Creatively Visualizing a Better Memory

Believe it or not, I’m still memorizing scripture.  But short of a miracle, I’m not going to finish memorizing James by the end of the year.  However, I can safely say that I’ve got the first chapter under my belt.  I thought I’d share with you my most recent scripture memory obstacle and a way I’ve discovered of getting over it.

My number one obstacle is my sorry excuse for a brain, of course.  Next to that, we have apathy, which hit pretty fierce this summer, when the summer sun was shining.  Ironically, I did some of my best memorizing in Switzerland, when I was walking by the lake.  I’d be pushing the stroller and reciting scripture or singing along with praise songs on my Mp3 player.  Altogether, not a bad way to spend one’s mornings.

Now that the first chapter is knocking around in my head, where I can pretty much start at the beginning and stumble my way through until the end, I’ve found my big problem is matching the verse to its number.  Dan and I will be having a discussion, and I’ll spout a verse from James and proclaim, “It’s somewhere from the first chapter of James.”  Not exactly the most authoritative way to cite scripture.

It’s like the problem that I had for several years.  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember which one was cantaloupe and which one was honeydew.  I confessed this problem to my friends, and they’d calmly tell me, “One’s green, and one’s orange.”  Duh.  My problem was that I couldn’t remember which one was orange and which was green.  The matching was the problem.  I’m having the same sort of problem with the verses.  I have all those verses up there, but I can’t match them to their verse number.

Melon issue aside, I bet I’m not the only one who struggles with matching the Bible verse to its official number.  It’s not like the numbers were handed down from God on high.  They were assigned sometime in the 1500s by translators who wanted to help us locate verses more easily.  Paul, when writing his letters, didn’t number his sentences for his readers (but that gives me some amusing ideas for my next Christmas letter).    

What I’ve started to do is memorize a visual peg system.  It’s a simple memory device that gives you an image for each number, and you associate the verse with that image to recall the verse’s number.  The one I’m using right now can be found on this site

Basically, it works like this.  To remember James 1:26, I’m going to look at the peg for the number 26, which is a candle stick (it looks like it, but you have to visit the site to see what I mean).  So, the verse is talking about the tongue: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”  I have to link the concept of the candlestick and the tongue in a very visual, memorable way, so I came up with the painful image of somebody sticking out their tongue and burning it on a candle.  Ouch, I know.  But it works also with the spirit of the verse.  Keep your tongue under control, or you’ll get burned.  I think that the images need to be kind of graphic to remember them anyway.

So, when I’m looking for a verse about the tongue, I’m going to remember a candle, and know (hopefully), that that means 26.  Someday, I might have to worry a bit more about the chapters, but for now, I’m just focusing on the second half of the verses.  Real memory buffs can get very involved with a peg for the title of the book, for the chapter, and for the verse.  I don’t know if I can handle one that complex right now.  But I suppose if you were memorizing a lot of random books, scattered throughout the Bible, you might want to consider a more complicated peg.

By the way, I eventually resolved the problem with the melons.  My dad finally came up with the answer for me, but it’s not exactly elegant.  He explained it to me this way:  “Cantaloupe rhymes with antelope.  Antelope are brown, which is sort of like orange.”  Now, every time I go to the grocery store, I have to go through that little song and dance, imagining deer like creatures in the produce bins, but I eventually get to the right fruit.  Pathetic, I know, but it’s the only thing that works.  I think I’m the only person on God’s green earth who has this problem.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hehe reminds me of the little rhymes and sayings you use to make up to help Dan through his biology classes.

    AL: Hey Amanda! Thanks for stopping by the site! I totally forgot that I did that! I know that for medical school, I was doing that kind of thing, but I guess I didn’t realize that I also did it for his undergrad too. I must be helpful for that guy after all. =) blessings!

  2. I always thought it was God’s ORANGE earth! 🙂

    AL: OH heavens! I’ll never hear the end of this. =)

  3. This is an information storage and retrieval problem! Librarians write all kinds of papers on this topic…and the neurologist are having a field day with the new techniques out there. They can even see which part of the the brain fires up when asked to recall something, and know what memory is being accessed by the location.

    When I am memorizing scripture I wonder why the numbers don’t stick for me, yet my husband can hold on to numbers like crazy. It would be interesting to have neurogists wire us up to see how differently our brains hook into information.

    AL: That’s what I need! I need a good librarian (aka…Jill), to help me come up with a good mental card catalog to organize all my bits and bytes!

  4. Cute post … what about thinking of dew on the grass and grass is green like a honeydew melon. 😀

    I admire you for your Bible memorization. I also have a hard time with the references. Thankfully I can recall verses fairly well so I can put phrases in a search engine to locate the references. I’m a cheater, aren’t I? 😉

    AL: Hey, that’s not bad either! Thanks! Now, I have one for each. Wait, I’m going to think of dew on the dirt. I know it. hehe.

    Oh, I use those online tools constantly too. You’re not alone there. I’ll just recall one word from a verse, and it’s enough to find the whole thing. I use Crosswalk and Biblegateway a lot.

  5. I’ve also always had a problem with memorizing the references. Lately, though, I’ve been using a site called Memverse (www.memverse.com) and it seems to have helped. Maybe because they keep track of all your memory verses for you and then test you on the more difficult ones more frequently. But I also have some pretty cryptic methods to memorize verses. For instance: Psalm 119:11 … the nine is “hidden” in the ones 🙂

    AL: Wow, that is pretty cryptic, but whatever works! Thanks for sharing your tips.


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