Philippians :: Week 2 :: God’s Purpose in Paul’s Imprisonment

I am sharing my thoughts on Philippians 1:12-18 at Do Not Depart today...


I am thrilled that Katie and Lara chose Philippians for this summer’s Maximize Your Mornings bible study, and I am privileged to be able to share a few thoughts with you here.

It seems to be my year for Philippians. I started meditating and journaling on Philippians in May of 2010. In August, my children and I decided to memorize Philippians. In September our church began a study of Philippians. And now, a year later, I am still reading this little book, and still discovering new gems!

How true it is that…
…the Word of God is living and active…
~ Hebrews 4:12 ~
God’s Word meets us where we are and reveals fresh truths to us every time!

... please join us at Do Not Depart to read more...

Be perfect... really?

I wish I could call myself a "recovering perfectionist." Then it would seem as if I had figured it out, figured out how to let go of being so cautious and so focused on doing the "right" thing.

But I haven't figured it out. I have a constant tension between diving deep into the freedom of Christ and completely distrusting my own ability to walk the narrow path... even to fully grasp the boundaries of the narrow path.

For years I struggled with the verse in Matthew in which Jesus says are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 
~ Matthew 5:48 ~

But isn't this completely impossible if this is also true?...

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God 
~ Romans 3:23 ~

The LORD has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
      To see if there are any who understand,
      Who seek after God. 

They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
      There is no one who does good, not even one. 

~ Psalm 14:2-3 ~

Eventually I decided that Jesus had to have been stating the goal. We all have to work toward something, right? Why not set the goal to be like Jesus, like our Father... perfect?

Well, sort of.

While I still believe that perfection is the goal - God's goal - the flaw in my reasoning was the work part.  I had in my mind that it was me who had to strive for perfection.  And that if I failed I was a failure.

Obviously failure was a given.

I bumped into that pesky word "perfect" again recently as I was studying Philippians 1. I am currently mostly reading from the New American Standard, in which Philippians 1:6 is translated...

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 
~ Philippians 1:6 ~

Unlike in the verse from Matthew, in this verse perfect is a verb, not an adjective.

I have a bit of an obsession with words, and I recalled that in the New International Version it is translated as "complete," so I dashed to the shelf, grabbed a few more versions and a few concordances, and dug in.

The Greek word translated as perfect is epiteleo. It means to fulfill further, to execute, accomplish, finish, do, perform. It also shows up in these verses from the NAS (I've noted epiteleo in bold):

But now finish doing it also, so that just as there was the readiness to desire it, so there may be also the completion of it by your ability. 
~ 2 Corinthians 8:11 ~

Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. 
~ Romans 15:28 ~

So I don't have to exactly be perfect, as in perfect now, I just have to let Him perfect me, finish me, complete me. Because

...He who began a good work in you will perfect it...
~ Philippians 1:6 ~ 

I can rest in the truth that it is God who perfects me, not me. Not only that, but He is the one who began it and His completion is yet to come.

But I still can't avoid the fact that Jesus did say are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 
~ Matthew 5:48 ~

That sure sounds like a command. Like I am supposed to do something.

I went back to my concordance to look up the Greek word in Matthew that is translated as perfect.  This time the word is teleios, which means... (drum roll please)... complete.  Finished.

Be complete.

It should be pretty obvious that I can't complete myself. The only way to be complete is to be in absolute communion with our Holy God.  The only way to be finished is to become the real me, the one God meant for me to be before the beginning of time.

And the only way to be the real me is to lose myself in Him.

It's just this: my idea of perfection has been based on flawed reasoning. It is based on worldly things, some maybe not completely worldly, but absolutely colored by my I'm-so-stuck-in-this-body glasses. My warped idea of perfection includes me never ever doing the wrong thing, never letting anyone down, always behaving in a loving and gentle manner. And being thoroughly, exhaustingly careful to ensure it.

But it seems like God's idea of perfection is being made whole, complete, finished. I'm just not seeing anything that says "Work yourself into a frenzy to make sure you don't do one single thing wrong."

As far as I can tell, the only way to obey Jesus' admonition to "be perfect" is to be with Him. Because that's the only way I will get anywhere near being the real me, being completed and finished. I've come to realize that I don't even really know the real me because the more I let Him into my life, the more I am surprised by what changes.

What I can't escape is this:
  1. It's not about what I can do to be a better person, but about what God will do if I let Him
  2. It is a process and it is not going to be finished until the day of Christ Jesus
What then?

Time to stop striving so hard. Time to remember to constantly dwell in His presence. Time to rest and be still.

Perfection, completion... it is only possible in Him.

photo by Patti Brown

I'm linking up with my friend Michelle  this week...

Sprinkles of Blessing ~ Take a Long Walk

Each week I am challenging you to do a little something extra to show love in action to the people in your life.  Sometimes we'll focus on those nearest you, sometimes on people who need you to reach out.

This week's Sprinkles of Blessing suggestion:


We're giving the gifts of time and our feet this week.  

My little guy and I spend a lot of time together. But we don't get too much time alone.  With two older siblings who are homeschooled, he has to share mama most of his moments.

I purposed to find a way to have special time with him and remembered our feet! So I invited him to go with me on a walk. We meandered about the fields hand in hand, looking for wild fruit, chatting about his life.

Once again, it was amazingly little effort on my part.  We didn't find a whole lot of wild fruit, but our walk sure bore sweet fruit for our relationship.

What about you?  What are you going to do this week? Please share with us!

To link up, just click to enter below and add your blog. This linky will be open until midnight CST on Saturday May 28, 2011. If you'd like, you can add the Sprinkles of Blessing button to your post (see sidebar).

If you don't have a blog, just leave a comment with your Sprinkle idea. I look forward to gleaning new ideas from you all for ways to love in action!

photo by Scott Liddell

When Seasons Change...

I'm joining The Gypsy Mama for another 5 Minute Friday.  She says "Got five minutes? Let’s write. Let’s write in shades of real and brave and unscripted. Let’s just write and not worry if it’s just right or not."

Scribbling out "When Seasons Change" today...

I stand and watch him from the back window.  Slowly he walks toward me, long lanky limbs stepping surely home.

We are in the middle of the change now.  The seasons have turned for our son, our oldest... a man emerging from the soft roundness of the baby we adored.

We watch in wonder as God reveals the man He is making from such tender beginnings.  The spring of his life was filled with closeness, quietness, caution.  Chubby hands grabbing mine, never wandering far.

And now, as he transitions to summer, the strength that wells up in him takes my breath away.  I defer to his strong hands daily for work around the farm.  I hear the strength in his voice when he talks about what he believes.

Yes, I confess, in moments I mourn the soft snuggles, the you-are-my-favorite-person-in-the-whole-world vows. But watching the birth of this man brings me such joy and hope.

"... in quietness and trust is your strength ..." 
~ Isaiah 30:15 ~

Visit Five Minute Friday to read others' dashed-off takes on "When Seasons Change."

Until next time... seek joy in your journey, friends...

He Forgives You Because He Wants To

Return of the Prodigal Son 1 by Ain Vares


It is not an intuitive concept, is it?

There is something pulsing in our animal-blood that beats out revenge.

Little people don't come into the world thinking you. They come in thinking me. We all start from a place of selfishness.

It's a fight to submit ourselves to God, to submit to love. Not mushy-gushy romance-novel love. No... real love, love that chooses the best for the other, love that does not seek its own.

Love is patient, 
love is kind and is not jealous; 
love does not brag and is not arrogant, 
does not act unbecomingly; 
it does not seek its own, 
is not provoked, 
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, 
believes all things, 
hopes all things, 
endures all things.
Love never fails...
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ~

 We struggle to tame our flesh to love. To put each other first.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves
~ Philippians 2:3 ~

And we miss the mark. Time and again. So we turn to each other and to Him for forgiveness.

And every time He says Yes!

Do you receive it?

Have you ever felt that you were so wrong, or your sin was so chronic, that you just couldn't believe that it is true that:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
~ 1 John 1:9 ~

But He does forgive us if we confess.  Faithfully and righteously.


Because He wants to.

"I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake,
And I will not remember your sins."
~ Isaiah 43:25 ~

For His own sake.

He wants to forgive you, not just for your benefit, but for His own sake.

Receive the freely offered gift.

Sprinkles of Blessing ~ Make a Phone Call

Are you ready to bless someone in a special way this week?  Let's get out of our comfort zones and take action!

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
~ 1 John 3:18 ~

This week's Sprinkles of Blessing suggestion:


Is there someone you haven't spoken with for a long time?  Someone who lives far away?  Someone who really needs your encouragement today? 

Pick up the phone and call! 

I called someone I haven't seen for over three years.  A change in life circumstance and some distance are all that separate us.  One of the wonderful fruits of our conversation is that I now know better how to pray for her.

What are you going to do this week? Will you pick up the phone and call an old friend? Or are you going to do something completely different? Share with us!

To link up, just click to enter below and add your blog. This linky will be open until midnight CST on Saturday May 21, 2011. If you'd like, you can add the Sprinkles of Blessing button to your post (see sidebar).

If you don't have a blog, just leave a comment with your Sprinkle idea. I look forward to gleaning new ideas from you all for ways to love in action!

telephone photo by Melodi2

When Scripture Doesn't Stick ~ 10 Tips to Boost Your Memory

When I was a child I had a crystal-clear memory. My mother tells me she didn’t look forward to playing the memory game Concentration with me because she always lost! But scripture memorization wasn’t part of our family’s or church’s culture in my early years.

I memorized my first scripture when I was twenty-six. My memory was still fairly strong, and only beginning to get a little fuzzy. Then came children, homeschooling, homesteading… many distractions. As the years pass, my mind seems to be filling up, and I am finding it more and more challenging to commit scripture to memory.

Perhaps you are a whiz at scripture memorization. But you may be like me and find that sometimes it just doesn’t stick. Here are ten things to consider if you are struggling with remembering bible verses:

To read the rest of this post, please join me at Do Not Depart, where I am contributing today...

Patti Memorizes Scripture... or You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

The children and I have been slowly memorizing the book of Philippians. A few months into the project, I met Katie Orr, who was starting a twitter-based group called "Hiding Philippians in My Heart." I joined the group, hoping I might glean some new ideas for keeping those verses in my head, because I was struggling!

I did learn some new tips, but I continued to memorize at a pretty slow pace. Katie suggested that we vlog our progress. It was February before I felt confident enough with the first chapter to try!

At long last I have sorted out all the technical details of getting that vlog from February posted here.  It was recorded while I was at a Mom Heart conference in Irving, TX. Right before I was planning to vlog I attended a session in which Sally Clarkson shared a scripture that was so fitting because, well, take a look for yourself (and, extend grace please?)...

Introducing a New Link Up ~ Sprinkles of Blessing

I am very excited to be launching a new blog link up today!

As many of you know, last fall I undertook a 100 day challenge to do something a little out of the ordinary each day to bless someone.

This was not only the fruit of God's work of showing me the great blessing of service, but also a way to express my love and gratitude to the many many people in my life who bless me.  I called them joy sprinkles, because it was my little way of scattering a wee bit of blessing in my corner of the world.

In Ezekiel, the Lord says:

I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing.
~ Ezekiel 34:26b ~ 

You and I are merely the handmaidens of the Lord here on earth.  It is He who brings the rain, He who showers the blessing.

But we have our part; we must be willing to serve.

I chose the name Sprinkles of Blessing for this link up because of Ezekiel 34:26b. I want us to stay mindful that the showers are from Him, but that we can participate by choosing to act. Even in our small way, we can sprinkle blessings with His help.

Let me be very clear... my intent here is not for us to show off our good works:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
~ Matthew 6:1 ~

My heart's desire is to nudge you to choose to be open to the Holy Spirit's prompting to bless others, out of your love for God and to His glory.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
~ Matthew 5:16 ~

Do you see the difference? All that we do should bring glory to God. This should not be about you or about me, but about Him. Without Him there would be no sprinkling, friends!

Details of the Link Up:

Each Monday I will post a suggestion to prompt your thoughts and prayers about how to participate with the Lord in blessing someone. 

The link up will be open until 11:59pm the following Saturday. If you are led to sprinkle more than once that week and want to link up several posts, feel free!

Take some time to visit some of the other folks who link up, to get new ideas for the coming weeks. It is truly amazing to me how much the Lord's creativity is reflected in His daughters who were made in His image. I know you will be inspired!

If you'd like to include a clickable Sprinkles of Blessing button in your blog post, you can grab the code from the left sidebar.

If you don't have a blog, you are welcome to share your sprinkle in the the comments section (click on comments in the gray bar below the post.)

Today's Sprinkles of Blessing suggestion:


Last week I was thinking a lot about a sweet friend of mine. She faithfully sings with our church's music team and is one of those people who quietly and steadily serves. Her son is one of Farmer Boy's closest friends, and periodically she will let my boy come over and hang out and feed him (no small undertaking... he is fourteen!)

I decided to do some BAKING for this week's sprinkle. My normal bread is a simple whole wheat sandwich loaf, so instead I made a prettier bread... a braided challah.

When I gave the bread to her I told her what a blessing she is and how much I appreciate her. I am so thankful for faithful servants like my friend!

Now your turn... will you bake for someone this week? How is the Lord leading you to bless someone in a special way?

You Were Made for This

Dear Mother,

Today if you are tired...

if your house is a mess...

if your children act like wild animals...

if your husband forgets it is Mother's Day...

... you are still the woman God chose to be the mother to your children.

You were made for this. 

Be encouraged...He knows what He is doing.

The Secret to Overcoming Fear

When we moved to our farm six years ago, the only animals I had ever raised were dogs and a hamster.

We had first purchased property and put cattle on it.  Then we bought the land and house next door to live in.  So when we arrived we already had cows.

I was terrified of cows.  I had a seven year old and a two year old.  Cows were big.  And looked at you with a menacing gleam in their eyes like you were all kinds of delicious.  And did I mention.. they were big.

Then there were the horses.  They were big too.  And jumpy.  But we still agreed to take care of someone else's horses on our land.  Those large, jumpy, dangerous and wild animals right in my children's back yard!

The coyotes sounded scary howling away at night.  Would they attack my little girl if hungry enough?

And mice!  Maybe there were mice.  They carried disease, didn't they?  Farms always had mice!  A farmer's wife's job was to cut off their tales with a carving knife, right?


Fear has stalked me my whole life.  Fear can debilitate you completely, freeze you right where you are and give you no hope.

And when we moved here, I was afraid.

But I also knew it was where we were supposed to be, and I trusted God.

Shortly after we moved to the farm, I had to deal with a cattle situation when my husband was away. I was terrified and overwhelmed but (with God's help) I made it through just fine.  And over time my fear of cattle diminished.  Mostly because I learned about them, how they think, and what they need.

You see, I just didn't know cattle.

I didn't know horses, coyotes or mice either.  But I learned and discovered that they each in their own way are absolutely manageable. 

So many of the fears we have are fears of the unknown.

What is worry if not fear of what might happen?  Mothers especially seem prone to worry about the future, to dwell on the "what if's."

Years ago my husband taught me to ask myself the question "What is the worst thing that can happen?" Admittedly, there are some scenarios in which the answer is pretty devastating.  But so many of the little things we worry about are just not worth the emotional output.

And often, if that which we fear does come to pass, it is not nearly as bad as we anticipated.

I had the opportunity to put that principle to the test recently.  I am a transplanted Yankee, but have now been living in Texas for seventeen years.  When we arrived I was stunned and slightly terrified by the volume and variety of stinging and biting critters.

It didn't take long for me to get my first fire ant bite, which was followed by countless ant bites over the years.  Wasps, mosquitos, spiders, ugh.  And the other day I added to my list of "been-there-done-thats"... I was stung by a scorpion.

Photo by David Dallaqua

Looks menacing, doesn't it?  As it turns out, my scorpion sting wasn't any more painful than a wasp sting. And scorpions in most of the U.S. are not deadly.

So many of the fears we have are fears of the unknown.
You probably have fears that are far deeper and more life-altering than a fear of scorpions. Have you spent time sitting with the Lord and sharing them with Him? Have you asked yourself "What is the worst thing that can happen?" Have you educated yourself on that which frightens you?  Knowing that cattle are afraid of humans, and that our local scorpions are not deadly, went a long way toward helping me be emotionally realistic.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 
~ 1 John 4:18 ~

"Fear involves punishment." The enemy of our hearts wants us to be bound up by our fears. Jesus wants to break our chains!

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.  
~ Galatians 5:1 ~

We really are offered freedom from fear in Christ.  It is a surprisingly challenging truth to accept. 

But when you trust God, when you truly believe He has your best interests at heart, you can receive the truth that while you may not know what is around the corner, He does.

'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.' 
~ Jeremiah 29:11 ~

Today, if you are afraid, find a way to be alone with Jesus.

Sit at His feet and pour out your heart. Tell Him all your fears and ask Him to show you the truth... what is the worst thing that could happen, what knowledge are you lacking?

Then praise Him! Turn your eyes from yourself and your fears and praise the God who made you! Even if you can find nothing in your life right now that seems praiseworthy, praise Him for who He is.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."  
~ Joshua 1:9 ~

I pray that "...the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him" (Rom 5:13). And I would be privileged to pray for your specific situation as well.

May you receive His freedom today!

You May Have Noticed Some Bloggy Changes

I alluded way back in December to some changes coming here, and at long last we are beginning to implement them!

After some dramatic and unsuccessful attempts to do this myself, my wonderful son and endlessly knowledgeable husband have come to my rescue and are helping me migrate the blog to WordPress and my domain.  For the time being we remain on blogger with some design changes.

You'll notice a name change also... Joyful Mama has been my domain for the past nine years, and we are working to move this blog there.

I am so grateful for my two men who are willing to step up and make this happen!

He is watching over you

What a slight change in atmospheric conditions can do to remind me of spiritual reality...

The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good
~ Proverbs 15:3 ~

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His...
~ 2 Chronicles 16:9a ~
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