In sixth through eighth grades I attended Southwest Christian School. It was the same school building that my dad had attended throughout his childhood, except that in those days it was one of the many public brick schoolhouses that dotted the Indiana country side every couple of miles.
Today it is no longer a school building. It has been renovated into a house covered in white vinyl siding. The playground where my dad had played softball and then I followed suite with my own leather glove now holds a Mennonite owned fabric and variety store.
But during my school days the classrooms were filled with the children of plain people: conservative Mennonites, Amish, German Baptists, Old Brethren- all of us with an Anabaptist heritage.
When I first began attending Southwest in the sixth grade, I had never memorized a scripture verse. I grew up hearing the Word of God and seeing it lived out in front of me, but had never been challenged to memorize it. I soon had fun memorizing and reciting the five or six verses we were assigned each week. In seventh grade we began talking about the challenge facing us in the upcoming year. All eighth graders were required to memorize and quote the entire Sermon on the Mount- Matthew chapters five, six and seven. We discussed it with a certain amount of trepidation while listening to the then current eighth graders rattle of verse after verse.
When I finally was the eighth grader memorizing those three chapters of Beatitudes, I found it to be so much easier than I had anticipated. Each week my friends and I memorized five or six new verses and recited them to our teacher along with the previous week’s five or six verses. That was ten to twelve verses per week and with a constant reviewing of all the memorized verses, I soon became amazed at how easy it was. My mind had two years practice of memorizing scriptures and poetry and this new challenge was not as daunting as it had originally appeared.
Life often is like that. Those things that from afar appear intimidating, overwhelming, even frightening can be easily managed on the day to day basis of the present.
In the years since, I have been eternally grateful for the Word that was placed inside of me as a seed. During my school days it was just the fun of the challenge. The ability to remember and recite. Now it is life and health. Those words that became a part of my mind as a child have taken on a new existence within me. Seeds that were dormant, eventually sprouted and are now living and producing fruit that generates new seeds…
During my first four years as a school teacher I taught at a one-room Old Order Mennonite school in the Ohio countryside. The first week of my first year I assigned the fourth through sixth graders five memory verses from the Bible. Groaning and moaning that they could never do it, they frequently reminded me that previous teachers had only ever required two or three verses out of them- like I was requiring out of the first through third graders. I remained relentless; until halfway through the year I decided to give them a break. I assigned only two verses, anticipating their appreciative thanks. Instead I was bombarded with critical remarks: “Only two verses! That’s too easy! We can do more than that!” With a smile I supplemented their Bible homework. Just like it had for me; memorizing had became a part of who they were. The seeds were being planted.
After I graduated from school I no longer memorized the Word, but once I encountered Jesus personally I found those reserves of buried verses strengthening me during times of need. Oddments here and there would come to mind and I would find myself nodding in agreement to my thoughts.
In recent years as I have come to a better understanding of the power of God’s Word being spoken through my own lips, I have again taken up memorization. This time it’s personal inspiration. It’s not reciting each word perfectly for a grade given by my school teacher, but understanding and living out each word as perfectly as I can for the glory of The Teacher. I print out the verses and carry the folded paper with me in my purse or pocket. When I’m driving or walking, I can pull it out and memorize. (Lest someone think me more spiritual than I am… while I read verses on a daily basis, I do not work at memorizing on a daily basis. Ideally I’d like to but sometimes I’d rather listen to teaching, worship with song or just think…)
When I memorize I speak the words out loud. Over and over they bounce off the walls of my car, house or the trees I’m walking by. They reverberate in my inner ear, seep through windows, past trees and houses into the abyss of the neighborhood making a difference by affecting both me and the Spirit world.
Even though the school where I began to memorize the Word of God no longer exists, The Word that was planted lives on forever.
A Sampling of Verses Regarding His Word:
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (We renew our minds through speaking His Word.)
45A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (The importance of knowing His Word.)
11Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
20He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
21Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
22And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
20My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
21Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.
22For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
11The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
23The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
24Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
11Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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.
8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
13But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
14Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
Currently I am working on rememorizing Galatians 5, because God has been dealing with me on two issues. Faith which works by Love. I say re-memorize, because I remember portions of it from my youth at Southwest School. But I need re-practice on both saying and living it!