Unpacking the Scriptures


Scripture Journaling is nothing new.  However, it was new to me.  It is one of those “good things” that has come to me during this experience. The Lord knows what I need, when I need it.  I believe he sent this as a gift to me right now because he knew I would need it so desperately.  I have always been committed to serious scripture study, but like everyone, my dedication to it waxes and wains according to my circumstances. Sometimes I am just better at it than I am at other times.  Let’s face it, life sometimes just gets in the way.

But, right now, I am in a place that scripture study is vital and necessary for my survival.  It is as important for my spiritual and emotional wellbeing as breathing is to my physical wellbeing. Never in my life have I so desperately needed to feel connected to my Heavenly Father.  To hear His voice, to seek His will for me, and to feel Him near me, have never been so critical to me as they are now.

In the first year of this journey, I read my scriptures, but it wasn’t helping me.  I wasn’t feeling anything.  I was too panicked, too anxious, and too flooded with emotions that I couldn’t feel the delicate feelings of the divine. During my greatest hour of need, I felt totally and utterly abandoned, even by God.  Everything was so dark when I desperately needed to feel the light.

And then along comes Amy.  Amy is a long time friend that just seems to resurface when I need her the most.  She just seems to know.  Out of the blue she contacts me to attend a long weekend at a women’s retreat.  I will always be grateful for friends who listen and respond to promptings of the Spirit.  She told me that she was inspired to reach out to me and that I needed to go to this retreat.  The funny thing about trauma is how humble it made me, and desperate to feel better. I agreed to go even though my anxiety was on overdrive.  Meeting new people at that point was NOT in my wheelhouse. Even at my best, this is a struggle for me. But I was in a desperate place.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?  I went.

It was Amy’s class on how she studies the scriptures that impacted me the most.  Can I say, “It changed my life?” Is that too over-the-top?  Well it did!  I can’t send you to a retreat, but I can share with you what I learned.  I hope it will also impact your life the way it did mine. Nothing about it is revolutionary.  It’s not new!  But the way it was presented, that changed me. It connected me back to my Heavenly Father and gave me back the access to his Spirit and Power in a very dramatic way. If you feel disconnected and distant from God, this may be what you need.

“If you want to talk to God, pray.  If you want God to talk to you, read your scriptures.” John Bytheway

There are as many ideas and templates for scripture journaling as you could ever want. You will find everything imaginable under that sun. All you need to do to find what you need is to Google “LDS Scripture Journaling.” The method you use doesn’t matter.  It is the process.  So go find a method that speaks to you and use it. Really, all you need to get started is a notebook, notebook paper, pen and colored pencils.  I downloaded mine from The Redheaded Hostess (in case you are wondering).

I also started studying by topic.  That is what works best for me at this time in my life.  But you can study along with your Sunday School curricula or Seminary Class.  Study chronologically or jump around.  It doesn’t matter!  That is what I loved most about this – the flexibility to do what I NEEDED for ME. It’s not about the method, it’s about the process.

Set Aside a Sacred Time and Place

Once you have all the tools you need.  It’s time to get started.  The first thing that is important to set aside a time to do this.  Make an appointment with your Heavenly Father. It doesn’t really matter when, pick a time that works for you.  Amy suggested getting up early to study. Making this the first thing you do, shows Heavenly Father that He is a priority in your life.  She gets up at 5 am.  I can’t do that.  But if you don’t have time during your day to fit it in, going without an hour of sleep is probably your best option.  And as important as this is, it is a sacrifice worth making. If early morning isn’t your thing, don’t stress.  Setting a time, any time, will be acceptable to Him.

Remember, this is a sacred time, a date you have and keep with only Him.  In addition to a time, have a place.  Dedicate a space, with a prayer, to be a sacred spot that you connect with God. Once you have a place and a time, keep your appointment with Him. Everyday.

What is the price you will pay to know God?


Start With Heartfelt Prayer

Just this one change in my study habits made a huge difference, but there is more! Start each study session with prayer.  Pray with real intent.  Pour your heart out to God in earnest prayer.  I have since added a meditation to my study that clears my mind to prepare me for prayer.  I close my eyes and focus on my breath.  Breathe deeply, in and out, count “one.” Breathe deeply, in and out, count “two.” And so on, all the way to 10. If I can get to 10 without my mind wandering, I am ready to pray.  If not, I start over.  Focus just on the breath, and clear your mind.

I also keep a prayer list.  I have a list of names of people and their needs. I pray for each one of them by name and for their need. I have also changed the way I pray for myself.  The scriptures teach us that God knows what we need before we ask it and that He is already working on the solution.  He is way ahead of us!  It occurred to me that if he is already working on sending me the blessings, shouldn’t I be grateful for that?  So instead of asking him for the things I need, I am already thanking him for the things I need, even if I have not yet received them.  Does that make sense? For example; if I am sick and need to feel better, instead of asking him to heal me and help me feel better, I say, “I thank thee for healing me from this cold and helping me to feel better.”  Because I know that He loves me, and knows what I need before I ask it, why shouldn’t I thank Him for the gifts he has already prepared for me that I have not yet received?  Isn’t this the very essence of faith?

Become His Disciple

Also, as I pray, I ask the Lord to help me be an instrument in His hands that day.  I want him to use me to bless the lives of those around me.  This is a mark of discipleship; to submit to His will and become His servant to bless those around me.  Praying to be an instrument to help others is also very healing for me. When I pray for this, I am listening to the promptings I get during my scripture study and writing down those thoughts that pop into my head in the margins of my journal.  I may not be studying anything that has to do with calling my sister, but if I get that thought, I write it down. Here is the key though – follow through!  If you get a thought, idea or prompting and write it down and then do nothing about it, the Lord will stop sending you the messages because He knows you are not serious about following through. Being a disciple means to have discipline.  Discipline yourself to be devoted and responsive to the Spirit.


Unpacking the Scriptures

Now it is time to study.  I have to admit, my scripture study used to be boring.  I was studying, alright.  But I was putting too much pressure on myself. It wasn’t fun and it wasn’t instructive.  I was my own worst teacher. I love this idea of unpacking the scriptures. When you open a box, a gift or a suitcase, you take things out, one by one. Sometimes you unpack these things taking everything out looking at it one at a time.  We turn some thing we find particularly interesting, over and over in our hands to get a better look at it.  We delight in some things, and pass others by, only to find them just and interesting later on.  Some things are beloved and familiar.  Some things are new and exciting. We can do this with the scriptures as well.  Slow down.  Take the time to really look at a verse.  If you need to spend more than one study time on one verse to understand it better, do it!  Here are some ideas for unpacking:

  • Look up words you do not understand
  • Journal about how a scripture touched you or impacted your life
  • Memorize a new scripture each week
  • Take time to ponder ways a scripture applies to your life
  • Draw a picture or doodle to help you remember an insight
  • Underline scriptures that have meaning and make a note of why in the margins
  • Use stickers to make a point
  • Use LDS.org or the LDS Citation Index app to search for talks that used a scripture you are trying to understand
  • Go deep into a topic or single scripture, spend a year on it, if you need or want to. When I was YW President last year I spent an entire year studying everything I could find that related to the theme for that year.
  • Teach yourself the way you wish others would teach you! Make it fun, exciting and interesting to yourself.
  • Share what you are learning with others.

Leave me a comment below if you want to share your experiences with scripture study and scripture journaling.

Stay Strong, Be Sweet!

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