I think I may know who Stevie Wonder was singing about in his groovin’ song “Ebony Eyes” --- a song I played hundreds of times back in the day off his 1976 double album “Songs In The Key Of Life”. Her name is Chelsea, and from the time she was a little girl she filled our house with an electric energy and laughter. Together we explored the world on various homeschool field trips from caves to dairy farms and so many points between. In her teenage years, we took ambitious hikes together, boogie boarded in the Pacific Ocean, and put skittles in her pancakes at camp. Chelsea attended the “Now Fly” summer classes I offered to older teenage girls who were transitioning into adulthood and for some unremembered reason, my term of endearment for her over time became “Chickaboom.” Then off went my “devastating beauty, a pretty girl with ebony eyes” to Florida College where she met and eventually married her dear husband, Micah Simpkins. What a joy it has been to know this soul long enough to have watched her bloom into honorable womanhood.
As we neared Chelsea and Micah’s home in Burnsville, North Carolina we witnessed in Morgantown the most intensely brilliant sunset we'd seen on our quest, not unlike the ones we’d watched together from the sand dunes of Honeyman State Park in Florence, Oregon. I couldn’t wait to connect again deeply with my girl and pick up where we left off in the wonderful conversations we’d often enjoyed.
Upon our arrival, we had a great little talk with Micah and Chelsea about how active and engaged the young people in the congregation are with them and one another, and how supported they felt by this wonderful church family. I offered to stay in the van because I was nursing a cough, but since they’d also been a bit under the weather, they opted to stick with Plan A: to have the three of us, including kitty, stay in their guest bedroom. Sadly, the sniffles I’d arrived with turned into an uglier cough, head congestion, and body aches, so although I could still taste and smell, I decided to quarantine anyway, just to play it safe. Mark waited on me hand and foot like a pool boy and spent the unplanned downtime enjoying the Simpkins and catching up on our trip planning. Between naps alongside our cat Bella, and passing out on the guestroom bathroom floor, I was able to complete written work in bed but had to postpone the four pre-recordings I’d scheduled for my Older Women Likewise program.
Mark, of course, went to worship without me on Sunday and came home also quite impressed by this warm, loving congregation, even bringing home some well-timed encouragement sent my way from a sister there that was related to my program, and as I lay in bed, I began to wonder how on earth I’d come up with something useful to everyone to share in their honor, without having the blessing of personally worshipping with them. Then it hit me. I’d ask Micah to share in writing, something he’d given special attention to, that I’d not yet observed to the extent I’d seen in Micah. I asked him to share his experiences and tips around the invaluable practice of scripture memorization. I hope many will benefit from his great ideas here:
“I have been with the Spruce Pine church for about three “years, now. The brethren here are very kind and encouraging, and they are very studious, willing to listen to the Word of God preached and taught to them. One point of emphasis I have been making in Bible class is memory work. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you.” Jesus quoted Scripture when tempted by Satan in the wilderness. It is clear to me that being able to recite Scripture is an important skill that every Christian should have.
We have been studying through the New Testament for the past year and a half, and as we have been going through each book, I have assigned memory work. Typically this memory work is only 1-2 verses long and are passages that should be relatively familiar to the average Christian. That being said, I chose the memory verses not because of their brevity or their familiarity, but because of their impactful messages. They are good verses to keep in mind for various reasons as we live day-to-day.
When I was in college, one Summer I decided to start memorizing a chapter of the Bible per day. I have found memorization to come fairly easily for me, and I wanted to challenge myself to use that for my studies. I started in James because that was a fairly familiar book for me, and memorized all of that. I then went on to 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, because I wanted to be a full-time evangelist, and thought those books would be appropriate to keep in the forefront of my mind. I believe I then began 1 Thessalonians, but college started and I was unable to keep dedicating an hour a day for memorization.
Here are some tips and resources that I find helpful for memorization of the Scriptures:
- Find a translation that works best for your brain, preferably one that is familiar to you. I used the NKJV for my memory work, because that is what I grew up using.
- It may seem obvious to say, but repetition is key. As I was learning one new chapter a day, I was also going over what I had memorized in the past to make sure I did not lose it.
- I highly recommend memorizing out loud rather than simply in your head. It will make you go over the words more slowly and give them time to sink in.
- Though I did not do this, I have heard others recommend writing the verses to better memorize them. The same principle of going over the words more slowly applies here as well.
- Find a pace that works for you. A chapter a day may work for you, but you may be able to do less or more. I have a friend who added one verse per day, and was able to memorize the entire book of Hebrews on that pace.
- There is an app on iOS (it may also be on Android, but I do not know) called Bible Memory. It has various functions that are helpful for memorization, as well as ways to chart how much you have memorized.
- Take time to think about the meaning of the verses you have memorized. Some have said that all learning is done through analogy. You will better absorb the verses you are memorizing if you understand their meaning.
- I memorized every day before bed, and I recommend this to you as well if you can. Sleep helps us process what we have learned the previous day, and I tend to think that your memory work will stick in your mind better if you do it right before you sleep.
The brethren at Spruce Pine have taken well to the memory work I have assigned, even though I have thrown quite a lot at them! Here are the memory verses we have worked on in the past 4 quarters or so:
1 Corinthians 10:13
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
2 Corinthians 10:5
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
1 Timothy 6:11-12
2 Timothy 2:15
2 Timothy 3:16-17
1 Peter 3:15
1 John 4:7-8
The final tip I have for memorization is to not give up! You may have days where it does not work, or you may find memorization to not come easily to you, but if you will keep trying, I promise it will be worth it.”
How inspiring! It’s hard to think of a more meaningful way to spend one’s extra time than planting God’s life-changing wisdom deeply into our hearts and minds. Additional resources are available online for all ages, in fact, OneStone.com sells a book called 52 Ways to Teach Memory Verses and offers resources such as Bible Verse Alphabet Cards, and so on. And by the way, if you’d like to catch one of Micah’s sermons you will find those on YouTube under Spruce Pine church of Christ.
I’m sad about what my poorly-timed illness took from us the weekend we visited, but I’m hoping for another opportunity to meet with this dear family of God and am deeply grateful to God for Chelsea and all the other young women I watched grow up in our congregation, especially those who took to heart the wisdom of marrying a godly man.
Spruce Pine church of Christ
36 McHone Rd
Spruce Pine, NC 28777