It's a meditation on the process we've been in these past 9 years of
planting a church (namely, The Village in Tucson, AZ). As I worked on it,
I was reminded that it is the Holy Spirit who grows (or waters) the church,
and that our local expression of the church is part of the body of Christ,
who "makes the whole church fit together perfectly" (Ephesians 3).
So, while it has been both a joyous and a deeply painful journey, the
responsibility for success or failure isn't mine. I also liked how
(this wasn't planned) the petals are paper, but the center of the flower
is a jewel. This seems symbolic to me of the way that over time and space,
the form of the church is changing, falling away and being renewed;
however what it displays is "God's wisdom in its rich variety" (Ephesians 4),
something which is lasting and carries its own weight of glory.
of scripture memory lately. This got me to thinking about what
I think are the main reasons to memorize a larger chunk of the Bible, how I've
failed at this before, and why it's going so swimmingly this time around.
Since I believe that the Bible is the most clear and direct way that God,
through his Holy Spirit, communicates with us, I have to think that
becoming thoroughly acquainted with it is vital. The Bible is a large
book, however, and daunting. It is also consistent and cohesive. So
the best way I've found to become familiar with it is to take a large
section and stick the whole thing in my brain. As I repeatedly review the
different parts of that section, I discover unexpected connections,
repeated words, and continuing themes which I had never before
(even with prolonged study) noticed. Further, I have found that as I
roll the words around in my mind, I recognize how they might
inform the events and conversations that are current in my life. I hear
God speak to me and to my friends. I'm able to directly quote what He
is saying to us. Finally, I find that as I pray, truths about God and what's
on his heart come bursting to the forefront from these words put
to memory. I experience communing with God in a whole new way as I
hear, speak, and respond to these words.
In the past, I've attempted to memorize both small and large passages
of the Bible without a great deal of success. I have a bunch of random
verses tucked away in various pockets of my brain with no references
attached. I also once had the first seven chapters of the book of John
down, most of which have since disappeared.
This time around, however, it's falling into place more easily. Based on
this recent experience of memorizing Ephesians (I'm almost done --
half a chapter to go!), here are my suggestions:
Memorize with a friend.
Hannah and I review whatever we're each working on regularly.
We're both using slightly different translations and at our own
pace, so it's kind of like we're memorizing something completely
different. That's fine. We just each bring a copy for the other
person to look at while we review. We may only run through a
paragraph every once in a while, or a whole chapter once a month.
But having someone else actually look at the words and catch
mistakes that are getting ingrained is essential. Also motivating.
My kids think it's a great game to quiz me on paragraphs in the
car -- even Elliott, who can't read yet (he finds all the 'ands' and
'the's' and points them out). Sometimes I quote it to them to lull
them to sleep at night.
Don't memorize all the reference numbers.
My biggest hangup with memorizing the Bible is trying to get all
those numbers down. So I say, get rid of them! If you've ever read
the Bible before, you may have noticed that each page is full of
little numbers around the text. These handy little add-ons were
assigned long after the Bible was written, and they help people find
what they're looking for, talk about them with other people, and
those kinds of things. However, they are not what I'm interested
in memorizing. They have no internal meaning, so remembering
them along with the text is plain unwieldy. This time I chucked
most of the numbers and am working by chapter and paragraph only.
Break it down into paragraphs.
As I just mentioned, I think paragraphs are the way to go.
As I memorize & review, I start by stating the chapter and paragraph
I'm working on: "Ephesians 4, paragraph 3" for example. This helps
keep all the parts in order.
Use a friendly translation.
I've found that the New Living Translation is a lot more direct
and less wordy than some other versions of the Bible. This makes it
easier to memorize, simply because there are fewer words on the page.
It is also broken down into smaller paragraphs, so the whole
paragraph approach works more readily.
Have a master copy/format that you always go back to.
When memorizing a bunch of words and sentences, there has to
be a consistent visual framework to support them until they are
in place. I like to go online to a place like biblegateway.com,
copy the whole text into a word document and format it into a clear
layout with paragraphs numbered and one chapter to a page if possible.
Then the words and paragraphs are always at the same spot on the page.
Put each paragraph on a 3x5 card.
To break it down further, each paragraph can go on an index card.
The index card for the section you are working on can go with you
wherever you are. Tuck it in your pocket, post it on the bathroom
mirror, put it in the windowsill or on your dashboard. After I have
this particular paragraph memorized, it will go in an index card holder
with all the other cards. Write the chapter & paragraph numbers on the
back, and you have flash cards. Then you can review contextually (the
whole chapter) or randomly.
I'm aiming for a chapter (oops!)a paragraph a week generally, although I take
weeks off for review if things seem to be getting shaky. No hurry here, but if you
let go of the whole thing for too long, it starts disappearing!
Developing a habit of memory and review while cleaning or driving, or
as the first thing you do when there's a bit of free time helps the whole
thing come together and stay in place while it becomes firmly rooted.
Whew! That took forever to write and probably even longer to read.
I've been really encouraged by this process, though, and maybe you will be too!