Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Furniture gets moved around at our house. We’re not the home where the sofa and the lamp and the coffee table are going to remain in the same place for years at a time. It’s only a problem for me if I walk through the room in the dark, forgetting the new location for a footstool; normally, I like the variety of rearranged rooms.

I’ve noticed, however, that when moving a piece of furniture even after a relatively short time, there are imprints left behind. An impression on the rug left by a table leg, a dent in the wall where the end table chafed it, or a dimple on the sofa where it pressed against the lamp’s plug in the wall.

Some of those imprints will fade, and some stay. When we removed a living room area rug last summer, a color difference remained. Even into the hard tile floor, sunlight and foot traffic made a lasting imprint.

Our lives leave imprints too, like it or not. Throughout our lives, people come and go. It’s likely that you remember the praise or criticism of a parent or a teacher, leaving an imprint that affects you even now in some way. And because we are human, we have probably all done that to our own children, friends and loved ones as well. 

Leaving a positive imprint needn’t be difficult, but it’s best when we are intentional about it. For example, sometimes I have to remind myself that in every conversation, in every encounter, I have the choice as to what kind of imprint I will leave.

Ephesians 4:29b says it like this, “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” That’s leaving a worthy imprint with words.

This week our church family is grieving the sudden loss of a beloved senior church member, and I can already see that she has left a wonderful imprint on many people at our church, a positive impression that will last a very long time. Part of the comfort in grief is knowing her influence mattered to so many.

Next time you move a chair on carpet, take a moment to notice the impression on the floor. And maybe that can remind you to think about life imprints. I’m challenged today to think about the imprints my life is leaving. How can my words and my actions leave a greater God-honoring impression in the lives of others?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Going Dark, Seeking Light

The lights are going out in my neighborhood.

Not all of them, but in addition to the occasional expired lamp, three whole strings of streetlights are powered off. Honestly, I hadn't noticed until I rode my bicycle to the drugstore last week, when I suddenly realized, "These sidewalks are dark."

It's not because of bad bulbs: the wires have been stolen. The practice of copper wire theft has been a hot item in local news stories, but until now I gave it little thought. Yet this is big business: skilled thieves who, with the exception of the occasional gruesome electrocution death, have figured out how to remove miles of connected electrical wire, and recyclers who look the other way as they slip handfuls of cash to the criminals.

Copper theft is maddening, inconvenient, and dangerous to residents, and overwhelming to maxed-out city budgets. In our city, prevention measures have served only to slightly slow the perpetrators. There is no light at the end of this tunnel.

As I pedaled home with my bottle of cough syrup the question on my mind was this: What kind of society are we to have enabled this level of self-destruction? I know they are a relative few, but what drives the thieves to dismantle their own city? Streetlights are a basic city infrastructure item, like sewers, roads, and sidewalks, and without them, the very sense of being a city breaks down.

It's like cancer, when cells in one's own body attack and destroy the very source of their life. In building its own enterprise, the tumor kills its host and itself.

Or to illustrate it another way, it's like my hand demanding my arms and legs give up pants and shirt so the hand can make a warm glove in winter. Now imagine standing in the cold with gloves but no clothes: how long would the hand survive?

So my question again, "How did we produce individuals who tear apart the fabric of society?"

Could it be the logical conclusion of our individualistic culture? After all, the goals of individualism are self-fulfillment, self-gratification and self-preservation. In earlier times, our society recognized selfish personal drives needed to be second-place to the greater good of society. That's why for centuries no one thought to question foundational blocks of society such as marriage, work, faith, and basic morality (that activities such as murder, theft, and adultery were basically wrong).

But has the push for personal fulfillment grown to the point of displacing society's necessary integrity? For some, yes. For example, the person who steals copper wire - at great personal risk - has decided their own needs are more important than the safety and well-being of entire neighborhoods. Their selfishness trumps the higher value of a functioning society.

Logically, if they steal enough copper (and I include the recyclers in the allegation of theft), the city could collapse. After all, our city is close to going broke, and simply cannot afford the repairs. In doing so, they destroy the very society they steal from, thus pushing their own fulfillment further out of reach.

A Biblical worldview teaches us to subject selfish drives for the benefit of others, but admits that on our own, such a choice is short-lived and ultimately impossible. Only by the grace of God can any person choose a life of love over a life of self-service. Galatians 5:13 says, "For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love."

There is no answer to this except for a spiritual awakening. The irony of a society falling into literal darkness due to spiritual darkness is not lost on me. And only as spiritual light shines will we find an answer for physical light as well. Only in the gospel are we taught to love like Jesus did, laying our own lives down for others, and in so doing, find real, abundant life. As John said of Jesus,"In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness" (John 1:4-5b). 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Figuring it Out

I fueled up today. Gas prices are rising again, and I like saving money. I usually gas up our vehicles at one of those budget service stations, the kind where the word "service" is somewhat of a misnomer, where the squeegee buckets have been long abandoned, but where the dime-a-gallon-savings makes it okay. My usual gas bar is a busy spot and every customer is there for the same reason - gas is a little cheaper than the place down the block.

I do love people-watching at this particular place, because it strikes me as a peek into real America - the tradesman fueling up between jobs, the struggling single mom pumping just a couple gallons, the senior citizen resigned to self-service but probably still thinking about the pleasure of full service stops from days gone by.

This particular station is one that lacks directional arrows or signs proclaiming, "Enter Here" and "Exit Only". Instead, each customer must find a way to wiggle their vehicle to a pump, sometimes driving in nose to nose, or backing in like a bad parallel parking job. On busy days it can get a little tense, a nervous game of "jump to the pump", with the occasional customer having to drag the hose and nozzle across the car's body - the heavy, spring-loaded snake fighting back - because they couldn't get to a pump on the correct side of the vehicle.

Today I watched all this and asked myself, "Which is better: to tell the drivers where to come and go, or to let them figure it out?" And immediately, thinking about church leadership and ministry, I pondered the same question about Christian service and spiritual growth: "Is it better to prescribe the right way to proceed, or let them figure it out?"

Because I've been to the service stations with the arrows, the signs, the helpful gentleman in the safety vest enforcing the traffic flow. It is efficient. Less stress. Safer, for sure. Just pull up and wait your turn. It's a good way to get it done.

Still, I decided I prefer the chaos method. I like the freedom and responsibility and risk of figuring it out. I like the increased brain wave activity required for each of us to maneuver to a pump, even at the expense of lost efficiency. There's even a little human interaction, even if it is just a nod or a wave or some other subtle acknowledgement between drivers. In the directed lanes, I never - really, never - have even the slightest interaction with another customer. There's no need, because everything is figured out for me already.

In my years of church leadership I confess I have spent significant energy figuring things out for people. And while it is necessary that each person progress in their spiritual life, have I helped them by prescribing a journey for them? Did they really gain from my arrows and signs and traffic enforcement? Would it have been okay to let them figure it out, even if it meant some awkward moves and multiple attempts? They may even experience a little more community by pursuing what sparks their attention with others, rather than simply following signs. Like the service station, people start at differing entry points, with varying resources and pursuing individual goals.

I want to trust the Holy Spirit to direct each believer. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, "I am fully convinced...that you are full of goodness" (Romans 15:14a). Not perfect, not yet complete, but still full of goodness. I have my struggles, weaknesses and preferences, as do you. And yet, we can determine to proceed in a way that fits we are, even if it's not in perfect order, because in the midst of our humanity, Christ is present in every believer.

And after all, if I'm going to figure it out, I have to let others do so too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Imperfect Attendance

It would seem I just can't resist. At least a couple times a year something school-related happens in our lives, prompting me to spill my opinion on anyone distracted enough to read it. It's happened again.

My view of the education system departs from the cultural norm somewhere near the base of the plant stock; that is, while I believe in both public or private schools as workable models for education (as opposed to strictly home-based education), there is much in the system about which I just can't get excited. Maybe our years as a home-schooling family jaded me. So, following another recent thought-provoking episode, and having held back my reaction for a few weeks, I speak.

Our school district - Clovis Unified, of Fresno County - distributes a newspaper several times a year, proclaiming the achievements of students and the successes of teachers, and applauding the winning efforts of administrators. The most recent issue, signalling the end of the academic year, featured the graduating classes of the several high schools in the district. The many valedictorian speeches were included, as well as notable awards and scholarships granted. The photos of fresh grads reveal promise, excitement, confidence.

Now, I'm all for commemorating high school graduation. It's been 27 years for me, but I still remember what a relief and celebration that event was, and I want to affirm any student who attains that rite of passage.

The reason for my reflection is the page in this newspaper devoted to the 12 students in the district who, in 13 years of schooling, missed not a single day of class. That's 2,340 days of school, with not a sick day, no cut classes, no days painfully spent with the doctor or dentist.

Alex and Stuart boogie-boarding in February.
Not a school day, but still fun.
Of course, that's quite the record. Really, it is, and it doesn't happen by accident. At some point those students and their parents made a choice to pursue the goal of perfect attendance. They decided, "This is our value: perfect attendance." And administrators are, of course, pleased to have received all 28,080 funding days those students represent.

But all I can think is, "Those poor kids. They've missed out. They are too serious!" Is it that I'm jealous, knowing we already disqualified our own children in the kindergarten years? Do I dare mention the times we've pulled our kids to enjoy a family day at an amusement park, or a November vacation we were able to take because it was the low season for tourists? What about the day I had my son work with me so he could learn the first elements of my trade, or the few sick days they probably could have survived on campus, but enjoyed the rest and recovery at home?

No, we don't deliberately look for ways to keep our kids from school. We schedule dental appointments for holidays, weekends or after school. We've rarely seen a doctor. And we don't call it a "sick day" if they are not actually sick.

Yet even for an adolescent, school is only a part of their education, not all of it. And if time away with the family means a missed day of math, I'm going to be okay with that. Perfect attendance is an achievement, but not one I could ever be thrilled about. Life is just too interesting to let even school get in the way.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Season for Everything…

It seems like every month I’m taken by surprise at the turn of the calendar. We all rejoiced at the arrival of Spring, and now Summer is upon us. The fields so quickly managed to turn from barren, to green to brown again. I always thought it a cliché, but it now seems true, that the older I get the more rapidly time seems to pass.

The upside is that God’s creation reminds us never to stay in the same condition. Just as the plants grow, blossom and pass, so too our tasks and ministries, patterns and preferences, need to be constantly ready to flex and change.

The writer of Ecclesiastes said, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1).

Over the past year, I and the church I serve have been in a season of transition and preparation. I'm an Interim Pastor, and the church is seeking for the right shepherd-leader to carry pastoral authority and responsibility. It hasn't been the easiest time, but it has been blessed. Seasons bring change, and we need to welcome each one.

Thankfully, the wisdom of God’s design is always in place ahead of time. For example, I’ve been watching a corn field sprout and grow in my daily drive, and have noticed it looks a little different at each pass, as one would expect. Miraculously, God placed within each tiny planted kernel all the resources needed for that little seed to grow into a full stalk and produce multiple ears packed with those sweet kernels of summer goodness. 

And just as God is leading this church through one season to the next, he does the same with each of us. As you look into summer and beyond, will you to embrace a new season in your own life? Perhaps a season of healing by joining a group such as Recovery Discipleship, or a season of ministry by leading a small group or teaching a Sunday School class, or a season of service by getting involved practically in your church.

There is a season for everything – in which season are you?

Monday, April 2, 2012

He Is Not Here

This first week of April celebrates an important day in U.S. History – the 44th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, TN, on April 4th, 1968. In American society, MLK has to have been one of the most influential people of the past century, and we do well to honor his significant life and remember his tragic death.

I expect to meet Dr. King in heaven, but if I wanted to pay my respects to him on earth, I would need to visit one of a number of memorials constructed in his honor, or even better, visit his grave.

After all, that’s what we do with lost loved ones – we create memorials. The cemetery is filled with headstones, marked with telling epitaphs, and my daily commute is marked with several white crosses and flowers at the locations where a driver, police officer or pedestrian lost their life.

Early on a Sunday morning, some two thousand years ago, a small group of women did what any of us would do to remember a lost loved one: they went to the tomb of their teacher, healer and friend, in an act of mourning and respect . Just days earlier, he had suffered the most brutal torture, the most blasphemous humiliation, and the most agonizing execution. Jesus, whom we call the Christ, had allowed himself to be beaten, mocked and crucified. At 9am on the previous Friday, Jesus had been nailed to that cross, and by 3pm, had given up his life.

Only on that memorable Sunday morning, they could not mourn, because the grave stood open.

Instead, they were greeted by two other-worldly men, who asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” (Luke 24:5-6). They were shocked, confused and energized. They ran from the tomb to spread the news. And we’re still spreading the news today.

When we talk about a lost loved one or a great historical figure, we always talk about them in the past tense – “he was a great leader” or “she was a dear sister”. With Jesus, however, we don’t say “was”, we say “is”. Because he IS risen, his tomb IS empty. We don’t look for him among the dead, because Jesus IS alive today.

The challenge, then, for us is to look for Jesus among the living. How is Jesus alive in your life and mine today? Where do you see him walking today in family, workplace, community and church? As you remember Jesus, are you developing the eyes to see a living Christ?

Because you won’t find him among the dead. He isn’t there. He is risen from the grave, and he is alive!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Significant Announcement

For today's blog, I thought it best to share an important memo I received this weekend, affecting anyone who has any interest in the Bible whatsoever. It is as follows (I've deleted the letterhead, as I do not have permission to re-publish the usual identifying logos):



DATE: APRIL 1, 2012



It is the great pleasure of the International Bible League, The American Bible Society, and Biblica (formerly known as the International Bible Society) to announce that after nearly 10 years of thorough and scholarly review, the Holy Bible will hereafter be published in a revised format.

Beginning with the marvelous discovery in April, 2001, of the earliest ever Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, and the April 2005 discovery of previously hidden minutes recorded at the First Council of Nicea, 325 AD, it has become apparent that the basic organization of the Bible’s books have been heretofore incorrectly organized.

While we recognize this announcement may cause confusion and concern among the faithful, it is the prayerfully considered opinion of Christianity’s preeminent scholars that these changes will contribute to a greater understanding, appreciation and adherence to the inspired Word of God, the Bible.

The changes are effective immediately, and include:
     - All the Bible Books will now be arranged in alphabetical order
     - All chapter and verse numbers will be removed, to allow for a smoother and more natural reading flow.
     - The New Testament will be placed at the front of the Bible, with the Old Testament to follow
     - The Old Testament – in recognition that the word “old” has negative connotations for many – will now be named “The Mature Testament”.

To assist in this significant shift, a Bible Amnesty program will be initiated to allow believers to exchange their own Bible for the re-organized Bible free of charge. All underlining, margin notes, and outdated church bulletins included in the returned Bibles will be duplicated in the replacement copy.

More information on the Bible Amnesty program can be found at the website,

We trust this announcement will inspire believers everywhere with a renewed love for the Word of God.


Jess Keddeng
President, International Bible League