Monday, January 30, 2012

Scripture Cards - Part 3 of Spend More Time with God

God's Words:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
~Deuteronomy 6:6-9 

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
~Psalm 119:97

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 
~2 Timothy 3:16-17

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
 ~1 Peter 3:15b

For those of you who have been waiting in earnest for my next post about the methods I use to memorize Scripture (including photos and step-by-step instructions!!!), well here it is...FINALLY!  I've been rather preoccupied as of late.  My family is currently in the process of finishing a couple rooms in our basement to add some much-needed living space to our home.  This project has been going on since last summer and we are so ready to be done with it!  At long last, the carpets are in and now I'm in decorator mode, which for me is the most fun.  FYI:  I plan to share some photos of our new homeschool room and play area in the near future when I write a post (or actually, it might turn into its own blog or series, you never know...) on teaching your children at home. Over the last few years that I've been homeschooling, I've had so many questions about homeschooling from friends and strangers alike, that I might just put all my accumulated homeschool knowledge and know-how on the world wide web to save others the time and effort it took me to find all that information out!  So make sure to "stay tuned" for that if it's something you'd be interested in.

Anyhoo, back to the subject at hand!  So with the home improvement work taking up all my extra time recently, I've had to put my blog writing on the back burner for the last few weeks.  Ugh.  But I tell you what, this post has not been far from my mind and I'm actually kind of glad that I've had these extra 3 weeks to really pray and think about what to write next because Bible memorization is such an important thing for believers to do.  If you didn't read my last post and you're curious why I would say that, then please go back and read Part 2:  3 Steps to Take in God's Word So it "Sticks" of the series, Spend More Time with God.

Over the years, I have put together a Bible verse memorization method that has proven very effective for me, personally.  Now what I do might not work well for everyone, but it works great for me.  And I've been really looking forward to sharing it with my readers, in the hopes and prayers that it will help some of you, too.

So without further ado, here is what I do to memorize Scripture:

It’s simple really.  All you need is a pen or pencil, a roll of painter’s tape for delicate surfaces, a package of 3x5 or 4x6 index cards (ruled or blank, it doesn’t really matter.  However, if you are like me and cannot seem to write in a straight horizontal fashion, but rather “uphill” or “downhill”, then perhaps ruled index cards might work better for you!), as well as an index card-sized poly expanding file (this may otherwise be known as a coupon-size expanding file).  I found all the items below for super cheap at Menards, of all places.  You really do save big money there!   I call Menards the “Men’s Target” because most of the guys I know seem to love to go there at least once a week just to see what’s new and on sale, plus you can find pretty much anything there – from wallpaper and tiles to milk and birthday cards.

Then, as you come upon a Bible verse or passage you'd like to memorize, simply write it down, including the reference, (in your very best handwriting, of course) on one side of an index card and tape it somewhere you will see it often throughout your day.  Now, I have never had a problem with the 3M Scotch-Blue Painter's Tape for Delicate Surfaces harming any surface I've used it on.  But just like with any glue or tape product, please test it out first in an inconspicuous area before you go to use it.

So where should you stick it up at?  Well, for some of you, that might mean on your bathroom mirror or wall next to the bathroom sink so you can review the verse(s) while you get ready for the day and then again while getting ready for bed.  If you work outside the home, a good idea might be to tape your card next to your computer or other work area.  In my very first blog post, I shared that I like to have a Scripture card on the cabinet right next to the kitchen sink, where I spend countless minutes each day doing dishes, cooking, and cleaning up.

This is a close-up view of the card next to my kitchen sink (notice my 9-year-old daughter's hand-painted flowers and flowerpot.  The big green "M" on the pot is for "Mom", of course!):

I also like to keep another card up on my bathroom mirror.  Sometimes it's a totally different verse I'm working on; and sometimes it's the same verse as the one I have up by my kitchen sink.  As a side note, I admit I'm a little OCD about things being matchy-matchy and so, as you can see, my ink color perfectly coordinates with the blue in my bathroom.  Of course you do not have to follow suit in having your pen color match your room.  I just find simple pleasure in doing this.

Ok now, this is totally random, but I couldn't resist sharing a photo showing the main theme of my master bathroom, which is relaxing at the beach!  Ahhh, yes...relaxing.  An activity that quite often eludes me in my busy life of being a mother and wife.  But still, it's a good reminder for me to at least try to relax each day!

You know...I think that shelf is crooked.  Maybe that's why it ended up half coming off the wall the other day.  I think a screw was loose.  That really bothers me...OCD again.  Don't worry, my handy man will fix it soon!

Again, sorry, let me get back to the subject!  To learn a Bible passage even more quickly, it might help for you to copy the passage down onto several index cards and tape them up in different locations that you spend a lot of time at.  That way, you're sure to spend adequate time throughout the day viewing and reviewing the verse(s) you're working on memorizing.

What I do after I put up a new passage is to read it and repeat it out loud and then in my mind at least several times each time I'm near it.  So, for me, brushing my teeth in the morning is a perfect time as any to review my Scripture card.  And then again, sometimes many times (depending on how many dishes need washing), when I'm working at my kitchen sink.  I don't really count my bedtime teeth-brushing session as the best time for memory review.  At that point in the day, my brain function is pretty much shot and I definitely don't want to undo all the hard memorization work I've done all day long when my brain function is at its height (aka:  "Mom Brain"), which is still not saying a whole lot, at least where memory strength is concerned.

Now, another way to help the memorization process is to daily, or at least several times a week, copy the Scripture passage on a piece of notebook paper.  Copy it down just once each day, or however many times you find helpful to aid in memorization.  This is really an optional activity.  I rarely do this, maybe because I'm too lazy too busy to do so, but usually just the act of frequently reviewing the verses by looking at them on my cards is enough for me.

Having Scripture cards displayed where you can frequently see them is not just good for memorization.  It's also a wonderful reminder for you to focus on a portion of God's Word and really give it some deep thought (which is what it means to "meditate on") and prayer as to what God wants you to learn from that passage.  God doesn't want us to just read His Word, because sometimes we simply forget most, or all, of what we read.  Rather, He wants us to really think and pray about how we should apply His Word to our lives.  So these Scripture cards should not only help you memorize Bible verses, but also provide a very visible reminder to meditate on what you're "hiding in your heart".

In closing, I will briefly introduce what I use the poly expanding file for, which I will go into greater detail about in my next post.  I use the file to organize the verses I've already memorized so that they are readily available for anytime I want/need to "brush up" on them, as well as any verses I've already written down that I'd like to someday memorize, but haven't gotten to yet.  Until my next post, perhaps now begin thinking about how you would like to organize your Scripture cards.

And don't forget to stop by Menards this week to get your supplies, and be ready to run into lots of men you know who are just happily browsing the store!

In Christ,


Monday, January 9, 2012

Part 2: 3 Steps to Take in God's Word So it "Sticks"

God's Words:

 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.
~Joshua 1:8

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
~Psalm 119:11 

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.   Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does.
~James 1:22-25

In last week's post, I wrote about how being spiritually healthy is vitally important for not only our overall health and well-being, but most importantly to please God, do His will, and be an effective witness of Christ to those around us.

I also promised to share in my next few posts the things that I have done, books I've read, websites I frequent and other advice and tips which I have found helpful in maintaining spiritual health and closeness with God.

But before I begin, may I first stress that God is always near to us;  He is with us at all times, never leaving or forsaking us (Deuteronomy 31:8, Matthew 28:20).  However, as we travel this journey of life with all its many ups and downs, sharp turns, blockades, landslides and those terrible, frightening times of being totally lost and alone in a dark forest, we may draw farther away from Him.  How does this happen?  When we don't seek Him in prayer and through His Word on a regular and consistent basis.

Jesus called Himself the "Bread of Life" (John 6:48-51) and the "Living Water" (John 4:10-13) because He knew those 2 descriptions would be a perfect way for us humans to understand our basic and dire need to fill ourselves with Him.  In order for us to be saved, we first needed to receive Him as the Living Bread that was sacrificed for our sins.  Then for the remainder of our lives here on earth, just as we would suffer hunger and thirst without enough food and water, we desperately need Him to equip and empower us to follow His way and do His will.  And just as we are first saved through finding and applying the Truth of His Word and seeking His forgiveness and salvation through prayer, we still need to continue that same manner of taking in His Word (through reading, listening to, or memorizing it) and communicating back to Him through prayer.
I will deal more with the topic of prayer in a later post, but for today we will focus on the:

3 Steps to Take in God's Word so it "Sticks"

Step #1:  There are so many ways in this modern world for us to absorb God's Word!  Let's see, you can read it for yourself, either in your own personal Bible, the "Bible app" on your smart phone (ok, I can't believe I just wrote that, as I don't even have a smart phone!  I guess I'm getting more "techie" then I realized!!).  You can listen to it read on a recording of some type - online for free, a CD, MP3 or iPod, etc.  Plus, there are so many songs, both current styles and even the "old hymns", that are filled with the Word of God.  Of course, being a music junkie (seriously never get enough of it - singing, playing, and hearing it!), this is one of my favorite ways of filling my heart and mind with Scripture.  My absolute favorite genres of music are "Praise and Worship" and "Contemporary Christian".  The gifted people who write these beautiful songs seek to base their lyrics on the Word of God.   So not only are you enjoying a catchy tune, but you're soaking up inspiring and comforting words of Scripture at the same time!  I love to listen to this music while driving.  It's so relaxing, especially when there are crazy drivers out there stressing me out!  And I love to have this uplifting music playing during the day when we're at home.  It's pretty hard to be in a bad mood when you're surrounded with the sounds of God's Word set to music!!  Plus, the best thing about this is when I hear my children singing along!  I know they are being comforted and uplifted, too.

Step #2:  Another important aspect of studying God's Word is to really think about what you read or hear, ponder it and consider how it applies to your life and what you feel God is trying to teach you through it.  Maybe a verse convicts you about a sin you've been letting into your life.  Let me tell you something, if you truly want to grow closer to God and serve Him better, He will show you through His Word how He wants you to change to be more like Him, for His sake and for your own good!  I cannot tell you how many times I've simply turned to my next devotion or planned portion of Scripture to read, and there before me is a verse or verses convicting me of something I need to change in my life or something to seek His forgiveness for and repent of.  But also, even more times than I can say, He has used His Word to uplift, encourage, strengthen and comfort me in a difficult time.

So after you are done reading a verse or portion of Scripture, let it soak in for a while.  Let it roll around in your head and heart as you go through the day and just wait and see how God uses it to bless and help you in your life!

But there have also been plenty of times when I've read my devotion for the day, given it some thought and prayer, and I'm still not really sure how to apply it to my life at that time.  Well then later on that same day or week, it turns out I really needed to read that Scripture to prepare or equip me for something that happens to either me or someone I know!

For instance, just last night as I was tucking my kids in bed, my 9-year-old daughter told me that sometimes she hates night time.  I asked her why (even though this has been a fairly common thing she tells us at bedtime lately, but I guess I just hope to maybe find out more specifically what is bothering her so much).  Well, she said she gets scared and worried during the night because she is fearful of having nightmares.  And she also worries about people (and pets) she loves dying or that something bad might happen to them.  I can understand this childhood anxiety.  I struggled with the same fears as a child.

But guess what happened as I tucked her in, trying to think of something comforting to tell her!  A verse popped into my mind that I had JUST read an hour or less beforehand while I was researching for an upcoming blog post:  Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Perfect.  And not only did that verse come to mind immediately when I needed it, but I somehow recited it by memory, when I'm not really the best at remembering verses by heart!  Ok, I know it probably helped that I had just read it shortly before, but still!  For me, that is pretty good and I know it was a "God thing" that He provided me with that Scripture verse to comfort her in her time of anxiety.  I love it when things like this happen and they happen to me all the time, but I've found that the more frequently I'm in the Word, the more they happen.  I don't think that is a coincidence.  So anyway, after I shared the verse with her, I told her to follow what it says by telling God about her fears and worries and He promises to give her His peace and guard her heart and mind from all her fears and bad dreams.

And thankfully, that story leads me to the final Step #3MEMORIZE IT!  "Hiding" God's Word in your heart through memorizing verses that are meaningful and powerful to you is the single most effective way to battle spiritual attacks, flee temptations, share the Gospel, bless others with His Word, and be strengthened and comforted in a time of need. When you put God's Word in your memory bank, it will amaze you how many times in your life that the Holy Spirit will bring a certain verse or verses to your mind to help you or someone you are trying to help.

As we start the new year, consider setting a goal for yourself to memorize a new Bible verse or passage each month, week, or even (for the really ambitious go-getters) each day!  To help you do this, in my next post I will show you, with photos and step-by-step instructions (yes, I'm really starting to get into this whole blog thing!), what I do to memorize Scripture.  And let me again remind you that this is not one of my strong points.  Give me a new song and I will know it by heart in a day or less, but anything that's not set to music, oy!  So I need lots of help in this area and I can't wait to show you what I've found so helpful that really works for me! 

May God bless you as you seek to take in more of His Word!

In Christ,


Monday, January 2, 2012

My New Year's Resolution: Spend More Time with God - Part 1

Excerpts from Psalm 119:

How can a young man keep his way pure?  By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
~vs. 9-11
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.  I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
~vs. 15-16
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
~v. 18
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
~v. 28
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.
~vs. 92-93
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
~v. 105
Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
~v. 133
May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous.  
~v. 172

God's Words to Read:  Psalm 119

If you didn't already know it, today's Bible passage to read happens to be the longest chapter in the Bible, with a whopping 176 verses.  Ok, I know what you're probably thinking to yourself right now:  "For goodness sake, why does she want me to read that much for today's devotion when it's a Monday and I have a ton of things to do today?!"  But I promise you it will be well worth your time, for I consider this chapter to be a passionate (albeit very long) love poem for God's Word and it's full of wonderful verses to inspire and motivate you to spend more time in the Bible.  So, perhaps sit down in your favorite comfy chair, grab a cup of coffee (or water, if you're trying to give up caffeine as one of your New Year's resolutions!) and take a few extra minutes today to enjoy this beautiful passage of Scripture!  Just as a side note:  Please keep in mind as you read this chapter (if you're reading the NIV like I am, that is) that the word translated "law" does not just mean "rules", but the Hebrew meaning for this word also expresses the totality of God's written instructions, His Word.  So as I read in the Bible about God's "law", "precepts", "statutes", "decrees" and "commands", etc., I take these words to be synonymous with the entirety of His Word, the Bible.

There.  That wasn't so bad, was it?  What verse or verses really stuck out to you as something you feel God is trying to teach you?  The verses listed at the beginning of this devotion are the ones that made the biggest impression on me today of how I am to love God's Word and why it is so beneficial to spend time reading it, meditating on it (which means really reflecting on and pondering over), and especially "hiding it in my heart" by memorizing it.

Well, as we begin a new year, it's a good time to start cultivating (or at least make an honest attempt at!) new, good habits.  Like many people, my most typical new year attempted-habit is making more of a concerted effort to exercise regularly.  I always aim for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week on my treadmill, plus some strength training and toning exercises mixed in.  However, depending on the busyness of each week, I might let a workout (or two-ugh) fall to the wayside.  I hate it when I do this to myself, because I know it's not the best for me to not get enough exercise.  I am healthier in every way when I meet my exercise goals for the week - not only physically, but also emotionally.  My stress-level is significantly reduced and I simply feel more confident.  But like I said, if I get "too busy" and let other activities (and yes, that may even include blog writing!) take priority over my exercise regimen, it has a detrimental affect on my overall health.

I try to look at consistent Bible study in the same way I view the importance of regular exercise.  Just as we all need to exercise on a regular basis to maintain optimal physical and emotional health, we all need to take care of our spiritual health, too.  In order to be healthy spiritually, maintaining a close relationship with the Lord, I really need to be in His Word daily, thinking about how to apply what I read to my life and praying for Him to show me how and help me to do this.  But whenever I allow the busyness of daily life or even fun distractions (like reading my latest novel or spending time on facebook and Pinterest!) to take precedence over my Bible study time and prayer, it seems to have a negative impact on every area of my life.  I am not exaggerating about this.  When I choose - and yes, it's a choice I purposefully make - to put other things before spending time with God through prayer and reading His Word, I find I don't end up having as good a day as I could have had.  What do I mean by this?  Well, I might be more on the "grumpy-side" emotionally as I go throughout my day.  I'm probably not as patient, loving or wise as I should be in dealing with the people I have contact with.  Any bad things that happen seem to upset, overwhelm or worry me more than they would have if I had centered my focus for the day on Christ and truly desiring to follow Him and please Him in all I do and say.

But on my "better days" when I put God first by talking to Him in prayer throughout the day and mulling over a Bible verse or passage (even if it means doing this while trying to force myself out of bed in the morning, throwing in a load of laundry or getting dressed for the day!), things just seem to go much more smoothly.  I feel much more at peace and happier and that I can handle whatever the day brings, with Christ at the center of my thoughts.

In the next few posts, I will share advice, tips, books and website links that I have found helpful in staying spiritually healthy.  I think that just reading today's enormous Bible passage and then this blog post is enough for today!!!  I can't wait to share with my readers what has helped me grow closer to the Lord and maintain the "good habit" of consistent Bible study and prayer.  Until then, Happy New Year 2012!!

A few more Bible verses about studying God's Word (just in case you're not tired of reading yet, haha):
~Jeremiah 29:13

~Joshua 1:8

~2 Timothy 3:16-17

~James 1:22-25

In Christ,