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)

The Blank Screen

typewriterThe blank screen stares at me. The cursor blinking, waiting for inspiration to flood its canvas.

I sigh. Nothing.

My brain whirls and rattles until cobwebs begin to fall out of my ear. There is nothing in here.

Winter is setting its claws into the landscape outside my window and I think it may of frozen my imagination in the process.

At any moment now, the cursor will leap out of the screen and start tapping at my skull while shouting; “Hello? Anyone home? You have been staring at me for hours, days…weeks! Just write something!!!”

I sigh. Nothing.

It’s too much little cursor!” I exclaim to the strange beating line that’s floating above my head. “There is too much pressure, with your flashy pulsing line that waits for my every word and your snazzy blank canvas that demands my attention. I have a life you know? I don’t need you.”

The cursor blinks and starts to slide back onto the screen. “Fine” it said. “I will close the document”.

I panic. “Wait!”

I can think of something, right? It can’t be hard. I’m an interesting person! Sort of. I just feel like I’m in a desert with a straw stuck in the sand, trying to suck up water. I will get there eventually, right?

There has to be water around here somewhere! And I’m not alone. Loads of people feel like this. Only the other day I was having a conversation with a friend about blogging and not having anything to say. It doesn’t mean I am a failure, right?

There are just so many voices out there at the moment.

Lots of voices screaming out. Would mine help or hinder? I want to say things, but I don’t want the backlash. I want to encourage and not put down. I want to speak truth and show that Jesus is truly wonderful.

There is so much to say! But only tumbleweed is rolling around inside of me.

“Do you see little cursor… It’s so complicated!” …
Little cursor?“… I tap on the screen “Hello?

Silence.

Oh. He has gone. mm.

The sun begins to glisten over the frosty patches on our lawn. Little specs glow, lighting up the green blades of grass like christmas tree lights. The belly of the birds are warmed by the suns rays and they start to sing. They are well cared for.

It makes me smile. Out of all the angst and thoughts that whirl in my head but refuse to get onto the screen, at least I am well cared for.

I sigh. There is something.

But sometimes it just takes a while to remember what that something is.

Collection of Webs: October

The time has come for Collection of Webs. Here is a round-up of articles, blogs and fun stuff to read or watch that I noticed in October! Enjoy

Blog Posts worth reading:

What Sin REALLY Is (The Human Propensity to F**k Things Up) by Francis Spufford The result is that when you come across someone trying to use “sin” in its old sense, you may know perfectly well in theory that they must mean something which isn’t principally chocolatey, and yet the modern mood music of the word is so insistent that it’s hard to hear anything except an invocation of a trivially naughty pleasure.

Will we drink coffee on the New Earth?It’s fine if you don’t like coffee, but to suggest that coffee is inherently unspiritual is . . . well, heresy. It directly contradicts the Scriptures just cited. God made the physical and spiritual realms not to oppose each other but to be united in bringing glory to him.

A visit means more than a text “You know, there were lots of people who sent their sympathy via emails and text messages. But you came. You visited. That meant more to me than all of those texts put together.”

The Scientifically Best Time to Drink Your Coffee – Many coffee drinkers roll out of bed and get their daily dose of java as soon as possible. Because of the way coffee affects our bodies, though, there may be more ideal times to drink it

You Might Be a Celebrity Christian Wannabe If. . .In blogdom, writing, and pastoral ministry in general, there is a temptation to pursue being popular; to pursue being a celebrity.

How To Read More — A Lot More – If you want to read more, there’s no real secret. It’s about adjusting your priorities and your perception so that reading becomes an extension of who you are and what you do.

My Friend Is Hurting. What Do I Say?How do you respond to a friend who’s hurting? I have a post-graduate qualification in counseling, I have been a paid Christian minister for over a decade, I have also experienced suffering. But nothing in my experience or training is as useful as this simple verse:…”

October feels like a slow month, probably because the weather is changing, the nights are colder and darker. But soon it will be christmas which I am very excited about!!!

Let me leave with a very cool collection of pictures of street art. Enjoy.

I Am From…

Footsteps in sanI saw this over at Tanya’s blog and thought it was a brilliant idea. So I wanted to give it a go and link up with SheLoves Magazine in a “Heritage Day” celebration.

I am from the land of HG Wells, the War of the Worlds with Martians, lazer quest and pic-a-mix in Woolworth’s.

I am from a working class line with factory workers and butchers. With armed forces and pressed uniforms. I am from making ends meet and counting the pennies. I am from council houses and second-hand Tellies.

I am from Christmas with loads of presents for an only child. I am from action man and Ghost Busters and no toys for girls.

I am from a place where Santa was real but Jesus was make believe.

I am from books spilling over from the shelves and midnight reading under the covers. I am from Goosebumps, Roald Dahl and The Jolly Postman. Later in my teens I am from Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Discworld, eating books alive and delving into these make-believe worlds.

I am from fish fingers and endless games of football. I am from playdays, Super Ted and Hey Arnold. I am from Live and Kicking on a Saturday morning before going food shopping with mum and dad.

I am from climbing trees and long walks in the fields near our house, and from riding my bike as fast I can and bearing the scars after. I am from football teams and rounders teams but certainly not hockey.

I am from, “just do your best, that’s all we ask“. I am from sea cadets with first crushes and sailing masts, with rifle shooting and marching in shiny shoes.

I am from starting year 7 with Princess Diana dying and starting GCSEs with the Twin Towers falling.

I am from train journeys to london and days spent in the natural history museum. I am from a time where I wanted to be a paleontologist, police woman, Navy officer and a pathologist. I am none of these now.

I am from watching “friends” and crying at the end when it was all over. I am from trying coffee for the first time and enjoying the buzz. I am from walls of DVDs and arguments about immigrants, the government and whether I could go to the party in the park.

I am from a catholic school where communion was boring and confession a chance to skip lessons.

I am from poetry and feeling lost, from Goo Goo Dolls, Papa Roach and B*witched. I am from messed up to healed up. I am from being introduced to Jesus for the first time and feeling like hope was a reality.

Collection of Webs: May

I can’t believe it is June already! When did that happen? Well here is a monthly collection of webs where I share with you what I have been reading on blogs, articles, books and what I have been watching or listening to. If you have missed any collection of webs this year you can find them all on this page.

Blogs Posts from friends:

My friend Ali has been writing about “Transition”. She is leaving UCCF staff and her blog posts are reflecting on her 3 years as a staff worker. Here is one of my favourite posts on her series: Awkward Moments

James Watts has been writing a great little piece on the Screwtape letters, but it is his own version called: Screwtape proposes a toast

Tanya over at Thread writes about being a Couch Potato vs Workaholic. I found this very challenging and helpful!

Blog Posts Out There:

Andrew Wilson over at Think Theology writes about Feminism: Baby and Bathwater.

Paul Miller writes about his experience of being offline and without any internet for a whole year: When I left the internet I expected my journal entries to be something like, “I used a paper map today and it was hilarious!” or “Paper books? What are these!?” or “Does anyone have an offline copy of Wikipedia I can borrow?” That didn’t happen.

Wendy writes about Women and the OT: The Old Testament gets a bad rap among progressive Christians at times. Some refer to its texts revealing harsh treatment of women as “texts of terror.”

Books:

I have now finished reading Cloud Atlas. Which was a rather interesting read. At points I was rather confused, but in the end I have to say that it was well written and rather clever!

I have also finished reading Serving without Sinking which I have reviewed here.

I am now reading Blue Like Jazz. And I am still dipping in and out of War and Peace…which will take me ages to read.

In the Garden:

I have started a little blog series about our garden which you can check out here: Green Fingers #1, Green Fingers #2

Posts on my blog:

Church is a hospital: I wrote a guest post over at my church’s blog.

I reflected on Bank Holiday Monday – a bit of fun writing!

I wrote about M.E awareness week which I discovered produced a lot of thoughts and comments from people.

I wrote about a true story of healing and faith in my church.

What have you been up to this month?

Reflections on Bank Holiday Monday

The Beach A perplexing thing happens when the sun comes out. It’s rays begin to warm the belly of the earth and the birds puff out their chests and begin a summer song.

The English hear this song. It vibrates into the core of their bones and it calls to them like sirens from the deep. It is a most beautiful siren causing the outcome so predictable. As the song rises up from their gut to their heart, their arms are already moving over towels and sun screens and wind-breakers.

The English with their hats and sandals in tow – off to the beach they go. Like flocking flamingoes in a lagoon, the English descend upon the golden shores. Smiles begin to beam as their eyes flicker across the treasure that glistens at them. Their tongue moves across their cracked lips as they gaze at the shimmering sea waves that curl and flop on the surface of the sand.

In packs they hunt for the right spot. Their own personal roasting tray.

Once found, they mark their territory with flags of triumph.
Here be our treasure.
Here is where we shall bake our pasty skin.
Here is where our children shall tunnel to Australia.

Here is where we shall master the art of changing into our swimming costume without a hint of skin and with little effort. This gymnastic art will be achieved with wiggles and shimmering bottoms as the clothes go off and the costume goes on – all under the mask of the beach towel. No flesh will be seen.

To the sea we must go! Regardless if it is only 12 degrees outside because my dear child the sun has got his hat on OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and this is our only day of summer. So make the most of it.

Trousers rolled up to our knees, swimming costumes on, armbands to the ready. Here we go.

Splash. Splash. Gurgle. Gulp. Shiver.

We remember quickly that we cannot swim and we hobble out of the freezing pit of ice. Yet we are proud of our sea swim. The sea has been conquered for this year.

We glance and we see: red lobster women with sunglasses, sand castles being engulfed in a tsunami, sandy sandwiches, whirlwind sand storms, water fights, BBQs smoking out the family next door, screaming children holding threatening weapons of buckets and spades, mums sighing, dads playing practical jokes, flirty flirts and ice cream consuming.

We sigh. It’s a good day for the beach.

Out of the Heart and Onto the Blog

affectionsBlogging is rather an interesting platform. Anyone can start a blog and put up their ideas and it’s very appealing not having to go through publishers and editors to put up your own thoughts and ideas. It is also very revealing, on blogs and also twitter little storms can be created which will either build up a person or destroy a person. They are powerful mediums and they need to be treated with care.

I have been thinking a lot about what Jesus says in Luke 6:45:

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Out of the abundance of the heart the person blogs or tweets. It made me think about the topics I blog and the state of my heart. I’m not naturally a good person, but Christ has changed my heart, he has filled me with his spirit and so out of my mouth should speak a different heart. It made me think about how I use this blog and what I write about. Am I encouraging? Am I proclaiming Christ? Am I loving? Am I thankful? Or do I prefer to rant and complain? Do I prefer to crush someone?

If my words on a blog post or on twitter are discouraging, grumbling, complaining, unforgiving, going out their way to belittle someone or making sure I crush someone under the weight of my words and expectations then it is quite evident what my heart is like because Jesus says in Matthew 15:18:

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”

 

If I am like this and its evident that my words are saying something about my heart that is not good nor Christ like, then I need to come back to Christ. Perhaps the temptation is to masquerade what I think on the blog, but people know me in real life and can judge whether my words are true or not. Instead I need to come back to Christ. Come to sweet Jesus and be reminded of who I am in Christ – a new creation with a new heart and adopted into His family. Totally forgiven.

When it comes to what we say on the internet we have to be careful. We have to be accountable to people, to be slow to speak and quick to listen. We need to test our hearts and the words from our mouths. What we say can really hurt and affect people more than we realise and often it comes from a bitterness rooted in our own hearts that causes this.

Come to Christ again. Repent. Forgive. Think about what your writing about – will it lift a person up? Will it encourage them? Does it edify?

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)