Furry Hippos Run Carefully South
Two tricks for memorizing lists in scripture
By Zach Dietrich
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
When I read this verse I think, “Furry hippos run carefully south.” Why that bizarre picture? Because the next few verses go on to list five benefits of God, and that’s how I remember them.
One large road block in scripture memory is long lists. Scripture is full of lists, so I often get tripped up when I hit them. Paul lists the works of the flesh in passages like Romans 1 or Galatians 5. Or there’s the lists of the fruits of the spirit, also in Galatians 5. How do you plow through the lists?
Let me share two helpful memory tricks, besides constant repetition, to help you remember long lists, and, in this case, “forget not all his benefits.” But first, trust me and try something for me for the rest of this blog. Read out loud. Really.
Memorize the first letter of each word. For example, when I think of 1 Peter 2:1, I remember M-D-H-E-S.
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”
M-D-H-E-S. M-D-H-E-S. Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander.
For 1 Peter 3:8, I picture U-S-B-T-H.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
Let’s try that with Psalm 103:3-5.
“…who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
F-H-R-C-S. F, forgives. H, heals. R, redeems. C, crowns. S, satisfies.
Make up absurd mnemonic devices. The more absurd, the better. I still use a ridiculous mnemonic device I learned in September 1998 to remember seven theological categories.
“Furry hippos run carefully south” is the silly statement my daughter and I made up for Psalm 103:3-5.
- F, furry. F, forgives. Who forgives all your iniquity.
- H, hippos. H, heals. Who heals all your diseases.
- R, run. R, redeems. Who redeems your life from the pit.
- C, carefully. C, crowns. Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.
- S, south. S, satisfies. Who satisfies with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
How can you forget not all his benefits? Remember “furry hippos run carefully south.” Forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies.
Now, without looking up, see how much you can remember. Can you still remember 1, 3, or perhaps all 5 of the first words in Psalm 103:3-5? Furry hippos run carefully south.
How did you do? How much could you remember? Finally, why did I ask you to read out loud? Because reading out loud is another helpful memory tip. (That one’s free!)
Note: Soteria’s Bible reading plan encourages families to use a monthly family Psalm. The family psalm for the month of May has been Psalm 103. Many of our students have also been learning it to receive a camp scholarship.