Moving my blog

April 10, 2011

Soon, this blog will be moving.   After 5.5 years of blogging on free websites, I have decided to move to my own website. www.deepimprints.com

Why???

1.  Providing Resources.  After years of work, I feel that God is opening up my writing focus.  However, when I host my blog on wordpress.com, I cannot offer resources in the same way that I can on a self-hosted site.  On the new site, I will be able to offer ebooks, special offers, etc.

2.  Community.  This new site will give us a place to be a community online.  We will be able to share prayer requests, discuss bible study topics, etc.  You can enjoy the blog feed without becoming a member, but members can join conversations, share prayer requests, etc.

If you receive this blog via email, you will soon begin receiving Deep Imprints in the same manner.  You won’t need to do anything.  However, I hope you stop by and join the community as well.

Questions?  Comments?  Please let me know – all change can be difficult – it is harder when you do it in a vacuum without conversation.  Thank you for all the years many of you have listened, commented, and given me feedback – you are essential to my learning process, and I believe to the learning process of each other.  Again, thank you.

Cooking our religion

April 3, 2011

Cooking the books – def. to make the books look right while covering up bad accounting or fraud.

Cooking drugs – to make drugs – either to use them and relieve oneself of the current reality, or to sell them and make money off of other people’s need for escape.

Are we making up our own religion, or are we taking God as He is, learning to be the people He created us to be?

What are the signs of a cooked religion?

The Beams are Creaking at Taproot Theatre

March 27, 2011

Matt Shimkus as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

 

This weekend I got the chance to take my 15 year old to see Taproot Theatre’s latest play. It was amazing. Both she and I were blown away.

Sometimes a play is about innovative stage work. Sometimes it is about outstanding acting. But sometimes a play is phenomenal because of the story.

The Beams are Creaking is a new play at Taproot this season that is beyond amazing. I was moved, I cried, and then – for the first time in a long time, there was a standing ovation. Why?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a teacher, a statesman, and a theologian who lived in pre-Hitler Germany. As Hitler came into power, Christians throughout Germany had three options – comply with the state, rebel overtly, or rebel passively. Bonhoeffer chose active resistance under the guise of servitude. While outwardly he complied with the Fuhrer’s demands of allegiance, privately he was part of a network that planned the assassination of the Nazi leader.

In this play, we learn not just about the theologian, Bonhoeffer, but about  the man.

Gerald B. Browning, Don Brady, and Matt Shimkus. Photo by Erik Stuhaug.

I felt this play was absolutely appropriate for our day and time. So many people feel that they are displaced, not in their usual roles – and this play depicts beautifully how to be the person God created you to be, despite your circumstances.

I learned so much, but felt like I needed to hear it again. If you want to be encouraged and delighted, you should check out The Beams are Creaking at Taproot.

3 things you must do when your world crumbles

March 15, 2011

old tiresThe rats scurried away as Joseph sat up, stretching after a long night of catnaps and fitful sleep.  The lumpy mattress and prison noises had conspired to maximize his discomfort.

Joseph’s muscles cried for their usual morning activity, but with a sob rising in his chest, Joseph sunk back to the mattress and turned to the wall.

Hours later, his foggy thoughts were invaded by new sounds.

Thumping in the hall.
Someone walking.
His door opened.
The prison guard ordered him out.

Joseph drug himself off the bed, contemplating his new reality. Yesterday, he was as close to a prince as a slave in Egypt could get. Today? Today he was on the bottom, in this awful, smelly hole.

With heavy feet, Joseph shuffled – suddenly stiff like an old man. The guard marched on. Soon, a door opened. The air changed, as a soft smell emanated from the room. Joseph raised his head, sensing, more than feeling, the familiar opulence of status.

Standing up straight, Joseph followed the guard into the room.

Inside, soft light opened every corner. A rug softened the floor and incense filled the air, covering the stench of prison bodies and human waste.

The Jailer sat in a corner of the room. Weeks ago, Joseph would have sent people to the Jailer for insubordination. He saw himself a peer. Now, the Jailer held power. Power over Joseph’s life. Joseph watched the Jailer carefully, looking for a clue as to why this meeting was arranged.

The Jailer waved the guard away. The door closed behind Joseph, shutting out the prison sounds.

“Well?” the Jailer simply asked a question.

Joseph was careful to not relax. His prison could become his grave if he got on the wrong side of this man.

“I am here to serve you.” Joseph decided his best approach was honesty, thinking of the Jailer’s perspective instead of his own. Rage still burned in his stomach from his false imprisonment, but that rage would not put him in anyone’s good graces. That was for him, alone, in the privacy of his cell. Here, the Jailer needed to hear his function, not his feelings.

The Jailer gestured to a seat. Carefully, still stiff, Joseph sat on the edge of the chair. Remembering the lessons from his march to Egypt, Joseph knew that to relax was to assume, and to assume was to be punished. Subservience would be rewarded.

As Joseph sat on the edge of the chair, the pain of betrayal burned in his heart, crying for release. His mind, however, focused on the reality before him.

In that moment, he made a choice – let go of what was. Years ago, he had resigned himself to the life of a slave and released his right to the privileged child. Today, again, he resigned himself to subservience and released his right to rule.

Have you ever sat on the edge of that seat? Yesterday’s pain, choking your throat, as you try to grasp your new reality? How long did you sit on that seat?

Here are a few things you need to do in order to get off that seat and start moving forward again:

  1. Forgive. No matter whether your current situation was caused by your failings, someone else’s failings, or just circumstances, you are going to have to forgive.
  2. Release. When we sit on the edge of the seat, in the middle of transition, we have a tendency to think “someday, things will get better.”   We hold our dreams and expectations from the past, hoping that “someday” we will find all the puzzle pieces and put our picture back together again.  It is imperative that you release those expectations,  let go of “someday”, and start living today.
  3. Focus. Today is your day to live. Focus on being the best you can be today. You are still a gifted person. Your new position doesn’t mean you are a different person. It may very well mean that this new situation needs someone just like you to bring the talent and make something new. Once you have forgiven and released, you will be free to focus on those around you and find out how you can make a difference in their lives.

Joseph gained status in each of his new positions. Eventually, he rose to a position above everyone, and even saw his dreams fulfilled.

It would have been easy to let resentment and anger take over his life.  It would have been easy to carry that anger into each new position, therefore poisoning all his new relationships. Instead, Joseph thrived.  He thrived physically, and he thrived spiritually. Throughout his journey, as he forgave, released and gained new focus, he became more and more convinced of God’s presence every step of the way.

Where are you at in the process?

Do you need to forgive?
Do you need to release expectations?
Are you ready to focus on making a difference today?

Feel like a basket case? Here’s your escape.

March 11, 2011
Saul (Paul) snuck from the house in the dark of night.   Ahead of him, friends led the way to the house on the wall.
Just days before, he was envoy of the powerful Jerusalem Pharasees.  The Jews he’d come to support now had a hit out on his life.  His only hope lay in the hands of the men and women he’d come to imprison, and if need be, kill.
In the wall house, the Jesus-believers paused to pray.

“Lord, anoint brother Saul.  You have shown yourself to him, now use him to tell others the good news.”

“I pray in Jesus’ name that brother Saul would be safe.”

Around the room they went, each praying in turn, and privately at the same time.  Then it was time to leave.
The women of the house had a giant basket, used for storage and laundry.  The believers tied the top together after Saul sat in it.  As a single unit, they hefted him through the window and down the wall.
In the quiet of the night, amidst all the wildlife sounds, Saul’s basket thumped to the ground.  Quickly, he slipped out of the basket and watched it ascend into the night.  Alone, Saul began to walk the long road back to Jerusalem.  (See Acts 9)
Do you feel God has called you?  Are you trying to figure out what He wants you to do next?  Do you feel pressed in and pursued from all sides?  Here is what we can learn from this lesson from the Apostle Paul’s life:
  1. When you take a stand, some people won’t like it.
  2. People’s true colors come out when they disagree with you.  These same men who sought to kill Paul would have fawned over him had he rode into town with his intended purpose – to kill and imprison Christians.
  3. You aren’t alone.  Paul was not liked by the Jews, but neither were the Christians.  He found refuge and solace in their friendship.
  4. God will provide a way out.
  5. You need other people.  God didn’t call Paul and then show him how to go it alone.  First, he had him dependent on the Christians in Damascus.  Later, he would be discipled and encouraged by Barnabas.  Always, he would need the good will of other Christians to get the Message out.
  6. God’s calling is a great adventure.  Either jump in the basket and enjoy the ride, or hide and watch other people accomplish your dreams.

 

How to keep going when you can’t feel God

March 8, 2011

The disciples were in a boat.  They had been rowing for hours.

Then somebody shows up – out for a Sunday afternoon stroll (at 3am) – on a sea of raging water.  Freaky!

They were so scared.

When we are exhausted, God does show up – sometimes His presence doesn’t look right.  Sometimes it scares us.  Always it challenges us and shows us what can be.

Peter, an obvious early adapter, grasped the concept of walking on the water quickly.  “Hey Jesus, if that is you, ask me to join you!” For all his bravado, Peter realized the most important point – if you are going to get out of the boat, don’t go because you think it would be cool.  Don’t go because you hope God will call you.  Don’t get out of the boat until you have heard God’s voice.  On the flip side, when you hear God’s voice, JUMP.  Don’t think, don’t speculate, ACT.

Peter got out of the boat.  He was walking on the water.  He was following Jesus in the wild, wild world.

Now, some have a code, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” This sometimes sneaks into our theology.  It sounds something like this: “If I follow God, He will make sure I am comfortable.”  Surely Peter had the right for some expectation.  After all, Jesus had called him.  He hadn’t jumped out of the boat, he waited until he heard God’s voice, and then, as soon as he heard, he followed.

Yet, a few steps into his stroll, wave swells grew.   Pretty soon, he could no longer even see Jesus walking on the other side of the waves. (My supposition.)  Sometimes, when you follow God, as soon as you say ‘yes’, the terrain seems to morph.  Nothing looks the same.  Where is God?

Peter, full of faith, was distracted by the waves.   When you walk on a balance beam, it is important to focus.  If you loose focus, even for a millisecond, a flip can become very dangerous.  Walking in faith is equally demanding.  When you choose to follow Jesus, you have to discipline your mind, focus your thinking, feed your faith.  You have to keep your mind’s eye focused on where God called you to.  Otherwise, like Peter, you will find yourself sinking below rush of life.

If you are human, you will occasionally reach that point of overwhelm.  Peter had Jesus, in the flesh, out there on the sea with him.  Those waves seemed so high that he lost his concentration.  Then, he did what you and I need to do – he asked for help.

Jesus, help me!

When you can’t feel God, you cry out.   A good friend of mine calls this “carpet eating prayer.”

Faith is that point of concentration and focus.  You keep your mind focused on God, and continue to walk where He told you, even when the waves are so large you can’t see two feet ahead.  If you lose that point of concentration, you do whatever it takes to get it back.  You dig deep into spiritual disciplines, and wait.  God will show up.

Saints throughout the years have taught us spiritual disciplines. The whole point is to help us walk straight – not by our power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Are you feeling swept away? Let me know – leave a comment or email me – I’d love to be in prayer with you.

A billion reasons why by Kristin Billerbeck

March 8, 2011

This weekend I played hooky.  Two fiction books in two days.

Do you like to occasionally retreat from reality and curl up with a good book?  Do you like romances?  If you said ‘yes’ to both of those questions, then you will enjoy A Billion Reasons Why.

Usually, I run from romances.  However, Kristin has managed to write a story that has depth.  Here are a couple quotes:

“You know, Katie, you can plan so that nothing goes wrong in life.  But something will, and it won’t be what you expected to go wrong.  So make sure you’re with someone who will help you bail the water out of the boat, not someone who will blame you for the hole.”

“When the storms of life push against you, our real temperaments come out to dance.”

Katie found her love early on, but life, lack of communication, and distrust threw them apart.  So, instead of living for adventure, Katie ran the opposite direction.  Eight years later, she is on the verge of entering into a nice, safe, loveless marriage, when her prince charming, still single, comes back into her life.

Katie discovers herself, the reality of her new life, and has choices to make.  Katie first learns to define love, then faces her own reality.

So, security and safety, or fire and love  which would you choose?

I really enjoyed the fact that the story was placed in New Orleans.  I know nothing about that part of the country, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn.

I think you will have fun at the author’s website – faith, froth and a designer handbag.

If you want to enjoy the story, you can buy it at Amazon.com.

How can a dead thing live again?

March 4, 2011

I found him at a garage sale.  A gangly, sad looking plant.  He was about three feet tall, and was a two leaf wonder.

No matter how many new leaves he grew, he only had  enough life to sustain two leaves.  As soon as a new leaf started growing, the oldest leaf would die.

Then, one morning, about two inches in the middle of the plant became mushy.  Some have suggested that he might have snuck too close to the heater, attempting to end his sad existence. <grin>

I was so sad to see the destruction of my plant.  I really liked him.  So, I cut off the top of the plant and stuck it in water.  I also cut off the mushy part, and threw it away.  I left the stalk in the pot, hoping it would think about growing a new leaf.

About two weeks into this new situation, my husband came home and saw the stalk standing alone in a big pot.  In his witty humor, he dubbed my plant ‘Stubby’.  I felt so sorry for the poor stalk, I pulled him up and stuck him in the water too.

Six months later, my husband started wondering when I was going to do something about the cup of plants still sitting in my sink.  Stubby had turned into two stalks with luscious, huge leaves on them.

I replanted him, and instead of a three foot, two-leaf wonder, I had an 18 inch 8 leaf plant that was beautiful.

In order to bring the dead back to life, you have to admit the thing is dead, cut out the infection, then give it a chance to grow new roots.  Eventually, with love and care, patience and good food, it will grow again.

Are you living in your sweet spot? Chazown by Craig Groeschel

March 1, 2011

Chazown (pronounced Khaw-ZONE) is the Hebrew word for vision.

Are you living your dream?  Does your life line up with the vision God has given you?

A small percentage of people can say ‘yes’ to that question.  The rest, if honest, will say,

“well, I’m not quite on center” or

“Hah!  No” or

“How can anyone know what God wants?”

Whether you are sort of living your dream, find yourself completely in left field (assuming God hasn’t called you to left field), or can’t figure out what God wants you to do with your life, I think you will get a lot out of Craig Groeschel’s new book.

Craig says “God placed you on earth for a purpose that’s solely yours to fulfill. Dig under the surface of your life to discover and pursue your Chazown.”

When you read this book, be prepared to become uncomfortable!  Craig hits on every aspect of life, and shows you how to help fix things so that you can become what God intended you to be.  You will learn to use spiritual disciplines to stop wasting your life, and instead, flow into the person God created you to be.

One thought that I walked away with is “my body is on loan from God.”  No kidding – those were the words in my head as I tried to ignore the need to get out of bed and exercise this morning.  Every area that Craig touches is right on, and needed for each of our lives.

This book is an easy read – broken up into mini chapters that are just right for a busy life.    The first part of the book just talks about your personal vision, and how to figure out what God wants you to be.  The last half goes into five areas of your life that need to be right.  Even if you are moving along quite well, you could probably use the tune up.

I want to also recommend that you watch the online sermons at www.lifechuch.tv the ‘who do you think you are’ series seems to be a good companion for this book.

Then, check out the Chazown web site for fantastic helps and a boost in the right direction.

Today is your day.  God does have a plan for your life. You can be all that God has called you to be. Chazown is a great start.

You can buy it at Amazon.com.

Have you lost your focus?

February 28, 2011

Imagine you are Joseph (the guy in Genesis).  As a young boy, God spoke to you in a dream.  Then, just to make sure you had the picture, He spoke to you in a second dream – this one even bigger than the first.  God told you that you would see your siblings bow down to you.

Now Joseph wasn’t just one of 12 brothers.  He was the next to the youngest, and the first born of his mother.  His mother was the most loved wife of his father.  When every other child was born, he gave them some attention, but it was still Rachel that caught his eye.  So, when his beloved finally gave birth, it was time to party.  10 brothers came along, and no one heralded their birth – but Joseph – his father thought he was special.  His brothers thought he was a spoiled brat.

Joseph was a younger, and he was favored and pampered.

Then came the dream, and soon thereafter, destruction.  Instead of his dream coming true, he was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and shipped off to Egypt.  Alone in Egypt, his natural confidence won him a place of honor in Potiphar’s house.  As he went about his work there, he probably reflected on his God-given dream.  Perhaps he would go on a trip with Potiphar and his family would see how he had gained favor and status.  Just as he became comfortable and hopeful that his dream was in reach, Potiphar’s wife lied about him, and he was thrown in prison.

Beaten down, Joseph again found favor.  Now, here is the remarkable part:  Years later, when two men came to the prison and had strange dreams, Joseph didn’t hesitate to believe that God would show him the meaning of the dreams.  He didn’t hesitate in his belief that God gives dreams, and fulfills them.  His dream should have been vanquished long ago.  Yet Joseph believed that God would use him … through a dream.

Where are you in your dream process?  Are you reveling at all God has shown you?  Have you been beaten down?  Has the scope of your reality changed so much that you can’t even recognize a course?

When Joseph gave up, he had to wait, but then in a matter of mere moments, his reality changed.  God fulfilled the dream He had sent.  God was fulfilling that dream the entire time Joseph was in the pit, marching to Egypt, a slave in Potiphar’s house, running from Potiphar’s wife, and destitute in prison.  No matter where you are in the process, God fulfills the dream.


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