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Sweet Start CARD: Philemon part 2 + Watercolor Emboss Resist

It’s another glorious day of life, let’s begin with a Sweet Start!

Philemon, part 2

We left off yesterday’s study with the introduction to Philemon and my notes up to verse 7. If you haven’t already, you can read that post and pick up with us in Philemon verse 8. Here are today’s notes from my study!

  • As Paul begins his plea for Onesimus in verse 8, he speaks lovingly rather than commandingly. Remember, Philemon is his friend!
  • The first theme that dominates this letter: being a prisoner. Paul begins his letter by identifying himself as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. He repeats the phrase again in v. 9, before noting Onesimus’ conversion in v. 10, “while I was in chains.” We know that Paul was imprisoned on several occasions because of the gospel message he professed, and through his imprisonment the gospel message was advanced more fearlessly (See Philippians 1:12-14). Paul saw God’s providence in his imprisonment, so while he was technically a prisoner of Rome, he was giving the credit to God who is sovereign over all: God used Paul’s imprisonment to accomplish His purposes. The other thing to note here is that Paul’s physical imprisonments were momentary, whereas Paul’s self-identity as a prisoner of Christ was permanent, following him wherever he happened to be as he spread the message of the gospel. In the context of this letter, it seems to me that Paul is using his identity as a prisoner in part to equate himself with Onesimus and pull on the compassion of his friend Philemon on behalf of them both. Onesimus was an escaped slave of Philemon, a crime that warranted his imprisonment and return to his master, Philemon, who would then have complete control over his destiny. Because Paul is imprisoned in Rome, he can’t physically go and seek the compassion of his friend on behalf of Onesimus, so he equates himself repeatedly with the escaped slave so that Philemon understands (to echo the words of Jesus), “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did to Me.” (Matthew 25:40, HCSB) Paul uses pretty strong language to convey the message of equity with Onesimus, such as, “he became my son,” (v.10) “him–who is my very heart,” (v.12) “welcome him as you would welcome me,” (v.17)
  • I really like verses 15 & 16, “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back for good– no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” First of all, it acknowledges God’s sovereignty in a seemingly bad situation. Maybe it was GOD who allowed Onesimus to run away, so that he could come to faith in Christ. Who can argue with that? How could Philemon punish Onesimus for something that was God-ordained? There is also a sense of fairness in this text. Paul is doing the “right thing” by sending Onesimus back to his master, and he’s hoping that Philemon will do the “right thing” and accept Onesimus back, not as a mere servant, but as a brother in Christ. If social justice is important to you, it might not be totally satisfying that Paul doesn’t comment on the broader issue of slavery here. Regardless, it was revolutionary for him to encourage Philemon to accept his runaway slave, whom he could rightfully put to death for his rebellion, as a loved equal– a dear brother. Isn’t that the heart of the gospel message, though? We have all rebelled against God and chosen to flee His authority. If you think you haven’t, take a quick peek at the 10 commandments and examine how many of God’s fundamental laws you’ve transgressed. We are all sinners. And yet, while we were still in rebellion, Christ Jesus died so that we could be reconciled to God and have our relationship with Him restored (see Romans 5:6-11). Going back to our day 1 study, this letter displays a prime example of living out the message of the gospel, which is GRACE. Grace is undeserved favor, or loving kindness that is not merited. Did Onesimus deserve to be forgiven so thoroughly that he could be considered a dear brother of his master, Philemon? No way! He stole money from Philemon and ran away– in the culture of Rome he deserved to die. And yet, Paul is encouraging Philemon to act out the gospel of grace in regard to Philemon, knowing that Philemon had received the gift of grace himself from a loving God.
  • Paul recognized that Philemon owed him big in verse 19. Why is that? As the person who led Philemon to faith in Christ, Paul is the messenger responsible for his assurance of salvation. Philemon’s eternal life is secure because Paul taught him about Jesus, and he received Paul’s message. “How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!” (Romans 10:15, HCSB)
  • In closing, Paul expresses his confidence that Philemon will comply with his request and then some. Philemon must have been a pretty cool guy! The Apostle Paul seemed to think very highly of him. Paul also encourages him to prepare a guest room in anticipation of his release from prison according to Philemon’s prayers. I know that Paul believed in the efficacy of prayer, so again, this wasn’t a mere pleasantry. It was hope. Despite everything that Paul had been through and his current imprisonment, he hadn’t lost hope. He was a pretty cool guy, too.
  • Finally, the letter ends as it begins– with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose gospel of grace Paul, and I, will be ever in bondage to.

Next Sweet Start will begin a study in Romans, excuse me while I “gird my loins” and prepare for the journey of a lifetime as we dive into a much longer and more theologically challenging book. What are your thoughts on Philemon? Any big takeaway points you discovered that will benefit your spiritual life? How has your experience of grace deepened your understanding of God’s love? I’d be honored to hear about it in the comments, sweet sister! Now let’s stamp!

You Brighten My Day #2

Here’s the second project in my stamp set challenge, where I’ll be showing off two weeks of projects using the You Brighten My Day stamp set from the promotional Sale-a-bration brochure. Did you know everything in the Sale-a-bration brochure is 100% free? Yep! For every $50 you spend during the promotion (Jan. 6th-Mar. 31st), you get to pick a free SAB product. Sweet! Do you need an Occasions Catalog or Sale-a-bration brochure? If you don’t have a demonstrator yet, I’d be happy to stick a copy in the mail to you, just shoot me an email to let me know you’d like one.

Stampin' Up! You Brighten My Day card with watercolor emboss-resist technique by Becky Gifford.

Do you love that watercolor emboss-resist background? It was not hard to make, but it is a huge part of why this card is one of my favorites. Simply stamp the light bulb image onto watercolor paper using Versamark ink, and heat emboss with clear embossing powder. HINT! Watercolor paper absorbs the ink really quickly, and while the effect still worked out alright, it might have worked even better if I had stamped and embossed the bulbs one at a time instead of stamping them all and then embossing all at once. After that, I used Soft Sky ink and an Aqua Painter filled with water to paint the background, filling in more color at the top and pulling less color as I worked down the paper. You’ll have to go over the top portion with several layers of color until you’re happy with the saturation, but there’s no need to let the ink dry in between.

Stampin' Up! You Brighten My Day card details with watercolor emboss-resist technique by Becky Gifford.

You can see in the closeup photo that the embossing isn’t as raised and shiny on the watercolor paper, but it still blocks ink from coloring the stamped areas leaving you with a lovely emboss-resist background. Do you see the gorgeous patterned paper with an Ikat pattern? It’s called Sweet Dreams Designer Series Paper. We’ve seen Ikat patterns dominate the fields of home decorating and fashion, so I was pleased to see this DSP in the new Occasions catalog. Wait until you see the stamp set it coordinates with, it’s just plain adorable. I layered coordinating Sweet Dreams Designer Washi Tape over top for a subtle pop of color, I like how it turned out!

It’s hard to believe still that it’s 2015, but I hope this year brings you prosperity, spiritual encouragement, and an abundance of inspiration. Maybe you’d like to subscribe to The Social Stamper blog posts as a part of your fresh start!

Many Blessings & Happy Stamping,
Shop Now Signature Becky Gifford The Social Stamper


Sweet Start CHALLENGE: The Beginning + PPA234

Happy New Year, friend!! Sorry for the delay in getting this post up, we rang in the New Year with our internet service being down for the count. But, it’s still the 1st so technically I’m still on track :o) Welcome to the inaugural Sweet Start post! If you’re not sure what Sweet Start is all about, you can read more details in my last post. I’m really excited about this new venture, yet still a little nervous since it’s so new to me. All the best moments in my life have had this curious mix of emotions– great anticipation with a mountain of nerves. Some notable moments I can recall off-hand (not in any order of importance) would be competing and winning in High School State and College National cheerleading championships, my wedding, and the birth of my children. There was so much excitement in those moments but my heart and emotions sure did get a workout! Without further adieu, let’s jump in together!

Philemon, part 1

When I started mulling over the idea of tackling a Bible Study on my blog, I decided to look at a really short chapter of the Bible that I could get through quickly and easily. (Apparently I am setting my sights low, as Philemon is less than a page long in my Bible. Ha!)  But, I feared, would there be anything to talk about in such a short letter like Philemon? Happily, there certainly is! Let’s take a look. Please read Philemon in your Bible, it’s a quick read!

Philemon opens by telling us who the author is and who the letter is addressed to. Written by the Apostle Paul, probably around 61 A.D., its writing likely pre-dates most of the gospels. I think that’s interesting, because it’s easy to assume our Bibles are chronologically ordered according to when they were written, but that’s just not the case. As an organization junkie, I appreciate the scholars who have put a logical organization to the pages of our sacred text, but it’s also helpful to keep in mind the chapters are not placed in the order in which they were penned in most Bible versions.

For a big-picture rundown, Paul wrote this letter to his dear friend, Philemon. The letter concerns Philemon’s runaway servant, Onesimus, who fled to Rome where he met Paul. Onesimus became a follower of Christ while in Rome, and one can only assume it was Paul’s evangelism that led him to a confession of faith. That’s pretty cool! All Christ-followers today are a part of the vast branching tree of the spreading gospel message, but this man Onesimus was at ground zero of Paul’s ministry. Not as the original convert, but resulting from the direct impact of Paul’s influence in Rome. Is it astonishing to anyone else that we can read about this historical event nearly 2,000 years later in Paul’s own words? Wow.

Here are my notes regarding things that stood out to me, as well as information I gleaned from various commentaries I read:

  • Apphia was likely Philemon’s wife, and as was the custom in their culture, she would have been responsible for overseeing the servants in their household. It would therefore be appropriate for Paul to include her when addressing the letter. The man must have known better than to tread thoughtlessly on a woman’s domain! (I kid, kinda.) Archippus may have been the son of Philemon and Apphia.
  • Philemon 1:3; Do verses like this overlook the Holy Spirit, or make the person of the Holy Spirit of reduced importance among the members of the Godhead? Absolutely not! The Holy Spirit would have been recognized by Paul as the agent or means of delivery when Paul greets Philemon with grace and peace. Without the Holy Spirit as the living and active presence of God at work in the world, Paul’s greeting would be empty words– a mere courtesy. I have never perceived Paul to be a man of pleasantries, merely saying words because it’s the “nice” thing to do. He sends the message with grace and peace because he expects that God will indeed hear and answer that request through the person and power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Philemon 1:6; This was the banner verse of Philemon to me in terms of practical life application. The NIV (1984) translation reads, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” This verse is a perfect example of why it’s helpful to have a variety of Bible translations available. While the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and I believe that every word penned was divinely inspired, there is no such thing as a perfect translation from the original language of the text. At first glance I automatically perceived this verse as referring to evangelism– sharing your faith with others for the purpose of leading them into a relationship with Christ Jesus. For me, evangelism has certainly helped me have a more complete understanding of “every good thing we have in Christ,” precious things like grace, forgiveness, love, strength in weakness, the powerful indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, etc.  While I don’t think that’s a bad application, other translations bring some clarity to the purpose of Paul’s choice of Greek words: “And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.” (NLT) Paul is petitioning God, that He would help Philemon put his faith into practice in the situation with Onesimus which he is about to elaborate on in his letter. In living out his faith, Paul recognizes that Philemon will have a more profound experience of the good things found in relationship with Christ, and his actions will in turn contribute to a deeper understanding of those same things. That makes sense in the context of the letter, which I will describe in more detail soon. It also makes sense in regard to my initial understanding of this verse: Do you want to have a more substantial faith and deeper understanding of the good things found in Christ? Put those things into practice! Share what you’ve found with others. Talk about it. Spend time thinking about the impact faith has (or should have) on you personally and those around you. Is there evidence of your faith anywhere but in your mind? If not, you should be rightly concerned. If your godly reputation precedes you, as Philemon’s did (v. 4-5, 7) be even more fearful of hypocrisy and be on the lookout for opportunities to practice what you preach.

Let’s put our faith into practice today, so that we may, together, “understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.” Now, let’s get to stamping!

Pals Paper Arts Challenge (PPA 234)

Today’s card is inspired by the Pals Paper Arts challenge #234. Every Thursday, except for odd 5th Thursdays, there is a new challenge, either a color combo or sketch challenge. They’re a fun way to get a spark of inspiration and possibly get some recognition as a Pals Paper Arts pick! Here’s today’s color challenge:


Aren’t those soothing colors? I was in great need of some serenity after landing in the ER with a kidney stone, and also in need of a few thank-you cards for the friends who stepped up to transport me there in excruciating pain, stay with my kids until my husband was able to catch a flight home from a work trip, and even fold some laundry that had piled up. Seriously, my friends are the very best a girl could ask for. This challenge also marks the first of a 2-week series of projects using the FREE Sale-A-Bration stamp set, You Brighten My Day. The thing I like most about this stamp set is that it pairs well with so many of my other stamp sets. It’s fine as a standalone set, but it really shines when used in conjunction with other Stampin’ Up! sets. For this card, I paired it with Four Feathers, which I’m excited to say, is a carryover item from the Holiday Catalog into the new Occasions Catalog that will be released on the 6th. The 6th also marks the start of the Sale-A-Bration promotion, be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss the info about the best Stampin’ Up! promotion of the year! You get a free SAB product for every $50 you spend, NO LIMIT! Woo hoo! For now, here’s a sneak peek at You Brighten My Day.

PPA 234 Color Challenge: Night of Navy, Wisteria Wonder, and Silver. Card by Becky Gifford The Social Stamper using Stampin' Up! Sale-a-bration set You Brighten My Day.

PPA 234 Color Challenge details: Night of Navy, Wisteria Wonder, and Silver. Card by Becky Gifford The Social Stamper using Stampin' Up! Sale-a-bration set You Brighten My Day.

I figured out something really helpful that I want to share with you. I’ve had an issue when embossing on tab  of the Big Shot Multipurpose Platform using Whisper White card stock. There was always too much pressure and it caused the cardstock to split open in places, definitely not a clean emboss. So, I tried embossing with all of the tabs open on the platform itself, and although I thought it might not offer enough pressure to engage, it worked beautifully! A perfect impression without any tearing or fraying of the paper fibers. Even with so much white space on this card, the Woodgrain texture really adds a pop of interest. Lovely!

Thanks for stopping by, today, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for a weekly digest of posts sent to your email! I’ll see you tomorrow for a wrap-up of Philemon and my second You Brighten My Day project. If you have a minute, let me know what you thought of the first ever Sweet Start post!

Happy Stamping,

Shop Now Signature Becky Gifford The Social Stamper



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