The Art of Memorizing

Ann Voskamp, a superb writer, about helping her kids learn memory verses.  To read more, be sure to check out Ann's blog at A Holy Experience.

Several weeks ago, five year old Levi returned home from our church’s children’s club with a stack of twenty yellow card stock cards with line drawing pictures on the front as memory aids and Scripture verses with references printed on the back. In few short weeks, could Levi, faced only with a line drawing, recite each of the 20 Scriptures cards, including the references, word perfect, in continuous sequence, with no verbal prompts?

We practiced those verses…over and over and over again. As forks scraped plates, as pajamas got pulled down over heads, as seatbelts got buckled, we memorized, starting at the first card: “Hebrews 4:12 For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword…” While he rode high in the buddy seat of the tractor, out cultivating spring fields, Levi hollered above the drone of the tractor, into Darryl’s cocked ear: “Ps. 90:2 Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” While rolling play dough, Levi sang, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him… 1 Kings what, Mom?” Yes, by function of Levi’s memorization, the verses had become mine too. And everyone else’s in the family. In the midst of a parental discussion with an older brother, Levi chirped in with “Proverbs 29:1 “He who is often reproved and hardens his neck will suddenly be destroyed.” Elder brother’s forced smile of appreciation towards Levi was notably strained.

Tension mounted as days of faithful recitation still resulted in Levi erroneously quoting “If my people that are called by my name will humble theirselves and pray” instead of “If my people WHO are called by My name will humble THEMSELVES and pray…” The older children would hold their breath as Levi tried again…and when he incorrectly said “theirselves” for what seemed like the gazillionth time, they couldn’t refrain from dissolving into groans. “It ‘s “humble THEMSELVES”, Levi! Okay, let’s try again, Levi!” Would mercy be granted to a five year old with a lisp and gratingly incorrect grammar—yet who more than compensated for any misquotes with an abundance of passion and expression?

Tonight, the stack of yellow verse cards sit on the counter, dog-eared and dirty…and one little boy lies in bed, changed.

For Levi threw open the door tonight to announce, “I SAID ALL 20 VERSES TONIGHT, MOM, WORD PERFECT!”

And this time I was the one who dissolved…into tears. Little Levi had done it: He had made God’s Word his LIFE.

Deuteronomy 32:47 “They are not just idle words for you—they are yourl ife.”

Lord, how can I make Your living word my LIFE today?

Ann then writes about the entire family’s efforts:

So we eat and talk and pull out our sheets of verses from the dinner-table book basket and pour over the words, The Word, in between forkfuls. We recite during slurps of desert’s ice cream cones. Tattered sheets are stuffed in pockets to review in between barn feeding chores, doing up dishes, putting little ones down for nap.

We’re slowly becoming a family of mutterers, reciters, memorizers.

Is this what it is to be like Moses: Deuteronomy 31:30 “So Moses recitedthis entire song to the assembly of Israel…” To be a David: Psalm 119:13“I have recited aloud all the laws you have given us.”

Not as diligent as the Jewish students who faithfully memorized the entire oral Torah , we strengthen our humble efforts with the mantra: “No Child Left Behind”… or Mom and Dad. We spur each other on, reminding each other to daily recite God’s Word:

“Okay, while we fold the clothes, wanna all say the verse for today?”…“Okay, bedtime story after we recite all the verses we know so far this week.”

Even 3 year old Shalom squeals with glee: “Woverbs four nineteen, wenty, teen, one — I say it too!” Her enthusiasm is contagious, even if his annunciation is….well…indecipherable. And she is learning now the habit of wanting God’s Word….

Sunday morning drive to church finds a van full of us reciting in careful unison…and then, after the service, seeking out our accountability partner for nervous, word-perfect attempts at all seven verses in one sitting. Signatures scrawled on the bottom of assignment sheets are rewarded with relieved smiles.

And a changed person….ready to begin another 7 days of verses, life-changing encounters with the living, breathing, potent Word of God.

Learning the ART of Memorizing:

Attend:  Attend to the verse’s meaning. Attend to its context. Attend to its rhythm. Work those brain muscles. If you have to act it out, draw it up, write it down, or tape it on, so be it. Do whatever it takes to Attend.

(For me to attend: Make up Actions and sign-language to correspond with the verse.

For some of the children: Draw the verse in pictures. Record it on tape.Write it down.

For Dh: Close eyes and say the words he sees.) Do what it takes to Attend.

Review to Renew: Repeat. Recite. Recap. Reiterate. And then:Review. Repeat. Recite. Recap. Reiterate. And then…. Recite to an accountability partner weekly.

(A Memory Club with another family at church encourages the efforts.)

Each day, take just five minutes to review verses learned last week. Learning is important…but reviewing is paramount to retention.Repeating God’s Word renews.

Tie: Tie Daily Memorizing to Daily Duties. Knot reciting to routines: when you brush teeth, comb hair, make the bed, use the time to savor His Sweet Word. Tie memorizing to meal times. Bind Scripture learning to laundry, labor and living. Tie His Word to your life. Tie.

So goes the ART of Memorizing. And our motivation to keep memorizing?

“Guard my words as your most precious possession… ” Pr. 7:2 (LB)

Lord, “Your promises to me are my hope. They give me strength in all my troubles; how they refresh and revive me!” (Ps. 119:49 LB)