Focus

Almost every single photo of me from my childhood includes a shadow of my dad’s thumb as he tried to navigate a big and cumbersome camera way back when. No matter how much he gripped the outside of it and tried to fold his hand, the familiar image loomed.

It was always a surprise to see what morphed onto the film because, unlike today, it was anyone’s guess if the flash would go off or if the person operating it remembered to advance the roll.

It was a lot of standing straight as a picket fence and waiting for the signal that something was about to happen.

“Wait. Ok. No. Wait. Ok. No…”

More strap adjustments, moving the lens, looking through the viewfinder to see distance.

“Move in. Move in. Ok. No. Move back. Go to the left. No, that’s too far.”

Then he would put the camera down, try to get us all better grouped, and we would begin the process again of more maneuvering.

One of my brothers taught me the peace sign. I recall having my index finger and a middle finger placed upright while the rest were squished down. I was told that this was something I was supposed to do. It was done repeatedly to be sure that I caught on like a good student. For a five-year-old who felt left out of everything that her older siblings were doing, this was something I thought made me more sophisticated like they were. For them, I was easy to program.

They would implement ideas, and I would carry them out like a machine, much to their amusement. It always was,

“Hey, Chris, try this. It will be so neat.”

My mom hated that I was taught this, and she tried continuously to break the habit. I was too little to remember to use both fingers at that age, so I was probably flipping everyone off.

She would catch me running through the house doing something they had exposed me to, like singing racy song lyrics and saying words I shouldn’t. She was up against a force of three teenage boys and me.

“Christine, stop doing that!” Even the use of my formal name didn’t deter me. If they instructed me to do something, I carried out their command, and it pretty much was a done deal and would not disappear quickly.

I tried to sneak in the hand sign while everyone was preoccupied with staring straight ahead at the camera.

“Chris! Quit it!” She would suddenly say as she noticed I was doing it again. At one point, she gripped my hand that was closest to her to be sure I was listening.

When my dad would finally count down to the actual snap, there were a few occasions I would move quickly and hold up my pinky and the one next to it more obscurely. She wouldn’t find out until later when she held the finished product in her hand.

“Chris, you need to stop doing this. You are ruining every picture we take.” That only made me want to do it more.

As taking photos became more elaborate, I had a digital camera that still required film, but it had a panoramic setting which I never used. It required a simple slide of a button over to that setting.

I noticed that the film was at the end of the roll, so I took it in to get it developed. I couldn’t recall what I had used it for, but I had two small kids at the time, so I thought I might have used it on them.

When I picked them up to pay, the amount seemed higher than usual.

I looked at the package, and there was a box checked that said ‘wide’ angle.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“They had to process these differently. You must have a camera that can take landscape-type photos, and it costs more to develop those.”

I didn’t recall doing that. Was I getting amnesia? When you have children, you ask yourself that question sometimes.

Much to my shock, there were twenty-four pictures of the same thing when I opened the package. My daughter, who was two at the time, had done selfies before they were a thing, and she had turned the camera to the panoramic setting. She had taken pictures of her lips and teeth over and over.

“Did you use my camera?” I held the smoking gun in my hand, but the answer?

“No.”

“I think you did,” I said, showing her the evidence. “I think what is on here belongs to you.”

I hid my camera after that.

On another occasion, I went to pick up pictures that had been taken with an underwater camera. When I got home, I opened the envelope and discovered that I had been given the wrong ones. Strangers were staring at me. When I went back to exchange them, the other party had returned mine, and they had opened it just like I had done to theirs, not knowing there was a mistake.

I cannot imagine what they thought when they saw the contents of mine. My daughter, who didn’t know how to use the new camera well, had taken shots of body parts. No faces. Just various poorly executed images of legs, arms, and other compromising things. I threw them all away to forget about it. I hoped the other family didn’t end up in therapy for too long.

Just like taking pictures, what you set your sites on in life, is what manifests. If you choose to think about issues that tend toward the negative, that will show up. The opposite is true as well. I have found that the more I see the good, it starts to appear easier without much effort except for thinking that it will.

This lesson probably hasn’t been taught to most of us. We are expected at young ages to fit in with our peer group. And most of humanity has its heart set on worry and anxiety.

In Romans 12:2 it says:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)

I read a long time ago that the human brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If you think of a particular idea, then that is what is on your mind. Taking control of your thought life is part of the renovation process if you want to break free from toxicity. Becoming mindful of what you are thinking about helps in overcoming old, unhelpful patterns.

When I speak to strangers in public, the topic of conversation takes a turn for the worst very quickly these days. I have heard so much lately about families at odds over the state of affairs regarding politics and vaccines.

One woman told me while I waited in a line that her family is so split on their opinions that they can’t all get together like they used to. Her eyes looked tired and hurt as she spoke of a relative who she missed. There has been a significant fracturing of our society because I repeatedly hear this same story. We probably won’t fully understand the damage that has been done for a while. It’s too bad we have lost our ability to change the subject to something neutral for all.

In Proverbs 17:22, sound advice is offered:

A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired. (Message)

I get drained very quickly when I am in the presence of someone who continually speaks nothing but bad news, so I always try to change it. Sometimes I can, and other times my words fall on deaf ears.

Being in constant mental fatigue, many compromise their immune systems suffering sickness and disease directly resulting from what they are dwelling on. No one likes to hear that, but it’s the truth. In John 8:32 there’s good news with this:

“..and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”(ESV)

God wants you to live in a place of peace, not turmoil. It’s difficult to execute when the world continues to scream in our ears.

The most disappointing result that used to happen in the old days with photography was a double exposure. This is where two photos are taken in the same frame. The film wasn’t correctly advanced, and you end up with images right on top of one another that make absolutely no sense. You cannot see what was originally in the scene because another one has intruded right over it. It’s a blurred mess.

Much like this verse from James 1:8:

“He is a double-minded man, unstable in all of his ways.”(ESV)

When this happens, you pray for something, and then you go around and undo it with what you say. Your faith in what you believe in is dead, and that will be the result. Nothing.

Wouldn’t it be much nicer to fall more on the side of happiness? To not entertain the darkness but to stay in the light?

In Isaiah 26:3, there is a clue on how to do that:

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” (ESV)

It might be a bit of a battle to come against what the general population would have you participate in. It’s easy to go through your days mindlessly accepting whatever is thrown at you and reacting to it, but God can help.

If you allow it, you will come to realize that there is a higher way of living where you walk above and beyond the ‘normal’ as you turn to heaven, ask for guidance, and change your focus.

(The camera my dad used)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s