"To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever died from memorizing Scripture."
That may not be an exact quotation, but Dr. Rod Rosenbladt used to say something to that effect quite regularly during my studies at Concordia University in Irvine, CA. (He's even developed a great set of flashcards to memorize key teachings of Scripture that you can find HERE.)
I've encountered a handful of women and men who have seemingly been fluent in Scripture. The Word of God flows from their laps as naturally and with the same precision that many people have with sports statistics. You can see and hear what lies in the depths of their heart by the words that flow from it.
And then, over the last few years, I have read a number of books that have influenced how I think about thinking. These include Joshua Foer's Moonwalking with Einstein that dives into the world of competitive memory battles between 'mental athletes.' And then there was Cal Newport's Deep Work which drives home the point that our brains work quite differently when they are intentionally focused, as opposed to the myth of multi-tasking. And then there were a couple by Neil Postman (Technopoly and Amusing Ourselves to Death) that both clarify how we think and how we are influenced and what this means for life in the world. Somewhere along the way I read Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book, which dives into the art of spiritual reading.
In 2016 I took a continuing education class with Dr. Timothy Saleska on the Psalms and it was an absolute revelation about how to read and pray and live in this incredible book.
Immediately after that class, I began my work with the 2019 National Youth Gathering that allowed me to spend a solid three years digesting Psalm 46.
And then COVID-19. During this pandemic, a number of factors have swirled together to bring me to the point of this endeavor. Seemingly, all at once, I've seen mass despair and anger, violence and injustice. I've seen heavenly beauty as all kinds of artists have shared their gifts through various media online. I've seen tear-inducing good news. I've seen people question God and justice and humanity. I received a notification that Dr. Saleska's commentary was finally available for purchase (and yes, it's amazing). I've seen cars burn and black men killed and the elderly shoved and friendships end and pastel chalk adorn neighborhood sidewalks with joy.
And thanks to COVID-19, I've been pushed into re-engaging on social media for this season; no onsite church means online engagement is a must. And that's not good for me. You might be able to handle it without the toxicity damaging your soul, but I can't. Like an alcoholic who has no business visiting a bar even if his friends can handle themselves, I have no business frequenting social media. I scroll and peruse. Then I consume. And then, then, then, It consumes me. And it's bad for my soul.
Enter Psalm 1.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
What if I delighted in the teaching/Torah of the Lord in the same kind of way my brain delights in the scrolling images that are poisoning my heart? What if I chewed on God's Word the same way that animosity and anger are chewing up my spirit through vitriolic posts that I keep choosing to read? What if I mediated on God's Word day and night, rather than having hate and anxiety and fear race round and round in my head while I try to sleep?
And what if, what if such mediation wouldn't be an escape from the world, but would actually form me to see the world as it truly is?
What if, instead of hiding in my Bible, the Psalms would send me out to engage with real people as people created in the image of God? What if the Psalms could shape me by God himself to learn and to listen and to pray, to love and to act?
So I'm jumping in. I'm going for it. We'll see what happens. Join me, mock me, pray for me, follow me HERE, or simply ignore me. I'll be okay.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)