- Keri Taylor
I have an addiction…I love to read! Books bring me immense joy – I love to hold them, look at them, read them, smell them – yes, it’s sensory overload for me. I can spend hours and hours in a bookstore, as my husband will confirm. I have been this way since I was a child. Most of my summers were spent in local libraries where I borrowed stacks of books each week, to the doubt of the librarian who would ask my mother, “Is she really gonna read all of these?” The answer was always “yes.” My dream house would be a library with floor-to-ceiling shelves and those wooden rolling ladders everywhere. And, of course, my own little reading nook equipped with some big pillows, a fluffy blanket, and room service so I don’t have to stop reading to fix meals. Many women have a closet full of shoes, but I am considering putting books in my closet because I am running out of room in the rest of the house. No joke.
Reading brings me such happiness – immersing myself in the stories, following along in my mind with the author’s adventures and tales. The stories feel alive to me. I relate to the characters like I know them and get wrapped up in the excitement of the story. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry…depending on the book. But all of them touch me in some way.
I remember sitting in a women’s Bible study years ago, and our leader held up her open Bible in her hands and said, “This is the Word of God. It is alive – God has breathed life into these words so we can experience Him in these pages.” It really hit me right then…this wasn’t just any book. This was God’s Word! And because I am a visual person, when she said that, I pictured Jesus Himself, sitting right there in that open Bible smiling and talking to me.
Since then, I have approached my Bible study time with that visualization in my head. When I open my Bible, I ask for God’s Presence to be there with me – my prayer is that He would open my eyes to see His Word, open my ears to hear His Word, and open my heart to receive His Word and allow it to transform my life. I envision Jesus kneeling next to my chair and leaning over my shoulder, pointing to the words, and explaining things to me. And you know what? That is exactly what He does!
We can meet Jesus in the pages of our Bibles and spend time with Him there. He wants us to know Him intimately, and He has given us His living, breathing Word as a direct path to Him. He is the Author of our stories!
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2, NIV
In that same women’s Bible study, our leader had us memorize different verses each week. I’ll admit that at first it was all about the challenge of memorization for me. How fast can I do it? Can I recite the verse perfectly without any mistakes? How many verses can I memorize? Yup, I wanted that gold star on my reading chart. (Flashback to summer reading programs, anyone?) I did memorize those verses, and I can still remember most of them today. But it was kind of superficial for me at that time, more of an exercise than a “heart thing.”
Now flash forward to the present. I was at the First Love women’s conference here at our church this summer when a young lady gave a moving testimony about her recent struggle with doubting her faith. It was a long struggle for her that resulted in depression, anxiety, frustration, doubt – a very real spiritual battle was going on in her life. And so she started memorizing scripture to help her combat her reckless, out-of-control thoughts. I remember thinking she had learned “battle words” to help her fight against her spiritual doubts.
Her testimony inspired me to try memorizing verses again and really dedicate my time to it. And what started out as a simple exercise has grown into something that has changed my life. Not only do I memorize verses, but now I study them – I break them down to understand the context in which they were written and how they were intended for the original audience. I look up and analyze keywords to understand their different meanings and how it might highlight something new in the verse. I learn how the verse speaks about who God is, and then I try to apply that verse to my life personally. It has become a week-long process for each verse, and it has been beyond rewarding. It’s so much more than just remembering the words!
I recite my verses in my mind or out loud almost every day, and those verses have become my battle words. When I’m struggling with negative thoughts, I have several verses that I speak out loud to combat those thoughts. When I find myself reacting poorly to a situation, I have verses that I can review in my mind to calm me down or show me a different way to respond. If I’m unsure what to do, I have verses that can give me God’s wisdom on how to proceed. It keeps me focused on God instead of allowing myself to be distracted by the world’s demands and my own selfish desires. His words are meant to sustain us, give us hope and peace, strengthen us when we feel weak, and give us courage when we are afraid.
As Christians, our battles are not of this world. Our battles are in our hearts and our minds. This reminds me of one of my first memory verses in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 which says,
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons that we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and any pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” NIV