It is such a good verse, and I'm so excited to get to talk with Glenna Marshall about this. Glenna is somebody we've had on the podcast before. She's a returning guest, she is a faithful follower of Christ and I cannot wait to hear her insights on this verse. Welcome ,Glenna.
Glenna: Thank you for having me back. It's fun to come back and do this again.
Natalie: I know. We were just catching up offline about life in ministry and where we've been in the last couple years, but if you're interested, those of you who are listening, we'll go ahead and put a link to her old episodes.
We were just saying how we used to do three episodes, which is so much with each of our guests. So you could go back and listen to all three old episodes with Glenna if you're interested. And we actually had a bonus episode with her husband and his co-pastor too. So we'll link all of that joy and bonus stuff in there.
Before we get started, I just want you to talk a little bit about your new book that you have coming out. We are so excited about it over here at Dwell, but would you tell our listeners about it?
Glenna: Yes. So I always feel like writers write the books that they need to read.
So that's definitely been true for me. This is my third book, and it was a book that I needed to read and I couldn't find it in existence, and so I decided to write it and it comes from a lot of lived experience, but the title of the book is Memorizing Scripture: the Basics, Blessings and Benefits of Meditating on God's Word, and I
had this season of just really, honestly, if I'm gonna be very frank, dealing with some ongoing sin in my life just [00:02:00] as a mom, as a woman, just dealing with a lot of like simmering anger under the surface just all the time and felt like I could not find any victory over it. And I would pray and pray. I love to study the Word, it's like a discipline that I am just sold on for life, but I kept feeling like there was this missing link.
Like why is my investment in prayer and in the Word, why am I not seeing any effect on this area of sin? I just felt like it had such a hold on me.
This was probably about 4 or 5 years ago and one day I was praying about it and the Lord brought to mind Psalm 119:11, "I will hide your word in my heart so that it might not sin against you." It was one of the very first verses I memorized as a child when I was like a part of Bible drill, which is something we did in the south, particularly where I grew up in Tennessee.
Natalie: Yeah. Anytime you say drill in, anything that has such an intensity to it, like Bible drill, like drill, I mean, sounds like you have a drill sergeant.
Glenna: It kind of was like that. It was like you are hammering these verses. It was like 20 verses plus the books of the Bible in order.
And I was six years old, I had memorized all these verses and then you would line up these little children and take them to churches and make them compete. It's reciting verses, and I'm gonna tell you, that was my entire foray into Scripture memorization. That was probably like ages six to nine .
Natalie: Scripture memory is an intense competition.
Glenna: Oh it was. It was a whole thing. And then I never returned to it again until I got to this point, in my late thirties and realized, “Okay, the Psalmist actually tells us that hiding God's word in your heart is a tool for fighting sin.” And so I just began with a couple of verses and then a couple of Psalms and then some chapters, and then actually jumped into memorizing the whole book of James and then the book of Colossians.
And it just transformed my life and was the first time that I really felt like I was seeing victory in this area of sin. And it isn't so much like the ability to recite, [00:04:00] as you well know, it is the journey of meditating on those words, reciting, rehearsing them over and over to yourself day in and day out.
That's where the transforming power of God's word does its best work. And so I decided because it was so life changing. I just couldn't stop talking about it. So I'm telling everybody at church, my Bible study group, my friends, I'm like this annoying person who's got like a new business and I'm trying to sell you on something.
And so, I just decided, “You know what, let's write about it.” So I wrote a book and it is very much a how-to book with lots of tips and tricks and very much a nod to Dwell Differently in it and so I'm excited for you guys to read it.
But then also, it is a why-to book. I really wanted to encourage people about the benefits of memorization, I mean really more than I can put in one book, but life-changing, transformative deepens your love for the Lord gives you the words to say, to encourage and share the gospel with people. Helps you fight your sin, helps you renew your mind and dilute your love for worldly things, makes you long for heaven, like so many benefits.
So I go into all of that in the book and then I also did a little bit of a dive on some brain science. Like how God created your brain to retain and why even people who think they have a very poor memory, and I would consider myself one of those people you can memorize and you can memorize much more than you think.
And so I just wanted to dispel that myth that we can't do it. Because your brain is actually designed to do it. So that was a really fun part of the book to write, but I just wanted a resource out there.
Natalie: I bet that was super fun to research as well, like discover all of that.
Glenna: It was. I read a book, it's called, Remember, it's by a neuroscientist.
She's not a believer, I don't think, but her research was so compelling and she does a lot of research in, Alzheimer's and Alzheimer's. Um, it runs in my [00:06:00] family. My grandmother passed away from it, and one of the things is, differentiating between a poor memory and actually dementia in her book.
And I read that book and realized my brain can retain so much if I will use the tools available to me. And so I incorporated some of that into, Memorizing Scripture, the book, and I hope it will be just a useful tool for the church. That's my goal. I want it in the hands of pastors and church members' hands.
I've seen a big resurgence in scripture memorization over the years, as I'm sure you guys have. And I love it. I love to see it. And I just wanna see that grow and grow among God's people. Because it's such a rich practice. I'm sold on it for life.
Natalie: Same. Preach. Glenna, I'm hearing you. I'm Amening over here. Yeah. I would encourage you guys, we'll have a link to that, to her book in, in our show notes as well. But definitely it's something that not only you can do, but the impact of it in your life is, like you said, it's so powerful , and transformative . You know, reading whole giant swaths of the Bible. While that's super valuable and you should do that too, like there is something specific and interesting about having those words in you. Like when you're in the grocery store , when you're talking to a friend who's going through something hard, when you wake up in the middle of the night and you're freaking out for some reason about whatever it is that wakes you up in the middle of the night.
That word, the word of God is like the thing. You know, like if I could give you anything, that's the thing that I would give you. And so I would totally encourage you to read Glenna's book. And also I just have to point out that I follow you on Instagram, Glenna, and I have seen some of your posts from your shower where I don't even know what you have done to like put things in plastic sleeves and all kinds of stuff.
Glenna: Yes. Ziploc bags.
Natalie: That's what it is!
Glenna: So I will print out the text, put it in a Ziploc bag and put it upside down with the zipper side down, and then tape it to my shower wall. And I memorize every day when I get in the shower and I'm like a very regimented person. Like I get up, I do my bible study, I [00:08:00] go to the gym, I come home and shower, and that's when I memorize.
And so I have memorized entire books of the Bible that way. And here's the bonus. It's a win-win because the more of. Like pieces of text that you have taped to your shower wall, the of the shower. You have to clean. I'm just saying like, it's a, it's a win-win.
Natalie: Hey, don't take those down cuz you don't even know what's going behind them.
Glenna: That's right. Nobody needs to know that.
Natalie: That's awesome. Awesome. All right, well, let's move on to the verse that we're memorizing this month. I'm gonna say it one more time to remind our listeners what it is, but it's from Colossians 3:12. "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." And Glenna, this is one of the books you said you memorized, right?
Glenna: I did. It was, 2021 and part of 2022. Yeah.
Natalie: Awesome. Awesome. So, we've got an expert on our hands right here, guys. Can you just recite the whole verse? No, I'm just kidding. Recite the whole book for us.
Glenna: It's gonna take me a minute.
Natalie: Yeah. So, I wanna kind of tackle this verse in two sections. You have the first part of the verse that says who you are as a believer, and then the second part of the verse gives you these five virtues that we are supposed to put on.
So let's start with that first half and tackle the three things that this verse says is true of us as believers. And, Glenna, would you just share on each of these, how they're good news? And do you feel like they build on one another, or how are they related to one another?
Glenna: Yeah. Well, I think you were actually right to say this is the first part of the verse is identity, and the second part of the verse is in these virtues.
But the Book of Colossians works that way too. I mean, this is very much a Pauline thing. For him to tell you this is who you are in the first part of one of his epistles. And then to move to, so this is how you live. And I feel like you kind of have that encapsulated in this one verse.
Natalie: Isn't that great?
Glenna: I love it. I love it. And so, [00:10:00] you know, thinking about the church in Colossi, if I am remembering the history of this book, right, you have a man named Epaphras who heard the gospel and then took it back to Colossi, and you have a church established there, and then there's some false teaching as there always was trying to infiltrate the church.
And so Paul writes this letter, and so I'm thinking these are gentile Christians. You know, these are not Jewish Christians, and so, I think when you look at the first part of this verse, "Put on then as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved." You are speaking to, they're being grafted into the family of God as God's chosen ones.
Cause you know, up until Christ, you're thinking God's chosen people are the people of Israel. But with the coming of Christ, the gospel is for all men from all tribes, tongues, and nations. And so speaking to as God's chosen ones, I really think you're speaking to the fact that they are now, part of the family of God because of God's promise to Abraham all the way back in Genesis 12, this promise that through Abraham's seed, all of the families of the Earth would be blessed, and we know that Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. All of the families, I mean, all kinds of people will be represented around the throne of God in heaven because of that promise that is fulfilled in Christ. So we are gonna stand around the throne as, I mean, I am a gentile Christian, I do not have a Jewish background, and I will be standing next to someone from Colossi, which I love. Like it's just beautiful. And so I think looking at God's chosen ones, we're just looking at God's plan to call people to himself from every tribe, tongue, and nation. If you can contrast this verse with all of what comes in Colossians before of who you used to be—I think in Colossians one, Paul says, “You were alienated and hostile in mind doing evil deeds.” That's who you used to be. And so then you come to this verse in chapter three, and you are God's chosen ones, and you are holy and beloved. So you have been brought [00:12:00] in instead of alienated, you're holy instead of hostile, and you're beloved like you're not far off.
And I think also in Colossians one, Paul talks about Jesus rescuing them from the domain of darkness and bringing them into the kingdom of his son, who he loves. I mean, that's just a beautiful truth. It's such a contrast, and that's true of all of us. I mean it, if you're a first Century believer living in Colossai or if like you and I living in Missouri in June of 2023, that is who you were. The reality is, we were all alienated and hostile in mind before God made us alive in Christ. And so that is the transforming power of the gospel. So I just love that he tells them earlier in Colossians, this is who you were. But look at the contrast here. Just beautiful. Loved by God made holy rather than hostile, not doing evil deeds because you have been made holy in Christ. You have the righteousness of Christ. I love it so much.
Natalie: That is an awesome parallel verse. I did not, well, I guess it's like a contrasting parallel verse. But I didn't realize that. That's awesome. I have to look that up. So this is who you are. You're chosen, you're holy, you're dearly loved. Of those truths, which one speaks to your heart the most?
Glenna: I would have to say that. Beloved, or this says dearly loved. Sorry, I've got two translations in front of me right now. I have the one that I've memorized in and then the one in front of me from Yeah.with the Dwell Differently verse of the month. And so, but I love because dearly loved actually is a little bit more clear language here. I love that because I grew up in a church culture that was pretty performance driven.
There were some, actually some false teachings that had infiltrated the church very much like this first century Colossian church of if you follow these rules, it will guarantee that you will be righteous. And there's a [00:14:00] lot of that circulating in the news right now. There was some old teaching that was very dangerous.
My parents got us out of that church after a while because they realized this is not biblical. But for the 10 years that I was there, it had an effect on me that I struggled to believe that God loved me all the time. That there were times when if I wasn't reading my Bible or I wasn't as obedient as I could be, then he loved me less on those days.
And so my obedience to God's word, which is absolutely commanded, we are expected to obey the Lord. I obeyed to be loved. Not understanding that in Christ we obey because we are already loved and we obey from a position of already loved. And so when I read that this identity that we have as God's, chosen people, we are dearly loved, and we don't have to work for his approval because we have all of it in Christ. To me that is just so freeing. It really speaks to me. Yeah.
Natalie: Well, I would say too, kind of to piggyback on that idea, I think sometimes when we read a verse like this, at first glance, it just feels like, oh, I need to do these things. I need to cloth myself with these things. That's what I'm supposed to do.
And I think sometimes we have that kind of knee jerk, I think very human response to those kinds of verses where we're like, "Oh, well this is what I do to please God. This is what I do to earn my position, , my status as a loved person," instead of, like you said, the reverse, where it's like, no, I do these things, not because I'm earning love, but because I am already loved.
It's, it's flowing out of the very things that God has shown me. Kindness com, compassion, humility. You know, he has given me these virtues and the ways that he has behaved towards me and therefore that should be a responsive kind of action.
Glenna: Well, and Jesus is [00:16:00] clear in John 15 that the way we show love to him is bio obedience. It's not to earn his love, it's to show him that we love him. Like, if you love me, you'll obey my commandments. I mean, I think if I had been a little bit better student of the word during those years in that church, and honestly, you know, I was very young, but scripture really does dismantle that kind of thinking so easily, and so I'm so thankful. When I was memorizing the book of Colossians, it was these types of truths, like this verse 12 that really unraveled a lot of that damaging thinking. And I wrote about it in my book, that it was memorizing specifically the book of Colossians that helped me see that God's love was constant and not something I had to earn because my position in Christ is secure and so,
Natalie: Yeah, I think sometimes we're tempted with verses like this or with, you know, when you take things out of context.
Like you said, you memorized the book of James. I think there are a lot of things in the book of James, if you take it out of context, it feels very much like I have to do these things. That primarily our faith looks like a duty. But I think that there's a temptation either with these verses to try to earn our way or to become sort of self condemning. Because we realize that we can't live up to that. So how does this first half of our verse help fight that second temptation that we have to be more self condemning?
Glenna: I think that when we. Are the contemplating, obedience, and sort of like these call to action steps that Paul gives us, right? We have to know that. I mean, any obedience is done through the power of the spirit and done because Christ has made us righteous. It's not something we can do ourselves. And so, I think we have to also remember that the days that we absolutely fail to put on patience, that there are new mercies the next morning for us, and that [00:18:00] this is the reason Jesus came to die.
We cannot obey perfectly, and I always remind myself when it comes to obedience and feeling like a big, huge failure, that there is no more condemnation for us in Christ. Like if we are trying to put on these things and seeing ourselves fail in them, which we absolutely will. We have to remember that there's no more punishment for us because of this.
If God was gonna punish us for not keeping these verses then that would mean that the cross wasn't enough. That Jesus's death actually wasn't enough to pay for our inability to obey perfectly. And that's just not true. Like Jesus' death was absolutely enough to pay for our sins.
So there is no condemnation from God. So when we are, you know, seeking to obey him and then seeing our failures to obey him, we hear a very condemning voice in our head, that's not Christ, that's not God the father, because there is no more condemnation for us Paul tells us in Romans. That is the enemy seeking to put guilt and shame on you.
So while we call sin what it is, we repent and we walk forward, straining towards what is ahead, as Paul likes to say, not looking behind. And I think we just really grab hold of those new morning mercies every day, knowing that bit by bit the Lord is sanctifying us and making us who we really are.
Natalie: Yeah. Amen. That is good news for us because I think anytime we hit this, a verse like this, or this concept of obedience that we just humanly want to either be like, "I did it! I earned it!", or "I'm never gonna do it. I'm always a failure." And it can like vacillate in the same day, back and forth a couple different times. You know, like, "I'm just failing at this," or, "Hey, at least I did that," or "I'm not as bad as that person."
Glenna: Which if you think about it, is pride on either side of the spectrum. It's pride that, "Look what I [00:20:00] did," or it's that back door form of pride. "I'll never be good enough and Jesus's strength is not enough for me." You know, either way it's a form of pride and so it just comes back to. Realizing that our ability to obey is spirit empowered and is done through faith in Christ. I mean, our sanctification is just as much of a miraculous work of the spirit as our salvation. To remind myself that all the time.
Natalie: Well it's, and it is. It's such a constant thing that you're like " I so needed that," you know? It's funny cuz a lot of times in the Bible when the word salvation is used, it's not talking about salvation with the big S. It's talking about like, today, right now. I need salvation from this specific thing, you know? So I think that small s salvation or that sanctification is such a constant daily reminder of our big s salvation.
Glenna: Yeah. I love that. That's a really good point.
Natalie: Well, let's go into these five virtues that we see in this verse. And I wanna kind of tackle each of them in turn, talking about what they are and then answering. Why is this a hard thing? Is it countercultural? Or how is it countercultural? And where do we need grace as we live these out? Let's start with our first one. Compassion. So how is compassion hard? How is it countercultural, and where do we need grace?
Glenna: I think compassion is hard because it pushes against our thoughts of self. I think of compassion being genuine concern and care for others, which will require you to put yourself second rather than first, which is very counter-cultural. Cause if our, you know, 21st century western culture tells us anything, it is that number one, you are number one and you matter the most.
And thinking of others with compassion will mean taking a step back. And I think a lot of these traits, [00:22:00] they piggyback off one another. They're kind of, there's some overlap here, but I think it is looking at other believers maybe that you worship with in church or that you live life with, maybe in your own house and bearing up with them. So sort of like with patience, but giving them the benefit of the doubt. We have a phrase that we use, it's one of our core values at our church, and it is "Lead with grace." And so we say it all the time so that no matter what your opinion might be of how someone is living their life or what they might be going through, we lead with grace. We think better of them than we want to. And I think that is a form of compassion. Looking at other people as image bearers, people who are, you know, fellow Christians who are also holy and dearly loved and chosen. And yeah, having grace for what they are enduring in their own spiritual walk and maybe their own sufferings on this earth. And again, countercultural because. So at odds with thinking of yourself first.
Natalie: My husband always talks about how grace for people outside of the church is really easy for him. But grace for people inside of the church is a lot harder. And I love that you're talking about grace for people and compassion for people inside the church.
Because I do think sometimes we really do, we hold believers up to, a standard that the Bible holds them up to one that we ourselves can't live up to either. And I think that idea of leading with grace is such a great. Great phrase. I'm gonna adopt that for myself. I need that. All right, so let's tackle our next one.
Kindness. Now I feel like for the counter-cultural question, it would seem that kindness is not countercultural at all because we have all of these Be Kind signs in our yards and shirts that we wear. Would you say that that's true or , do you think that this is another kind of kindness?
Glenna: I think that [00:24:00] people are confused by kindness. I just this morning was reading just a train wreck of a comment section on a very nice uplifting Instagram post that someone had shared. And I just thought there's a type of like, "Oh, I'm gonna be kind and pay it forward when I'm in line at Starbucks," you know, like there's that kind of kindness. And then there's like the gloves come off online and I'm gonna tell you what I think about your life and what you've written here. And there is no kindness at all. And I, when I think of kindness in, I just, I think this is laying down your irritability with how someone is living and, and laying down your desire for self gratification or laying down your desire to be right even, and that is very countercultural.
We as Americans specifically, do not like laying down anything for the sake of other people, but specifically laying down our desire to be right. And sometimes I think as Christians, the better path here is being kind, rather than seeking to always be the person in the room who's right. You may be right, but often that desire to be right will be at complete odds with true kindness.
And, I've seen that in Christian circles specifically online, but I see it in church as well. And you know, thinking of Paul writing to a group of Christians here, I would imagine this was a struggle as well for them.
Natalie: I think that leads us right into that, that next virtue, which is humility. In order to be kind in the way that you're talking about, like, we gotta have a right view of ourselves.
Glenna: Yeah. Yeah. I think it's swallowing a lot of pride to be humble. And I read, several years ago read Hannah Anderson's book, Humble Roots, and it's a beautiful book on humility and I'm gonna just, summarize. I mean, her definition of humility in that book is viewing yourself rightly before God. And so to enable yourself to see yourself [00:26:00] rightly, you have to see God first. And I think that means, I mean, if you don't have a regular study of Scripture like. God tells us who he is in his words. So in order to see yourself correctly, you need to see God first. And then when you have made a study of God that you see who you are in light of his greatness, that is where I think humility really begins to take root in your heart. And so when you're in conversations or relationships with other people, I think you have to again, remind yourself that God is holy and God is good, and God is all knowing. That's an important thing. I think realizing that we do not know everything. We do not know every person's waking thought. We cannot presume to know what people are thinking or presume to know what their motives are, and it requires humility to. To look at yourself and say, "You know what?
I don't know what they're thinking. So I'm not gonna just pridefully assume that I know and then engage in some kind of conflict with them." And so I think that humility absolutely begins with seeing God as he rightfully is, and then seeing ourselves in light of that.
Natalie: That is a really good word. Okay, so this one feels very countercultural to me. Gentleness, like what even is gentleness and can that exist in America?
Glenna: Well, I think that we tend to think of gentleness as weakness. You know, people who can't fight back. And so I think that gentleness is not necessarily a weakness. I've heard you've probably heard that description. It's strength that is bridled. I think it's a form of self-control, quite honestly. It is choosing, again, kindness when you could be harsh. And, um, I gotta tell you, as a mom, this is one I really struggle with, kind of coupled with patience. When I was reading, I did a big, deep study of Proverbs for the first, like [00:28:00] six months of this year. And Proverbs 15:1 is that famous verse that a gentle answer turns away wrath.
And sometimes I think that that gentle answer, you know, we think of it in terms of, I'm gonna say something gentle in order to turn away someone else's wrath, sometimes the gentle answer is to turn away my own wrath, like choosing not to respond harshly to my child's 15th request for a snack. It squelches my own anger and, um, It is a hard thing to do. It's hard for me in my flesh, to set aside my own desires to maybe not be bothered, to not have to get up and do this thing for the 15th time today. It is counter-cultural in that way because again, it is setting aside my own desires for someone else. I mean, I really think that that is what all of these are getting at is, thinking about others before you think of yourself. And that is so hard to do in flesh.
Natalie: Okay, so our last one, patience. That one. I love that you're just laughing at it.
Glenna: Oh, I'm just laughing. I'm laughing because if anybody who's related to me were in this room with us, they would say, particularly my kids, "Mom, are you listening?"
Natalie: "Mom, listen to yourself."
Glenna: "Mom, listen." I mean it's the sermon I need to preach to myself and you know, Paul gives us a good definition of patience and the verse that directly comes after this, "bearing with one another" or bearing up. And again, I think it's that concept of not jumping to conclusions, of leading with grace, of giving a person the benefit of the doubt and not presuming the worst.
I think if we functioned with that kind of bearing up with people, so much of our conflicts with one another would just, I mean, dissolve. And I think that, If I were to do that in my family setting as well, I would see so much less internal conflict. That is usually my fault, [00:30:00] would also dissolve. Just even talking about it, Natalie, is so convicting to me right now.
Natalie: Maybe we won't have time for that fifth. No, it is so true. It's amazing how, like what you were saying in the beginning part of this conversation, how when we are committed to putting these words in us and recalling them to ourselves, there are certain things that just really prick our consciences. That come to mind. That we're like, "Man, man, I do want victory over that. I want to have patience with my kids. I want to have a gentle response with people. I want to be compassionate in the way that I consider others and their stories and, and their struggles."
And ultimately like, isn't this just a repetition of what we hear that God has done for us in the first part of the verse?
Natalie: God has done all of this for us in Christ. He has made us holy. He has chosen us. He has called us dearly loved. He has treated us with every compassion, every kindness, every gentleness, humbly, even though like, of all people. Yeah. No, he doesn't need to be humble. But yet he condescended to be with us and so, as we memorize this first, this month, I just hope that we would be recalling how Christ has done these things for us and that being the motivating factor for looking at other people, in these ways.
Glenna: I really think this is just a call to remember who you are now. And go be who you are. It's as simple as that.
Natalie: Oh, I love that. Yes. And for a culture that says, "Be who you are," it means something completely different. Would we redefine our Christian, be who you are as "I am, who God says I am and therefore I live in this kind of way that is pleasing and [00:32:00] joyful and other centered," so, amen.
Well, Glenna, I wish we could chat longer, but we are out of time. Thank you so much. I just love all of those definitions. I'm gonna have to go back and listen to this again because there were a couple things that you said that I was like, "Yes, yes." I need to write that down.
Glenna: Well, I need to write it down too. We can take notes. Thank you for
having me on.
Natalie: Write it down. Put it in a Ziploc bag. Put it in your shower.
Glenna: Tap it to the shower.
Natalie: I love it. I love it. Well, thanks Glenna. It was a joy having you today.
Glenna: Thank you. I enjoyed it too.