Smart Phones, iPhones, and the Kin-dom of Heaven

talk to each otherI see it more and more wherever I go.  People with each other—dining, sipping lattes, riding in cars, strolling down the street—yet solitary, as they remain glued to their personal gadgets.

I got my own smart phone this past May and within days understood the compulsion to look at that damn screen every few minutes for the newest email or text, to search random trivia, or to capture that moment in history by snapping, in many cases, pointless pictures.

These gadgets, coupled with the social media craze, have propelled so many of us into this strange world of See Me.  See my life–my humor, my friends and family, my success, my uniqueness, my abilities and interests, my joy, my sadness.  We spend life-consuming time on our gadgets, posting and tweeting to keep people in the loop of our lives and yet, we are reluctant or unable to be truly present with someone in person. We see each other, but we don’t really know one another.

My daughter’s liturature teacher spoke of the use of gadgets “atrophying our social muscles” whereby degrading our ability to interact with others. I couldn’t agree more.  We are  robbed of our real-world human connection in an effort to stay “connected” in our social media realms. (See the links below for two wonderful, poetic commentaries on the digital world we now live in. Watch them both!)

A striking example of this digital disconnect manifested in a recent report received by a renowned restaurant in New York City.  Concerned about their rise in bad reviews, they hired a firm to analyze why the restaurant’s number of dissatisfied customers was growing.

Thanks to a comparision of survellience footage from 2004 and 2014, it was learned that today’s patrons are obessed with their gadgets.  Sadly, diners are not making the connection that their dissatisfaction in the service or their meals is often because of their social media needs: wi-fi has to be figured out and group pictures must be taken—often with the help of the wait staff—prior to food being ordered; multiple photos are snapped of the dishes served, texts replied to and status updates are made long before the food is enjoyed.

A friend in the restaurant business confirmed this battle to adequately serve customers who are more engaged with their phones than with their surrounding environment.  He shared that a married couple came into the restaurant to celebrate their anniversary, then proceeded to spend their time absorbed with their individual gadgets.  What kept them from interacting with one another instead of their devices?

My Christian faith calls me into relationship.

Yes, this implies a deep connection with the Divine, but I do not exist solely in a religious bubble of my God and me.  I am called to See the Other, and more than that, to Love the Other.  When asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was (there were, after all, over 600 Jewish laws!) Jesus responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV).

Like I said, it’s about relationships.

I can’t really say when I first heard the word “kin-dom” used in place of kingdom—as in the kin-dom of God vs. the kingdom of God.  What I do know , however, is that I LOVE this image that in God’s realm we are are one family, a beloved community of God’s people.

In the words of Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, “The word kin-dom makes it clear that when the fullness of God becomes a day-to-day reality in the world at large, we will all be sisters and brothers—kin to each other.”*

But how much more difficult will it be for God’s Kin-dom come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, when we can’t manage or make time to truly be with one another?  What does God’s reign look like when we insist on making life about US?

To be a person of faith, I must look beyond myself—beyond my social media realm, beyond my gallery of selfies, beyond my recent status updates.

I am called by my God to notice the brokenness and injustice in my world and strive to be a vessel of healing.  And yet, if I’m obessessly snapping photos of that amazing banana flambe or if my attention is on my phone’s endless stream of data  instead of on the person next to me—I just may miss the opportunity to show God’s love by serving others.

People of faith, PUT DOWN your gadgets! Look up. Serve one another. And live into God’s kin-dom come!

*Page 304, “Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s,” in Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, edited by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel, San Francisco: Harper, 1990).


More stillness.

A Meditative Morsel to follow your Spiritual Prescription to Embrace Silence:

Sloooooowly read the scripture below from Psalm 46:10.

Allow the words to sink in.

Be open to the images or thoughts that come to mind with each line.

Do any feelings or questions arise?

Try emphasizing a different word with each line.

Pause…. before moving on to the next line.

Breathe deeply.

Repeat each line as you feel drawn, even speak them out loud if you wish.

Take… your… time…

Be still and know that I am God…

Be still and know that I am…

Be still and know…

Be still…


On your spiritual journey may you learn to slow down and to love stillness.   I pray you discover in the silence that which gives you strength and can illuminate your path.

Be still—listen to and observe the wonder, beauty and holiness all around us–-and know that you are not alone.



Today’s Spiritual Prescription:

Embrace Silence

I was not born a quite person.  At all.  My mother was told by a close friend that she’d never heard a baby (as in me) babble so much.  In fact, I didn’t learn to shut-up until I was in college. (All those who know me can stop laughing now…I still have my days, I know.)

It was my friend, Ted, that gave me the gift of silence.  Ted, who was a naturally quiet person, caught a ride with me to the SF Bay Area one school vacation. Poor guy—stuck alone in the car with motor mouth all those hours south and the same torturous hours back to college. It’s a wonder he didn’t seek out an alternate form of transportation for the return trip!

It was on the ride home that I began to hear and appreciate his quietness.  And it was through his silence—and the comfort I found in our friendship—that I learned it was okay to shut up and be quiet.  In doing just that, I began to understand that the void, the stillness, did not have to be filled with conversation or even music.  It especially did not need to be replaced with my endless, monologic babble. (Thank you, Ted, for such a valuable lesson!)

Our world is even more noisy today than it was back then.  I visit with far too many hospice people who are perfectly content to carry on a conversation with the t.v. blaring.  Children and youth, I’ve noticed, have become especially accustomed to and are more at ease with having background noises in their daily living. Silence seems to be a thing to be avoided at all cost!

And what about you?  When was the last time you were surrounded by silence…?

So here’s your Spiritual Prescription:

Zip it!

Turn it off!

Shut it down!

Embrace silence.  Seek out and make room for it in your life. 

Driving around town? Turn off the radio, unplug your I-Pod, or pop out your cassette or CD depending on the age of your vehicle. 😉

Home doing chores, making dinner, surfing the net? Resist the compulsion to add those background noises for the task at hand.

Living or working in an environment that’s noisy? Seek out places that support or are conducive to silence (the library, a place of worship, a meditation room, the great outdoors).

Do you have the desire to string endless sentences together because no one else is speaking?  Please, give that up!

Do not be afraid of silence.

The times I have felt closest to the Holy, when I believe I heard that sacred voice speak, is when I was immersed in silence.  I am beyond convinced that to grow deeper in our relationship with God and to grow spiritually, we must befriend stillness.

In doing so, we open ourselves to the possibilities of incredible revelations, desired transformations and those beloved, but unexpected ah-ha moments.

Don’t wait.  Embrace and practice silence today!

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10