Changing the Filter

 

 

“Resentment is drinking poison and waiting for the other person to get sick.”

I don’t know who said this originally.  I just know it’s true.  Resentment eats you up on the inside.  It damages relationships.  It puts a filter over everything that you see.  It’s like the filters that you put on your pictures: mono, vivid, silver-tone, dramatic cool or noir.

A bad filter can make a picture worse.

A good filter can take a so-so picture and turn it into something far better than the original.  Take the picture from yesterday’s post.  Add a little “noir” filter with a little more brightness and voilà!  a better picture!

My problem?   I don’t always know how to change the filter.  Sometimes it’s rather easy. Forgive and move on.  Sometimes you can’t do it so fast.  It eats at you and starts to wear you down.  It can make us see every fault, every fallacy, and every action as a deliberate attempt to hurt us.  Resentment can ruin us.

Henri Nouwen wrote in his book on spiritual formation:   “When you cling to your complaints, your heart is full of resentment, and there is no room for God to enter and set you free.  Resentment curtails the movements of the Spirit and diminishes the kingdom within. It replaces faith, hope and charity with fear, doubt, and rivalry.” *

Maybe we change our filter by seeing with the eyes of Jesus.  Maybe it’s every time that I think of _____________ (fill in person, situation, action), I also see the face of Jesus.  Maybe our filter needs to be Jesus beside, behind, in front of ________________.

Maybe everything we see needs to be in the filter of “grace and forgiveness of God”.

It might be hard to change the filter all at once – forever.  Maybe it’s every day to change the filter just a little more in the light of the grace of God.

I may not be able to change _______________ (fill in the blank) but I can ask God to change me.

Change my filter, O God. Help me see with Your eyes of grace and forgiveness. Amen.

 _______________________

* Nouwen, Henri. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit. Harper One, Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird, 2010, p. 59.

A Simple Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. *

A simple prayer – a prayer that has been spoken by thousands of people . . .

  • an alcoholic seeking the strength to resist the urge to drink
  • a couple who doesn’t know how they can make their marriage work
  • an addict who tries to decide between buying food for their family and drugs for their cravings
  • a mom who is fighting the urge to “fix” the problem, enabling her loved one yet again
  • me in the midst of the everyday

It’s a prayer said hundreds of times at Celebrate Recovery, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholic Anonymous, Al-Anon and other 12-step meetings.

It’s a prayer of acceptance, peace, courage and wisdom.

I remember seeing this prayer stitched on a needlepoint in my grandmother Louise’s house. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know if she stitched it or if it was a gift. I don’t know what it meant to her. I didn’t know what it meant to me when I was child.

It’s a prayer that I see carved on this cross every time I sit at my desk to work, write, read or pray.

I pray this prayer regularly – sometimes in haste, sometimes in moments of indecision and sometimes in the throes of resentment.

What does it mean to pray: “serenity to accept the things I cannot change”?   It’s a prayer for peace, knowing that I can do nothing to change the situation that is before me.  It’s not my situation to change.  I can’t make anyone “feel” differently.  A person’s emotions belong to that person. As much as I want someone to be _________ (fill in the emotion), I cannot make anyone feel any particular way.  I have no control over that.

What does it mean to pray: “courage to change the things I can”?  It’s a prayer to stop saying “I can’t do anything about that!” It’s a prayer to stop making excuses . . . a prayer to quit letting anger fester into resentment.  Just this morning I read this powerful line from Henri Nouwen:  “When we swallow our angry feelings and do not make them known, resentment settles in.” **   When we don’t try to change something that we DO have control over, it bottles up, sinks deep into the pit of our hearts and at some point comes pouring out, usually in a way that is certainly not peaceful or serene.

What does it mean to pray: “the wisdom to know the difference”?   For me, here’s the real point of contention – the crux of the prayer.  How do I know if I should accept or if I should seek to change?  Is this really my problem?  Is this my responsibility?  What’s MY part in the situation before me?

To understand the difference,  I need a moment to think, really think – to pray, really pray – for clarity.  Sometimes that clarity comes easily.  Sometimes that clarity is harder to see.  Sometimes I need someone to help – a friend, a confidant, a sponsor, a coach or a spouse. Most often, it’s my husband, Noah. (Thank you to Noah and all of the people who’ve helped me figure it out.)

It is a simple prayer . . . a prayer drawing me to the Source of strength, courage, peace and hope . . . over and over again.

__________________________________

*The Serenity Prayer is most commonly attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).

* * Nouwen, Henri. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit. Harper One, Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird, 2010, p. 59.

The Need to Reframe

Several years ago, while on vacation, Noah photographed a beautiful sunset on the island of St. Kitts. I loved it – the fading sun creating brilliant colors as it set on a mostly deserted beach.

I framed it in my usual basic black frame and hung it in a room, already decorated with other “beachy” décor. I looked forward to gazing upon the picture and remembering the wonderful time on St. Kitts. However, my plan for gazing on the picture did not have that effect. It just didn’t look right. The beautiful colors of the sunset did not pop as I expected. Why? Maybe it needed reframing?

Back to the store – let’s try another frame.   This time I purchased a white frame. Would that make the difference? YES!

Reframing brought out new colors. Reframing pointed out the house down the beach with a few lights shining in the windows. Reframing made the clouds in the sky looked almost 3 dimensional. Reframing pointed out the ship far in the distance. Reframing showed the reflection of the sun on the sand.   Reframing brought new possibilities to light. Reframing created a new picture.

I’ve been pondering this topic of reframing. I scribbled some thoughts on a sticky note and stuck it on my desk several weeks ago. Until today, I have stared at those notes as I worked.

No, my notes have not been about reframing more pictures in my house.   This reframing is the kind that we do in the circumstances of life. How can we take a situation and gain a new perspective on it? Reframe it. Step back. Change the view. Put it in a new light. Clarify what is true in the situation and what is assumed. Look for the redemptive moments. Is God’s redeeming love and amazing grace still true? Always.

Reframing is something I need to do on a regular basis. People do bring us joy but people also disappoint us. Life happens and sometimes we have absolutely no control over the circumstances. The only control we do have is our response to the circumstance.

The prophet, Habakkuk, stated it this way:

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines;

Though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food;

Though the flock is cut off from the folks and there is no herd in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”

 

Though . . . yet.

 

THOUGH people disappoint, YET I will praise You, Lord.

THOUGH the media speaks of violence and injustice, YET I will hope in You, Lord.

THOUGH the bank account is low, YET I will trust in You, Lord.

 

Fill in the blank with the circumstance:

Though ___________________________, YET I will exult in the God of my salvation.

THIS is reframing, my friends!

 

******************************************************************

Scripture noted is Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NRSV)

Picture taken by Noah Archer, September 2015 on the island of St. Kitts.

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Elizabeth’s Lucky Day

Friday the 13th usually brings fear of an unlucky day for folks but for Elizabeth, Friday, May 13, 1960 was her lucky day! It was her birthday!

Five months ago, Friday, January 13, Elizabeth died from a long battle with cancer. All of us who loved her were shocked and left wondering why. Certainly this was not a lucky day for us. How could this woman who was so filled with life and love be gone from us?

Elizabeth was one of those people who loved life, who loved her family, who loved her friends and most of all, loved God. She had a way of making everyone around her smile and feel better about their day. She was a bright light of love and friendship!

“LizBeth” was my oldest friend – since the nursery at Norlina United Methodist Church. Most of my childhood and teenage memories involve her – Sunday School, hours and hours of playing Barbies, UMYF . . .

Most of my “firsts” were shared with her:

  • first day of kindergarten and first grade,
  • first time singing special music at church (5th grade duet of “Fairest Lord Jesus”),
  • first dates (double-dating that was approved by my parents ‘if Elizabeth going’),
  • first time seeing a big city (New York City – big deal from 2 teenagers from small town Norlina!)
  • first time being away from home at Conference youth events
  • first rock concert

We were even pregnant at the same time though we were living 800 miles apart. Our sons (Will and Samuel) are graduating on the same day (today) from NCSU School of Engineering. Younger son, Barnes, graduated this week from Louisburg College.

Many women called Elizabeth their “best friend” because that’s who she was! She made all of her friends feel special.

When Elizabeth died, so many of us were shocked because we didn’t know how sick she really was! She attended my Dad’s funeral in August and came over to my Mom’s house after the services. She didn’t look sick. She didn’t act sick. She didn’t want to be sick! She always wanted to concentrate on how others were doing instead of thinking of her self. She only told me about her illness if I specifically ASKED her. Sometimes folks approach illness with an attitude of “enjoying poor health” – telling everyone how bad they feel. Not Elizabeth.

I was privileged to share some time with her in the last two weeks of her life. I watched as her husband, Henry, cared for her. What a testament to his deep and abiding love for her!

We laughed together, cried together and talked about the hope found in Christ’s resurrection.

Elizabeth asked me the week before she died: “Tricia, what do you tell your church members when they have a terminal illness?”

I said, “There’s always hope. But hope doesn’t mean that everything turns out the way we want it to. Our hope is in Christ. Our hope is in the resurrection. Our hope is in the love that we have for one another and the love God has for us.”

I noticed, during this last week, a sign hanging in Elizabeth’s kitchen with a verse from Hebrews: “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” Yes, this hope is Christ – our anchor!

On the day of her funeral, my friend, Angie, sent me this text: “God loved you big through Elizabeth and that love reminds us of His faithfulness to care for His children until the end.”

So true – God loved us BIG through Elizabeth.

Today on her birthday – I give thanks for the love, the friendship and the witness of Elizabeth. I know that she’s continuing to celebrate her lucky day in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Happy birthday, LizBeth!