Music is one of the most powerful tools to use in Scripture memory. It provides us with rhythm and melody which act as placeholders that we can easily refer to as we’re memorizing. Listen as Abigail Houston from Melodically Memorizing walks us through the very interesting process of putting Scripture to music!
Or you can listen to the Memorize What Matters podcast on your favorite player:Listen to “Using Instagram to Memorize the Bible? (w/ Abigail Houston)” on Spreaker.
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Resources Mentioned in the Interview
Make sure to follow the Spotify and iTunes accounts of Melodically Memorizing! You can also check out their social media accounts to learn about the latest updates:
- Melodically Memorizing in Spotify and iTunes: These are the platforms where you can listen to Abigail’s songs ad-free.
- Melodically Memorizing Instagram: This is the primary platform of Melodically Memorizing where she has over 16,000 followers.
- Melodically Memorizing Facebook: This is the official Facebook page of Melodically Memorizing.
- Melodically Memorizing YouTube: This is where you can watch Abigail perform her Scripture songs on the YouTube app.
Interview Transcript: Abigail Houston
Josh: Abigail Houston is the lady behind Melodically Memorizing, which is an Instagram account, a Facebook account, and a YouTube channel, where you’ll find all sorts of different Scripture put to beautiful high-quality music.
My name is Josh and this is Bible memory goal. And this is just one of the many interviews here, I’ve got a whole archive that I highly recommend. Once you’re done with this one, go ahead and watch. I’ve been blessed to talk with so many people who have been encouraging and inspiring me on my journey of Bible memory, and I think it would do so for you as well. So as we dive in here with Abi, you might be surprised to find out that she is not a classically trained musician.
Abigail Houston: I’m not like classically trained at all, but my family is very musical. So my dad, he’s very talented. He grew up singing with his family. And so, I have three other siblings. And growing up, like we had chores just like any other family. And so I mean, just to kind of get past like the dishes, you know, we just sing together. I was homeschooled, so through lots of different homeschool co-op plays and different things, I had some informal training in that sense. But otherwise, ever since I was young, and since it was a part of our family, I just have had a deep, deep love for music and just really have been just singing ever since.
Josh: Wow, so like you’re really self-taught, like did you play in the church or like what was your avenue, your outlet for playing?
Abigail Houston: Yeah, so I have been leading worship for about a little over 10 years now. And that’s been such a joy. So I’ve been able to practice weekly and not only just on Sundays, but weekly practices and interacting with musicians far better than me, which is a huge blessing as well. But I play piano by ear. So that is a struggle because I can hear, but I can’t read any sheet music for the life of me. So that’s a drawback for sure.
Josh: Yeah, no I understand. So I lead worship as well, especially when I’m back at Dallas with the church. And you’re exactly right. Like some people, all you need is the chord or even just listening, and I’m insanely jealous of the people that can just hear it and just start going off. But even when it comes to reading music, I was trained a little bit, but I’m not nearly as talented on my piano as you are.
But obviously playing with something you just said, is something you’ve been doing since you grew up. But is memorizing Scripture always something that’s always been a part of your homeschool upbringing or is that something relatively new to your adult life?
Abigail Houston: Yeah, that a great question. So growing up, I grew up in a Christian family which was a huge blessing. So it was familiar, it was a very familiar concept. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Awana, but I grew up with Awana. And so I memorized verses that way. It was, like I knew about it, I knew that it was a very important thing to do. However, that was such a weak spiritual discipline of mine. Like I just was so weak at it. And even when it came to things like memorization in general, whether I was memorizing like definitions with my chemistry textbook, or whatever it was, like it was just such a struggle. And so, entering music, I thought, “Aha! There’s an idea.”
Josh: Yeah. And so you just, on your own started putting it to music, or you’ve seen it done before, or how did that happen? Because to me, that doesn’t seem like just like, “Oh, I want to become better at this. I‘m going to creatively write new music and be amazing at it,” like how did that come about?
Abigail Houston: Yeah, so it’s kind of a couple fold process. There were a couple components I guess, that went into it. I had a youth Pastor growing up, and he was instrumental in my walk with the Lord, but he would take Scripture and put it into music. And he was insanely gifted at music as well. And so, every week, at youth group, he would take out his guitar. And I think he put, I could be wrong, he might hear this and be like, “No, I put way more than that to music,” but I think he put somewhere between 25 and 50 verses to music. And I mean, up until 2020 when I started Melodically Memorizing and still to this day, I can recall those verses because I am singing them in my head.
And so, rewind to when I was about 14, I had started writing my own music, just my original music. And so, I’ve had experience writing. I’ve been to Nashville a couple times. I released a single and EP of just my original music. And so, I have experience in writing music, and so I thought, if I have a love for writing music, if the Lord has given me somewhat of a gift, then I would love to do that with Scripture, because I remember the songs that my Pastor taught me. And so, I was like, “You know what? I’m going to see if I can combine this. If it doesn’t work, its fine, but if they at least stick in my brain, then it’s worth it.”
Josh: Yeah. you know what I love about that Abigail? Is the fact that like your youth Pastor, right? Or you, or I dare even say me, it’s like, sometimes when we think of Scripture memory, we think of it as a very internal thing, a very personal thing. And it is, but I love it when people like yourself, or people like your youth Pastor, really display that passion not as a means of saying, “Hey, look at me, I’m so amazing,” but as a means of saying, “Hey, this is important to me, and I want to inspire you think about it the same way.”
Because you’re right, like a lot of the things that I learned when I was a kid in terms of the verses or even just memorizing a whole chapter, 1 John, and I can still remember a lot of that to this day, there’s so much about what we learn when we were younger, that sticks with us. And oftentimes, it takes that person who’s in a position, not necessarily of authority, but of influence. And that could be on YouTube, and that could be in a church, it could be anywhere.
But speaking of YouTube, you have a YouTube channel, which is probably how most people are aware of you. I love what you’ve done on that, explain a little about the idea behind it, what you’re hoping to accomplish with this YouTube channel, and all that.
Abigail Houston: Yeah, well, it’s so funny, I was just talking with a friend about this. And when I started Melodically Memorizing, I guess my primary platform is Instagram actually. And so I started it out, and I was like, I’m just going to kind of start and see if anyone wants to follow along. And I thought that it would be kind of fun, like maybe some of my family and friends would be like, “Nice job Abi, we’re proud of you.” But I thought, hey, if people can join in, and like you said, like this is important to me, not because it’s just fun, it’s the word of God. And it is like sufficient, profitable for teaching, for proof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
And so, I’m like, you know what? This is important, and this is an area where I struggle in. And so if I can encourage others to get into God’s word and to know I want do that, and that was 2020, like June or July of 2020. And fast forward to know, a little over 19,000 followers. And that has been like so deeply encouraging because granted I know maybe not. every single one of those people actively see people or use melodically memorizing, however, it does show that there’s at least 19,000 out there who are agreeing with the mission that Scripture is important. I agree with that it is important and we need to memorize it.
And so, whether its Instagram or YouTube, my hope and my prayer is that people will, I’ve said this before, if they want to ditch the melodies, that’s fine. But if it can be kind of a handrail for you to hold on to as you’re memorizing so that you can get the Word of God into not only your mind, but in your heart, letting it soak into your heart, because it transforms upi, like it is living and active. And God will work through His Word to change us into His image. If we can do, that’s my prayer.
Josh: Yeah, that really neat. I didn’t even, I don’t know why, I guess I’m just on YouTube. So I thought only YouTube, but it makes sense that it’s on Instagram. I’ve told you this earlier, but I’ve got a community of people, it’s a small community, only about 150 people that are at least memorizing Scripture. And even within that community, I get people that say “Hey, I was memorizing this, and I used the song form Melodically Memorizing.” And they mentioned that, and I think that’s really neat. And I hope that encourages you to know that it is inspiring people to use those songs to memorize more.
Abigail Houston: Yes, praise the Lord, that’s so encouraging.
Josh: Yeah, so whenever you sit down to compose one of these songs, obviously the lyrics are written out for you already.
Abigail Houston: Yeah.
Josh: But how, I’ve written a little bit, I’m not going to call myself a writer, but I’ve written a little bit and I know that that’s still only half the battle. How do you go about composing these in a way that’s unique, so it’s not the same song over and over and over again, and also just adds life? And because that’s one thing I’ve noticed as well, is that you’re not just singing the words, like you’re trying to add emotions to maybe what that verse is saying. So how do you go about doing that?
Abigail Houston: Yeah. So, number one, I will take the passage, whatever passage I’m trying to put to melody. And I’ll look at it and I’ll try to mediate on it beforehand, thinking okay, what’s this passage about? For instance, if it’s talking about sin, we’re not going to go for a super upbeat type of song, it’s going to be something that’s more either slow or serious, or Psalm 16:11. That was one of my very first ones that I did and it talks about how in the Lord’s presence, there is fullness of joy. And so that one, we’re trying to communicate joy, and so that one would be more peppy.
And so that’s like first is like, okay what is this verse trying to convey and what is it saying? And not at all manipulating emotion, because we don’t want to do that, but I want to help convey what this verse is saying. And so with music, then how do I communicate that best? And then a lot of times, I mean, my family, they’re so gracious, they’re probably like, “There she is with the keyboard again, or the piano again,” but I’ll just sit there and kind of just tinker around and be like okay, which melody works best? A lot of the times I’ll use my phone to just record it. And you would not believe how many recordings I’ve had to delete. Then by God’s grace, we generally come to an end, where like you said, it’s not the same song. Because it can be a little difficult to do that but yeah, lots of trial and error.
Josh: I’ve noticed a lot of the songs that you’re creating are usually only 1-3 verses, is that about the right? Is that because of your medium, like Instagram, or do you like have a desire later on to go, “Now, let’s actually try like a whole chapter or something?”
Abigail Houston: Yeah, so my desire is to do a whole chapter. In fact, I just finished the whole chapter of Philippians 1. So my goal is to make the whole book of Philippians done by this year. We’ll see if that happens or not, but that is my hope, my prayer. But yeah, mainly because like if you look at a song, generally, the songs that people learn the best are about 3-4 minutes, 4 minutes is actually kind of pushing it, but anywhere from 2-3 minutes is kind of a good, “Okay, I’ll listen to this.”
Anything past that, it can either get redundant, or it’s just harder. So even with Philippians 1, I’ve broken up that chapter into 3 different melodies, but I’ve tried to make it that those three melodies flow together. So if you were to listen to them back to back to back, you would see the cohesion between the three.
Josh: Yeah, and I mean, at this point, you’ve got it on Instagram, and on YouTube. And unfortunately, I don’t even know if you’ve got ads put on or not, but even if you didn’t, sometimes YouTube shows ads, like I noticed, I think I saw something on Amazon, where somebody could purchase or at least subscribe or I don’t know how it works with the music itself. Are you going to be releasing this on a platform like Amazon or on a music site where people could listen to it ad free even if they had to pay for it?
Abigail Houston: Yeah, so actually, I have 2 volumes out right now, and they’re both on Spotify and there’s some on iTunes, just about any other platform that you could listen to music on, they’re out there. But that’s only about 25 melodies, and so out of about a 100 that I have, or a little over a hundred. So Lord willing, we will get more out soon. But right now, it’s on Spotify and iTunes, so those kind of ad free platforms, if you want to actually purchase a song.
Josh: That’s awesome. So if you were to give advice or at least share from our experience to those people that have that passion to memorize Scripture, but maybe don’t really know where to get started, what would you say to that kind of person that was maybe you 10 or 15 years ago, or however many years ago when you were in high school?
Abigail Houston: Yeah, so this is going to sound so basic but number one, just get in the Word. So read it. And I think you have to understand the why, like get in the word, and it’s good to just start, but if we don’t have a reason why we’re doing it, we’re going to be like, “Why am I doing this? It’s hard, it takes time, I’d rather be doing something else.” And so we’re going to make excuses for ourselves. But if we know the why, like why do we memorize Scripture? We memorize it because Scripture is the way that we can know God accurately, that is the only way that we can know God accurately. It is again, like I’ve said before, it’s sufficient, it’s profitable for the believer because that is how we know then how to respond to who God is and what he’s done.
And it is also the sword or the spear, right? And so it’s the only way that we can actually fight temptation. It’s our weapon of defense. And so if we understand that, and understand our why, then we will have more of like, alright, it might be hard, and it might not be the easiest thing in the world, but it is so fruitful when we do it. I have seen that in my own life. And so, I would say, okay, look in Scripture and see why do I memorize Scripture? Psalm 119 has a lot to say about God’s word and the beauty of it, and the need for it.
And then I would say you can try out different methods. Melodically Memorizing may not work and that’s okay, like that is completely okay. But if you are musical, and if you want to try it out, and if it words, then great. Just find a method that works well for you too. Because like I said, it can be hard, but you don’t have to, you can play around with it. And hey, if you have another idea for Scripture memory yourself that you’re like, “This works great for me.” Do it, get creative, just as long as you’re memorizing it and for the sake of meditating on it, so that you know who God is, you’re learning to love it, you’re learning to grow in godliness because of it. And God’s word is living and active. So God is going to change you and conform you into His image as you’re dwelling on it.
Josh: Yeah, absolutely, I had a conversation with Aaron house, whose up in Pennsylvania, he does Piercing Word Ministries, and he was talking a lot about he why as well, and one of the things that we were discussing that I kind of emphasize too whenever I talk with people, is the why is one of those things that you have to revisit. It’s not just like that one-time thing. It’s like, okay, I start off with that, exactly like you’re sayng, and then on a pretty consistent basis, I find myself having to comeback and go, “Okay wait, why am I doing this? Alright, yeah, now I know why I’m doing that.”
I’ve got 2 kids, a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old, and one of the things that I love about music in particular, is it’s one of those things that I could have playing in the background and it gets picked up by little ears. So I’ve actually heard my son, singing in the background, and he doesn’t realize what he’s singing, he’s just singing the words. And there’s so many things that we could be playing in our homes, why not make it something that’s edifying, something that can actually teach them and that they can take with them when they grow up. And that’s what I love about the fact that you produce such good quality music that it is something that would be just really easy to have kind of playing in the background and doing all those stuff. So that’s really cool.
Have you ever reached a verse that you’re like, “I cannot, like this thing will not fit into a melody, I can’t do it.”
Abigail Houston: Yes, it’s so funny, someone just asked me this question. And I can confidently say, that it is the armor of God, the passage in Ephesians 6, where it talks about the armor of God. I cannot get that for the life of me, it is the funniest thing. But I’ve prayed about it, I’m like, “Lord, I need your help, like I can’t get this.” Because it’s the armor of God, we need to know this, I need to know this. But for some reason, and it’s funny, I’ve said this before, I will record myself on my phone, I’ll set up my phone by my piano, and I’ll record just so then, when I’m driving, or whenever I can be memorizing the verses, before I put them out. Well, I’ll come across that, because I got like a tentative maybe this one will work, and every time I come to it, I’m like, “No, this won’t work.” And so that’s one.
Josh: That’s hilarious. Yeah, I can imagine that there would be some and I think a follow up question to that because I’m being honest with you, music is not the primary way that I memorize, even though I am a musician. And one of the things I’ve always been worried about by doing that, and I’m curious if this happens for you, is that when I want to recall a verse, instead of just saying the verse, that I’ll have to like sit there and sing it to somebody in order for my brain to do it, is that what happens? Is that the way it works?
Abigail Houston: Sometimes it’s funny, I’ll be like, “Okay, give me a minute. Okay, now I have it.” So sometimes there’s that little delay. So that’s a drawback sometimes, where you have to kind of walk through it. So yeah, that a very valid point.
Josh: Great, so where can we find you on social media?
Abigail Houston: Yeah, absolutely. So, Instagram is @melodically memorizing, Facebook is /melodicallymemorizing, and YouTube is @MelodicallyMemorizing. For the website, it’s almost up and running, but that will be just MelodicallyMemorizing.com.
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