The Tree: a Good Friday meditation

‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? … For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.’
1 Corinthians 1:18‭-‬20‭, ‬25 NIVUK

Art work my own… where Genesis 3, Psalm 1, 1 Corinthians 1:18ff and Good Friday/John 19 meet… 

Image: (c) Ruth Marriott 2017


Throwing stones at pornography

While social media is awash with commentary about a certain film that’s been recently released, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon and ‘have an opinion’. Nah. It’s been written better elsewhere.



For example, there are some people who really do have something worthwhile to say, such as Andrew over at Blessed are the Pure of Heart as he bravely wades in to the issue of pornography, for both men and for women.  Concerning specifically how women can be entrapped, he writes:

Women’s pornography goes under the name erotica, but I think it’s broader than that, and can…and please don’t stone me for this…include romance.
(Read his whole post here, it’s really worth it.)

Well, there are no stones coming from this quarter of the internet.  Jesus warned us in John 8let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!‘  Sometimes – often – it’s wisest to take the point rather than react to it.

Is there truth in his premise? Yes. I’ve been entrapped – but not by reading romance novels or erotica – my guard would have been up against that kind of thing. For me, it was much more subtle and I didn’t see it coming. It started out as an innocent email correspondence, but grew into a not-quite-real hovering-on-the-romantic something. The something turned into a hungry monster, and the ‘not-quite’  nearly killed me. I tell the story briefly in last October’s ’31 Days of Digital REAL’ series, Digital makes me feel connected – really?

…the 1-1 context, and the regularity of contact, and the absence of normalising, mutual, and physically present friends was a vacuum that made the situation collapse.  My heart couldn’t contain the feelings that kept growing as I interacted like this.

Andrew rightly touches on women’s particular vulnerabilities to romantic fantasy, reminding us, ‘We are married to ordinary people‘. He warns against the urge to escape – whether it’s imagery for men, or romance for women. I would be the last person to understate how excruciating it is to forsake the sweet imaginations and to embrace the tough realities of here-and-now instead. Hearts hurt, spirits are broken, we find ourselves beaten and unable to save ourselves. Most bitter of all is the realisation of how we’ve broken the heart of the One who loves us the most by what we are doing.

Real, ordinary relationships are scary.  They are unpredictable.  Other people are not so easily controlled. So our loveless selfish selves fight against this reality, or flee from it. Whether it shows up in our lives as pornography, pride, escapism or controlling behaviour, it’s all rooted in the same place: our inherent sinfulness which plays its drama out in a million different ways.

None of us can throw stones on this issue.  The kind of purity of heart that God requires is something far beyond anything we’ve ever seen, and the only one who truly lived it is Jesus.  There’s no point covering it over; no hypocrisy will make us acceptable.  Only the blood of Jesus can put this right, as we come to him and acknowledge our deep brokenness and need for him.  He paid the price for freedom with his own life, and he can make a way to our wholeness again, if we’re prepared to admit the problem.

31 days: Light out of darkness

We made it through 31 days!  So I’m going to let the WORD have the final word on our meditations on digital media.

The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord... Hab 2.13

(c) 2013

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good. Genesis 1.1-4

I hope you’ve sensed in these posts that though I might consider the digital world one that is ‘formless and void’ or ‘chaotic’, it’s not that I reject it outright.  The Spirit is hovering even here.
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

More than anything, I long for Jesus to be seen – even right here, in our digital words, our posts, our interactions.  To see HIS light shine out of the dark corners of digital, and find us where we are: how amazing! When we’re seeking connection, and seeking to fill our empty hearts with something, or SomeOne of substance, he meets us in the most unexpected places.

Our love for him is still incomplete.  Still just a shadow… a mere reflection.  Nevertheless there’s a REAL encounter in the presence of Love awaiting us… REALer than anything we’ve ever known!

But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13.8-12)


Read the whole series: 31 days of digital REAL
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31 days: On being still

(BTW I’m doing this post in Five Minutes, unedited.)


standing-aloneI recently spent over an hour sitting in a room decorated with sparkly lights.  We gathered to worship.  Yes, there were words projected on the wall, and I’m grateful… so not-entirely a tech-free night.  But there I sat.  And I knitted.

That’s right, phone aside, and for me the act of knitting is one of the fastest ways to get my head and heart to slow and to simply be present.  I sang, I prayed, I waited, I soaked.

And HIS presence came.  There were a few phones in use around, here and there… but mostly we had unplugged, and gathered, around one focus.  Jesus.  I remember a song (we didn’t sing it tonight, but it’s a good one) by Nigel Briggs:

Turn it all down, tune it all out
Just you and me

Away from the crowds, away from the noise,
Is where I wanna be

So if I had my way, I would stop this day
So I could worship you, and keep this world at bay
There I’d stay…

I wanna be right by your side
‘cos you are the light of my life
And all I want to do
is give my life to you
Jesus, forever…

I know some people have dared to do that… they left their phones behind, drove out into some remote place, and deliberately sat, alone, just to feel what it was like.  Many have tried it, and simply found it too terrifying.  Yes.  Terrifying.  They say the silence swallowed them up, the thoughts and feeling that they had held at bay by being so busy nearly swallowed them alive.  They couldn’t face the demons they found there, in the stillness.

I certainly wouldn’t like to unplug… if I had to face a life alone – truly alone – without the knowledge of Jesus who is with me always and everywhere.  But when I find stillness, I don’t find an emptiness.  I find a full and free Presence.  His presence.

In His presence, I’m never afraid.


Read the whole series: 31 days of digital REAL
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> (next) Light out of Darkness

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31 days: Digitally dehumanised

(BTW I’m doing this post in Five Minutes, unedited.)


Getty images

You may have noticed things deteriorating on the roads for a while now.  Someone cuts in on you, and it’s all you can do to not curse, or beep your horn, or gesticulate somehow.  That bubble that contains us, the windows and the doors of our cars… somehow it seems to put us in invisible armour.  I can shout or swear or be as aggressive as I like behind this window.  You’re just a car in my way.  You don’t see me here, do you?  You can’t get to me here.  I’m in my isolated bubble, and I can do or say as I like.  If you stop and come after me, well I can drive away and never see you again…  That’s how it feels.

The digital bubble is no different.  Behind the slidy screen, we can post and like, friend or unfriend with the same sense of autonomy.  I can say what I think online, and there’s no real comeback.  It’s like gesticulating from behind the car window.  If you don’t like it, I can drive on by.  I don’t need to hear your side of the story.  I can blank you, ignore you, blow you off.  Who reads it anyway?  Whose feelings am I hurting?  When I don’t see your reaction, when I don’t wait for your answer… well, I don’t care about the reaction, really, do I?

It’s not just digital that has done that – it’s the increasingly individualistic society we’re in.  We’ve disconnected from each other, we’ve disconnected our actions from the consequences, and somehow treat each other in a way that denies our mutual humanity.

But if I don’t care much about your reaction to how I interact online, then I will soon enough start to wonder if you care much about me either.  It makes the whole online interaction rather meaningless…


… so what’s the antidote?  I can’t help but think it’s going to involve engagement.  I’m going to remember that there’s a real person behind that handle – someone who can get hurt, someone with a heart.  Rather than leave rhetoric or criticism, I can leave something that costs me something – comments that show patience, understanding, encouragement.  It’s a totally different kind of trail, but it’s one that leaves people feeling more human, not less, by the time they’ve read what we had to say.

Read the whole series: 31 days of digital REAL
< (previous) A prayer
> (next) On being still

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31 days: A prayer

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
    may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
    as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,
    but rescue us from the evil one. Matthew 6.7-13

Our Father… How lovely it is that you draw near like a father.  Closeness, hugs, personal, protective.  Just so much closer and nearer than my mobile phone feed.

…who art in heaven.  Oh yes, I remember, you’re not on my facebook feed, not right now. Please, God help me to focus in the right place.

…your name is holy. Really, amazingly, set apart.  There’s nobody like you, anywhere, online or off.  You are in a league of your own.

…May your kingdom come. Yes, you rule.  You rule my heart, my time, my actions.  Would you work in my life so that when you say ‘unplug’ that’s exactly what I do – without delay.

…May your will be done… Yes, Lord, teach us to make comments online in such a way that people can tell we love you and follow you – let there be something so different about the way we use digital.  You are a God of love – may this medium be used to show and convey your love in increasing measure.

… right here on earth as it is in heaven. You have always reached out to where we are.  You came from heaven to earth to show us yourself.  And now, may your people use every means, including going online where so many people’s attention is focused, and show you, your love, your nature.  Right here on earth, including online.

…Give us today our daily bread.  I’d really like to find some good links and posts today.  You know, the sort that will inspire, and challenge, and that maybe I could share with others to help them too?  But I’m also praying for everything else I need that sustains my life – community, real-life relationship, time with friends and family… O Lord, provide all I need.

…Forgive our sins.  I’m so sorry for the way I’ve posted, frustrated, critical, mocking comments.  Forgive me for the way I scorned that person in the ‘funny’ video, and for the way I spent too much time online and neglected to call my friend who could have done with some real life encouragement.  I got my priorities all wrong, again.  Have mercy, Lord.

…as we forgive those who sin against us.  You know, LORD, how that comment hurt my feelings.  How I was misunderstood.  Help me to let it go, to let them go.  You know how hard I have to try to stay away from the really nasty content – help me to forgive those who’ve posted it… those who seek to frighten, intimidate, manipulate or disgust me.

…don’t let us yield to temptation.  God… the seduction of the online world seeks to draw me away from you every moment of every day.  Hold me tight.  Hold me in the reality of who you are – in your truth, purity, wholeness.  Save me from the snares of addiction, of being tangled up in an online world and losing a grip on my daily life.  Save me from content that would tempt me to do wrong, think wrong, be wrong.  Hold me in your love.

…but rescue me from the evil one.  I know that digital in itself is not evil.  But I do know that the evil one seeks to ensare me any way he can.  Be my protector.  Open my eyes to every trap, keep me from his clutches.  Secure me in your presence, with a pure heart and a sound mind, safe forever.

…[for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory…]  How I worship you!  There’s nothing like being in your presence, in awe of all that you are!



Read the whole series: 31 days of digital REAL
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31 days: Digital makes me feel inspired

It’s not all bad… (BTW I’m doing this post in Five Minutes, unedited.)


Pile of books painting Kevin Miller

(c) Kevin Miller

I lament the pile of books here that are waiting for my attention.  But it seems I’m still reading a lot.  I browse through blog posts, through online news.  When I need to go somewhere, I’m online using Google maps.  This digital world is limitless, or so it seems, in the amount of information it can give me.  When I’m not feeling overwhelmed at the sheer amount of content, I can stumble on sites that give me page after page of beautiful, inspiring content.

If I give myself the time…

Digital gives me access to your story.  And it’s you that inspires me most of all.  I’ve read your story, when you’ve been brave enough to tell it to me. I stand in awe of your courage.  Never mind the pages upon pages of art, or the cute photos, or the ‘inspiring’ videos that we share on facebook.  The most authentic, and the most inspiring content I’ve found online have been the hard stories you share with me.  Thank you.

Those waiting biographies?  Well, I’ll get to them eventually.  But they’re not stories in progress, not like the live conversations complete strangers are having online.  You can flick to the end of the book and find out how it all ended.  What inspire me most of all are these tantalising works-in-progress – your story and my story – as they unfold in real time.  We don’t know how it ends… and if we encourage each other on the way, we even get to influence the endings!


Read the whole series: 31 days of digital REAL
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> (next) A prayer

#write31days (What is Write 31 Days?)