Motivation for handwriting a Psalm every day

Layered sheets of paper, each sheet has a pencil interpretation/rendition of Psalm 100

Why am I handwriting Psalm 100 every day?

The motivation comes from many areas. Here are 13 motivations and inspirations.

1. Get in the Bible more

I miss having a weekly Bible study. For nine years I went to a Bible study in the city.

But when I moved out to Glen Ellyn, the commute to and from the Bible study just got to be too long. So then I dropped out. It’s really nice to have a regular habit that gets myself into the Bible. Thus, this project is one method of that.

2. Intense study of Scripture

When we did the Bible study, I always liked when we focused on smaller sections of scripture. Everyone has their own methods. Some people like to breeze through several chapters in a week. I preferred to focus on one small section at a time. Granted, there are some benefits to sweeping through large sections. Like one time, we all read a version of the New Testament that had no verse markings. The goal was something like to read through the entire New Testament in two months or something. That was pretty cool.

But when I’m studying the Bible, I like to focus on small sections. Like, a few verses.

3. Meditating on Scripture

The past couple years, I’ve come to really enjoy the Bible Project podcast. Lately, one of the things that’s been sticking in my head is Tim Mackie saying how to meditate on Scripture. He’ll often say something like, “That Psalm is worth pondering over a cup of tea”.

4. Marginalia around Scripture

Scan of spread in a Psalms book with hand-written marginalia by Psalm 100 and Psalm 101

I love love love marginalia in Bibles. I love writing in my Bible. I love seeing how other people journal in their Bible. I looooove it. I’ve written a little bit about marginalia in general on my media blog.

In this series, I haven’t yet done a Psalm rendering that is in the style of marginalia around Psalm 100. I plan on doing that soon. Where I put fun pieces of research around the verses.

It’s so fantastic to hear how people interpret what they read. Whenever I’m at used book store, I always look at their Bible section to see if there are any Bibles with notes in the margins.

5. Scripture cross-references

(This photo isn’t my NIV Study Bible from high school.
It’s my ESV Study Bible—the one I use mostly now)

I distinctly remember in high school having a NIV Study Bible where nearly half of every page in the Bible has notes. I loved that soo much. I loved reading the notes, and especially all the cross-references. It was so amazing to see how integrated together the Bible is. Another plan with this project is to write related verses next to Psalm 100.

6. Pencils

Cropped view of Game 5 scorecard for 2016 World Series

From the past 20 years, I have about sixty various art projects at different points of progress (here’s 22 published projects).

It seems when the project involves using pencils, that there is some sort of magic that happens. I find myself happy when using a pencil. Baseball scorecards, graphite rubbings, marginalia, doing mazes, pencil sharpening.

When I make work with pencils, it seems to really resonate with people.

7. Writing things down

Cropped image from my cousin's notebook

My cousin is a big fan of having a journal to write thoughts down. He gets me inspired to continue to write things down with a pencil/pen instead of just typing it out.

Also, here’s an article that inspires me to write: Celebrated Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary (Reflections on the value of recording our inner lives from Woolf, Thoreau, Sontag, Emerson, Nin, Plath, and more).

8. Six-word verses

Screenshot of @sixwordverses twitter account

Back in March 2009, I created a twitter account called @sixwordverses. As the bio says, “It’s easier to memorize Bible verses that are six words long. Every other day I will post a six-word phrase from the Bible.”

That was a lot of fun. I’ve always meant to go back to that project. It’s very intriguing looking at very short Bible verses. This year I’ve been working with Crossway’s API for the ESV translation to find all the verse segments that are six words long. I’m the the progress of marking which six-word verses would be nice to share.

The thought is that I would make a visual for each of these six-word verses. I just haven’t gotten around to continuing this project yet.

Then the idea of hand-writing the Psalms somehow popped into my head. And I really liked this idea, so I ran with it. It was a lot easier to just take one Psalm and just write it. This six-word verses takes a bit more research to find a database of verses to use.

Also, I’m usually not a huge fan of extracting out one verse of the Bible. I’d much rather read the verse in the context of the other verses. Something always got me a little uncomfortable with pulling six words out of the Bible, and POOF! HERE THEY ARE. I’ve thought about sharing those six-word verses by simply highlighting them inside the chapter where they sit.

So when I thought of writing an entire Psalm, that resonated much more with me. Here’s an entire Psalm. Not cut up. But the whole chapter.

9. Bible quote postcards

Ok, so this one isn’t so much a motivation, but more of an inspiration. A few months before I started PsalmEveryDay, I came across a Kickstarter called “Bible quote postcards” by Adam Beau McFarlane.

This might have been percolating in my head a bit. The idea of sharing bible verses with people is a little bit related to writing this Psalm and sharing it with people.

10. My birthday

Ok, this is not a motivation. This is just coincidence. But there is something very odd that I find what happens to me every year. Just before my birthday, I always find myself very much engaged in a creative project. It just simply happens. I don’t put the pressure on myself, “oh my birthday is coming up, I have to do something.” If anything, I do absolutely what I can to avoid any sort of responsibility to create. I like the freedom of creating.

Yet, every year, boom. There it is. I’m making something in the days right before my birthday on November 20th.

On one of my Instagram posts, rebeccajasso13 asked me about the motivation for this project. I’m so glad she did because it enabled me to sit down and write all this draft — on the day before my birthday! (I’m publishing it a couple days after my birthday).

11. Psalms

Photo of my Psalms book sitting on a chair. A very well-used book

I love the Psalms. I have a tiny very well-used Psalms book with lots of marginalia written over the years.

12. Why Psalm 100?

I knew I wanted to hand-write one of the Psalms. But which one? Soooo many to choose from!

Recently I discovered a wonderful resource, hymnal.org. On that site they list all the hymns from every single hymnal in existence. Then they also cross-reference which verses are associated with each hymn. It’s amazing! I scraped some of their site, looking to see which Psalms are used most in hymns. I need to write a full-on blog post about this, listing the top Psalms.

One of the shortest Psalms to be in this top list is Psalm 100. Thus, I figured I’d use Psalm 100, because lots of people who write hymns were inspired by Psalm 100, then I figured it would be a nice Psalm to write every day.

One might draw an interesting parallel between singing the Psalm and writing the Psalm.

13. Why the same Psalm?

As mentioned earlier, meditating on Scripture is fantastic. Taking the time with the verses and thinking about them, adopting them into your life. In our culture we often move from one thing to the next too fast. I wanted to see what it was like to keep doing the same Psalm every single day. Having one Psalm be constant through all the changes in life.

I’m terrible at memorizing Scripture. I would love to have more verses memorized. Hence, why I started the six-word verses project. That would make it easier to memorize verses. It’s so wonderful to have verses bouncing in your head. Instead of walking through the day worrying about things, it’s fulfilling to be thinking about Bible verses.

If I have a hard time memorizing verses, maybe if I just repeat them enough in my life, they’ll be part of the fabric of who I am.

If you find Psalm Everyday to be interesting, please follow the project on Twitter or Instagram.

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