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Years ago my boss gave me an odd compliment. He said, “You’re really good at … uh … mug shots.”

Even though I was the photojournalist and he was the writer, he was at a loss for words. Words have a way of failing us at times. Sometimes it’s hard to describe what we’re thinking or feeling.

On the surface, being good at mug shots is not a compliment. Mug shots are what the police take of a suspect right before they put him or her in jail. It’s never a flattering picture because the person being arrested is generally not in a good mood.

Instead of just leaving, my boss valiantly tried to explain his compliment. But his explanation became more convoluted. Eventually I simply said, “Thank You.” He looked so relieved and exited quickly. I think it was the first and last time he tried to compliment me.

All these years later I think that what he was trying to say is that I had a way of capturing people’s personalities. What might have been simple mug shots somehow became portraits.

I enjoyed asking people about themselves and listening to their answers. I was honored that many people shared their life stories with me. More often than not, a special bond formed between us. As a result, a little of their true self came through the camera lens.

Why does this memory surface as I’m thinking about another new year and new beginnings? As a photojournalist I spent all my energy focusing on the people I photographed. I listened to the words they spoke and the ones they didn’t. I tried to see in between the sentences and behind the words. The obvious became blurred and the not so obvious came into sharper focus. Ironically, it was a time in my life when my own focus was very blurry. I thought I was a good person and I believed that was enough. But I wasn’t following the Lord. I was terribly out of focus.

Apostle Paul knew all too well about being out of focus. He thought he was focusing in on the right thing by hunting down those who were followers of The Way. Those who believed that Jesus was the Son of God. He persecuted Christians with religious fervor.

Until that day on the road to Damascus. Suddenly a light from heaven shone all around Saul and he fell to the ground (Acts 9:3). He heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (verse 4).

When Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” the Lord relied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (verse 5).

Words have a way of failing us at times, but The Word, Jesus Christ, never fails us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

If we focus on him, a blurry life becomes clear. Fuzzy incidents may still be confusing, but their importance fades into the background as we hand them over to the Lord. A life surrendered to Jesus as he becomes our main focus, is a life worthy of an eternal family portrait.

During this New Year, may we all focus on Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at

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