“Pay attention to those who follow the right example…”

 Keep on imitating me, my friends. Pay attention to those who follow the right example that we have set for you.”  (Philippians 3:17)

One thing that is quickly discernible about this photo is that it has what photographers call a very narrow depth of field.  That means only a few things are in focus in a very narrow spot on the picture.  The camera settings and lens I was using allowed me to choose which of the plants I wanted to focus on or pay attention to, leaving the others in the foreground and background blurry or fuzzy.  One twist of the lens barrel in either direction and I could have chosen to focus on a different plant either behind or in front of the ones in focus.  

I’m reminded by the photo that we have choices in what we focus on and give our attention.  My choice of focus determined the final photo I snapped.  Likewise, the choices I make about what to focus on and give my attention to make a huge difference in the outcomes of my life.  The Apostle Paul was trying to make that point when he wrote, Keep on imitating me, my friends. Pay attention to those who follow the right example that we have set for you.”  Paul knew that the choice we make about where to place our focus and give our attention will greatly influence the life choices we make and thus our emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

There are many things that can get in our way when it comes to making decisions about where to focus.  Some mental illnesses greatly impact our ability to focus.  For example, a person suffering from depression might find it difficult for anything in their life to hold their attention for very long, let alone a photo of some fuzzy plants.  Someone suffering from anxiety might want to focus on one of the plants in the photo but can’t because they can’t stop focusing on some problem that demands their attention and keeps them locked on it.  A person fighting through attention deficit disorder might have their attention attracted to one of the grey plants in the photo but before they can lock on their focus one of the yellow plants gets their attention — and before they can lock onto the yellow plant something across the room gets their attention and pulls them away from the entire photo. 

Other feelings and issues can also cause us to twist the barrel of our life’s lens and shift the focus of our attention to other things or people that might not be very healthy for us.  Feelings like grief, anger, fear, boredom, lust, greed, etc. can cause us to make the shift of focus.  Then, once we’ve shifted our focus from the healthy to the unhealthy, the healthy people, things, choices, etc. remain blurry and almost impossible for us to see.  Others can tell us we’ve shifted focus and are on a destructive path but it’s difficult for us to see because of the focus change we’ve made.  Something or someone else is now getting our attention and everything else is out of focus and almost impossible to see.

Two things are critical in our lives regarding focus and attention.  First, we must follow the advice of the Apostle Paul.  Practice focusing on God and God’s way for our lives.  Practice in that will help us avoid distractions, pitfalls, and focusing our attention on an unhealthy agenda.  However, it is possible for all of us to lose our focus so second, if someone we trust suggests we might have our life “out of focus” we should do everything in our power to give their observation our serious consideration.  God’ love in Christ invites and allows us to re-focus and return to a healthier life without the baggage of shame.

I pray that God will help me keep a healthy focus and take advantage of Divine love to help me re-focus when necessary.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my new book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

Check out my new video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”

~ by revgenelson on March 28, 2012.

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