It’s funny how certain things stick in your mind.

My English teacher (Mr “Bushy” Thickett) taught 5 Burra this magic mnemonic: “Sheila and Keith, the protein eating counterfeiters, were seized with weird thoughts at the weir.” It’s a list of some of the commoner exceptions to the ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ rule.

It all came back to me on a walk past a weir this last Monday morning. The roaring water triggered the memory and sent me back almost 40 years to the Kent classroom where I learned to love poetry, plays and all things literaturial.

The Greek word, mnemoneuo (meaning to remember, or mention) comes up over 20 times in the New Testament and other words translated ‘remember’ are common. Remembering is important to God. How can we make sure to remember the important matters of our faith? What tips might there be to remember how to think and act in a way consistent with our beliefs?

Here are three quick ways from 2 Peter to boost our remembering power and to help other people remember.

  1. Repeat the Obvious, 2 Peter 1.12. Peter sees no shame in repeating to his readers what they already know, “I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them” (2 Peter 1:12 NIV11). Repetition is a good training technique. For all the fact that rote teaching is out of vogue (and it is not effective in teaching people how to think), it is still valuable for driving basic truths deep into the heart. Suggestion: memorise a scripture that’s relevant to a current need. Repeat it at all possible occasions for a period of time. In the days when I drove to work I had a selection of Proverbs on index cards that I kept in my car. At traffic lights I’d pick one from the pile and read the scripture out loud over and over until the lights changed. I still remember some of them almost 30 years later.
  2. Put in the Work, 2 Peter 1.15. Peter does not shy away from hard work. He knows that helping his readers to remember the truths of the faith will not come easily, “I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things” (2 Peter 1:15 NIV11) One sermon just isn’t going to do it. What is the extra step you could take to sink some Bible into the mind? Suggestion: determine to study one passage of scripture for a whole week, or two weeks, or a month – until you feel you have really mastered it. Sometimes we sacrifice depth for speed. A few years ago, after readying the Bible all the way through many times, I decided to study only two books of the Bible every year. Since then I have developed a much stronger recall of passages from those books.
  3. Keep the End in Mind, 2 Peter 3.1. Peter is not reminding his readers for the sake of it. This is not a memory exercise designed as an attempt to ward of Alzheimers. The goal is clear in the Apostle’s mind – he has written his letters, “as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking.” (2 Peter 3:1 NIV11) We remember better when we remember for a purpose. Mr Thickett’s clever mnemonic has stayed with me, and pops back into my mind whenever I question the correct spelling for any of the words on the list. Focussed remembering changes the way we think, and that, of course, is crucial to changing the way we live – from the inside out.

Do you have some favourite ‘remembering’ techniques? What’s helped you and what difference has it made to your life? Please share your insights, and help us all remember to remember the stuff that’s really important.

The really cool thing is that, whenever I walk past a weir, not only do I remember the mnemonic, but I also remember the man who taught it to me. “Thank you”, Mr Thickett.