Hello, how are you, g’day and welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. I hope you enjoy diving in!


Some of the hardest practice days for me as a swimmer were the days where we were zoning in to focus on improving something very specific. With hands on resting on a kick board, we’d kick our way up and down the length of the pool, back and forth, and by the end of the session, my legs were usually burning. Or, we’d have a pool buoy between our legs, so that we weren’t kicking — we were just using our arms to pull ourselves from one end of the pool to the other. By the end of those practice sessions, my arms felt like jello.

If we decided to focus on breast stroke or butterfly, I was probably tempted to call in sick. While I managed to learn to swim fly reasonably well, I was never very strong at it, because I didn’t focus on it very often. My breast stroke was very slow and pretty lousy for the same reason — I didn’t spend enough time giving those strokes my focused attention in order to improve.

Purposeful focus creates opportunities for improvement.

As photographers, an important part of our job is focus. In a very literal sense. We shoot manually, which means instead of letting the camera decide the aperture, shutter speed or ISO to correctly expose an image, we take the time to look at our setting, and choose each of those settings. As the light changes and the scene changes, we make adjustments to compensate. The image, however, will not turn out well if we forget to focus.

We’ve had clients specifically ask us if we have the ability to take pictures where the people in front are in focus and the background is out of focus. We love to shoot this way, and it puts a big smile on our face that even if they don’t understand the technicality behind creating that sort of image, they do appreciate the beauty of choosing to focus on one particular subject and allowing the things around it to be out of focus.

While I won’t go too far into the technicality of creating images with “blurry backgrounds,” I’ll just explain that the camera setting for Aperture determines the depth of field for an image. Simply put, creating a large depth of field means choosing to allow a great amount of whatever’s in front of the camera, at any distance, to be in focus. This makes sense for landscape photography, when you see a beautiful scene and you want the camera to take it all in.

Hall Arm 4

{Lots of focus}

Creating a narrow depth of field means that just a sliver of the scene in front of you — the section you choose to focus on — will be in focus, while objects both in front of and behind that sliver are not going to be in focus. Catching a couple leaning up against a tree with Spanish moss in front of them and the river behind them, you might choose a narrow depth of field, so that the Spanish moss that’s closer to the camera is blurred and the river is blurred, and your eyes are immediately drawn to the couple by the tree.


{The Belle is in focus, but the trees behind her are not.}

Careful focus will by necessity mean that some things will be in focus, and other things will not.

Without a camera in my hand, I typically have a pretty difficult time focusing. There’s usually a reasonably lengthy list of things I need to accomplish on a particular day, some written down, some floating around in my brain, or calling to me from different corners of my house. I struggle to focus on getting the one thing good and done, when there are so many things I could focus on. I usually have a good number of distractions — they’re not always bad distractions, they just are distracting.

Distraction might just be Focus’s worst enemy.

This season of writing through 31 Days, thinking about life as a race we’re all swimming has provided a more focused way for me to think about faith and write with the hopes of encouraging others to press on. And one particular Scripture has emerged as a focus point, time and time again. Here it is in the Amplified version.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,
Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. {Hebrews 12:1-2, AMP}

These words encourage us to focus. To strip away the hindrances and distractions and to focus in on Jesus. Verse 3 goes on to explain:

Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.

We’re challenged to just think of Him — to just think of Jesus who endured so much — so that we don’t grow weary or exhausted or lose heart.

Have you ever teetered on the edge of losing heart? Have you ever felt like it was all just too much and you had no idea how you were going to get it done or make it through? These hope-filled words promise that the very act of remembering what Jesus endured to finish His race and keep the faith will instantly inspire you to press on and finish yours well.

I read Matthew 26 again just a few days ago, and I felt bombarded, realizing afresh what Jesus went through, all the events surrounding the crucifixion. The scourging and the mocking, the stripping and beating, the crown of thorns and the cross to carry. He suffered at the hands of the very people He lived and died to save.

If we set our minds to a narrow depth of field, this is all that needs to remain in focus.

But we still have stuff to do, Caroline, you’re thinking? Me, too. How do we focus on Jesus and still do the stuff?

We slow down. We ask the Holy Spirit to meet us. God can absolutely be the focus of everything.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. {1 Cor. 10:31, NKJV}

Whether we are changing a tire or a diaper, folding laundry or negotiating a merger, if Christ is where our hearts are deeply focused, and we can glorify God.

By acting with integrity at a business meeting, by showing kindness in line at the grocery store — we can do the stuff and still show that our lives are focused on the Name and renown of the incredible God who loves us and showed us how to live this way.

Slow down today. Recognize distractions for what they are. Ask for God’s help to slow down and focus. Focus can bring improvement. Focus can create beauty. And ultimately, your life, rightly focused will bring glory to God.