Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Treasuring God's Word

Psalm 119:11
"I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you."

Psalm 119:24
"Your testimonies are my delight; 
they are my counselors."

Psalm 119:54
"Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning."

Psalm 119:105
"Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path."

Psalm 119:144
"Your testimonies are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live."

Every time I think I'm going to get back to more regular blogging, I seem to let life get in the way. I am in a different season of life than I was when I started this blog almost 11 years ago. And that is ok.  Once I discovered Facebook, I tended to drift over there more and more, finding it more 'social' to a point since the people I interact with there are people I actually know, and somehow in the midst of that, and in the midst of several moves and my children getting older and myself getting older, blogging here has fizzled. I didn't intend that, but here we are.

Anyway, something I'm noticing recently is that I spend too much time scrolling through Facebook and I haven't always been as careful about sharing there as I'd like to be. Between the tremendous time waster I've allowed it to become and the fact that my Facebook feed is often filled with questionable theology and frustrating things to read, I've decided it's time for me to turn it off more often and check it less. I've also found myself in rather a bittersweet time of life as my oldest child is just about to graduate from high school, and in spite of all the wonderful things that come along with that, I am also finding that sometimes at odd moments I'm brought to tears and I struggle to fight for joy in the midst of it all, knowing that God is good and so very kind to His people and that He loves my son oh so very much more than I ever could. I know that every mother probably knows this odd tug at her heart that I am suffering, when her children begin to spread their wings - between the joy of watching them succeed and the memory of all the joys along the way (and sorrows and struggles, too - all the things that have gone into making him who he is today) as you sort through the pictures and memories of the boy he was and the man he is becoming, the tears will fall, but they are good tears, and I think even they are tears stored up in the Lord's bottle. (Psalm 56:8 "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?) Oh, how the Lord knows of my 'tossings' as I've cried out in the night when sleep is fleeting at times.

While thinking all that, I realized I need the discipline of actively putting off time-wasting thoughts and putting on more fruitful thinking. I've noticed that as I've grown more comfortable with my smartphone, I've grown much less able to concentrate on reading or anything else for longer periods of time without 'needing' to check that stupid phone. This is not good. I want to retrain my brain to think more deeply than a Facebook meme and longer than the next 'hit' of scrolling through what people are saying - quite often nothing all that important, it turns out.

I was remembering fondly the time I spent a few years ago memorizing the book of Philippians. At the time I was following a blog that encouraged its community of readers to Partner to Remember and we spent four months together memorizing Philippians. That was such a neat thing. I had never before tried to memorize a long Bible passage like that, and the tips and techniques I learned made it a very enjoyable and challenging experience. While I was working actively to memorize that book, I was constantly going over and over the verses, thinking scripture all the time, and praying scripture, and it was just a sweet thing to be filling my heart and mind with God's Word, and it was also a time of discipline to commit to the long haul and train myself to spend hours and hours memorizing, as I woke up, as I sat, as I walked along the way, and I want that again. It was amazing how often the very verses I was learning would come to mind as counsel and comfort and wisdom in prayer.

So, here's what I've decided to do. I just spent about a week memorizing Psalm 1, and now I'm ready to start working on Colossians, and I thought it might be helpful to type out my plan and share it and encourage anyone who may still be around reading this limping-along little blog to join me.

First, I bought a notebook like this. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive, just a cheap little spiral notebook small enough to carry around with you:

Then I copied Psalm 1 into it like this:

I wrote the date I started at the top, and the date I finished that page at the bottom. The method I use for memorizing longer passages is I start with the first verse and read it 10 times, making a mark to the left to keep count. Then I say it over and over until I can say it without mistake before moving to the next verse. Once I have the next verse where I can say it, I put them together until I can say them with no mistakes before moving to the next verse, and so on. When I was memorizing Philippians, I would take a week to work on one page. Once I'd been through the initial process of learning it as I spelled out here, I'd spend the week reviewing that page by saying it over and over anytime I thought of it - while cooking, cleaning, taking a shower, driving - pretty much whenever my brain was idling, I'd spend some of that time reviewing that week's passage. As the weeks went on, I would keep saying the previous weeks while adding the new weeks, so I never let the earlier weeks slip away. By the end I was able to quote the whole book of Philippians. Sadly, I cannot still quote the whole book of Philippians, but it is still very precious to me, and it is one of my long-term goals to review and remember.

Anyway, now that I've worked out Psalm 1, I'm ready to start Colossians. 

Memorizing longer passages is such a great way to get into God's Word and ponder and think through it deeply. I would caution, however, not to take it on merely as a project or a thing to pat yourself on the back for doing or to merely fill your head with knowledge. This isn't a legalistic, check-the-box, do-this-and-you'll-be-some-kind-of-super-saint sort of exercise. It is simply one way to hide God's Word in your heart, to spend time praying as you think about what you're studying for many weeks and to ask God to help you to love Jesus more and apply His word as you spend much time learning it. All with the goal to love Jesus more and to bring Him glory as you take in His word and let it inform your thinking and how you talk with other people, and to lead you to love following Him and obeying that word more fully.

Anyone want to join me in memorizing Colossians? :-)