Some Dos and Don'ts from My Recent Attempt to Memorize Psalm 1

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Who likes a good challenge? 

As someone who is motivated by deadlines, impending races, and the like, I’ll admit that the subject line drew me in: ‘Your 21-day Scripture Memory Challenge is inside!’ 

The email from Gretchen at Well-Watered Women invited readers to commit to memorizing Psalm 1 by “eradicating excuses and establishing routines we can use each day to hide God’s Word in our hearts.” Her no-nonsense approach worked, and for the first time in a decade, I committed to memorizing Scripture. 

For 21 days, the amount of time some say it takes to form a habit, I had to be all in. No excuses. 

A month later, challenge imperfectly complete, here are some things I learned. 

DON’T wait for the perfect time or place. I thought I would have the most free time before bed. Reality? By 9 pm I was just too tired. Instead I found myself listening to and reading the text while running, cleaning, and waiting in line at the bank. Doodling the verses (I was often coloring with my son anyway) also helped them stick. 

DO keep yourself accountable. Before starting we were strongly encouraged to download the daily guide and find an accountability partner. I printed out the guide but chose to go it alone. This was a mistake. I needed the extra ‘oomph’ that comes from being accountable to a friend or peer. 

DON’T completely ignore the context. My assignment on day one was to read the chapter twice and try to gain some context: Do we know the author? How does this chapter fit in the Bible as a whole? I read the text but didn’t bother to go deeper. I would have benefited from asking more questions. 

DO expect the Holy Spirit to show up. Psalm 1 is six verses long and chock full of imagery. Though it seems easy to memorize, I found myself getting stuck in the same spots and forgetting entire lines. I prayed. I quit for a bit. And then something weird happened. I started to remember more. Words came to me throughout the day. The Holy Spirit showed up again and again, multiplying my small efforts. 

Have you recently memorized Scripture? What was your experience? I’d love to hear from you. 

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Really encouraging read. Thanks for sharing what you learned! I especially love what the Holy Spirit does... "he will guide you into all truth" and "Sanctify them in the truth; your Word is truth." John 16:13; 17:17

As a parent I sort of providentially fell into memory work when helping my daughter with her verses. Last year she attended a local Christian school for 1st grade and she had a set of memory verses for the year. Little did I know what was about to happen and what would become my new passion. We are a very musical family. My wife is the K-5 music teacher at the school and I am Director of Worship at our church. So as I attempted to help my daughter learn her 2nd verse of the year and memorize Gen 8:22, I naturally went to my default of singing. "This could be really easy if we just put this to a song," I said in the kitchen as we wrote the verse on the magnetic dry-erase board.

Literally, in the amount of time that it took to actually read the verse, I spit out a quick chant like melody to fit the verse. "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.... Genesis Eight: Twenty-two."  It seemed pretty easy at the time, writing my (our) first Scripture Song, but as the remaining memory verses kept coming, the task became pretty difficult. But this first song gave me hope! If I could write a song for this one, could I do it for others? I was ambitious enough to take on the challenge and so I asked my daughter's teacher for the full list in advance so I could write a song for every future verse that they would work on.

The most difficult thing though about writing these Scripture Songs is that the text is already set and there is little to no rhyme at all unless you happen to get "lucky" on a certain verse. (it does happen from time to time) There are some tricks that help form a good melody from the verses, such as repeating words or phrases. At other times I'll try to stick right from start to finish. On other occasions there can be one verse out of many that can be used as a chorus of sorts. I did this for Psalm 100. I was able to write a song for the entire Psalm and used verses 1-2 as a repeated chorus. One thing that is pretty universal to all of the songs, is that they tend to be pretty syncopated. So while the written notation may look a little crazy at times, hopefully the melody and tune are catchy enough to remember. And that's really the goal after all... to write something that is memorable so that we can easily memorize the Word!

Well little did I know how much I would love doing this. I had written and still write many other songs for worship and just for art, but writing Scripture Songs verbatim has become such a joy. I soon found that I was writing other songs for other verses in addition to the ones my daughter was learning. Over the past year I've written 30 songs. Earlier this year, I decided to work on songs for our congregation. I figured, if our kids are learning these songs for the purpose of hiding God's Word in their hearts, then we should also be doing it... in fact, we should be setting the example. (So cheers to you Staci!!!)  I began to write songs that would coincide with sermon series that our pastor was going through.

Its been quite the ride and I pray that I can keep it up. The whole reason I share all of this, is that a big "DO" would be to find sources that put Scripture to song. I know there are several sources for children, but there are also some really great bands putting the Word to song. One of my favorites is The Corner Room. They have done a couple of projects on the Psalms but have also written some for others passages. There is also one called theversesproject.com that is a collaboration of several artists that do the same.

Lord willing I will be able to record the songs I've written so people can use them to help memorize Scripture and treasure His Word.

I also loved your context remark. I wrote a song for Jeremiah 29:11-13, and while the context is key to how we understand and apply the verse, I still settled on the fact that its still God's Word and worthy to be memorized and it teaches us something of the nature and intentions of God.

Hopefully this link can be accessed, but here is the first video we made to share with others of our first Scripture Song.  My middle son has some energy...haha.

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I also like challenges... so if you or anyone has a verse they would like a song for, I'll try to select some and work on them. I tend to be more productive when externally motivated. Blessings!

Admin

Thank you so much for your encouraging comment, Eric. I loved getting a peek inside your family life and found so many great takeaways in what you wrote. I have also found music to be a huge help in memorizing Scripture ("...so while the written notation may look a little crazy at times, hopefully the melody and tune are catchy enough to remember") and Sunday School songs have helped God's Word stick with me to this day. I love your creativity in writing the songs yourself and your passion for sharing them with others. Sadly the link did not work on my end. Let me know if I can help get it posted. I think your comment could start a whole new conversation! 

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Oh bummer about the video not working. I only had it on Facebook so not sure of any other way. Oh well. Thank you for the kind words.

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Ok, lets try this again. I realized I had a youtube channel but I never put any of these videos up.

So I uploaded several of the Scripture Songs on there and as mentioned, the very first one was Genesis 8:22.

It's been quite the year and I couldn't believe how many songs we did. The videos represent just a very small fraction of what we have so Lord willing, we can get some more up and recorded.

Hope the link works.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAojC5Lt9E7CNoFtgWG1zNA?view_as=subscriber

Eric - these are great - I love that you do this with your kids. I hope more people are inspired to do so. Thank you! 

Colin Buchanan has a whole album of scripture verses in song.

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I, too, love memorizing scripture and don't do it enough. Quite awhile ago I attended a course taught by Ray VanderLaan and we were given fairly large portions of scripture to memorize each week. After a few weeks, many in the class (including me) were trying to keep up and became overwhelmed. I remember thinking, if I memorize this new passage, I'm going to forget the one I learned last week! But RVL said, don't quit - and don't worry so much about that - if you've memorized it, it's 'there' and it will come back when you need it. I guess that's part of the mystery of trusting that God will hide his word in our hearts when we make our own (feeble) efforts to memorize.  This also speaks to why it's so important to memorize with children.

I resonate, too, with the thoughts about putting music to the scripture. My grandchildren and I did this - it was when they were younger and we used to do this often when we were together. It was a great exercise when we did it, and now they have a little collection of scripture songs they 'wrote' together.

Admin

Thanks for this Diane! I was overwhelmed at just one chapter but learned so much in the process. Great advice from Ray VanderLaan. 

I also love how you put scripture to music with your grandchildren. What fun and such an eternal impact! 

Great article, Staci. Scripture memorization was a big part of a men's group Bible study last year and it was a great experience. It took a lot of work but it was well worth it. The accountability of having to recite verses to the group every Wednesday night was huge, as you point out. Thanks for sharing your experience.