“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
Philippians 4:8 [The Message]
I saw this bumper sticker yesterday:
I agree. Some of my thoughts are crazy. Untrue ones. Judgmental ones. Negative ones. Worrisome ones.
I need supernatural help when my mind starts wandering into the weeds. So God often works through my memory to rein my thoughts back in.
But to have good things there to pull from, I have to put good things in.
One way that works for me is memorizing sections of scripture. It keeps my mind actively attentive on words from or about God, and away from worries and other negative thought patterns.
Because I’m quite creative with worrying, I’ve had to memorize a lot of scripture.
About 11 years ago, I discovered it was possible to memorize several verses in a row (Colossians 3 is still one of my favorites). I was shocked.
Now I’m hooked on it. I love being able to grab a whole chunk of thought from these biblical authors, wherever I am, to keep my own mind occupied and rerouted to better thoughts.
But the hardest part about memorizing a Bible chapter? For me, it’s connecting the verses. I might remember verse 3 and verse 5, but can’t remember where verse 4 goes.
So I’ve started using mental mapping. And it works!
Here’s how you can use mental mapping, too.
- Count the number of verses, or grouping of verses (if you memorize 2 verses at a time), that you want to memorize.
- Select a sequence or flow that you are very familiar with by memory that has an equal number of objects or steps as the number of verses. It can be rooms in your house, items in your kitchen, houses on your street, etc.
- Create a connection in your mind between the object and a key word or theme in your verse. The more creative it is, the more likely you’ll remember it. (But write these down in case you need reminding.)
- As you learn a verse and add on others, mentally walk through your path. After only a few times, you’ll find you connect them effortlessly. You will still need to practice the individual wording, but you should get the gist of it just from your mental map.
Here are some sample steps and connections on my path for memorizing Isaiah 55.
I chose my kitchen, starting at the sink, and worked counterclockwise around the room, one object at a time. You’ll see I had to use my imagination to make the connections work, but hey, they did!
1. Sink. Thirsty.
Isa 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
2. Pantry. Bread.
Isa 55:2 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.”
3. Refrigerator Freezer. Hear ice dropping.
Isa 55:3 “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”
4. Refrigerator Clear Bins. See (witness).
Isa 55:4 “Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.”
5. Microwave. Fast (run).
Isa 55:5 “Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.”
10. Oven. Bread.
Isa 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,”
11. Sugar Chest. Full (not empty).
Isa 55:11 “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
12. Kitchen Table. Noisy happy meals.
Isa 55:12 “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
13. Window view. Trees.
Isa 55:13 “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
I read about this method in Joshua Foer’s book, Moonwalking with Einstein. It’s how he memorized random strings of numbers. But it’s actually a thousands-year-old method. You can google “architectural mnemonic” or “method of loci” if you want to learn more.
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How do you keep your memory strong? I’d love to hear your tips.
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