It was from Julie Orr’s (93) own frustration with herself for not reading the Bible as much as she would have liked that spurred her creation of Contemplate the Bible. Contemplate the Bible is a magazine that includes entire books from the New Testament in a fresh and compelling format, one that is accompanied by photos. It doesn’t include commentary, features, articles — just the Word of God.

“I was frustrated with myself for not having the desire to read the Bible with the same enthusiasm I would of a novel or magazine. And so I started to think about what would help me read the Bible more despite how busy I was. What if it was in the form of something I could pick up and put down as I had time, like with a magazine?” Orr wondered. “Whenever I received a magazine in the mail I was always excited, stopped what I was doing, looked at all of the pictures, and looked forward to reading it. I thought, ‘What if the Bible came to me in the mail with pictures?’ That excited me, and I imagined being able to more easily sit down with the Bible and a cup of coffee to read it without distractions.” 

Orr relies on the World English Bible translation, which is public domain and therefore not copyrighted and free for use. She promotes new issues on her Facebook and Instagram accounts, and most of the photographs in the magazine are submitted by readers and social media followers. When it comes to these images, her hope is that they serve to bring calm, beauty, and peace to readers as they immerse themselves in the Word of God.

A layout of one of Contemplate's pages
Each issue has a theme illustrated through captivating photos.

“I do look for a photographic theme with each issue of the magazine, but I don’t want the photos to illustrate the exact location of events that are happening in the passages, but rather I want them to create a mood, bring a sense of calm and peace, and really draw the reader into the text,” Orr said. “I want readers to enjoy reading because Scripture is beautiful and wonderful and is God’s Word. My hope is that by bringing the Word in a magazine format the intimidation factor for trying to read the Bible is removed. A lot of people find it hard to start reading, or even know where to start, or just to keep reading.”

Orr launched Contemplate the Bible in October 2017. While last year she published a new issue every other month, she has currently paused her publishing schedule in preparation for a relaunch this Christmas (except for a reprint of last year’s Easter issue called Risen!, which is available now).

Orr has received tremendous support for her work from her husband.

“I do all of the work of designing and putting each magazine together in InDesign. I work with a local printer, Advanced Imaging in Fullerton, that prints them at a discounted cost since the owner sees the work as a ministry. I also do all of the mailing and shipping,” Orr shared. “My husband Rob (96) has helped me tremendously with various parts of the business and especially with designing and updating the website. His support and encouragement have been a crucial part of making Contemplate the Bible happen.”

Orr’s plan is to have covered the entire New Testament by the end of 2022. In addition to covering a book or two of the New Testament in each issue, she also publishes a special issue for Easter and Christmas. These entail a compilation of scriptures from the New Testament in order to give a narrative account of Christ’s death and resurrection (the Easter issue is titled Risen!) and birth and incarnation (the Christmas issue is titled Behold!).

Orr’s magazine has already led to some incredible fruit over the last two years. For instance, a woman named Lucky, an incarcerated woman at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, receives the magazines as they are published. Lucky shares them with newly incarcerated women, inviting them to attend what they call the Church Without Walls, a prisoner-led group that meets at the prison yard to worship, pray, and read scriptures together. Orr got connected with Lucky through her sister, a woman who had been attending a Bible Study that Orr is involved in.

A group of women holding the magazine
This magazine has helped many come together and interact with scripture.

Lucky asked if Orr could send issues of the magazine to all 50 women that attend the Church Without Walls so that they could each have a copy and read it together. Encouraged by the request, Orr set to work. Thanks to a generous donation (it’s expensive to produce, print, and mail that many magazines) and Lucky’s willingness to help provide her with necessary contact info for the women, Orr is on her way to sending all women the free Easter-themed issue for the Easter season. 

“I have 27 names on my mailing list so far and am hoping to send the Easter issue soon to all 50 women,” Orr shared.

She also asks for prayer requests from each of the women in prison and posts them on the Contemplate the Bible website so others can pray for the women and their varied intentions.

Contemplate Magazine's logo

Ultimately, when asked what she hopes Contemplate the Bible to do, both for the women at Chowchilla and her readers at large, Orr explains that her mission is best captured by what she wrote on the website:

“The Bible in magazine format, one book at a time, with captivating photography designed to draw your heart and mind into the Word of God; a place to retreat from the busyness of life and to contemplate the scriptures.”

To order one or more issues of Contemplate the Bible or to learn more, you can visit the website.

Related story: Through Scripture and the life of Christ, we have a model of what it looks like to still live a purpose-filled, albeit busy, life.

Christopher Hazell is a writer and editor. He is the author of Ends in Mind, a newsletter about culture, technology, Christian spirituality, the arts, and more.