only help my unbelief

How to Pick a Verse/Passage/Chapter/Book to Memorize
January 27, 2009, 8:00 am
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God has made each one of us unique, and that includes how our minds are wired. For some of us, memorizing Scripture comes more easily than it does for others. But God says in Scripture to let His Word abide in us, and the most effective way of making sure His Word is in us to memorize it.

Where to start, though? I started with 1 John because one of my most egregious sins is the daily act of not loving the people around me. I knew that 1 John talked about loving our brothers, so I figured that would be a good thing to have in my heart. I also picked it because it was pretty short compared to other books (Ezekiel, anyone?) and I wanted to have a good foundation of Scripture memorization before I moved on to something more difficult.

But you don’t have to start with a book. If that seems too overwhelming, pick a chapter. If even a chapter seems like too much to begin with (though it depends on the chapter – take Psalm 119 vs. Psalm 117), pick a passage from a chapter.

That doesn’t narrow it down a whole lot, though, so here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there anything in Scripture you’ve always wanted to memorize?
  • How many verses do you think you could memorize in a week?
  • What sin do you struggle with the most?
  • Are there any parts of Scripture that you’re especially familiar with, but don’t have memorized?

Here’s a sample of answers to the questions and the passage I’d advise memorizing:

  • Is there anything in Scripture you’ve always wanted to memorize? “I really love the Pauline epistles, because they’re really practical.
  • How many verses do you think you could memorize in a week? “Probably four or five.”
  • What sin do your struggle with the most? “I tend to get angry often and say things that I shouldn’t say.”
  • Are there any parts of Scripture that you’re especially familiar with, but don’t have memorized? “I studied the book of Ephesians with a group at church one time.”

If I were you, I’d go with Ephesians 4:17-32. It’s 16 verses, so in a month you could memorize the whole passage. It talks about the new life and how we are to stop sinning through anger or by things we say. And it would at least be a little familiar since it had been studied before.

These answers are a little biased, because I wrote them with a certain passage in mind. But even just answering one of the questions might be enough to point you to a certain passage. For example, Psalm 34 is one of my favorite parts of the whole Bible, and part of the psalm is my life verse(s). I have those memorized, but I don’t have the whole psalm memorized. That’s a prime target for memorization, because it will actually be fairly easy to memorize, because I’ve read it about 23678230 times.

Still stumped? Here’s a list of some of the things on my future memorization list:

* Psalm 103
* Romans 8
* The Ten Commandments
* Matthew 5-7 (The Beatitudes)
* 1 Corinthians 13
* Isaiah 53
* Deuteronomy 6

If you’re still not sure, then let me know. I’m by no means an expert on all of what’s in the Bible, but I’d definitely be willing to walk alongside anybody who’s trying to decide on what God would have them memorize.


What I’m Learning from Memorizing Scripture
January 23, 2009, 9:13 am
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As I’ve said before, encouraging Scripture memorization is one of my passions. For too long that discipline was inactive in my life, but recently God has been cultivating a love for His Word in my heart.

The funny thing is, when I write about Scripture memorization here, the traffic remains the same, and the post rarely gets viewed. But when I write about LOST or how I met Christian, traffic jumps to three times its normal rate.

Now, I don’t really care how many people visit my blog. I don’t have any advertising, so it’s not like I’m trying to earn money. And enough people read it and mention things I’ve written to me that I don’t feel like my writing is futile.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m going to keep writing about memorizing Scripture, even if no one reads these posts. It’s helpful to me to think about the process of memorizing and meditating, because it makes it even more real to me.

When I started memorizing 1 John, I thought that what I would take away from it was the ability to recite the whole book. I still hope that’s true, but there is so much more than that. The Word truly is living and active.

God answers prayers to love His Word with a love for His Word.
Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise, but I’m a firm believer that God always answers this prayer. When I started memorizing 1 John in November, it was slow going. I tried to memorize six verses a week, but it took me several weeks to memorize the first chapter (10 verses). But then I started praying that God would give me a love for His Word that expressed itself in a diligence in memorizing it. If you’re struggling with wondering if God really does answer prayer, then try praying about this and just see if He doesn’t answer. He will.

It gets easier as you go.
This was a surprise to me, because I thought that when I got into the middle of the book, it would get harder, because there was so much more to review. Actually, the farther I get in, the more encouraged I get, so the more I want to memorize. Whereas in the first couple weeks it was a struggle to memorize even one verse a day, now I’m trying to memorize two verses a day, and sometimes three if they’re somewhat familiar and not too long. Of course, you should never press on too quickly at the expense of remembering previous verses, but if you’re struggling in the beginning, take heart. It will get easier as your mind becomes more adept at memorizing.

Sin is no longer as tempting.
Well, some sin, anyway. Unfortunately, our hearts really are deceitful above all things, and just because you’ve got solid words of truth in your heart doesn’t mean that you’re never going to sin. But God tells us in Ephesians 6 that the Word is a sword, and that means He means for us to use it to fight against the devil, and, sometimes, against our own hearts. 1 John 3:10 says, “By this it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love His brother.” I won’t get into the theology of losing our salvation, because I don’t believe that we can, but I do believe that God is serious about sin. Several times since I’ve memorized that verse and been tempted toward sins that I daily struggle with, I’ve been able to recall that verses – “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.” Add to that a sincere prayer that God will rescue you from the temptation, and Satan has no chance.

Books with Scripture references are way more fun to read.
This is probably bad, but most of the time when I’m reading a book with Scripture references in it, I don’t often look them up. Sometimes, of course, the author actually quotes the verses, but sometimes it’s just the reference. This hasn’t happened much, yet, but in one book I’m reading, the author quoted at different points several verses from the beginning of 1 John. I saw the reference, and the verse popped into my head. I probably wouldn’t have looked them up, so having the verse in my head actually increased how much I was edified by the book.

Scripture memorization precedes Scripture memorization.
It’s true that I’ve gotten more encouraged to finish up 1 John since I started, but I’ve also found an increasing desire to keep memorizing after I’ve finished. My goal before was simply to finish 1 John before the wedding, but because I’ve been able to pick up the pace a little bit, now I’m going to try to finish 1 John by the beginning of March, and then try to memorize as much of the book of James as I can before the wedding – especially chapter 3, which focuses a lot on the tongue. Which needs a lot of work, in my case. And I’ve made a list of other things I want to memorize – several Psalms, Romans 8, the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes. These are long-term goals, but the more Scripture I get into my heart, the more I want to be in there.

I truly hope none of what I’ve written sounds like I’m bragging. I’ve been a Christian for about 17 years, and until I started this endeavor last fall, I had very little Scripture captured in my heart apart from verses I learned when I was under the age of 10. I’ve wasted many, many years in which my mind was fresh and hungry for knowledge. My hope is that in reading about how rich the experience of memorizing Scripture has been for me, you will discover the joy of having God’s Word in your heart, no matter how old you are.

I don’t know what the coming years will bring, but if the past couple of years are any indication, persecution is becoming more and more common. And I don’t know if it will ever get to the point that our Bibles are taken away from us, but what if they are? I want us to be ready.

LOST: Analysis of Episodes #1 and #2
January 22, 2009, 2:59 pm
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I’m not going to promise to do this every week, because generally promises like that end up getting broken. But here’s my thoughts on last night’s three hours of LOST awesomeness. If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, you won’t want to keep reading. Also, if you don’t watch LOST, you probably don’t want to keep reading, because I’m going to sound crazy.

First, I was thankful for the 8 p.m. recap. I had completely forgotten so much of what happened at the end of last season. I watched it with Christian and our friend Jeffrey (and Pat and L.J., his dogs), and we were frantically trying to put pieces together during the commercials as we remembered things that had happened.

1. Is Locke really dead? He sure looks dead in the casket, but I think we’ll see him again in the future (the real future, not the island future).

2. The beginning is a flashback, clearly, with the Asian Dharma guy. Nothing too weird, except for we find out that the wheel Ben turned in the season finale last year is some sort of energy releaser. Still, how does Ben end up getting so close to it, when it almost kills everyone else?

3. And WHAT THE HECK IS DANIEL DOING THERE?!?!! Did he go back in time? Is he like Desmond? Or did he grow up on the island, only to leave it later? If he was traveling in time, it would have to have been fairly recently before he went to the island on the freighter, because he looks like he’s the same age.

4. Who sent the lawyers to Kate’s house? I was thinking Ben, to get her scared so she would want to go back to the island, but what about Sun? Maybe she’s doing it to make Kate lash out at Ben? And who wants Aaron – Widmore or Ben?

5. Locke is traveling through time differently than everyone else… or maybe just differently than the Others. They don’t appear to be moving, but Juliet does. So maybe it only affects people who were on the island initially from a certain point.

6. Can dead people come back to life? Locke is dead in the future, but he comes back. Ethan is shown alive, but we know he’s dead. Does this mean maybe Hurley will get to see Libby again? Oh, please, let it be so.

7. Who sent the guys in the “safe” hotel room? Sayid doesn’t seem to be on Ben’s side anymore, but Ben wouldn’t want Sayid or Hurley to die, so they must be from Widmore. Also, Sayid is such a ninja. I love him.

8. My favorite quote – “When am I?” (Locke)

9. Is Hurley really crazy? How come he keeps seeing dead people? Big surprise at seeing Ana Lucia again.

10. It seemed like the Losties on the island were in the future, but then the fire arrows came, and the people who were after them were clearly original Dharma people. What the heck!?!

11. Is Sun trying to manipulate Kate, or is she really sincere?

12. Somehow Locke ended up at the same time as everyone else, even though at other times he seemed to be in a different period.

13. The lady at the end of the episode is Ms. Hawking, the same woman who wouldn’t sell Desmond an engagement ring in a previous episode. Now she’s somehow higher up than Ben, which is scary, because you kind of get the impression that Ben has everything figured out. And she seems to be really concerned that Hurley got sent to jail, but seriously, Ben? You can’t get him out of jail? You had Sayid’s wife killed, for goodness’ sake. Surely you can get Hurley out of jail.

14. I like Charlotte, and I hope she doesn’t die, but the nosebleed is not a good sign. It seems like Desmond maybe wants her to die, because he’s not really doing anything or even telling her that the nosebleed is really bad.

15. My friend Jeffrey and I have been e-mailing back and forth today, and he came up with the following, with a little help from Lostpedia:

Daniel wrote in his journal that he was going to make Desmond his contant. So… the red-headed girl [Charlotte] that Dan likes, when her nose started to bleed, Dan remembered what happened last season to George [editor’s note: the guy on the freighter]. George’s nose started to bleed because he was time skipping with no constant, then he died. Dan loves that red head so when he saw her nose bleeding, he was willing to break his rule that you can’t change things in order to try to save her.

Also, Richard [head of the Others], the guy who never ages… the reason he never ages is that the time skips don’t actually change where you are physically located. I think that’s why Locke time skipped but was always physically located in the same place (for example, under the yellow plane). Also, at Oxford when Desmond visited Dan, Dan used that rat to demonstrate that he could send its conscience back in time, but didn’t he didn’t send the rat’s physical body back in time.

I like Jeffrey’s thoughts. The point about Desmond being Daniel’s constant is a good one, and something that I’d forgotten since last season.

So there you have it. Everything I could come up with. Those of you who are LOST fans, feel free to chime in.

In Which Everyone Thinks I’m Crazy [Love and Limeade Slushes V]
January 22, 2009, 8:00 am
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Every week until we get married, I’ll be posting a short installment of the story of me and Christian. They’ll all be compiled at Love and Limeade Slushes as I write them.

As I had expected,explaining who Christian was to my friends and my parents was not exactly the most fun thing I’ve ever done. Though they didn’t tell me then, two of my friends thought it was pretty much the dumbest idea I’d ever had.

Two days before I left, I got a package in the mail from Christian. Inside were two mix CDs, each with a personal note from him.

On “The Fast Mix”:

Ahh.. the mix CD. Such an integral part of any true friendship. And, since you and I are clearly friends now, I decided I’d let you in on more of who I am. I think a lot can be said about a person by going through their CD collection, so I’ve tried to give a good survey of what I listen to for “fast songs.” I hope these will bear you well as you journey on toward the Mountain. So hurry up and get here! (And rock out in the process!)

On “The Mellow Mix”:

Continuing with the theme of  awesome music – this just might be the best CD ever. I’m just going to throw that out there. In all seriousness, this is a mix of some of my favorite songs by my favorite artsts. I’m excited to share them with you. Just remember as you’re cruising along in the rain (or if you just want to keep listening to great music) that every song on this CD has meant a lot to me in my walk with Christ. I have prayed and cried along with these songs more than any others.

(In case you were wondering, the first song on “The Fast Mix” was “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson. I think that says a lot about Christian’s confidence as a man.)

In addition to the CDs were seven sheets of notebook paper, filled front and back. He hadn’t beaten my record, but he had come close. I probably read that letter eight times when I first opened it, half laughing and half crying. I read it to my roommates. I read it again. At the end of the letter, he said, “I think this is the start of an exciting adventure.”

We had no idea.

And so, on April 6, I popped the first CD into my car’s CD player and began the 400-mile journey to Sewanee, Tennessee.

North of Atlanta, I called him on the phone to tell him that I would be about two more hours. It was the first time I heard his voice.

I don’t remember what all was said, except I sounded like a complete idiot. After hanging up, I wondered if it was too late to turn around and go back home.

But I pressed on through the beautiful mountains of north Georgia and east Tennessee.

When I got into Sewanee, I called him again because I couldn’t find the house where he lived. He saw me drive by and so talked me through turning around and finding him. He was standing in the front yard wearing jeans, Birkenstocks and a short-sleeved button-up shirt that was red, white and blue plaid. A shirt we forever referred to as “the Grandpa shirt.”

I had been wearing my flip-flops in South Carolina, but it was cooler in Tennessee, so after I parked my car I had to find my other shoes and put them on. Christian wondered if I would ever get out of the car.

Shoes firmly on, I said a quick prayer and opened the door. I walked across the driveway to where Christian stood.

Three seconds of awkward silence. Then, he spoke:

“How about an awkward Christian side-hug?”

Homeschooling and Socialization
January 21, 2009, 10:34 am
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One day in eighth grade, I opened my locker and a folded up piece of paper fell out. To: Chelsey, From: Bobby. Bobby was in my homeroom. He was one of the “cool” kids.

I anxiously opened the note. Ten years later, I don’t remember what it said exactly, but it was something to the effect of “I really like you.”

My heart was racing for the rest of the day. I would never have thought that he would like me, but why would he have left a note in my locker? The thought that he was too embarrassed for his friends to know occurred to me, but I didn’t care. Someone liked me, 13-year-old awkward me!

That night, I wrote out a long note back to Bobby, telling him that I was so excited that he liked me and that I was really looking forward to getting to know him.

The next morning, I handed him the note in homeroom. The look on his face was completely confused, as though he had no idea why I was even talking to him. This was the response I would have expected if it were any other situation, but he had written me a note. He liked me.

If you’ve ever seen Never Been Kissed, remember the scene where Drew Barrymore’s character gets asked to prom by the most popular guy at school and then the night of the prom he drives by and throws eggs at her? That was me.

Turns out some of the girls in my homeroom, who were friends with Bobby, thought it would be funny to write me a note pretending to be Bobby, then watch me crash and burn as I confronted him and he had no idea what I was talking about.

I’m telling this story now because, first of all, God heals wounds. It still pains me to see myself at my locker that day, so excited over what I was reading, but there is redemption at the end of the road. The other reason I’m telling this story is because I want to talk about people who say that one of the problems with homeschooling is that you don’t get proper socialization.

My eighth grade year was the first year that I went to public school, after being homeschooled for my entire school career. Some might say that my lack of socialization was the direct cause of what happened, and that may well be true. My teeth were crooked until I got braces at the end of the year. I didn’t have cool clothes. My interests were specific and obscure. I made good grades. I was the epitome of The Uncool.

But I’m not willing to place the blame entirely on being homeschooled. When I told my friend Emily about what happened in eighth grade, she regaled me with stories about her experience in elementary and middle school. She had gone to public school her whole life.  (I think that if we had gone to the same school, we would have been good buddies, because she was just as awkward as I was.)

Little boys who made a list of girls they wanted to have sex with. Little girls who spread fake rumors about girls who were less popular.

I don’t really think the issue is socialization at all. If socialization is what you learn by going to a public school, then here’s what I “learned” about interacting with other people in eighth grade:

  • People will like you if you make fun of people who aren’t as “cool” as you.
  • It’s OK to completely ignore people who aren’t like you.
  • There are no consequences for bad behavior toward other people.
  • The clothes you wear matter more than how you treat other people.
  • You can’t trust anyone.

Those aren’t exactly the principles I want to instill into my children.

If you want to send your kids to public school, do so in the grace of God. Some parents can’t homeschool their kids, and I understand that.

I think most Christians my age who went to public school would say that they were OK with the experience, but sometimes I wonder if that’s not just because they didn’t know that there were other ways to do it.

When I think about the years that I was homeschooled, I remember memorizing Scripture. I remember reading to my younger sisters. I remember going to the zoo in the morning and being the only kids there who weren’t being marched around in two straight lines. I remember building snow forts, climbing trees and working on my bug collection. I remember the children’s choir at church, the water slides at the community swimming pool, and countless hours playing with my American Girl doll with my closest friends.

Public school wasn’t all bad, and I don’t think you can – or should – shelter your children from anything and everything. But at the same time, I want my kids to grow up knowing they are secure in my love for them, and that Jesus is the all-satisfying lover of their souls. I don’t want notes stuffed in lockers or comments made in whispers to get in the way of that.

God can heal middle school wounds, to be sure, but if it’s at all within my power, I’ll be happy to raise an awkward kid with not-so-cool clothes who loves Jesus and doesn’t have any of the painful memories I do. And I won’t worry about if they’ll have friends or if they’ll ever get married.

Speaking personally, I’ve come a long way.

Letters, Brownies and Perfect Strangers [Love and Limeade Slushes IV]
January 20, 2009, 11:10 am
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Every week until we get married, I’ll be posting a short installment of the story of me and Christian. They’ll all be compiled at Love and Limeade Slushes as I write them.

The next morning, I wondered what the heck I had been thinking. Had I forgotten so quickly what happened with Mississippi Guy? This Christian guy seemed nice, but things weren’t happening any differently than they had before. Reading each other’s blogs, talking over instant messenger, finding out how much we had in common? It had happened twice in less than three months, and I just wasn’t sure if I was ready for this again.

God had a perfect plan, though, and He didn’t leave me to myself.

The next week after we started talking was Christian’s spring break. He was headed to Florida for a beach outreach mission trip with friends from college. We talked all week before he left. The night before his break started, he said that he would really miss talking to me while he was gone. In a fit of spontaneity and not-thinking, I promised I would write him a letter that he could read when he got back the next weekend. He said he would look forward to it.

I spent the next few days feverishly writing him a letter. I wrote about my job, what I was doing almost every hour (including thrilling things like my follow-up visit for my wisdom teeth) and pretty much everything I was thinking. When all was said and done, it filled the front and back of ten sheets of notebook paper.

Monday morning, I walked over to the campus post office. It needed more than one stamp, it was so heavy. Trying not to think about it, I put the letter in the mail slot.

And immediately wanted to reach in there and drag it back out.

But it was gone. I couldn’t take it back. My only hope was that the mail would get lost on the way to Sewanee, Tennessee, and that I could just tell Christian that I’d have to write him another letter, and this one would be about two pages. Tops.

The whole week, I lamented my loquaciousness. He wouldn’t even read the whole thing, let alone want to talk to me after reading any of it.

The Sunday he was going to come back, I drove up to Greenville with Birth Control Emily for an event at her church. On the way home, knowing he would probably have read the letter by then, we talked about what his possible responses might be. Emily tried to comfort me.

“It might just be a paragraph, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you,” she said.

I wasn’t so sure.

But I had to know. When I got home, he was online. He messaged me immediately when I took down my away message.

I braced for the worst.

He said it was the best letter he’d ever read.

Assured that I was not crazy (or at least that if I was, that he didn’t care), our conversations continued.

At this point, it was pretty clear to both of us that we were interested in the other. But how to go about it? Neither of us were interested in having an “online” boyfriend or girlfriend, so we would have to meet in person. And because of my experience with Mississippi Guy, I didn’t want to wait very long. It would have to be soon.

That week I found out I was going to have the next weekend off of work. I normally worked every Saturday morning, so this was a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity.

I broached the subject carefully, unsure of what he would say. I was also nervous, because I really didn’t think that anyone – parents, friends, etc. – would be too thrilled about me driving six hours to meet someone who may turn out to be one of those guys who ends up on Dateline.

I’ll pause here to say that, looking back, we both wish that this had happened differently. Christian wishes that he had offered to come visit me, and I wish that I hadn’t been taking so much initiative. I wouldn’t recommend how we did it to anyone else, because I think that it can set a bad precedent. But God was gracious to us in redeeming even our poor decisions for His glory.

We decided I would drive up to Tennessee on April 6, the following Thursday, after I got done with work. Christian was ecstatic. I was excited, but I’m not exactly the most gregarious person, and I felt like I needed to establish contact before I actually drove all the way there.

In a stroke of providence, Christian knew one person who went to my school. I didn’t know her, but she knew Birth Control Emily. And she was driving up to Tennessee that weekend to go to a David Crowder concert with Christian and some of her other friends there.

I sent her a Facebook message. I met her at her dorm the night before the concert and gave her a package. It was like something out of a very poorly made movie. It was also very good practice for meeting perfect strangers, which would come in handy the next weekend.

And the next night, when she got to Tennessee, Christian opened a box of homemade brownies. It was the best I had to offer.

The pros and cons of growing up
January 19, 2009, 2:53 pm
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“I can’t believe we’re going to buy a car,” Christian said Saturday while we drove to Greenville.

“I know; it’s such a grown-up thing to do,” I affirmed.

As it turned out, we’re not quite the grown-ups we thought we were. It hadn’t occurred to us that the sellers wouldn’t want to take a check, so we drove to the nearest gas station and took out fourteen hundred dollarsin $20 bills.

Christian was blocking the view of my vest pocket where I was stuffing the wads of cash as we took money out of the ATM, $200 at a time.

Buying a car was fun. We may have fumbled a bit here and there in the process, but we made it back to Columbia with one more car than we owned on the way up there. It runs, it’s in good condition, and my time spent driving to hang out with Christian is going to decrease drastically.

There are other things, though, that aren’t quite as fun about growing up. Paying taxes is at the top of my current “Why-I’d-rather-not-grow-up” list. I’ve done my taxes by myself for the past two years, but this year they’ll be more complicated than last year. I’m going to help Christian with his taxes, too, and his will be even more complicated.

Getting married is a good part of growing up, and in the last couple weeks I’ve discovered that getting married has perks beyond the actually getting married part. Our wedding registries are modest – we only asked for things we really, really needed – and so when I got a package that included a comforter, bed skirt and kitchen utensils, and then another package today with a CrockPot, I could hardly contain myself. If all I have is a a wonderful husband, a warm, cozy bed and the ability to cook to my heart’s desire, I’ll be content for the rest of my life.

Another con – answering questions about what I’m “going to do with my life.” Lately I’ve been listening to the song “Have Thine Own Way” over and over again, and I wish that I could play that song as a response to that question. So far, my plans only go as far as April with a whole lot of specificity: Get married. Then the plans become vague and ambiguous, mostly having to do with pursuing Christ in such a way that I can be an excellent wife and prepare to have and raise godly kids. But somehow, that’s just not enough for everyone.

When I was 10 or 11, I made a list of “all” the things I would do when I got to college, which was my way of listing all the things I could do when I was old enough to decide what I did. The List: 1) Each month, make a bowl of brownie mix and just eat the batter; 2) Eat a bagel every morning for breakfast.

If only life were so simple.