Behind the Screen

rainloveIt is really easy to see the internet as an abstract place. A place that isn’t really
real but we all seem to live on it. It sometimes feels like a place where there are no faces, no real people but just words and videos and pixels.

But it isn’t that simple. Behind every screen is a person. A real person. A person with feelings and dreams and fears and doubts. Behind every blog is someone living real life, trying to get through the daily grind. Behind every YouTube video is a real person going through a tragedy or clinging to hope or skipping in the sunshine. Behind every twitter account is flesh and blood, typing thoughts and ideas and their hopes and dreams.

I have been pondering this. Which may seem odd, but when we comment or tweet back we aren’t placing words into an abyss that swirls them around and sucks them in a black hole. No, those words which are dripped in meaning and language are going to be seen and processed by a real person. And depending on the words you use, they will either encourage or scar that person. They will either uplift or break down. 

I have friends with YouTube channels and blogs that sometimes get abuse from people, words flung onto the screen and sit there chewing away and they are hurt by them. They wonder if it is worth it? Does it outweigh the good stuff? One of my friends said that he get about 5% horrible comments and its often those comments that he remembers the most.

We need to recognise that the person behind the screen has real feelings. And then we ask ourselves…

Is what I’m saying encouraging, helpful, uplifting, truthful, humane?

Even if I disagree with someone, if I don’t think their theology is like mine, if I think their concepts and ideas are not what I agree with, the truth is that they are still a human being behind the screen. My ungracious words could knock their confidence and hurt them.

Would I say the same things to them if I was sitting at the table with them? Eating, looking into their eyes as we discuss theology, gaming, YouTube videos, music etc… What would drip off the tongue?

My friend recently wrote some thoughts of a book she was reading, she doesn’t agree with everything he wrote but her mini review was full of good and gracious thoughts. But the author of the book sent her a message saying he was glad she read the book and would interested in more of her thoughts on it. She shared this with me and it made us stop and think.

There is a real person behind this book and although we don’t agree with everything the book says, the person who wrote it is not abstract and not someone to simply disagree and argue with. It made her think about how she will engage with the rest of the book.

The person behind the screen is not abstract. They are real. Flesh and blood. Dreams and Imagination. Hurts and Fears. Someone you could sit down with and drink coffee with. It should change the way we comment, remark, review and write when we engage and disagree with people or dislike something.

Love should be in every keystroke.

*Image from Imadecode (Flickr: Creative Commons licence)

Frozen: True Love

frozen When I was a kid watching Disney films was a real treat. I grew up with the magic of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Jungle Book. Singing along and enjoying the classic boy meets girl story. I have written before about how Disney gets the heart of the universal story that we all ache for.

A prince rescuing a princess.

*Spoilers Alert

But the other day I watched the film Frozen, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike most other Disney films, Frozen captured more of the Gospel story then ever before.

Salvation plays a big part in the stories we tell. Go to the movies and you will find the story is telling you that salvation is necessary – to be rescued, to be taken from poverty, ugliness, captivity into riches, beauty and freedom. And there is always a saviour, whether that is prince charming or some inner person/ courage in your heart that you just have to find. With salvation, true love is not far behind.

For Disney, salvation is true love. And that true love must be shown as a kiss.

  • trueloveskissAriel’s salvation from being captured in the prison of silence was broken by a true love’s kiss.
  • Snow white is awoken and saved from eternal sleep by true love’s kiss.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the beast is free from eternal hairiness by true love’s kiss.

Disney is right, only true love can save. Love does indeed win.

However it is not through a kiss that true love is shown:

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8,10)

True love is sacrifice. It is through death and giving up ones life for another. The bible tells us that in order for us to be rescued, Christ stooped down and died for us (while we hated him), saving us and reconciling us to His Father.

Death is far more powerful than a kiss and it brings a better salvation. 

In the film Frozen, Disney shows this reality. Salvation doesn’t come through a True Love’s kiss but through a True Love’s sacrifice.

Elsa has magical powers (she can freeze people) and it causes relationships to break, she feels guilty and she runs away ashamed. She wraps herself in her own castle of ice and tries to hide, pushing everyone away.

Her sister Anna pursues her. She doesn’t give up.

This is a Hosea moment.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

Anna pursues and woos her.

Later on there comes a moment where Elsa has to die, but Anna steps out and takes her place. Anna sacrifices herself for Elsa and Elsa is saved because of the death of another has taken her place.

Then Anna is resurrected, showing the strength and power of her love.

As with anything, of course it isn’t a perfect representation of the Gospel – but it is a glimpse and a better glimpse then a kiss.

This film would be a good one to explain what true love really is, the cost of true freedom and the love that Christ has for us.

Word Alive: 10 Highlights

crazypeopleThis week my husband and I went to Word Alive to serve on the International Track. Here is a snapshot of our time there:

1. Being on the International Student Team and working with a group of people that are very talented and have a heart for the nations.

2. Sunshine and the feeling that spring has arrived

3. Sharing with Josh and Jo – like-minded crazy people who love coffee!

4. Being on the logistics team and doing behind the scenes work so that everything works together.

5. 3 Year Wedding Anniversary

6. Romans 8 and seeing small groups in many different languages getting to grips with God’s Word

7. Coffee catch ups with Kristi Mair

8. Helping to cook Thai Curry for 80 international students

9. Seeing old friends

10. Having non-Christian International groups doing a bible study and asking questions about how they can know God.

It was a really fun week and the last time I will go as a staff worker. But if we were to go back, then serving on the International Team is where our heart is!

Thanks Word Alive for a Great Week!

Ender’s Game: Loving the Enemy

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him”

*Spoilers alert

endersgameEnder is no typical teenager. He has been selected to save the world from a deadly race of aliens. We journey with him as he trains, trying to get the balance between anger and compassion.

When we reach the film’s end, we find Ender in a computer simulator, practising war tactics in various complicated scenarios. When his graduation finally arrives, he enters his last simulation and if he wins this, then he can go out to war for real.

Everything goes well. In fact he doesn’t just beat his enemy, he totally annihilates them – destroying a planet of aliens which seem to consist of the entire species – now every last one of them is up in smoke. Earth won.

There is silence. Then applause. Victory over the enemy is accomplished! Ender won the game.

And yet we discover that this was no simulation. This was in fact the real war and it dawns on Ender that he has totally wiped out an entire civilisation. What bothers him, it seems, is that he didn’t get a chance to understand them better. He wanted to dialogue with them, find out what makes them tick, find out why they came to earth in the first place and give them a chance. But he can’t do that. He had no chance to love his enemy.

It was quite a striking ending, normally as a viewer we would be satisfied with a victory like this. The enemy is crushed! However Enders reaction makes us feel uncomfortable. We suddenly feel that perhaps these aliens were never the enemy in the first place, but actually we were the enemy all along.

How we deal with our enemies illustrates something of our heart.

Jesus says: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

ender-wigginEnder found that the heart of this project was all about annihilation and winning a game, being in victory and being the strongest. And Ender didn’t like that, he saw the corrupt nature of the heart and felt tricked in following their rules. What if he had a chance to talk to the aliens? To understand them? Perhaps he would have loved them?

Jesus deals with his enemies in a startling way.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were still enemies, hating God, waging war against him. He stooped down and loved us, died for us and brought peace. Jesus treats his enemies with great love, beckoning them to come to him for refuge, offering them time and time again a chance for peace.

How we treat our enemies shows the inner workings of our hearts.

Perhaps the people we think who are our enemies, are actually not. Perhaps we need time to understand them, get to know them, find out what makes their heart tick and perhaps we will come to love them. Like Jesus, who understands our inner most being, who saw our hatred towards him and yet he still loved us, loved us to the point of death.

Those people out there that we may class as enemies, those who think differently to us, belong to a different tribe, have a different lifestyle are all enemies of Christ. Just like you and me. Yet Christ is filled with compassion towards them, as he does towards us.

Suddenly we find ourselves side by side with our enemies, feeling a little uncomfortable because we have realised that perhaps we are also the enemy.

And yet Christ is not tricked like Ender, he doesn’t annihilate us. Instead he understand us, loves us and calls us to him for salvation.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

JesusNothingEverythingThis catchy book title was written by Tullian Tchividjian. This is a book about the Gospel and what Jesus has done for us. It is a refreshing book to read as it sits on the bookshelf amongst books that mostly tell you how to be a better Christian, leader, minister, pop star etc. I found it helpful to have my eyes cast away from myself and come back to Jesus. Tullian explains the heart of what it means to follow Jesus and what Jesus did on the cross was enough not just for salvation but for living as a Christian, every day.

Let me tell you 3 things I learnt / enjoyed about this book:

1. The Gospel isn’t just for non/new Christians. The Gospel is for the Christian, every single day. It is for the Christian that has been following Christ for 30 years, 30 days or 30 mins. The truth of the Gospel, what Jesus has done on the cross is something we need to hear and sink into our hearts everyday. It is too easy for me as I walk this road with Jesus to think that I now need to move on to “higher” and “better” things after I have grasped the basics of the Gospel, yet it seems that these basics are what I most need to hear because I easily forget them.

2. Your works can’t add to what Jesus has done. It seems we often believe the lie that the Gospel is enough for salvation but after that happens, we then need to work really hard to keep God happy or to stay in salvation. This is a lie. What Jesus has done on the cross is enough – we can’t add to it and we don’t “work hard” to pay back God. We rest in his salvation and when we do that, with our hearts being changed, we begin to produce fruit and good works.

We can rest in assurance that this equation is really true: Jesus + Nothing = Everything

3. Focus on what Christ has done for you, rather than looking inwards all the time: “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism” 

I would really recommend this book as it provides a great reminder of who we are in Christ and most importantly what Christ has done for us. It is a short read and really accessible for any reader.

The Lies We Listen to

It is easy to listen to the lies that are whispered to us. Often we believe these lies because we don’t always realise they are lies, our hearts sometimes think they are true and we cannot always see how much they are destroying us. Do you know what lies I mean?

Lies like this:

You aren’t really forgiven
You aren’t really loved
You are nothing
You can’t ever forgive that
You are better than her
She is much prettier than you
You are smarter than her

You don’t need to go to church today
It would be better if you stayed in bed
No one likes you
No one wants to hang out with you

You are way too messed up to be here
Look, all those perfect people
You need to be a better Christian
Pretend to be ok
No one wants to listen to you

You are not good enough to serve here
It would be better to be at the pub then at church
No one cares
No one wants to be your friend

You have no gifts
Jesus isn’t enough
You can’t trust these people
Don’t be vulnerable

They are so disappointed in you
You have let them down
You should feel shame

Work harder
Do better
Be Better

Do you recognise them? Lies that swirl around in your head and if they stay there too long, they will eat away at you and destroy you. The truth is what you need to hear.

The truth:

Jesus loves you
Jesus wants you in his church
He died for you
You are forgiven
He knows your mess and still loves you
Come to him and find rest
He will never reject you
He will give you peace
Jesus accepts you
Your worth can only be found in Him
Everyone around you is as messed up as you are
Everyone around you is as lost as you are
Everyone around you needs Jesus as much as you do
Jesus is enough
The Cross is enough:

Jesus carried all the disappointments
Jesus carried all the bitterness
Jesus carried all the shame
Jesus carried all the hurt
Jesus carried all the failure you feel
Jesus carried all the sorrow
Jesus carried all the mess you feel
Jesus carried all the brokenness inside you

He carried them to make you free and to bring you the Father.

Remind yourselves of these things when you start hearing those lies begin to surface. Squish them down with the truth of the Gospel.

The Desire for Beauty

think_different_apple-wide (1)Apple is celebrating 30 years of making Apple products, from Macs to ipods, iphones and Ipads. The video of this is worth watching. Apple prides itself on creativity, thinking differently and changing the world. Their products are not just easy to use but beautiful. They understand the importance of image and desire. It isn’t just about function, but its about design and wrapping people up in that image, unleashing their creative potential.

I am currently reading a book called iGods by Craig Detweiler where he explains the history behind Apple and the vision that Steve Jobs had. Apple was, where computers were concerned, the first to tap into the human need to create and to be creative. It rides against the idea of simply putting your nose to the grindstone, work continuously in environments of dullness and spreadsheets which will eventually strip the soul bare and suffocate our creativeness.

Apple to is showing us something here, which is at the heart of all of us.

Humanity desires beauty.

It needs a space to create. It desires to be creative. Now I don’t think Apple is the only one doing this now and this isn’t some strange promotion of Apple products. But I have been thinking about the human desire to create, to fill the earth and subdue it. To wonder at beauty and enjoy things for enjoyment sake.

truth&beauty

There is something very Genesis 1&2 about it. We are children copying our Father who delights in creating things with His Son.

It starts off in the Garden with the beauty of Eden and then the beauty of mankind. It trickles through to the tabernacle and the temple. The Lord anoints men and women to be artists and craftsmen.

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” Exodus 31v2-4

And even when the Lord takes on flesh, he enters the world to take up a creative trade before his years of preaching ministry. In iGods, Craig says:

“Jesus was a craftsman by trade. Having built the universe, it seems fitting that, as a human being, he would turn to building houses or furniture”

Beauty and creativity isn’t something that should be kicked out of Christianity. In our art, our designs, our poetry, story telling, video games, films, fliers and books we reflect our creative Trinity. I know we distort it too. Genesis 3 did happen.

But Christianity shouldn’t be about dullness. But sometimes it is. Our fliers, book covers, music and sermons can sometimes drip with dullness that sucks away life.

falmouthCU

The world doesn’t want to look into greyness. It needs to look into a world of beauty, colours, design and aesthetics which are not shallow or simply consumed. They must reflect the beauty of the most beautiful one, Jesus Christ, who allures us in. It’s a hard balance, either we are tempted to strip beauty bare and settle with the world of grey or we slap on fluorescent colour and neon lights which are as empty as what they find in the world.

Beauty needs to have depth. It needs Gospel truth and gazing at the beautiful one.

For example beautiful fliers, like the ones Falmouth CU do, capture the audience and displays to the world that we are reflecting a creator God and we would like you to meet Him.

Even in our suffering there can be beauty. In the depths of despair, Jesus who encapsulates all beauty is with us and walks with us.

Waste_Land-posterEven out of the Wastelands, beauty and art can be formed. From the rubbish tip we see the waste of the world, the rubbish that stinks and no one thinks any good can come out of it. Yet it’s turned and transformed into something beautiful. Likewise as Jesus takes the Bride who is dirty and full of shame  he transforms her into something beautiful:

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5v25 -27

Humanity yearns for true beauty. Not stick thin stuff or glossy magazine covers. But rich, in-depth beauty that takes the broken and the hurting and shows them the One who can clothe them in Splendour.

And so…It is good to enjoy art and film. It is good to enjoy books and video games. It is good to enjoy design and a product. It is good to enjoy music and dance. Not for them to become idols we consume to complete us. But to be objects that we enjoy because we are in the image of a creator God and because someone else who is in His image has created something to be enjoyed and interacted with.

And because beauty isn’t bad and those things we create are simply reflecting what’s happening on a bigger scale; A creative bridegroom who is making us more and more beautiful everyday.