Defend and Confirm: a tour through Philippians

It’s easy to think that you know a book of Scripture only to camp out and see whole new depths. Our Friday Bible study is working through Philippians for the summer and we all agreed we were just familiar enough with the material to use verses out of context. We’ve divided up the material and are committed to reading the whole book every week as well as studying the specific portion. I hope to share some thoughts from our study with you throughout the summer.

Paul told the believers at Philippi that they were “all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:7)

I get stuck imagining things when I read the Bible. The “defense and confirmation of the Gospel” stopped me because I’ve been considering how we ought to teach and defend the faith, and how much it matters that we actually live out what we believe, not just that we speak it out.

Lamenting Losses: distance is a familiar foe

This morning one of my dearest friends is coming to my house with her kids. When she leaves, instead of heading back to her house, she will get in her van and drive on down the interstate. She won’t go very far today, but tomorrow she and her family will drive to Florida with all their belongings. After church Sunday night, the boys and I walked out of the building with her husband and two children. I casually said bye to him, and then we both stopped and realized it was actually goodbye. We hugged and cried in the parking lot.

I’ve had several friends move over the past few years and when this friend told me she was moving, I came home and announced to my husband that I was no longer going to make friends. I would be friendly, but I would not be friends, and for me, there’s a big difference. It’s one thing for me to hold space for you; it’s quite another for me to step into the space and open my heart.

Refusing to form friendships is, of course, nonsense. We are designed for community. God lives in community. The church is a body, a family, and we need other people. We all shrivel left to ourselves.

Falling in Love with the Process and not just the Results

When the enneagram “Eight” song released in February, a woman that I follow on Instagram shared that Sleeping at Last had an entire podcast episode discussing the making of the song. I listened and was captivated by how much the vision for the song changed as he worked.

I’ve become obsessed with process. I watched the director’s commentary on the extended edition of Moana. I listened to Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive talk about making “Maybe Next Year.” I’ve been reading books and articles about writing by people who are writing well.

Google may define the word process as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end” but all of these people started with an idea that changed drastically once they started working. They had no idea what the work would come to, but they had a tiny thought that they started chasing.

When we develop ideas- books, companies, songs, ministries- we start with tiny ideas. We start working on the tiny ideas and they are shaped by the changes we make, the influences we exert. We’re not sure what’s going to come from them, if anything. It’s not just Andrew Peterson and the superb job that he and his team did with Resurrection Letters, Vol 1. (Although, friends, it’s almost Easter. This is your time to go listen it. Spoiler: I like it so much that I listen to it year round. It’s a favorite. It makes me feel simultaneously hopeful and homesick.) This is about making anything: a life of significance, a marriage, grounded community, knowledge of the Bible, a book, a song, a dinner event.

Where Discipleship Meets Reality

I’m rereading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit in little snatches, standing in the kitchen or ducking into the bathroom. I rarely call myself an artist but I do love to make art. I piddle around with sketching and painting and writing stories that are hopefully more than just words on a page. I file away ideas in a folder that I’m not sure I’ll ever have time to open, but I keep cramming them in anyway.

In chapter four, she talks about using memory in creative work. She’s a dancer, a choreographer, so she discusses muscle memory. As an athlete, I understand muscle memory (also, I never call myself an athlete either so that felt weird). Your muscles learn to do certain motions and they perform just fine until you start thinking about it. Then you suddenly can’t remember what to do next.

She discusses how she used to stand behind great dancers and mimic their movements. She would learn how they danced and it improved her own dancing. She told how authors had become great writers after they spent hours copying the work of the masters. She spent hours pouring over photographs of famous dancers in the New York Public Library. When she was dancing or planning a performance and felt stuck, she could consider something they did and it would flow over into her own work.

Why We Should Practice Telling the Story

I’m studying 1 and 2 Samuel right now and Samuel gives a farewell speech to the Israelites in chapter 12. Samuel briefly rehearses the history of Israel and he recalls- well, you can go read it. Chapter 12, 1 Samuel. You got it.

What grabs my attention is how often the Israelites tell this story. God brought His people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. This is told over and over. The Psalm recount the stories of God creating the world, God rescuing His people, God providing in the midst of no sustenance.

Maybe it was because they didn’t have paper and books and iPhones to read from. Maybe it was that storytelling burned deep in the hearts of a few of those humans and they didn’t have Evernote files saved to the cloud. They couldn’t stay up too late typing notes on their Macs.

What Distracts Us from Running Our Race

Sometime in the past two years, I learned about the enneagram. This system of understanding personalities has reshaped how I view the world. I used to think I was strange. (Ok, I know I’m strange, but that’s not what I’m talking about.) I knew a long time ago that I looked at situations in drastically different ways than the people around me. I assumed that everyone else was the same and I was an anomaly.

Enter the enneagram, where I learned that there are many different ways of looking at the world and many people that fall into each category. I was different from many other people, but not abnormal. Most of the ways I process life are very typical for an enneagram 8, even if they aren’t typical for a 2 or a 6.

The point is not the enneagram (although I do love it). The point is that God made us differently- and it’s a good thing. Beyond our actual physical context and life situations, our internal contexts are different. Even if we do some of the same things, the actions are driven by different motivations.

Becoming Like Jesus in Your Unique Life

For several years, I’ve been listening to a lot of conversations that create dualities. Self-care or self-denial? God made you with interests and passions so that you could use them for Him or the Christian life is a study of denial and hardship?

Of course, I think it’s both. I’m rolling my eyes because I find myself saying this about more and more topics. But what if we anchored a cord on each side of these discussions and leaned our weight on both? What if we took care of ourselves because we are made in God’s image and God cares about us and we can’t pour out of empty cups? And what if we practiced self-denial and put other people first and did work that maybe we didn’t want to do?

What if God made you expressly for the purpose of using the way He made you and yet that way of being part of His plan is full of difficulty and hardship? What if He intends for the very things that make you come alive to also refine you the most?

What if being disciples of Jesus meant that we are all being transformed into the image of Jesus but that it plays out in different ways in each of us? What if you are actually supposed to live a life that’s different from your neighbor, friend, or the person who sits in the pew beside you?