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03 October 2016

Write It Out

I recently saw an interesting suggestion for scripture study: write it out long-hand. The woman said that she did it just a verse or two at a time, as she had the time to do it. Her project is to write the whole book of Matthew. I like the idea, but I don't think I'm ready to commit to a whole book; I want a smaller project to start with. I also wanted to keep it relevant to my Psalms study. I've noticed a lot of beautiful verses from Psalm 119 that have been made into quote art lately. When I went and read the whole Psalm, I knew I'd found the chapter I wanted to write out.

We studied illuminated manuscripts a while back, and I've been wanting to mess around with that, since I like my scripture journal prettied up. But. You could absolutely do this project without making it arty in any way. Art is not required; don't let it become an excuse not to try. Feel free to ignore the arty bits of this post if that's not you! This is what it looked like when I first started out, only two verses copied out so far. This is a long chapter, and I plan to work on it little by little.

The idea for doing this came from a discussion on the homeschooling forum that I like to frequent. One of the ladies explained why she likes to write out scripture

A couple things that help me to pay attention aside from narration with Bible reading: copying it down and also daily meditation on a particular verse, or even a particular word. I am (ever so slowly) writing out the book of Matthew by hand. Just a verse or two at a time when I'm able. But the slow physical act of writing the words helps me to think about them more and it has changed the way I read at other times as well. Meditation on a verse can be done in short bursts of time - literally a minute here or there when you take time to write down whatever thoughts come into your mind about that particular word or verse. (emphasis added)

If you don't like your handwriting, that's ok; you can still do this. You can either do it and choose not to be bothered because that's not the point of the exercise, or you can use the small bursts of writing as an exercise that helps you improve and beautify your writing, in addition to the other benefits of writing out scripture. The act of writing is the important part, the part that slows you down, and because writing uses different parts of the brain from reading, you learn differently when you write, as opposed to just reading.

So one of the reasons I like to pretty it up is that... it's pretty. But also, I do like the way that doing the fancy capital slowed me down a bit. I looked up round hand calligraphy, and did the B the way they suggest doing it; there's even a diagram of stroke order, which was hugely helpful. I wasn't at home when I was practicing, but next time I'll probably print out their practice sheets. I keep a Pinterest board for doodles, and that's where I head when I want to art up my book - I seldom think up my doodles myself. Doodling and coloring gives me time to ponder. It creates space for meditating on the things that I'm writing, and in that space, I find that it's a little easier hear the Spirit's gentle whispers.

The first time I sat down to work on writing this, I knew I wanted to do an "illuminated" letter, so I spend a few minutes working on how the B ought to look, and practicing it in a separate notebook. I also happened to look up the word "blessed" - it was an accident; I typed the wrong word in the search bar, (I meant to type "round hand" that's the script I wanted to use) but it's a happy accident, because I learned:

Blessed - made holy; consecrated

Which totally changes my understanding of a number of verses - try reading the Beatitudes, but replacing "blessed" with "made holy"; it's powerful. Very happy accident. Quite probably one of those times when the Spirit is guiding, but I don't notice until after the fact.

Then I got interrupted when I started drawing the B into my journal. But the journal is patient, and I came back to it two days later and finished playing around with my colors and wrote out the first two verses.

Around ten years ago, I found a system for memorizing scripture, (quite possibly my best parenting decision, ever) and they said something profound:

It doesn’t matter how long the passage is. In fact, your family should memorize longer passages regularly. Simply once or twice each day read the entire passage through until everyone can recite it together. Don’t worry about how many days it takes for everyone to memorize the selected Scripture. Hiding God’s Word in your heart is not a race; it’s a lifelong habit. (Emphasis added)

This idea, that it's not a race, has become a guiding principle in my scripture study. I want it to happen, daily - multiple points of contact with scripture in my daily routine is an important part of how I make sure that daily happens. But it's ok with me if it's small points. It doesn't have to be a big, fancy, lengthy process to be effective. It just needs to bring me into contact with the Word. So I don't particularly care how long the process of writing the chapter takes; that's not the point. 

I should have remembered that this is a project where the process (the writing), not the product (the finished page) is the point. But within just a few verses I lost sight of that, and I attempted to double-task: I wrote while I was listening to Conference. Don't do that. Keep this for when you have a quiet minute to just focus on the words. The point of this activity, the reason I'm doing it, is to focus all my attention on just a verse or two for a moment. Doing it while I listened made both the listening and the writing much more difficult, and both less effective. It split my attention, and completely prevented the slow contemplation that real focus allows. And I miss that. Enough that I rewrote these verses elsewhere because doing it the way I did really didn't get the job done; I can feel the difference. 

I will also say that if you're going to build a scripture journal and you plan to art it up, spring for something with better paper than what I've got. I just got a composition book, covered it with scrapbook paper and washi tape, then contact papered over the whole works. My markers bleed terribly and watercolors are almost impossible. But. I still love my book. The more I use it like this and with other study projects, the more it is a treasure to me.

There's a long way to go on this chapter still, but already, I am really liking this type of study. Slowing down like this made me notice a family of "legal" words in the beginning of the chapter that are interesting enough that I want to look at them in the 1828 Dictionary and Strong's Concordance. I also looked up the definition of "respect", and found that it's a much more profound word than I had previously realized, which changed my understanding of the verse it was used in. And that's just the first 12 verses or so that I've done so far. I can easily see why the lady from the forums said that this type of study is changing the way she looks at scripture; I think it's already doing that for me.

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