The Stories Our Pictures Tell

by Melanie Coleman

This summer, my parents arranged for a beach photo shoot with the whole family. In between shots, some of us waited on the sand, until my nine-year-old nephew James came to inform us we were needed again. As I stood up, the rough edge of my beach-worn toenail somehow deeply sliced the top of James’ ankle with its jagged edge. He burst into tears and hysteria ensued. This one was a real bleeder; add salty sand to the trauma, and I knew I would be paying for James’ therapy in the years to come.

After that, things kind of went to worms. So much for our dreams of catching candid laughter and bonding on camera. Parents stressed, kids ran into the ocean fully dressed, and this auntie contemplated her new life as a very specific kind of assassin. We tried to salvage the session, bravely smiling and offering bribes to the kids in exchange for cooperation.

Let’s just say it wasn’t a banner event for the Coleman family.

No matter what we’d hoped for from our session that evening, the resulting library of pictures told an unfiltered story. Those of us who were there can plainly see the pictorial shift: when James was injured and when the kids hit their limit. However, when we each shared a selection of photos on social media, it was interesting to see how every story told varied according to our different perspectives.

Just like selecting which photos to share, we have choices in what stories about our lives we tell and in how we share them. What part of the narrative we focus on inevitably reflects our personal values and mission.

Paul lived a life full of experiences, one that told two different stories: his before and after. As a Pharisee, he earnestly pursued and persecuted Christians, fully convinced of his righteous passion. After a dramatic conversion, Paul’s mission shifted entirely: the Gospel he had once vehemently rejected was now his focus and calling.

So when Paul shared his story with others, how did it reveal his focus? Well, in his letter to the church in Philippi, we see that Paul eschewed his former accolades, pedigree, and title. Instead, his focus was solely on Christ. He wrote: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:7-8 NASB).

Paul took the pictures from his life and used them to show the story of how gloriously everything changed once he encountered Christ. He encouraged the church in Philippi to know God and pursue Him first. He went on to say: “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14 NASB)

Just like Paul framed his story around the transforming work of Christ in his life, we too have a beautiful opportunity to see life and share it through the eyes of God’s redemptive grace. Through our experiences, He is constantly at work in us, teaching us and changing our hearts. When we share our story with others, we can use our pictures to reflect God’s grace and glory instead of our own plaudits.

And that is an album worth saving. 

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 NASB

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The Stories Our Pictures Tell – encouragement from Melanie Coleman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Melanie Coleman is a worship and youth leader at New Hope Chapel located in Arnold, MD. Her passions include bridging the gap between mental health issues and the church’s response, and helping young adults embrace their relationship with Jesus as their own as they experience His unconditional love and grace. She works as the administrator for AWSA and loves serving her AWSA sisters. On any given day, you can find her sneaking off to visit her various nieces and nephews, usually with Chick-Fil-A in hand. You can find her on Facebook and on Instagram as @elizmelanie.

Join the conversation: How does your story reflect God’s grace?

TRANSFORMED!

by Fran Caffey Sandin

“Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5: 17 NASB).

 Humpback whales cavorting in a feeding frenzy, soaring bald eagles, and a brown bear with two cubs climbing on the shoreline rocks were among the many wildlife sightings on our Alaska Dream Cruise. A small ship with 40 passengers sailing from Ketchikan to Sitka stopped for a brief tour of Thorne Bay. The small town of 473 currently featured seasonal residents plus those employed in the Forest Service and public education. Our tour guide explained its colorful history.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s Thorne Bay was the largest logging camp in North America and boasted 1500 residents at its peak. During that time, the city outgrew the sanitation plant from the early days, so they built a new one. The city wanted to sell the old site. Some adventurous members of a local church decided the location was great for the right price, so they bid on the property and won.

Today, the lovely Church at Thorne Bay is a beacon of light overlaying an old sewage dump. Isn’t that a perfect picture of what Jesus does for us when His blood covers our sins? Thinking about the comparison just made me smile. Jesus covered the stench of our sin with the beautiful fragrance of his holiness. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

During our trip, my husband and I met Roxy, a lovely, vivacious brunette who had majored in media and communications in college. After graduation, she moved to Hollywood to become an actress.

She did. But God had more in store for her. Her eyes sparkled as she related a life-changing encounter. On a movie set, she met a couple who asked two simple questions, “Do you believe the Bible?  Do you believe Jesus is who He said He is?” Startled at first, she began meditating about the questions. In younger years she had attended church but had never seriously considered the claims of Jesus. She enjoyed the social gatherings but never really knew Jesus in her heart.

After meeting the couple, she began reading her Bible, confessing her sins, and received Jesus as her personal Savior. She asked Him to help her start a new life. Acknowledging her anger and controlling ways, she contemplated the words of Jesus. God began to change her. She developed a desire to serve others, rather than to be served. As a result, she sold or gave away most of her belongings and moved to Alaska to work at a Bed & Breakfast. Unfortunately, a short time later the B&B closed.

She prayed and asked the Lord. “What do I do now?” His promptings led her to a large, beautiful house where Roxy took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. Her heart pounding as she waited, a kind woman opened the door and listened when Roxy explained that she needed a place to work. Roxy did not know the lady was a founding member of the Alaska Dream Cruise line, but God did.

Roxy left with a sigh of relief and a spring in her step. The lady, a believer, offered her a job as an on-board steward—to serve meals, clean rooms, and do other chores. Roxy obeyed God’s nudges and He provided. She is excited and happy for me to write her story because she wants to share her joy.  In her own words, “I have been transformed!”

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your Holy Spirit’s power to conform us to becoming more like Jesus. Thank you that our old thoughts, ways, and habits turn completely around when we take His words seriously and apply them to our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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TRANSFORMED! – insight from Fran Caffey Sandin on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

fran sandlinAbout the authorFran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist, a core group leader for Community Bible Study, and author of See You Later, Jeffreyand Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faithand has co-authored othersJim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven; a married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren. Visit Fran at her website:  www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: What are evidences in your life that God is transforming you?