"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - VoltairE

Screens, screens everywhere

May 29, 2020

One of the things I’m finding hardest about lockdown is the increased reliance on screens, not just to do my job, but in order to be able to keep in touch with family and friends. I’d almost rather have no contact than the frustratingly inadequate two-dimensional experience of staring at my pixelated friends (and my own face), complete with audio lag. There’s no room for nuance, body language, hugs, comic timing or companionable silence. It just seems to emphasise our apartness. (For more on this, ‘The reason Zoom calls drain your energy’ is very perceptive and helpful.)

I’ve also realised that I don’t just miss my friends and family, but I miss the daily interaction with strangers - the chance to relate on an embodied human level. There is something crucial to human flourishing about being able to chat with someone in the post office queue or say hi to someone on a bus. To rub shoulders with our neighbours, look into someone’s eyes when we’re talking to them, see their needs and be involved in their lives is what builds community. But this essential social fabric has been being worn down long before the Coronavirus came along. I have blogged previously about how automation and efficiency is deepening our individualism and undermining our relationships. Being able to travel to a shop, go round selecting everything we need, pay at a self-scan till and go home all without having to interact with a single human being may be efficient, but is it good? 

It seems that we’ve unconsciously accepted many technological developments without questioning whether they are positive, neutral or destructive. It’s quite difficult to stand back and take a long, hard, objective look at the way all-pervasive technologies are changing the way we think, relate and understand ourselves.

I’ve recently read 12 ways your phone is changing you by Tony Reinke and found it a provocative, sometimes uncomfortable read, which challenges our dependence on technology. He recognises the benefits it brings, whilst cautioning against uncritical acceptance.

Here are a few interesting quotes from my reading:

“Joy is a precious emotion in our integrated existence. Joy brings our attention, our minds, and our flesh and blood together into face-to-face fellowship – eyeball-to-eyeball love. The Christian’s challenge is to love not in tweets and texts only, but even more in deeds and physical presence.” (P.60)

“…the Bible stands as the oldest, longest, and most complicated book we will ever try to read on our own. Simultaneously, every lure and temptation of the digital age is convincing us to give up difficult, sustained work for the immediate and impulsive content we can skim.” (P.87)

“…we must learn to enjoy our present lives in faith – that is, to enjoy each moment of life without feeling compelled to “capture” it.” (P.100)

“As technology improves, machines replace people and automation replaces interaction.” (P.121)

“Our smartphones are portable shields we wield in public in order to deter human contact and interaction.” (P.122)

“The smartphone is causing a social reversal: the desire to be alone in public and never alone in seclusion.” (P.124)

“By grace, we are free to close our news sources, close our life-hacking apps, and power down our phones in order to simply feast in the presence of friends and enjoy our spouses and families in the mystery, majesty, and the “thickness” of human existence.” (P.151)

And that leads nicely to a little trip down memory lane. When I was a child, I loved watching a TV programme called ‘Why don’t you?’. The theme song culminated with the paradoxical “Why don’t you just switch off your TV set and do something less boring instead?”. So maybe I should end with, “Why don’t you switch off your phone, laptop, tablet or whatever you’re reading this on, and do something less boring instead?”.

For further reading:

(I realise there’s a certain irony in giving links to other websites after I’ve challenged you to turn your device off. Oh well, you can always come back to them later.)


The power of the Spirit - Pentecost reflection

May 25, 2020
A short reflection on the power of the Spirit that came down at Pentecost and enables believers to love, hope, share the good news of Jesus and become more like him.

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Picture This Thought - Tree [Growth]

May 9, 2020
Some reflections on what growth means for a Christian and for the Kingdom of God. I explore the fact that growth comes from God and isn't manufactured by us; that something huge and beautiful can come from something tiny; and that a seed needs to die in order to fulfil its purpose of flourishing.

You may also like this post on spiritual growth.

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He must become greater; I must become less

May 5, 2020

Lockdown is hard and many of us are struggling to feel good about ourselves. As we are all cut off from community and being driven online we need to guard against getting our value from Facebook likes, emojis, and cheap uplifting sentiment shared online. Instead we need to look to God for our worth and value. We are made in the image of the divine creator and that fundamentally shapes our identity and tells us who we are and why we matter.

But that’s not the end of the matter. There is a dan...

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What I learned about prayer from my friend and her lucky crystal

April 20, 2020

I’ve just read ‘Faitheism’ by Krish Kandiah and found it really helpful and thought-provoking. He seeks to diffuse the ‘us vs them’ polarisation that often characterises interactions between Atheists and Christians and explores ways that we can find common ground and forge more meaningful relationships.

In the chapter on suffering he highlights a couple of case studies where Christians have been disciplined or fired from their jobs because they’ve offered to pray with people at wor...

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Picture This Thought - Microphone [Spreading news - Easter special]

April 20, 2020
A reflection on how the good news of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection spread in the early church and how we can take up the challenge of Jesus’ Great Commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

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Palm Sunday sermon: Matthew 21: 1 - 11

April 5, 2020
This sermon was originally part of Durham Road Baptist's online service on 5 April 2020.

If you want to explore more about who Jesus is, the Bethinking website is great.

Find a church near you on the Evangelical Alliance church finder page.

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Stations of the cross - 15 video meditations

April 4, 2020
In preparation for Easter, our church has produced 15 short video meditations centred round the stations of the cross. Each short video features a Bible reading, reflection and song to help us focus on Jesus' journey to the cross.

I hope these bless you in your own faith, and please feel free to share with others.

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Coronavirus - opportunities for mission

March 18, 2020

In these uncertain times, many people are understandably feeling a mixture of emotions including fear and anger. For many, the things that they find security in like health, work, finances and comfortable living are being taken away. It's easy to panic. It's easy to react by hoarding tins of meatballs and packets of loo roll. But how do we as God's people respond? Here are 3 very simple things that I have found helpful:

  1. Remembering that God is still sovereign. This is not a surprise to God. Th...

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Picture This Thought - Parrot [Creation care]

February 14, 2020
A brief look at why care for the environment isn't an 'optional extra' for a Christian, but part of God's calling to all of us. We can look forward to the earth being liberated from its bondage to decay and being fully renewed, but that's not an excuse to do nothing now. Looking after God's good creation is an essential part of our worship, stewardship of resources and justice for the poor.

Read more in this post.

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