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.

Making a Difference

Monday’s journey took us to 3 homes: Hope Home, Phoenix House and the Ruimveldt House.

In 2014, the Guyana team built a playground set at Hope Home and the 2015 team was excited that it was still in good shape, even the roof that was built by Tony and Miles. I don’t really know what this means but I heard a lot about Tony’s roof. Maybe Tim Reaves also had something to do with the construction.

While I was standing with the others looking at last year’s construction, I felt someone touch my back. I thought it might be another team member, maybe Will, but when I turned, I looked down to see a little girl who quickly wrapped her arm around me and held on. She kept squeezing me and laying her head on my torso. “Maria” just wanted to be hugged and would not let me go. My first encounter in the orphanage brought tears to my eyes.

After Maria let me go, Melissa and I followed the sound of children singing and found Pat and the children in the chapel having a music lesson with their teacher.   Smiles, laughter and excitement filled the room. We were treated to several songs and a concert on their instruments – recorders and drum tubs. What joy on their faces!

As I listened and watched the children, I had one of those moments of clarity when I thought: these children live here. No one is coming at 2:30 to take them to their homes and their families. I knew in my head that they lived in an orphanage but, in that moment, it hit me in my heart.

From the Hope Home, we traveled to the Phoenix House, a recovery house for men and women in addiction. Several of the team gave a word of witness and then I had the honor of offering a blessing for each resident while also giving them a cross.

During our time together, I noticed a little boy in our gathering and asked the “house mother” if he was a resident’s son.

“No, he’s one of ours”, she said.

This little boy, who looked like he might be 8 or 9, was a heroin addict and had been brought to the house by Child Services.  I learned that he was actually thirteen years old and had been given drugs by older teens and adults. He didn’t remember how long he’d been at the House (the result of being brought to the home in active addiction). As Derick and I talked to him, he started to cry saying “no one comes to see me”. I was speechless and about to break down myself but God, in his mercy, helped me to be strong in the moment.  Phoenix House – so much sorrow and pain BUT also so much hope as men and women ARE living substance-free. Like a phoenix who rises out of the ashes, these residents are seeking to rising out of their addiction into recovery.

Our next stop was the Ruimveldt House – a home for children who are HIV-positive. We had a great time singing with the children; especially popular was – “I Just Want to Be A Sheep”, led by Tony. What joy and fun as we colored together and just got goofy with silly glasses!

A hard day emotionally but a great day!

I thought a lot about the starfish story on Monday.   A man sees hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore and starts throwing them back in the water. Someone comes along and says, “you’re not making any difference. There are so many!”  The man replied “it makes a difference to that one.”

I will not forget the face of “Maria” or the face of the young teenage addict. I can’t help all of the needy children that I saw today but maybe the hug for Maria and the listening ear for the addict made a difference for just that one moment.

May we all make a difference for someone!