Why Memorize Scripture?

final memory photo For the first time in my adult life, I have a piano in my living room. I’ve owned the piano for almost two years now, but have kept it stored in the garage of my rented townhouse, awaiting a house with room enough for a piano in the living room.

I’m sitting at the piano with a stack of sheet music I haven’t seen in eleven years. My mom brought over three boxes of this music after I complained to her of having nothing to play beyond “chop sticks” and hymns. Flipping through the music, I sight read a line here, a piece there, stumbling through the parts my brain can’t quite decipher at the pace my fingers want to play.

Then I come across a piece I recognize. Its pages yellow with brittle edges and a rip dividing the second page, the volume containing this French Suite by Bach seems ancient. Eleven years ago, I performed this piece as part of an audition for a college scholarship I didn’t get. Then I went off to college and stopped playing the piano on a regular basis. This French Suite may seem ancient, but it’s actually the most recent piece I’ve performed from memory.

Eleven years has left me unable to remember how the Suite sounds, so I open to the start of the piece and begin to sight read. The beginning is simple enough, the right hand playing straight forward sixteenth notes while the left plods along with eighths at an easy pace. I smile as the familiar tune fills the room. I remember how the music is supposed to sound now, and I hum along in my mind.

Then I hit the fourth line of music and abruptly stumble over the notes as the once predictable right hand sixteenth notes dissolve into an unexpected series of trilled dotted eighth notes and the left hand simultaneously doubles its pace. I stop and backtrack a few measures and try the passage again. Once again, my fingers stumble. I slow to a snail’s pace and pick through the notes one at a time, but my fingers just aren’t connecting with the message my eyes are telling my brain to send them. What’s even more frustrating is I can hear how the passage is supposed to sound in my brain. I can even sing it. But I can’t play it. Or can I?

Backtracking once more, I try the passage again. But this time, when I near the stumbling place, I close my eyes. I don’t try to read the music. Instead, I turn inward, listen to the passage in my brain, and let my fingers fall where they feel comfortable. To my amazement, I am able to play the passage perfectly with my eyes closed! My eyes and my brain may fail to interpret the notes written on the page, yet my fingers, seemingly independent of all conscious thought, continue the song!  A piece of music I worked to memorize over eleven years ago has quietly stuck with me. Despite neglecting it for years, I can still play it due to the amazing gift of memory.

Memorization can often feel pointless in today’s age of instant media access. In fact, many parents with children in Christian schools complain at the amount of homework time spent daily on pointless “memory work” assignments. Why memorize a Bible passage when a Bible is nearly always available? If we don’t have a hard copy nearby, we can simply use google on our smart phone to look up the passage. We can install a Bible app! We can then text it directly to the person asking about the passage or read it aloud to them. With a few taps of a screen, we can bring up any hymn, any music video, any sheet music, or any chapter of the Bible along with essays, commentary, and other resources to help us explore and share our faith. So why memorize? Does God’s command to commit scripture to heart really apply to us today?

I share the story of remembering the piece of music with my eyes closed with my mom and she says she isn’t surprised. Music and verses memorized when young often stick with people for a life time. In fact, Alzheimer's patients who are unable to recognize friends or loved ones and who cannot recall what they had for breakfast can often still recite full Bible passages and sing hymns by heart. Memories related to music, love, and faith are the very last to go. Shouldn’t we be working hard to solidify these memories in our children so they carry them with them always to the very end of their lives? If the fate of disease should befall them in old age, if their eyesight fails to the point they can no longer read, if their hands are no longer able to operate pages of a book let alone a smart phone, if their brains falter and they are no longer able to process or understand the people around them, scripture will remain in their hearts due to the gift of memorization. Use this gift, and share it with your kids!

Rote repetition is one way to memorize Bible passages. Another way to help your children memorize Scripture almost effortlessly is to sing it! I can’t tell you the number of times my brain is triggered by a word, a phrase, or a tune, and unwillingly launches into an entire scripture verse thanks to my years spent working at a Christian summer camp where scripture was sung. Pair your favorite verses with silly tunes and sing them throughout your day with your kids on a frequent basis, and those verses will stick in their minds. Did you know there are almost fifty direct commands to sing in scripture? Here are a couple:

Ephesians 5:19b “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”

Colossians 3:16 “let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

First and foremost, sing in your heart. And, if you have the ability to do so, sing out loud! Use the gift of song to teach and admonish one another and your children. Use it to aid in the otherwise monotonous task of memorization. God knew what He was doing when he made tunes “catchy” for us humans! Give your kids the kind of ear worms you want to still be resonating in their ears in 80 years.

Got any fun methods of memorizing Scripture? We’d love to hear them!

AmberSignature

Thanksgiving Tree // The Secret of Living Song

Thank God for a morning filled with sunshine! With the kids waking up earlier (or just the same) because of un-daylight saving time it is nice to have the sun rise up with me.

After several consecutive wet and dreary Mid-Western autumn days we were itching to get outside when we saw the sun shining. After breakfast, I gave the kids a task to collect some sticks and leaves for our annual Thanksgiving project. It was a crisp morning and having a focused mission we were out and in before you could say Jack Robinson. Back in the cozy house we threw the jackets in a pile and got started sorting through the craft bin of ribbons, paper, and all things that sparkle!

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Yes, our Thanksgiving tree may appear to be just a bunch of sticks in a jar with construction paper and leaf rubbings BUT on the back side of the leaves is a collection of our thankfulness. Anytime during the day we write our thanks on a leaf and hang them on the tree. Little prayers sent up to our Gifter.

I asked our daughter first, "Fiona, what are some things you are thankful for?" I'll never NEVER forget how she answered me last year.

Especially because she was only three years old then. I'll tell you the rest of story...

Fiona's answer humbled me.

I heard her little voice squeak out "forgiveness" sweetly.

I'm going to let that answer settle a bit as it still takes my breath away.

Not family... or toys... or cake... but forgiveness!

We talk about forgiveness a lot at our house. However, the reality is that our daughter fully understands her bad thoughts, mommy's bad words, and daddy's mistakes deserve a punishment in hell... BUT that we have been saved from ALL that. All our sin is erased by our eternal hero, Jesus. 

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

How can she understand that on the bad days and good days, in everything, we can be content? Only God can work that. She knows we have already won through Christ!

How had I forgotten Jesus' words from Luke 18:16?

...for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

It is one of the biggest privileges of my life to watch my children's faith grow. Often it is their faith I admire. Whenever I think a certain subject is too difficult for their minds to understand the Holy Spirit steps right in and shows me the wisdom that a child can have despite me. Thankful.

ThanksgivingTree

At night when the kids drift off to sleep I compose music. Today, I get to share one of my folkish Thanksgiving hymns with you. I hope someday to hear a church sing this in worship accompanied by acoustic guitar, washboard, the fiddle and the tenor line sung loud!

So for your listening pleasure (or pain - ha!) I thought that it would be fun to sing it for you and add a voice part at each verse. I did not even attempt the bass line... thankfully there are only three verses. :)

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You can print a pdf document of the hymn by clicking it's title here The Secret of Living.**

For more thoughts on gratitude watch for Amber's posts through the month of November on Fridays.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. Psalm 9:1-2

AmandaSignature ** All my hymns are under copyright. You should not alter the music in any way and give me, the composer, full recognition for the piece. If you would like to use the hymn publicly please ask permission by contacting me at amanda@holyhenhouse.com. Unauthorized copying, duplication or alteration of this composition is a violation of law. Thank you for understanding.