Wednesday, December 31, 2008

MMM: Why Bother to Memorize?

*As we gear up for Mega Memory Month, I'm reposting from my archives in an attempt to inspire you to join me in memorization. This post is a composite of posts originally published on January 31 and February 1, 2007 .*

For years, I sort of pooh-poohed the idea of deliberate, methodical Scripture memorization. It's not that I didn't believe it was important to know God's Word. I just never got on board with sticking index cards everywhere, or repeating a verse every day so you could recite it at Sunday school. I did have a lot of God's Word in my heart, but it was from years of regular reading and studying, not from using flash cards. I couldn't tell you the exact chapter and verse, but I could tell you that the end of Ephesians talked about the armor of God--and I could find it pretty quickly if I had my Bible. Or I may not get every word precisely right, but I could tell you the gist of it and again, verify it with my Bible. In the end, though, I think my resistance to the idea was mostly laziness and pride.

I don't know what changed my heart, but sometime in late 2006, I decided to try being more intentional about memorizing God's Word. Rather than learning a verse here and a verse there, I liked the idea of knowing large chunks of Scripture, and I remembered a method John Piper had outlined in one of his books that he claimed was incredibly effective. So I gave it a shot.

I was astounded at how God used it in my life. I started with Romans 8, and I found that lines of precious truth would run through my head at various times during the day, like song lyrics do. And I couldn't believe how many opportunities God provided to quote and apply the truths I had committed to memory--to remind myself of a promise, to encourage a friend in a struggle, to direct a prayer.

Scripture memorization is a valuable weapon in the fight to take every thought captive, to preach the gospel to yourself. Personally, I find it difficult to set my mind and heart on things above. It's so easy to be distracted and bogged down by the routines and demands of everyday life--or to shut your brain off and go on autopilot. But the discipline of memorization, seeking to saturate my mind with God's Word, helps me to keep my eyes on Jesus just a little more often. And isn't that the point?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


It's that time of year, of course, when we ponder how to reform ourselves. I have some more thoughts stewing on resolutions, but for today, just a couple of links.

On the serious side, a provocative list by Don Whitney of ten questions to ask yourself at the start of a new year. I've used this before and found it helpful.

And on the lighter side, resolutions from Stuff Christians Like. (Why don't I have this blog on my feeds yet? Every time someone else points me there I sit here laughing out loud.) Jon writes:
"I don’t know what resolutions you’ve made this year. That’s not true. I know three of them. Read the Bible more. Pray more. Spend more time with God. You have to have those unless you’re hoping to be a sweatier Philistine this year. Is that what you’re shooting for? Less Bible reading? Spending less time in prayer? Completely punking God? You should be ashamed of yourself."

MMM: What to Memorize?

Mega Memory Month is almost here! Are you up for it? Have you decided what you'll be working on?

The last time I posted about Scripture memorization, someone asked: How do you decide what to memorize? Perhaps you already have a favorite passage of Scripture, like a favorite Psalm, that jumps immediately to mind. You might choose a chapter from which you've already memorized a verse or two, to give yourself a confidence boost. Another idea is to choose a passage that speaks to something you often struggle with--like I could memorize Philippians 2 to combat my ongoing battle with pride.

Still stumped? In a recent interview, Ryan Ferguson--whose inspiring, dramatic recitations of Scripture have been featured at conferences such as Worship God '06--offered these ideas:
Prior to giving specifics, let me first suggest that whatever longer passage you choose, make it a passage of Scripture that God has used in your life and heart. This connection will assist you in your memory work, because it will be connecting God’s powerful Word to your thinking and living. I would suggest the following: Psalm 1, 46, 139, 150, Genesis 1, John 1, I John 1, any chapter in Ephesians, James 1.

During the original Mega Memory Month, Helen at A Work of Heart also posted a helpful list of suggestions, taken from Tim LaHaye's book How to Study the Bible for Yourself. LaHaye lists twelve chapters he believes every Christian should master:
  • Ephesians 5
  • Galatians 5
  • John 14-17
  • Romans 6,8,12
  • I Timothy 2
  • Ephesians 4, 6
The link also includes a secondary list of other important passages.

I began my extended-memorization journey with Romans 8, which was a wonderful choice. It's a chapter rich with gospel truth and it speaks to so many aspects of the Christian life: freedom from condemnation, adoption as God's children, peace with Him, encouragement through suffering, the promise of heaven, the Spirit's help, the never-failing love of God...I think if I had to choose just one favorite passage of Scripture, it would be this one. And it's got several familiar verses that will help boost your memorization. If you can't decide where to start, I'd warmly recommend starting there.

And, just a note, Mega Memory Month isn't limited to Scripture. God's Word is undoubtedly the most important, enduring thing you could commit to memory, but you might find other things valuable as well. In fact, I'll be memorizing something different this month--I'll share more when MMM officially begins. I hope you'll join me!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Blue Christmas

After the gifts had all been opened and the Honeybaked ham had been consumed (twice) and the games had been played, I found myself feeling a little melancholy--and it wasn't just at the prospect of eight-plus hours in the car with a whiny, possibly-teething toddler.

We are so blessed with wonderful families to go home to; we received oodles of generous gifts; we even had a white Christmas. Yet this wasn't the first year I've felt a sense of letdown after all the holiday festivities. Why? Jon Bloom at Desiring God illuminates my experience with this hopeful post about "post-Christmas melancholy":
But if we depend on anything in the world to satisfy our soul’s deepest desire, it will eventually leave us with that post-Christmas soul-ache. We will ask, “Is that all?” because we know deep down that’s not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not his things.
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coming Soon: Mega Memory Month

Last October, a new blog-friend of mine introduced a new blog carnival: Mega Memory Month. Ann Kroeker challenged her readers to choose something big to commit to memory--something longer, more formidable than they had attempted before. I came late to the announcement, but I'm glad that Ann has recently announced the return of Mega Memory Month. She explains:
Each person determined what “mega” meant personally. Some, with more nimble minds offering greater capacity, tackled vast swaths of Scripture; while a few of us nibbled what tidbits we could. Regardless of the actual serving size, I believe we all feasted. We stretched ourselves. We swallowed as much as our systems could handle, and were nourished.
I've experienced firsthand the benefits of memorizing larger sections of Scripture. I was first challenged by Dr. Andrew Davis's wonderful article "An Approach to the Extended Memorization of Scripture." Davis writes of the benefits of memorizing whole chapters or books, rather than single verses:
Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Paul said “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16) Memorizing individual verses tends to miss intervening verses that the individual does not feel are as significant. Furthermore, most of Scripture is written to make a case… there is a flow of argumentation that is missed if individual verses are memorized. Furthermore, there is also a greater likelihood of taking verses out of context by focusing on individual verses.
If you've never made it a point to work on Scripture memorization, will you join us in January? Ann reassures us:
Nobody is grading or judging us on how well we complete this month-long memory project. But making our intentions public may spur us on to finish successfully.
Let’s take a risk. Stretch ourselves.
Our minds can hold more than we think they can.
I'll be writing more on this soon--meanwhile, I hope you'll consider participating and begin thinking about what you'd like to commit to memory.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Kannels!

I'm enjoying a brief hiatus with friends and family over the holidays. Many blessings to you and yours as you celebrate the birth of our Savior!


We were blind and lost and godless
Wandering a trackless waste
Then hope arose, a glorious beacon
Like the star the wise men chased
Down from heaven came a Savior
Born a child, so small and frail
Taking up our pain and troubles
Conquering where we had failed

You who with a word created
Sun and moon and seas and sand
Lay there sleeping in a manger
Cradled by Your mother’s hand
You who made the mighty forests
Would lie down upon a tree
Fastened there with nails for sinners
Would bleed and die to set us free

Emmanuel, Emmanuel, Emmanuel
In You alone we hope and trust
Jesus, Savior, God with us

("Emmanuel, Emmanuel" by Mark Altrogge, from Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man)


All the world rejoice
For the baby comes
As a humble prince in the night
The Word made flesh, Emmanuel
The Everlasting Light
Let the warmth of heaven reach the coldest heart
With the gospel of His grace
For His heel will bruise the serpent’s head
Rejoice, all the world, rejoice!

("Rejoice" by Todd Twining, from Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man)

Friday, December 19, 2008

How He Deals with Me

"The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me" (Psalm 18:20).

I've always found passages like this in the Psalms puzzling. How could David, or anyone else, boast of such purity and godliness? How could he be so confident of standing before the Lord; how could he call himself blameless and upright in heart?

I'm still not sure I fully understand, but this morning I found a new encouragement in this psalm. If this was a comfort to David--if he drew confidence and peace from the knowledge that God had dealt with him according to his own righteousness--how much more can I be comforted by the knowledge that the Lord deals with me according to His Son's righteousness?

I know for sure I don't want Him to deal with me according to my righteousness. And because of the cross, He doesn't. I am in Christ, and so God sees me through the covering of His Son's perfect obedience. He deals with me as though my hands were the sinless hands of the spotless Lamb.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 97

Thanking God this week for...
  • the hobby retreat I got to take with friends last Friday-Saturday
  • a video camera to capture moments with Elijah while he's little
  • the excitement of first steps
  • two-hour morning naps (for Elijah, not me!)
  • Christmas cards with pictures in them
  • my husband's generosity
  • opportunities to help others
  • freezers
  • the sweetness of the Word
  • the Word made flesh
  • lessons on lamenting
  • drawing me to Himself
  • the birth of my best friend's little boy!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hurting, Humble, Voicing Longings

How do you speak to God when you're hurting? What do you pray when words won't come?

Did you know 1/3 of the psalms are psalms of lament? I didn't.

Ann Voskamp writes of learning to lament:
God is still present. When we honestly expose our inflammation, express our soreness, we are still staking our commitment to our relationship with Him. Choose to give voice to the sadness and you convey what you believe: a still-burning hope in relationship, a kindled expectation for reconciliation. For isn’t what animates angry words not the passion of love? Anger is love’s depths turned inside out. Far more insidious to relationship than anger is the indifference of silence, the unresponsiveness of apathy… the desensitization of soul leprosy.

...Learning to lament is to give voice to our longings. To accept the vulnerability of longing. To move from the sharp edge of pain to a humble petition of neediness. To hold out empty hands and cry please.

Lord, teach me to cry humbly, to cry out to You, trusting You to catch the tears.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mercy for Joseph, Mercy for Us

Perhaps you've read Luke 2 or Matthew 1 already this Christmas season. Perhaps, like me, you too often gloss over the familiar words of Jesus' birth. How many times have we heard this story? Have you, like me, tended to forget that it is a story about real human beings, facing heartache and pain and confusion before the wondrous joy comes?

Certain Christmas songs have helped me look sympathetically at Mary, but a recent article by Jon Bloom at Desiring God caused me to see Joseph in a fresh light. Bloom imagines the story this way:
A blast of shock and disbelief hit him, blowing away all his coherent thoughts for a moment. His legs quavered. He grabbed at the tree to steady himself. It felt solid, rooted.

He stared at her. He was numb. No words came. Everything seemed surreal.

But there's more to this tale than simply seeing Joseph as a real person--there's an encouraging lesson I'd never seen before. Have you ever struggled with a difficult decision, hoping but not knowing if you were choosing the right thing? Bloom writes:
Joseph was a just man (Matt. 1:19) and assessed the situation in the integrity of his heart, and, I assume, with a deep trust in God. He made the best decision regarding Mary that he could. It turned out to be the wrong one. But God, full of mercy, intervened.

Read the rest of the story about Joseph's Painful Decision and be amazed at the mercy of God.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 96

Thanking God this week for...
  • the huge bag of hand-me-down baby clothes a friend gave me
  • finally finding a comforter for the guest room for more than 50% off yesterday
  • the ability to buy Christmas gifts for loved ones
  • slippers
  • Christmas trees
  • Christmas lights
  • cinnamon-scented pinecones
  • the ability to type quickly
  • fried chicken salads
  • the remarkable amount of storage space, for an old house, our house has
  • gas station cappuccinos
  • the adorable winter hat some friends gave us for Elijah
  • my physical health
  • encouragement from others
  • hope in the Psalms
  • the way God spoke to Mary and Joseph
  • the glorious mystery and mercy of the incarnation

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Letters to Mothers

The Mother Letter Project has been showing up everywhere I look lately--have you seen it? I often brag on my incredible husband, but I have to acknowledge that the man who conceived this project has a solid bid for World's Second Best Husband.

The concept is simple but wonderful. In a desire to forego materialism and keep Christmas simple yet meaningful, he is creating a gift for his wife: letters from mothers. He explains:

I am creating my wife’s Christmas present-the Mother Letter Project. Simply stated, I am collecting a series of “open letters” from mothers, to mothers. Share your stories—no matter how raw or difficult. Share you concerns—no matter how foolish they may seem. Share your wisdom—no matter how you came by it. Share your mother story. The only request? Start the letter “Dear Mother” and sign it. I will compile all of the letters in a Christmas book for my wife. If you share a letter here or by email ( before Christmas, you'll get your own copy of the letters.

Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer, whom he contacted to help spread the word, provides a few more details:

His wife is the mother of small children, a season of life often fraught with discouragement and exhaustion. He began asking some mothers he knew in real life to submit letters of encouragement to her, sharing their best bits of motherhood wisdom. He planned to collect the letters to give to her Christmas morning.

[His] idea was well-received by friends, but he began to realize his "mother network" was fairly small. He wanted to broaden the scope of his idea and find a way for more women to encourage his wife.

The Mother Letter Project was born.

Broaden the scope, indeed--I can't even fathom how many letters he has received or will continue to receive! This thing has exploded as only Internet phenomena can.

Ann Kroeker, offering her own letter this week, explains why YOU should write a letter:

As his invitation has spread across the mama-blogosphere, moms are offering what bits of wisdom and insight they’ve gained thus far in their parenting adventure. And I can’t help but think...that all the different stories and bits of advice are a reminder that motherhood is a multi-faceted, personal-yet-communal experience. Many stories should be told, because the specifics of one personal revelation may be just what’s needed for another mom to be encouraged.

And now it's time for me to stop blogging and start my letter. If you write one of your own, post the link in the comments!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mmm...Monday: Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Noodle Soup

I have a delicious comfort-soup recipe to share with you today...but I need some help. I don't know what to call it. I like to think of it as the love child of chicken noodle soup and broccoli cheese soup. YUM.

The recipe was given to me by a woman at church who calls it "Egg Noodle Broccoli Cheese Soup"--but I find that a) cumbersome and b) incomplete, because if you are going to just name all the ingredients, you aren't even accounting for the all-important chicken. I'm at a loss, really; I've never been good at titling things. Just ask my college writing professor.

The soup is incredibly simple, but delicious. It makes a full meal (we like to eat it with something sweet and fresh like apple slices to contrast the flavor), and this recipe is for a big pot--enough to feed Steve and me probably at least three times.

3 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
16-20 oz. frozen chopped broccoli (one big bag plus a little extra, or two 10-oz boxes)
6 oz. egg noodles
1 lb Velveeta cheese (more or less), cut into chunks
3 cups milk

Bring the broth to a boil and add noodles and broccoli. Cook until noodles are nearly tender and broccoli has cooked. Add chicken. Turn the heat down and add the Velveeta (chunked so it will melt easily). Stir until melted, then add 3 cups of milk.

That's it! The amounts are inexact; just adjust to your liking. We like a lot of broccoli and a very cheesy taste, so this reflects my tweaks from the original. It will get very thick and solid in the refrigerator; to reheat, add more milk. Those of you who are picky about natural ingredients could substitute real cheddar cheese, I'm sure, but I'll confess that Steve and I do enjoy some processed fake cheese every now and then ;)

Try it out on a cold night...then tell me what we should call it!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Surfin' Saturday: Shop 'Til You Drop

A couple of hours of Christmas shopping on Tuesday with Elijah reminded me of several reason why I prefer to do most of our shopping online. And now that the Christmas shopping season is well underway, I thought I'd highlight a few interesting websites I've found and then ask for your favorites in the comments. I'm always on the lookout for great tips.

We like to keep things simple when it comes to toys for Elijah; we'd rather have a few quality, well-made toys that encourage creativity and learning than a house full of cheap plastic junk. We're not extreme about it; our little guy certainly has and enjoys plastic toys (and of course some of his favorite things to play with aren't even toys at all--an empty Coke bottle, a pair of sunglasses, a pot and a wooden spoon...). But in general we're trying to avoid batteries, licensed characters, etc. (not to mention all the concerns about toxic chemicals in toys--it's overwhelming!). In looking for these kinds of toys, I've found a few websites with really nice-looking products:

Oompa Toys
Nova Natural Toys & Crafts

Speaking of handmade, there's a great website you may not know about called Etsy - it's a place for individual people to sell all kinds of handmade goods, from paper crafts and handbags to children's toys and clothing. You name it, you can probably find it at Etsy - and there are all kinds of unique ways to browse and search if you don't know exactly what you're looking for.

Once you've purchased a gift, do yourself a favor and head to, where you can set up a service to monitor the price and notify you if it drops--very helpful for those companies who offer a 30-day price guarantee. Amazon used to, though I've heard they rescinded the offer this fall (bummer).

And finally, a little personal plug: if you plan to do any shopping at, feel free to click over via this link (also in my sidebar). I get a small referral bonus if you get there from my blog, and it costs you nothing :) Plenty of other blogs offer this, too, so if they recommend a specific product you're going to buy, by all means support them, rather than simply typing in your address bar!

What about you - what are your favorite sites for online shopping?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Cooking to Cement My Family

I'm thankful that God has changed my heart about cooking and has enabled me to grow in the kitchen because I think it's about more than fulfilling a Suzy Homemaker role or mortifying my pride. There are the practical benefits: eating at home saves us a lot of money, and the food is much better for us. But it goes even deeper. In a New York Times op-ed called "No Chefs in My Kitchen," Marcella Hazan writes:

The food Americans eat that is made fresh at home by someone who is close to them is shrinking compared with food consumed at restaurants or prepared outside. And while eating out or taking in may save us time or bring us enjoyment, I would argue that it deprives us of something important.

I am my family’s cook. It is the food prepared and shared at home that, for more than 50 years, has provided a solid center for our lives. In the context of the values that cement human relations, the clamor of restaurants and the facelessness of takeout are no match for what the well-laid family table has to offer. A restaurant will never strengthen familial bonds.

As I make dinner for our family tonight (stuffed shells are on the menu, at Steve's request), I want to find joy in the work and see it as more meaningful than simply filling our bellies. I want to contribute, in a way that may seem insignificant on the surface, to cementing our family intimacy as we gather around a home-cooked meal.

Cooking, Listening, Surprising Myself

While I was at home over the last two weeks, I did some cooking for my parents and in-laws. Using other people's tools, lacking ingredients I rely on, adjusting to different pots, not knowing where things are...all sources of frustration. But Steve and I had to laugh at the remark that came out of my mouth: "I can't wait to get back to my OWN kitchen!"

The truth is, my wanting to be in any kitchen at all is nothing short of miraculous. Before I got married, I was a bumbling wreck when it came to cooking, and my pride made me terrified of others seeing that I was an idiot who clearly had no idea what I was doing. So the prospect of grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking for Steve, day after day, for decades...well, it was daunting.

But God provided grace to change my heart. In April 2006, I wrote:
The resulting nine months of marriage have brought nothing less than an astounding outpouring of God's grace in my heart. By and large, He has changed my attitudes about cooking. I can even say that most of the time (though not always), I *gasp* enjoy it. ...Grace is the only way to explain it. I have no choice but to say humbly, "I was wrong about this--God really can, and does, give me what I need to be able to do what I need to do." I now find myself eagerly cutting out and trying new recipes.

...Left to my own efforts and attitudes, I would still be wallowing in resentment and self-pity, pride and fear, hating the responsibility of cooking dinner every night. And I have not "arrived," either as a godly woman OR as a chef--I still have plenty of growing to do! But I am boasting in God, because by His grace, I am serving my husband and thriving in the role God has given me.
Three years later, my skills have definitely improved (though I still have a long way to go). And I have to smile at the idea of what 22-year-old me would think to hear 26-year-old me say, "I can't wait to get back to my own kitchen!"

Three years later, I am trying to listen to 23-year-old me as she joyfully, trustingly speaks of God's provision for her needs and assures me that He will provide the grace I need in this season.

All that started as an introduction to a quote...but it went another direction, so I guess I'll have to save the quote for another post.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 95

Thanking God this week for...
  • two weeks at home to spend with family and friends
  • my incredible husband
  • the unity He has blessed us with
  • the way Elijah's nose and eyes crinkle up when he grins
  • smoked turkey
  • pumpkin cake
  • safe travels
  • a latte with a friend
  • Christmas music
  • our cars
  • warm weather yesterday, perfect for taking a walk
  • vacuum cleaners
  • unexpected gifts in the mail
  • hair dryers
  • His Word
  • the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us

Stay Tuned

I really am not going back to only posting Thankful Thursdays, honest! I've just been buried this week (and not using my time wisely) as I try to catch up after two weeks of being out of town--plus fitting two appointments, a meeting and some Christmas shopping into that mix! I still have plenty to say, so stay tuned and thanks for your patience. I do have to admit it was nice to not blog for a few days after finishing NaBloPoMo! (But I'm so bummed I didn't win any prizes.)