Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Focal Points

My camera is one of my favorite teachers. When I look through my viewfinder, there is a useful little rectangle in the center called the focus area. As I decide how I want to frame my picture, I can place that focus area indicator on specific parts of the scene and lock in the focus, which will help me make some important decisions. One decision I have to make is to choose the subject of my picture. What am I trying to capture? What does the scene in my viewfinder say to me? What best conveys the beauty I see? Is the whole scene important, or is there one detail that I want to highlight. I can dramatically change the way a picture looks just by picking different focal points in the same scene. Another decision is how much of the picture I want to be in sharp focus. For some kinds of photography I may want the whole scene to be uniformly as sharp as possible. For other shots, I may want only one aspect of the scene to be in crystal clear sharpness and leave the rest of the picture soft, fuzzy, or even blurry, which can be used to great artistic effect. Focal points are crucial, not only in photography, but in my life. What I set my sights on makes all the difference in what I see, how I see it, and how I process it.
What am I going to focus on?
What I think I lack OR the abundant blessings of God? The frustrations I have in any given day OR the gift of having a today? My dislike of doing dishes OR my joy in having a family to care for and that we have food to eat? Fears of distant, powerful human leaders OR confidence in All-Powerful God, who calls me His friend? My sin and failure OR the cross, where I was forgiven?
If I focus on ugly things, places of lack, scary monsters in the dark, I only magnify chaos and it is plenty big enough already. Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "As far as I can see, the reproduction of chaos is neither art, nor is it Christian." Chaos needs no agent, no storyteller, and it certainly needs no photographer . . . except for the times when beauty is brought out of ashes or when a smiling face shines, impossible, out of deep, dark, suffering.
"Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 NLT
What am I trying to capture? HIM! HE is true! HE is honorable! HE is right, and pure and lovely! HE is absolutely admirable, excellent in every way and constantly worthy of praise! What speaks to my heart of God in the scene in front of me? Let me focus on that very thing! But not for its own sake, lest it distract me and become an idol. In the big picture and in every tiny detail, I want to see and notice and know HIM. C. S. Lewis wrote, "all ground is holy and every bush (could we but perceive it) a Burning Bush." Whether it is through an actual photograph or through the pictures my spirit takes that capture Godlight (another Lewis term) in my experience, I can know Him and make Him known. Tell me some of your favorite things to set as focal points--the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy things that speak to you of all that He is! Where will you fix your thoughts today?

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