Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

I’ve been lately thinking about memory.

Memorial Day is a day for remembering, after all, and on the Memorial Day Sunday, Dr. Avram preached memory as a function of faith. He experimented with seeing different ways of remembering in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. Though Wes didn’t name memorization, my mind traveled to a time when another minister of mine did.

Dave Hopkins, my boss at a Christian Camp where I worked college summers, was a hyper-competitive memorization freak. The first day of training, he gathered our fifteen-person staff and threw down the gauntlet: “First one to recite James wins.” No prizes. Just bragging rights. But some of us were hyper-competitive too. Three weeks later, he and I laid aside well-worn index cards and recited the five-chapter letter verbatim. Four other staffers nailed James by the end of summer. The next year it was four chapters of Colossians, then Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7). The habit continued after my camp work ended, so I memorized Romans 1—8 the summer before I started at Princeton Seminary.

Does this seem too hard for you? If you were asked to name the ten most intelligent people in America, I’m guessing not one of your list would be an actor; yet these not-necessarily-smarter-than-you actors routinely commit huge chunks of script to memory.  The same goes with singers. Not surprisingly, people who do a lot of memorizing get better at it.

How about you? If you still need incentive, a growing body of research reveals that actively memorizing trains brains in a way that staves off dementia.

You can do this! It’s about attention, not intelligence, and it helps your mind and heart. When that ancient Jewish singer, David, reflected on a long life lived in the rhythm of internalized scripture, he sang to God the good his own index cards and repetitions had done him: “Thy word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” (Psalm 119.11)

Friends, God changes us through the workings of our memory. Start with the Parable of the Sower, if you want. Write out your index cards now. Start reciting at stoplights and in waiting rooms and just before bedtime.  Before you know it, you’ll surprise yourself and your company at Christmas dinner by reciting the nativity story from Luke. Or at your child or grandchild’s wedding, you can blurt out 1 Corinthians 13 as a gift. 

Make 2017 a summer to remember!

Note: If you would like to join Allen Hilton’s Bible Mem Club, let him know at