Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Life through His filter

I prayed as I walked along the beautiful beach, “Lord teach me to enjoy your beautiful creation without filtering it with my lonely sad life filters.” 

It was one of those days when I was walking through nature that at one time I could have totally entered into and enjoyed the moment. But on this day, I could not do this without seeing it through the filter of deep sorrow and loss. It made everything look and feel sad. 


Over the years I have never understood why those who have had sad and tragic things happen can’t just escape for a while and truly enjoy a moment of happiness. I have always found it hard to understand why they have to always bring the sadness into every situation. That day I had a glimpse of that like never before and I didn’t like it one bit. 


There are some things that just hurt so deep that they can create filters for a time from which you then see the whole world from, and it changes everything. I pray I have more compassion for those in that space from now on and I know it makes sense for a time of grief and sorrow. 


But my question is do we have to stay there?  From this space, it means you can’t seem to enjoy anything. I don’t believe that we were created to stay this way! 


The natural photo  
As a photographer, I am aware that the lens is a key part of the camera that allows you to capture what you are seeing as it really is, like ours eyes. But nowadays once the photo is taken, we like to put effects onto the photos by adding a filter. We do it on our phones and computers, we can distort the original photo until it is no longer recognisable, or we can enhance the original features.  It is all subjective and my daughter is always telling me I play too much with my photos in the editing process.  


In the end it is something you can choose to add to the original photo, which means you could also choose to take off at some point. 

The same photo with a different 
filter on it.


There are some times in life where I can see how the wearing of black for a period of time after death makes sense. Like a filter, it’s like it gives you permission to feel sad and not to have to justify your feelings. But it is also designed for a time, for to stay there and never put coloured clothes back on is not healthy either.  We know that the filter is always there to use, but there are other filters as well. Depending on what filter we use, we can change the whole way we view the picture. Like a filter we have the choice at some point to change our filter, to re-engage with life.


Surely this is the power of choosing the filter of seeing everything through the transformational love of Christ. His faithful words show us a new filter to live by. This is a filter that never changes no matter what does and does not happen around us and in our life. It doesn’t mean that we won’t sometimes put the sad lens back on, even Jesus did that. But if we choose to always filter everything through hope and a greater story that has a better ending than we can see right now, I have experienced it helps even the sad filters I put on at times.


This is not a ‘come to Jesus and everything will be filtered through love and peace and everything will be great’ statement. We all know that is not true.  The fact is, it is during the times of greatest challenge that His filter is the most powerful.  His filter can make even the greatest of tragedies look more hopeful. I remember when my father died suddenly from a motorcycle accident, it was Christ’s filter that made and still makes everything much more bearable.


2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

So, we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.



That day I walked the beach, I could not see anything but sadness, it was a down day, we all have them. I remember wondering if I would ever enjoy God’s beautiful scenery again. But months later, I am choosing to see life through His filter more and more. It is changing my focus, it is changing the way I see the picture. It was not the picture of nature that changed, it was the filter I was using. By changing my filter, the bright colours of life and awe are beginning to come back again. 


My prayers are being answered but my choices are also a key part of it.  What filters are you adding onto the view you see each day?  What choices are you making today that can change the way you view the challenges set before you?  There are things that you have no control of and in the things you can change, His never changing filter of love and grace can make all the difference in the way you see today.



Sunday, 14 February 2021

Living in the AND


I have always been someone who is either fully in or fully out, not much middle ground.  I suppose when people call me passionate and determined, it kind of goes along with the territory. I mean, life is short, why waste time sitting around and not simply going for it? Life to the full (John 10:10), with no regrets, is the way I have wanted and have lived for the first 50 years of life.

 

“The glory of God is revealed in a person who is fully alive” (Saint Irenaeus)

 

Oh, how I long to be fully alive, to reveal His glory, to be His faithful servant, to get to the pearly gates and hear the words, “well done good and faithful servant”, to be known as someone who never held back. 

 

But this comes with a warning. I have been told many times that I expect too much, I have always had high expectations for myself and others around me. It has been a strength AND a downfall all at the same time. I have lost much and hurt many with this ‘all or nothing’ zest for life. 

 

As 50 came and went, life took a turn and ‘living life to the full’ became something that I lost focus on. Because if I couldn’t have it all, I didn’t want anything. You could say that for the past 2 years I have tapped out. Life has slowed me down, taken my breath away and even my desire to fully live at times or to see a future that is hopeful. In that tapped out space my focus has been more on loss, doubt, confusion, guilt, sadness, dead ends, blindsides, shock, anger, blame, death and hopelessness. 

 

The ‘all or nothing’ in me just didn’t know how to live with both. Is that even possible? When my wise mum said “I need to learn to live in the AND”, I simply drew a blank and had no idea how to do that. It is this weird space of living in AND.  How can it be? I can’t fathom that you can be in complete brokenness and yet still enjoy a laugh or a moment as well.  I can see how it is important, staying down in the depths for a long time is not healthy. But what I don’t know how to do, is to not feel guilty about the joyful feelings, when I am supposed to be in a sad and broken time of my life. When grieving loss, I feel guilty if I enjoy a moment, as if I am denying the pain I am in. If I look happy, I feel guilty that people will think I am over the pain. 

 

It is not always ‘all on’ or ‘all off’, in fact living in the AND means it is both at the same time. How come I am 50+ and only just beginning to navigate this?  And deeper than that, it is something I must acknowledge deeply as something I must say sorry for, confess as a sin that has caused pain to God’s heart and to others. 

 

“Real confession is deeper than seeing our own failure...we need to see how our own sin impacts our communion and intimacy with God and with other people. Sin should break our hearts – not because we discover we are imperfect – but because we see that our sin has destructive consequences.” (S.G Brown, ‘Sensible Shoes’, pg 162-163)

 

 

I am on a journey now, to understand how to live in the AND. To feel the pain and loss and not deny it, but to not deny the joy, love and peace that is true because of who God is and what He has done. To seek what it means to live “fully alive” in the second part of life, even when I know it will look very different to the first 50 years. To not allow sadness and doubt to overshadow the good that was had in the first 50 years, to bring it forward and hold onto that joy that I chose to live back then. AND yet to move forward, choosing to live to the full with no regrets every day. Lord, help me push the guilt away when I feel joy, even in the midst of holding the pain and learning from it as well. 

 

“The glory of God is revealed in a person who is fully alive” (Saint Irenaeus)

 

Oh, how I long to be fully alive, to reveal His glory, to be his faithful servant, to get to the pearly gates and hear the words, “well done good and faithful servant”, to be known as someone who never held back AND to never deny that this life will hurt at times. I must feel this but I don’t have to cling to it or feed it, but listen prayerfully to what it may teach me.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Broken Shells


Walking along the beach is always so peaceful for me. The soft, white sand under your feet is always pleasant. But this particular day, as I came to the end of the beach, I wanted to venture around the point to see what was on the other side. As I followed the path towards the rocks, the path began to become more painful to walk. A little further along the path became crushed shells that were at first easy to walk on but soon they became bigger shells, broken, petrified shells.
  Until it became impossible to walk on without pain, a lot of pain.

 

The shells looked like a graveyard of death; broken, lacking color and petrified


as if literally scared to death. They were sharp and painful to walk on and somewhat depressing. Over a long period of time, they will become soft, smooth sand. Nature’s wonderful way of recycling, bringing something new out of something old. Of course, this would take 1000s of years , such a long process that I cannot even comprehend. 

 

As I walked into the rock pools near the path, I found a shell in all its colorful beauty; what these dead shells would have looked like in their prime. 

 


I had to turn back. I couldn't go on to see what was around the corner.  My feet were quite sore the next day from the beating the petrified and broken shells gave them.

 

I returned the next day with shoes on to discover that only a few meters around the corner, if I had simply persevered through the pain, I would have come to solid and smooth rocks and a quiet sheltered cove to swim in.  

 

As I begin a 4-month journey around Australia, I can’t help but feel for the petrified shells. Like them, I I know brokenness, times when I have lost my color and feel somewhat petrified about my future.  Times when so much has died and as a result I can be prickly and painful to be around. We all know we have all felt like this at times. I am encouraged to know that I can be recycled, made new, become smooth and soft and repurposed.  And yet I feel a little discouraged that I haven’t got 1000 years on this earth to possibly see that all come to pass. Yet to God 1000 years is like a day, so maybe God can speed up the process and help me feel more refined, hopeful and soft. And if not, I must simply choose to trust Him anyway. 

 

As I walked the path again the next day it was a different experience. I had soft thongs on to buffer the pain and was able to push through easily to get to the other side.  We need that buffer at times don't we? Something, someone to protect us during those painful parts of the journey.  If I had not returned with protection on my feet, I would not have found that there was beauty on the other side of the pain. 

 

Protection comes in all forms, but we certainly need it at times. We need to allow the softness and protection of a person, a place, a space that gives us the ability to push on forward. Sometimes it is    simply a covering to get you through the rough patch and out the other side to see that just around the corner there is hope.  I certainly decided that to venture back on that same track again to see what was on the other side I wasn’t going to try to do it in bare feet again. But maybe if I knew how close I was to getting through to the other side, I might have persevered through the pain. You just never know, but I am thankful for those who walk with me. Sometimes they simply choose to walk in the pain with me, sometimes I am carried and protected by them when the going gets too tough for me to bear on my own. One thing I know for sure is that we are not meant to do it alone. 

 

No matter where the track leads, the reality of the broken shells remain. They are a stark reminder that what was once full of color and life, will die and break. This cannot be changed or altered, but it can be recycled into something new. 

 

HE WHO WAS SEATED ON THE THRONE SAID, "I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!" THEN HE SAID, "WRITE THIS DOWN, FOR THESE WORDS ARE TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE.” (REV 21: 5) 

 

 

This trip is one of those refining moments, when you take time out to focus on God, who knows where you will end up. It may take longer than I have hoped, but each day I will continue to walk the soft sandy beaches of our beautiful Australian coastline and remember that God can make beautiful things out of the broken.