When You Don’t Understand the Bible

I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a lot of crazy stuff in the Bible. It is out there. Like, far out there. Wild and confusing things fill the pages of Bible.

And just when I start to think that I know what’s going on, that’s when I come across a passage or book that is way over my head.

But that is okay, and I daresay, a good thing. It’s okay—good even—to be blown away and bewildered by the things that fill the Bible. It’s what we’re talking about on Penprints today (if the title of the post didn’t tell you that already).

when you don't understand the bible.jpg

Let’s take just a couple minutes to talk about a few different types of literature in the Bible.

Historical Narrative

This kind of stuff is simple for the most part, once you come to grips with just how depraved humanity is,

jack sparrow smile 1.gif

just how holy and righteous and sovereign God is and everything that goes along with that,

dream bigger 1.gif

and the literally mind-blowing miracles and such that God does all the time.

whoa gif 2.gif

(Why, yes, I did just use two gifs in the middle of a sentence about human depravity and God’s holiness, but it’s just one of those I-don’t-even-care-because-this-is-how-it-is posts.)


Some of the prophecies in the Bible are just… wut.

I have a fairly vivid, expansive imagination due to all the sci-fi, fantasy, and biblical accounts I’ve been exposed to my entire life (thank you, parentals), and I’ve been introduced to theories about prophetic passages my entire life as well (thank you again, parentals). But on first glance, I just don’t know what to make of a lamb standing as though it’s been slain with seven horns and seven eyes.

logan lucky 6

actual footage of me trying to talk about prophecy

And that bit imagery is straightforward compared to some of the other pictures painted with prophecy in the Bible.



So there’s poetry.

toothless 1

And then there’s ancient Hebrew poetry.

toothless 10

And then there’s Holy Spirit-inspired, ancient Hebrew poetry.

toothless 4

Oh, and sometimes the Holy Spirit-inspired, ancient Hebrew poetry is also poetic prophecy.

toothless 5

So there’s that.


Let’s not forget these bad boys. They’re rarely as simple as all the flowery shareables online make them out to be. My goodness, no.

logan lucky 3.gif

The epistles read so beautifully, but it’s crazy how quickly you can come to realize that you actually don’t know what all the lovely words mean. Like, a third heaven? What? What does it meant to be “caught up” to this third heaven? And what about the other two heavens?

The point of all this is to say that it is natural to be confused by verses, passages, themes, and whole books of the Bible.

Please don’t get disheartened by what’s confounding. Don’t give up on trying to know God because of the mental strain required to grasp/reconcile the confusing things.

Don’t buy into the lies that you’re not smart enough to understand because you’re “just not cut out for it” or that you’re less spiritual because you don’t understand or that you will never understand, because they are all just that—lies.

As far as your intellect goes, understanding the Bible is not about being smart enough or having the right sort of mind for it. The Bible is richer and deeper than you or I can imagine, but God has not made it inaccessible. He didn’t write it for a select few. Maybe you’re a genius. Maybe you’re more like me. Regardless, you don’t understand parts of the Bible not because you’re “just not cut out for it”; you don’t understand parts of the Bible because the Holy Spirit hasn’t illuminated them to you yet.

(Sidenote: God is far more glorified in making the simple wise than he is in smart people figuring something out on their own.)

When it comes to being more or less spiritual, well, I don’t believe that is a biblical measure (because don’t forget that demons are spiritual). The measure isn’t in being more or less anything than anyone else. The measure is godliness. Christlikeness. In your core, expressed in your words and actions—not in what you do or do not understand.

And you can understand. Just because something’s baffling right now doesn’t mean that it always will be. Be proactive. Take steps to understand what you don’t understand.

  • Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and help you. Don’t rely on only your mind and human resources.
  • Don’t skip the first suggestion.
  • Get a good commentary (no matter what you may have heard or think about the recent happenings at Moody Bible Institute, the Moody Bible Commentary is an excellent, trustworthy resource to have on your shelf if you’re looking for a whole-Bible commentary).
  • Get a study Bible (the ESV study Bible seems to have solid notes, as does the MacArthur study Bible. Don’t skip research when buying a study Bible. Try to get an idea of who wrote the notes and if they’re trustworthy.)
  • Ask your pastors and small group leaders questions.
  • Read the difficult passage. And then read it again. And then read it again.
  • Don’t give up. Knowing God and his Word isn’t easy, so keep working at it. Keep studying. Keep learning. Don’t throw in the towel.

Friends, when God commanded us to know and keep and love and live his Word, he did not give us an impossible task.

If you’re confused by the Bible, good. Good because it means you’re thinking about a theme or passage deeply and intentionally. It means your brain didn’t drop into autopilot while you were “reading” the Bible. It means you’re invested.

Please don’t feel silly; just seek to understand.

What have been some things from the Bible you’ve grappled with? What’s been confusing? And what do you do when you don’t understand?

With love,


P.S. – a special shout-out to 2 Corinthians for being confusing to me right now and inspiring this post.

How to Deal with Rejection [tips on handling it in a healthy way]

So you’ve labored over a story, be it a six hundred page novel or a six hundred word flash fiction.

Hours upon hours (upon hours) of thinking and revising and thinking and editing and more thinking have been poured into this story. It’s been critiqued and fiddled with, and you’ve gone through all the phases of loving it, hating it, not quite hating it as much, almost liking it, hating it again, actually liking it, and you’ve at last come to terms with the story.

It’s never going to be perfect, but my goodness, it almost is. And my goodness it better be almost perfect after all that. You might even say you’re happy with it.

Off it goes to The Publisher (or the agent or the magazine or the website).

After days and weeks of angsty waiting, an email pops into your inbox. From The Publisher (or agent or magazine or website).

Your heart seizes in your chest and your hands go clammy. You take a fortifying breath and open the email.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to acquire your story…”

Your little heart crunches like a tin can, and the wind whooshes out of your sails, (probably for forever, you think to yourself).

All that, and your story’s been rejected.

I’ve been there, done that, and it’s never fun. In the last year, I have submitted nine different pieces for publication, and seven of those nine have been rejected. Today we’re going to get into how it can be a little less awful; we’re going to talk about dealing with rejection in a healthy way (and yes, there is a playlist in here somewhere).

how to deal with rejection.jpg

Recalibrate your view of rejection.

So often we view rejection as a bad thing, which is our natural instinct when something is painful, but rejection actually isn’t a bad thing. I promise (and I’m quite serious and quite sane).

Rejection is not failure. Rejection does not mean your story wasn’t good. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. But rejection does not mean you’re a no-good writer and you don’t know what you’re doing. Maybe you are and maybe you don’t. But not necessarily.

Just to be clear: rejection does not equal bad. Pain does not equal bad. Frustration and disappoint do not equal bad.

Rejection is actually very, very good for you (and me, especially me).

  • Rejection grows you as a person and as a writer. If you’ve been around Penprints for any length of time, you know that I am a firm believer in anything compels personal growth. Suffering through rejection can help you mature far more than publication.
  • Rejection thickens your skin. All art is painfully subjective, and thus there will always be differing opinions about your story. Hypersensitivity to anything resembling criticism reveals a shallowness of character. But rejection, which isn’t outright criticism but can feel like it, can deepen and grow you so that you don’t take things personally (because when people take things personally, they become angry, bitter, and they lash out).
  • Rejection teaches you humility. Nothing helps you maintain a realistic view of your writing skills as much as rejection. Humility isn’t having a low view of yourself; humility is having a realistic view of yourself. It’s so easy to forget how much we all still have to learn about writing, and sometimes we start to think we deserve it. We deserve publication. We deserve to sign with an agent. We’ve worked hard. We’ve put in the hours. By this time, for sure, we deserve. Rejection is a reminder that, no, you and I won’t get just even if we might “deserve” it. No matter how fast we’re rising in the industry, we are not entitled to anything.
  • Rejection means that God has a better home for your story. Now, better does not mean bigger. Better means better, be it the drawer of your desk for you to revisit and enjoy alone (an art that is quickly being lost in a world that wants everything experienced together) or the little publishing house you meet at your next writer’s conference or a really huge home ten or twenty years down the road.

heart banner mini 1

Reckon on rejection.

Your stories will get rejected. That’s just the way this industry goes, the way life goes. Don’t fall into the mindset of thinking you’re the exception to the rule what, no, I’ve never done that I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Expect rejection. Anticipate it. This isn’t to psych yourself out but to set yourself up for a shorter fall if/when your stories get rejected. If you submit something with the mindset that it could get published but is more likely to be rejected, you’re just being realistic.

heart banner mini 1

Return to why you write.

When the rejection is smarting, take some time to remember why you tell stories in the first place.

(Note: If your deepest motivation is publication, well, that’s not going to be much help. Publication is a great goal and dream to work toward, but it isn’t big enough. It won’t help you much in the long run; it isn’t rich enough fuel. Dream bigger, want bigger, and write bigger for bigger, better reasons, and remember those reasons.)

If your deepest motivation is to tell a good story, you can do that and still have your story rejected. But it doesn’t burn as badly because if you wrote a good story, you accomplished your goal.

If your deepest motivation is to have fun, you can do that and still have your story rejected. But it doesn’t burn as badly because if you had fun with the story, you accomplished your goal.

If your deepest motivation is to glorify God, you can do that and still have your story rejected. But it doesn’t burn as badly because if your story magnifies God in some way—be it in the excellence, themes, or characters—then you accomplished your goal.

So return to why you want to tell stories when the rejection email is sending your excitement and contentment up in flames. If you did what you set out to do, that’s enough.

So what the story isn’t published (yet!)?

heart banner mini 1

Final thoughts

  • It’s okay to be disappointed and disheartened. It’s okay to cry. You need to process.
  • Remember that your worth and your identity are not bound up in your writing—published or not. Your value and identity are in Jesus and Jesus alone.
  • Process your disappointment, but don’t wallow in it.
  • I listen to this little playlist when I submit stories and articles, and then I listen to it again after I get a rejection or acquisition notice. It’s about true wealth and worth and all that jazz.

Dealing with rejection in a healthy way begins long before you submit your story. It begins in the mindsets and habits you intentionally develop as you go along your little writer way.

heart banner mini 1

That’s all I’ve got for today!

What have been some ways you’ve dealt with rejection? I’m always looking for more tips since I get rejected most of the time, haha. Are there any stories/articles you’re prepping to submit somewhere? If so, tell me about them! If not, you should definitely give it a try!

With love,


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Bind Them on Your Fingers: 12 Tips for Scripture Memorization

Last week I posted on reasons to memorize Scripture, and this week I wanted to post some tips for memorization that I have found helpful from my own experience. Before I start that, though, I want to share the verses that inspired these posts and their title “Bind Them on Your Fingers”.

The first set is Deuteronomy 6:6-9: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The second can be found in Proverbs 7:1-3: “My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teachings as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

That imagery blows me away, and I can’t really explain why. I do know this: reading these verses as well was Psalm 119 has inspired me to take Scripture memorization seriously for the first time in my life.

This has become very important to me over the last few months, and as I’ve started memorizing Bible verses again, it’s been amazing how much more Scripture the Holy Spirit has helped me memorize than I ever thought possible. Right now, I’m working on a passage that I wouldn’t have dreamed of even trying to memorize six months ago, and so I wanted to share some tips for you as you do your own memorization work. I’ve divided them up into heart tips and practical tips, and so we’ll start with the heart tips.


Heart Tip #1: Realize that “success” in Scripture memorization isn’t going to come of your own mental strength.

First things first, if you’re going at this as just come sort of mental exercise, you’re going at it wrong. For it to be anything more than just pure information memorization (i.e. – if you want to experience any of the benefits listed in my reasons to memorize post) it has to be a work of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t matter if you’re young and can consume massive amounts of information. It doesn’t matter if you’re old and have to work harder to internalize Scripture. Either way, you need the work of the Spirit to help you truly remember not only what the verses are but also what they mean.

Heart Tip #2: Evaluate your motives.

Ask yourself if you’re doing it for the right reasons. The right reasons look like wanting a better, deeper relationship with Christ and/or wanting to know the breadth and depth of His Word. The wrong reasons look like wanting make yourself feel more spiritual than others and/or wanting others to think you’re so spiritual for committing to memorize Scripture (I struggle with these two personally).

If you go at this with the wrong motives (e.g. – they frightening motives I cherished as a child), then that will affect not only your relationship with Christ but also actually remembering what you’re trying to memorize. An example of this is me as kid; between AWANA and Sunday school, I recited a lot of verses. But now, because I was only jumping through hoops to look good and get prizes, I only remember a fraction of the verses that I “memorized”. So take some time to examine yourself and see what you want to “get out of” time dedicated to Scripture memorization.

Heart Tip #3: Ask the Holy Spirit to grow your love for Scripture and help you understand it (specifically, the verse or passage you are trying to memorize).

The more you love God and His Word, the easier it becomes to memorize verses and passages, and so ask for the Holy Spirit to give you a greater love. Trust me, He’ll do it, and it will greatly impact the way you look at the Bible, memorization, and meditation.

Heart Tip #4: Be ready to meditate on Scripture.

You can’t just memorize Scripture and expect to understand it all of the sudden; you have to meditate as well. Basically all of the benefits of Scripture memorization are products of what the Holy Spirit does when you meditate on Scripture, when you chew on it and turn it over and over in your head, trying to grasp what it truly means. A friend of mine once said: “Meditating on Scripture makes memorizing easier; memorizing Scripture makes meditation deeper.” So ask the Holy Spirit to help you to fruitfully meditate on Scripture, and be ready to invest thought into it.

So those are my four heart tips. Now onto the practical tips.

Practical Tip #1: Start small and work your way up.

Don’t just start in on a book of the Bible if you’re just starting on memorization. While you should definitely work towards memorizing entire books, when you’re just beginning, it is easy to get discouraged if you don’t feel like you’re making progress. Personally, I recommend starting with one to three verse chunks before going after a 42 verse chapter or an epistle.

Practical Tip #2: Pick a verse/passage that you are currently studying.

This really helps with the both meditation and memorization. I studied 2 Peter 1:1-10, and so I memorized verses 5-10. Not only was it easier to memorize, but it also helped me think about the passage throughout the day. When I went through the different qualities that are listed in those verses when I was trying to memorize them, I could meditate on the verses outside my devotions time. This enriched my quiet time because I was thinking about the passage a lot more. So focusing on a verse or verses that you are studying helps both your study time and the memorization.

Practical Tip #3: Get a partner or two.

Tell a couple friends that you’re trying to memorize Scripture and what you’re memorizing. It works best if they’re memorizing something too. For me, it’s my dad. I tell him what I’m memorizing, and he tells me what he’s working on. We check up on each other periodically (usually every week or so), and do something a friend of ours calls “soul wash” where we recite what we’ve memorized to each other and talk about what we’ve been meditating on. This helps keep us motivated and focused on “the good stuff”—what we learn through meditation.

Practical Tip #4: Read the verse/passage you are memorizing out loud at least once a day.

I know this sounds inconvenient, but it is something that’s really helped me. With the passage I’m currently memorizing, I was reading it every day for a while, and I was packing verses away like crazy. But then I stopped reading it every day, and since then, it’s been significantly harder to memorize the rest of the passage. So I highly recommend reading your verse(s) every day.

Practical Tip #5: Write your verse (or verses) out on an index card and carry it in your pocket or wallet.

This is my favorite thing to do when it comes to memorizing things. This just keeps your verse(s) handy throughout the day. I like writing it out by hand because that’s just something that helps me; my dad goes on biblegateway.com and prints his out and keeps it in his work truck. So, basically, get your verse(s) printed or written and keep that handy throughout the day.

Practical Tip #6: Swap out music for memorization (aka: multitask).

I love to listen to quite a bit of music—while I’m milking, when I’m driving somewhere, when I’m doing dishes, when I’m in the shower, and a basically any time I can squeeze it in. Recently, I’ve been trading music for working on memorization. So instead of jamming to some Needtobreathe for half an hour while I milk, I work on verses. (For peeps who don’t find this tip helpful because they don’t listen to much music: my dad doesn’t listen to a lot of music, and so he works on his verses on the 30 minute drive to and from work.) Basically, the idea behind this tip is to be multitasking—memorize while doing something else. For some reason, this has helped me more than setting aside a half hour a day just for memorization.

Practical Tip #7: Don’t add verses too quickly.

Personally, I recommend working on a verse or small set of verses for at least a week before you add more. I tend to memorize in chunks of three verses at a time, and so I focus on those three in my meditation for about a week (sometimes longer) before I memorize another chunk. If you add too many verses too quickly, you’re probably not spending a lot of time meditating. Even if you can memorize like crazy, it’s best to have a week or so to review and meditate.

Practical Tip #8: Write down the references to the verses/passages you have memorized and go through that list periodically for review.

I write my references in a small notebook and try to go back once a week through all the verses. As you add more verses and passages, this can get kind of time-consuming and begin to feel daunting, and so I recommend reviewing a few verses every day of the week (e.g. – on Mondays review your verses in Psalms, on Wednesday review your verses from the Gospels, etc.).

And there you have it. 12 tips on Scripture memorization.

They make a lot of sense in my head, and so I hope they make sense to you guys as well.

Did you find these tips helpful? Which one was the most helpful and which was the least?

What are you memorizing right now? What are your memorization goals? What are your tips for memorization?

P.S. – I used different forms of “memorize” 49 different times in this post. That’s crazy.

21 Signs he isn’t The One (as seen in The Phantom of the Opera)

Romance is tough. Really tough.

There are so many twists and turns and confusing things in romance. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if the relationship is going through a rough patch or if it should end. Whatever stage of life you’re in—single, dating, engaged—this post is for you.

21 signs he isn't The One

Note: I recommend watching The Phantom of the Opera to get a better grasp on this post.

Here are 21 signs he isn’t The One (as seen in The Phantom of the Opera):

1. He has a two-way mirror in your room.

two way mirror edited 1

2. He sings songs in your head (not gonna lie, this might be a sign that there’s something wrong with both of you…).

3. He thinks he’s the boss of your boss(es).

bosses 2.jpg

4. He’s constantly hanging around your workplace (you can feel him watching you right now, can’t you?).

you can feel him watching you 1

5. He plays with dolls in a doll-house that looks remarkably similar to your workplace.

his dollhouse 2

6. He has a mannequin in a wedding dress that looks exactly like you (guys aren’t supposed to do the wedding planning, and mannequins are creepy).

mannequin 2

7. He’s a big fan of night and darkness and has something against the light of day (now, this can feel romantic, but unless he’s Batman, it’s a red flag).

8. He has a hideout in the basement of your workplace (I mean, yeah, it’s a pretty fantastic hideout, but that doesn’t make it okay).

phantom hideout 1

9. He tells you he’s an angel.

10. He also pretends to be the spirit of your dead father (what? This is a thing?).

angel father 2

11. He thinks that murder is a viable option for proving a point (ladies, this is no good, no matter how you slice it).

12. He’s obsessed with his music (it’s all, “my music, my music”).

my music my music 2

13. He takes getting you promoted at work very seriously and into his own hands (his favorite method is talking smack about your rival and trying to sabotage her).

rival 2

14. He throws a fit when people don’t listen to him (we’re all adults here, right? Right??).

chandelier 1

curse the day 1

15. He gets super jealous when you talk to other guys (possessiveness is cute when it comes to cookies, not relationships).

16. After you’ve broken up with him, he stalks you and your new boyfriend.

17. He crashes parties because he’s upset about your break-up.

you vs. him 2

18. He says the only reason your new boyfriend likes you is because of your voice (and he also only loves you because of your voice…).

because of your voice2.jpg

19. He steals the engagement ring your new boyfriend gives you and then uses it to propose to you later (I don’t know, maybe he just couldn’t afford his own ring, but still…).

20. He talks about waging war on you and your new boyfriend (and he’s not talking about Halo).


war 1.jpg

And now for the last one:

21. He tries to kill your new boyfriend. Twice.

tries to kill your new boyfriend 2

And there you have it, 21 sure-fire signs that you might want to send The Phantom your boyfriend on his way.

Has this list helped you figure out whether or not he’s The One? Do you think this was a fun post? A weird post? Both?

Comment with any signs that I missed!

p.s. – most of the pictures from The Phantom of the Opera were found on Google, but were altered by yours truly.

p.p.s. – this post was inspired by my good friend Chrys. We watched the movie together last time we were together, and then this happened.