Why I’m staying on Facebook for Lent

Every Lent for the past six years I have gone off Facebook. It began the year I got married, with our wedding one week out from Easter, and was a powerful way for me to detox spiritually as I prepared for this new life. I found it so refreshing that I’ve actually looked forward to this Facebook detox every year since.

But this year I thought I would do something different. Having been more conflicted over the last twelve months about the power of social media for good or ill, I’ve decided to exercise a new discipline this year: to stay on social media during Lent, and commit to only being a positive voice. This means no doom-scrolling and no incessant checking for likes. Instead I’m going to do something I’m calling “Five Minutes for Lent”. What this means is that I’ll be posting a picture on Instagram from everyday life and a very short Lenten reflection related to the image, drawing on one of the three themes of Lent: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. I’m seeing it as a kind of daily soul maintenance, like the five minutes I might spend watering the garden, pulling up weeds or pruning. I might be thinking about something that needs pruning or uprooting, something that needs the nourishment of prayer, or a way that the fruits of my life’s garden should be used to bless others. I pray that, even if you are not someone who “does Lent”, you’ll tune in for five minutes of soul-keeping each day and be blessed by it.

But the five minutes has another meaning. I’m keeping myself to five minutes per day to write these reflections and five minutes posting and connecting on social media. To keep this to a minimum, I’m not going to post here: you can tune into @matthew.pullar at Instagram to find the reflections, and they’ll be reposted on Facebook. If you want to share a thought in response, please do so, but if your thought will take more than five minutes for me to respond, please share it via a direct message to The Consolations of Writing on Facebook, and I’ll be delighted to talk more with you that way.

Praying for you and your garden this Lent. Love Matt.

Change the Heart

When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either…

Prime Minister Scott Morrison
It was not a flash day at Sydney Cove,
not a flash day for anyone.
Not flash for the sailors, turning about
for a week in that blasting Southern sun,

not flash for the prisoners with their lives on board,
not flash for the crew with their rotten gums,
nor for the ones who watched as the ships
docked with their goods and their crime and their guns,

not flash for the gospel the chaplains stowed
in well-intentioned suitcases,
not flash for the enlightened human race
with its scurvy tongues and pock-marked faces.

Neither was it a flash in the pan,
a single raising of the flag,
a peaceful changing of the guards,
followed up with rum and gags,

but day by day my white kin reap
the fruits of that unflashy day
and all the good that came from it
is only God's tenacious grace,

and history has its many tales
where villains have no wicked laughs
and sometimes they can sound like us
and bring us gifts in their subtle crafts,

but human ears are big enough
to hear more stories than our own
and hearts have room for other hearts
if we can step off history's throne.

Epiphany: Heartshine

“What can I give him,
Poor as I am?”
Christina Rossetti

Today is one of the most important days in the old church calendar, but also one of the most widely forgotten: the feast of Epiphany. Today we remember the wise men visiting Jesus, but we also remember what this represents, that the Gospel has been made known to the nations. Epiphany is an older celebration than Christmas, and in some early church documents it appears to have been the date when the Eastern church at least celebrated Jesus’ birthday. It’s a wonderful day, full of rich significance for believers to celebrate. Today we’re going to enlist one of my favourites, Bach, to see us through, with the help of his first Epiphany cantata. You can read the text and translation here.

Heartshine

I will arise with the stars.
In dappled light, the ground illuminates to show
the king made low,
the way made known.
I will arise with the stars to see
the glory that shines from east to west,
though wearing humble clothes.

I will arise with the night.
With nothing in my hand to give, I will receive
this treasure-trove
for years enclosed.
I will arise in the night to see
the light that day has not received
and now is bright to see.

I will travel with the kings
though I am no king, nor have ever been wise.
I will arise
with the stars in my eyes
and give a broken heart, for all
the better your treasure to store.

Advance

We also came across the seas, my people:
Romans, Vikings, colonials, the lot of them,
convicts and scoundrels, emperors and ne’er-do-wells.
They came and they saw, they usurped, or were sent.
You came like us, to this lucky country.
You came in hope. We take it from you.

We also heard of the boundless plains;
we, my people, did not like to share.
Advancing ourselves, your foul was our fair.
Fences excluded; excluding, we fenced.
Tall hedges, tall stories: we made our own glories.
You came here for freedom; we came to rule.

I do not recall the home we came from.
You carry yours as a scar, and the ones
before us both know every hill’s name.
I must steal this to call it my own;
I squander what never was mine, and you look
through bars at the freedom we feast on. Our hearts

are never at home.

Unexpected Gifts

img_20161117_183452413

Because the Danes
roared across the waves in Viking-
glory, horn-helmeted
King Cnut at the helm,

we can now say
that we are glad, can label small
what we’d otherwise miss,
and can cut with a knife

the smallest things
the eye can see. Come wind and hail,
though time may slay, we lay
cold and rain before the tide

of longing day.
Poetry from Vikings! The gift
of words like comfy shoes
we slip into and set

the day at rest –
Thank you, Cnut, and all who brought
words (and worlds) over waves –
and Søren, that least-like-

a-Viking Dane,
who stepped out of the longboat, saw
the gift of every day
in lilies clothed by God –

in awe, under
the thrall and whirl of tide, of time,
we take our seats until
smallest gifts can glitter.

Damascus Road: Midday

image

Indeed, my friends, let us not forget in our wakefulness…
(Saint Ephraim the Syrian, Hymns of the Nativity)

Do I assume this peace?
Some peasants once, I am told,
when they had had enough of false liberty,
took cobblestones and made them missiles.
And men of another age were warned
that their panelled houses could fall,
while others, trusting horses,
were told whom they should fear.

For the quiet of now, give thanks.
The sun is your friend today and streets whistle with silent birdsong.
Later, I may collect chairs from the street or sit in a library to read.
But remember the shelves which Eratosthenes kept,
more famous for ruin than what they contained.
Look for the library without any walls;
look for the Word which shines like today.
Bend knees as you walk or stones will rise up.
Today’s beauty must make you bow.