GREAT breakfast cookies, they are so filling and satisfying.  In the future, I may add sugar free chocolate chips to the mix, just for grins and giggles.

Season of Lent is upon us.

Lent starts this week…already…wow.  Wasn’t Christmas just yesterday?  Time seems to fly lately..faster than usual.  I am not complaining, though…I really LOVE Lent and Easter…maybe even more than Christmas (gasp!), because of the focus on the greatest gift that was ever given, our Savior’s life for the redemption of sinful man.  I have not been striving this year to come up with a plan for Lent, but one has kind of fallen into place nonetheless.

I have recently been challenged to participate in the daily examen, that is, a daily exercise in praying backward through my day and examining myself, my actions, thoughts, motives…my awareness of God’s hand in my day.

I am still not sure I am doing it right.  Before becoming Catholic, I heard very little about self examination, other than the teaching of my dear Mother on the instruction of making sure I was right with God before receiving communion.  She had a deep understanding of the danger of receiving Holy Communion unworthily, or with unrepented sin.

I am still learning how to keep an informed, clean conscience; and the practice of a daily examen has been a wonderful tool to aid in this, but my self-discipline (or lack thereof) has prevented me from truly apprehending it in the way it was designed.  Part of my Lenten sacrifice this year will be to focus on this Examen at least once a day.  I have been working on my spiritual reading and devotions to make them the first part of my daily routine, and have been wanting to add something to the end of my day, kind of a sandwich effect, I guess…implementing the examen before my regular bedtime prayers just sounds like an effective way to do that.

I have found a couple really good apps to aid in praying the Examen.  The first is a guided Examen, with video instruction on how to pray each section.  There is a journal feature on this one that is invaluable for me, as I am an outward processor of information, that is, I feel a need to hear myself think, and often talk to myself or the nearest trusted friend I can find to gain understanding and clarity in a given situation.  Journaling is like a friend, and while I much prefer the handwritten kind of journaling, I have found that the privacy of a password to allow me to more fully develop my thoughts, without fear of an unintended audience…also, I cannot write as fast or as clearly as I think, so typing allows me to get more of my thoughts in before they flit from my mind, or I forget why I had that thought spark in my head in the first place.  Anyway, you can check out this app here, and I would love to know if you are using it, how do you like it?

The second is a collection of different meditations in the examen format.  My spiritual director introduced me to this website, and I found an app for it as well.   The variety of thoughts and prayers keep my poor brain from feeling stuck in a rut.  While I much prefer the format of my first suggestion, I still plan to use this app for when I feel the need to change things up.  It does not have the journal feature, so I keep a page in my regular paper journal for recording my prayers and thoughts through this examination.  Again, because of the nature of a handwritten journal, I am not comfortable going too deep or detailing like I can in the first, so while I love the format of this and the variety, because of the way I am wired, it is not my first choice….but it may be just the right thing for one of my readers :).

For Lent, I also plan to incorporate more reading into my day.  I have two books on my list for right now, the first, St. Faustina’s diary.  Ever since one of my favorite bloggers talked of this resource, and I was introduced to the Divine Mercy Chaplet (right around the same time, isn’t the Holy Spirit awesome like that!?) I have been fascinated (and not a little overwhelmed) with St. Faustina and her message of the Divine Mercy.  I have had this book sitting on my shelf for over a year, and had forgotten I had it, actually…Fr. Ken Geraci’s session on the Divine Mercy at our recent parish mission re-ignited the desire to get more acquainted with St. Faustina, and I pulled the book out to try to read again.  I will be reading it through Lent, and praying the Divine Mercy at 3pm as suggested.

I am praying that this Lent will  develop spiritual discipline into my routine, and bring me closer to Jesus through the lives and teachings of His people.  What are your Lenten plans?

New Resolve

imageTrust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  Proverbs 3:5.

In my relationships – Proverbs 3:5
In my time management and daily duties – Proverbs 3:5
In my work and in my leisure – Proverbs 3:5
In all I think, say, and do – Proverbs 3:5

In my future plans and past regrets – Proverbs 3:5
In my quest for faith, hope and love – Proverbs 3:5
In joy and good health; in pain and sorrow – Proverbs 3:5

With my husband, my children, and grandchildren – Proverbs 3:5
With my benefactors, mentors, and friends and foes – Proverbs 3:5
With my hopes and my fears – Proverbs 3:5
With my victories and failures – Proverbs 3:5

Confident or vulnerable – Proverbs 3:5
Rich or poor – Proverbs 3:5
Happy or sad – Proverbs 3:5
Hungry or full – Proverbs 3:5
Living or dying – Proverbs 3:5

Through it all, regardless of feelings, emotions or circumstance;  with or without the approval of those I love, I will trust in You Lord, with my whole heart, and I will not rely on my own limited understanding or insight.  I will watch for the paths in front of me to be made straight, as you move the mountains that are in the way of Your plan for me.  I place myself in your tender loving care, because I love you, and I live to serve you, my King and my God.

What’s for dinner

We are having planned-overs for dinner tonight.  Easy beef pot pie:

  • 1 leftover steak, diced
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 pkg. brown gravy mix
  • 1 can mixed vegetables, drained
  • 1.5 cups bizquick baking mix
  • milk – for baking mix batter

Cook potato in salted water until tender, add brown gravy (prepare according to directions, diced beef, and veggies, incorporate all together, then pour into 4×4 glass baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine baking mix with milk until consistency of pancake batter, pour over top of beef mixture.  Bake at 375* until batter is browned on top, and toothpick comes out clean when inserted into crust.

This is a great way to use up leftovers.  Mashed potatoes can be substituted for the biscuit crust, and any left over veggies would work in this.  Top with cheese and serve with a green salad and you’ve got a plate of good old fashioned comfort food, quick and easy!