Art Journaling: We Will Not Fear

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. . . though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;  Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.  Selah.  There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.  Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.  The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.  Psalm 46:1-5, 10-11

Hiding His Word in Your Heart: The Whys and Hows of Scripture Memorization

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David sighed when he looked at the math paper I had given him.  “Do I have to do the whole thing?” he complained.  “It looks too hard.  I can’t do it all!”

“Not ‘I can’t,’ David,” I reminded him.

“I know, I know.  ‘I CAN do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,’ ”  he rattled off quickly.  He was still disgruntled with the amount of work he had to do, but he bent his head purposefully over his paper and began his work.  In that moment, a scripture had come to mind that was encouraging and full of promise.  He had memorized that verse long ago during our family devotion time, and now it had come to his aid when he needed it.

That, fellow Christians, is why we memorize scripture.  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  Clearly, God’s Word is a powerful spiritual tool that we as Christians can use daily, and we would be foolish to put that weapon aside to rely on our own strength and wisdom.

Every morning, the kids and I work on taking some of God’s Word and putting it in our hearts.  The psalmist talks about “hiding” God’s Word in our hearts in Psalm 119:11.  The ESV translates it as “I have stored up your word in my heart.”  Scripture cannot be treasured in our hearts unless it is memorized.  Here are the reasons I want my kids (and me!) to memorize God’s Word.

1)  It is commanded by God.  In Deuteronomy 6, Moses instructs God’s people to take God’s words and put them in their hearts.  He reminds them to teach God’s words to their children and put those words everywhere they look – on their homes, on their doorposts, and even on their own bodies.  He said they were to talk about God’s words constantly in all their daily activity.

2)  It is encouraging in difficult situations.  King David often found comfort in God’ Word: he states “This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.”  (Psalm 119:50)  When I am afraid, I can call upon my memorization of this verse: “The LORD is on my side, I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6)  When my husband is trying to make the right decision for our family, I can encourage him with “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.”  (Proverbs 3:5)  Whatever struggles you may be facing, there is a Bible verse that you can draw upon for reassurance and comfort.

3)  It is useful in fighting off sin and temptation.  It has already been mentioned that God’s Word is a sharp and powerful sword.  Ephesians 6:17 lists the word of God as the sword of the spirit in its description of the armor of God.  Jesus made use of this powerful weapon when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  Each time the devil offered up a new temptation, Jesus fired back with a scripture verse.

4)  It is crucial to making good decisions.  Undoubtedly, you have heard the verse “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)  Many times when I have found myself wondering what to do next in life, God brings to mind a specific scripture that completely answers my internal questions.  “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5)

5)  It is practical for sharing the gospel.  Peter directs us to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”  When I meet someone that does not know Christ as Savior, I do not have to stumble around in my own weak words and explanations.  I can use the influential words of God Himself.  I can quote “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  The Word of God is a mighty tool, remember?  Let the Word of God speak for itself as you witness to others.

6)  It is beneficial in praying more effectively.  Sometimes, there is just no better way to pray than to pray the scriptures.  Jesus promises “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)  Don’t forget – Jesus modeled prayer for us in Matthew 6 and even gave us words to say when our own words fail us.

7)  It is critical for spiritual growth.  David starts off his book of Psalms by describing to us a man who delights in God’s word and meditates in it day and night.  This man is like a tree, growing, flourishing, and firmly rooted in the storms of life.  When you memorize scripture, God’s words are always with you.  Think of it as portable wisdom that will guide you throughout your day and help you mature as a Christian.

It is not difficult to see the importance of memorizing God’s Word, but how do I do it?  There are many methods to accomplish the memorization of Scripture.  I want to share a system that I found  while researching the Charlotte Mason method of schooling.  Here is the link that explains the Scripture Box system very thoroughly, but I will give you a quick overview here.

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I purchased a 3×5 notecard box at Walmart along with two sets of plastic dividers to go inside it.  The dividers were labeled with a permanent black marker in this order: Daily, Odd, Even, Mon., Tues., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sat., Sun., and the numbers 1 – 31.  I then wrote out on several note cards the scriptures I wanted to start memorizing (I got some inspiration from this verses list) and placed them in the front of the box.

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Then we started using the box.  The first card (Ephesians 2:8-10) went into the slot behind Daily.  Every day, I would simply read the verses on that card out loud to the kids two times with them repeating the reference after me.  After a few days, they started saying some of the words along with me, and by the second week, they could say the verses without any help from me.  When I was satisfied that they knew it, I moved that scripture to the Odd slot and placed Philippians 4:13 in the Daily slot.  Now we practiced the new verse every day as well as the previous verse on odd-numbered days.  When they mastered Philippians 4:13, the Ephesians scripture moved to Even, the Philippians scripture moved to Odd, and Mark 12:30-31 took the Daily slot.  Now I read Mark 12:30-31 every day, and together we recited Ephesians 2:8-10 on even-numbered days and Philippians 4:13 on odd-numbered days.  And the system continued on, with verses in the days of the week slots only being practiced on that specific day and the verses in the numbered slots being practiced on that specific date of the month.  In this way, scripture is learned quite rapidly without much time or stress, and then it is practiced regularly to be sure it is not forgotten.  It is working astonishingly well for us.

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The kids’ minds are like sponges; so they memorize things quickly and easily.  For me (and my crazy brain that is always going in a million directions!), I need a little extra practice.  Consequently, I used an app (PicsArt) on my smart phone to put whatever scripture I am working on at the time on a photo and use it as my lock screen.  I probably look at that screen dozens of times each day; so it definitely helps with memorization practice.

Accordingly, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16)

My Journey to Freedom: Healing for the Good Girl

(It’s been a while since I posted the previous entries in this series.  If you haven’t read them or need a refresher, here’s the links:

Part One:  Following the Rules

Part Two: Thou Shalt Not Wear Pants

Part Three:  It’s Never Enough )

Do you ever find that it’s easier to draw out a tale than to finish it?  The telling of the event is always more natural than bringing it to a solid and worthy conclusion.  I used to dream of being a writer, once upon a time, as an idealistic junior high student with big hair and even bigger glasses.  I fantasized about a career in children’s literature and wrote dozens of original stories and poems.  Most of them, however, I never finished.  It felt just too difficult to come to a good ending.

For this series “My Journey to Freedom,”  I have felt this exact same way.  It feels like a whole lot has to be crammed somehow into a clear and logical ending, when in truth there is no ending.  It is a journey, after all, and although I live free in Christ, I haven’t arrived.  Not yet. 😉  Still, I will do my best to explain to you just what happened in my life the last year or so that radically altered my thinking and my faith.  Some have questioned why.  Why share this tremendously personal story online?  Won’t people perhaps vehemently disagree with you, or scorn your choices, or even be offended that you have not followed the path of your youth?

Indeed, the reception of the previous posts has not all been good.  I think that it is hard and scary for some people when you start asking questions about the things you were taught all your life.  Believe me, I fully considered that before embarking on the first post of the series last summer.  I balked at doing it at all, knowing it would absolutely cause controversy, but the Holy Spirit kept nudging me to write my story.

In September of 2012, the pot that had been slowly simmering for so long finally burst into a full boil.  I could not handle it any longer – all the rules, the stress of doing everything just right, the frustration at not feeling as if I were ever pleasing God, everything.  So I just quit.  Right then, I talked to Chris, who had been having similar feelings and frustrations of his own, and we agreed together to leave the church we had been attending for eight years.  All at once, everything stopped.  I no longer taught children’s church; there was no more nursery duty to fill more of my church time.  We had no idea of where to go or what to do next.  We attended my in-laws’ church for a brief time on Sunday mornings, but we did not go anywhere else on Sunday evenings or Wednesday nights.  It felt strange to have my entire spiritual world upended, just like that.  I found, to my consternation, that pretty much my entire social life had revolved around church, and now I felt empty and alone.  I worried that we had made the wrong decision and prayed for answers and for peace.

This is when I made a heart-rending discovery.  I prayed, but I didn’t feel connected to God in any way.  I tried to keep reading my Bible, but God still felt distant and aloof.  Without all the rules and the busyness of my former life to masquerade as spirituality, I was left with an empty shell of a Christian life.  My personal relationship with Jesus Christ had suffered dramatically as a result of my focus on outward behavior.  I didn’t know how to fix it, how to draw close to God.  I knew the verse by heart – “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8)  I feared that maybe I wasn’t really saved, that maybe somehow it had all passed me by.  The Bible wasn’t speaking to me, and I was desperate to find out why.  Surely someone else had experienced this exact same dilemma as my own – that of growing up in a Christian home and then becoming disillusioned with it in their adulthood.  I hit the internet and searched for people with stories like mine.  It was difficult to find anything, and the ones I did find had heartbreaking endings of the author turning away from God.  I didn’t want to do that either.

By this time, we had found a new church that we attended once a week.  The pastor there preached through the Bible, verse by verse.  We started attending when he was in the book of James.  After every service, I would go home and search out the things he had said in my Bible, to see if in fact they really were true.  He said then (and has said it many times since, as it’s a favorite statement of his) “Stick to God’s Word.  It has all the answers to life, and it’s the best commentary on itself.”  It was as if the Holy Spirit had tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You heard him!  Now get home and get in God’s Word.  He will do the rest.”

And so I began to search the scriptures.(John 5:39)  Through a lot of stilted, uncomfortable prayer and heartfelt journaling, I started to see who the God of the Bible really was.  I realized that I had always had this view of a big scary God who was never quite pleased with me, no matter what I did.  But my Bible revealed a God who is a loving Father, full of mercy and grace.(John 1:14)  He is also all-powerful, and we are admonished to fear Him. (Psalm 111:10)  Being God-fearing does not mean worrying about whether I am doing enough to please Him.  It does not mean ending each day in frustration and defeat because once again, I did not live up to what I thought I should.  No, being God-fearing means a reverence for God and the boundaries He sets in His Word, knowing that there will be consequences when those boundaries are crossed.  And yet, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)  Of course, I’m going to fail – I am a sinner that needs a Savior – but when I seek His forgiveness, he removes my sins “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12)

And when I began to see God in this whole new light, my prayers were not so awkward.  I looked forward to meeting with Him every day.  Bible reading was not a drudgery – some days I only read a verse or two, but God spoke in my heart through them just as much as the days I read chapters.  I realized that it was okay to question things, and I took my Bible and went right down my list.  Bible versions?  Proper music?  Dress?  How often to go to church?  As I prayed and studied, it was evident that a lot of these controversial areas were about personal conviction, not scriptural mandate.  The breath of freedom that this discovery brought me was exactly why I titled this series “My Journey to Freedom.”

The journey is far from over.  I still don’t know all the answers.  But now I am living in this new-found freedom, worshiping and following my Savior, rejoicing in the hope that He gives, not the fear of not enough.  I write this for that person who may be searching, just as I did, for someone with the same experience as their own.  If that’s you, run, run, run to receive His amazing grace and unfailing love.  Be encouraged that there are answers and that there is hope.  Most of all, know this: God will give healing to the good girl who just never could be good enough.