Don’t read this on your phone

At a birthday dinner party last night, I was sitting around the table with friends (one of my favorite things to do) and the topic of technology came up.  Someone described their observation that many “young kids nowadays” seem to be having trouble listening to and receiving guidance from grown-ups who care about them, and this seems to be at least partly connected to their increased absorption in TV/video games/iPads/smartphones and other hand-held devices.  It appears that some kids are not learning the subtleties of relating: having thoughts and feelings that they can express to someone else, active listening, empathizing, and responding in a conversation based on critical thinking or conviction.  It’s too common to see kids looking up from a screen with a blank stare.

It was a good discussion, and none of us around the table were all that old or immune to the problem ourselves.  I don’t think human nature has gotten any worse over the past century, but the moment-by-moment opportunity to be distracted from our own hearts certainly seems greater now.  Just like the kids, we grown-ups need to be receiving guidance, love, and wisdom from our heavenly Parent on a daily basis.  But are we too distracted to connect and listen?  I know I’m distractable, so here are three daily practices that help me stay centered with the One who knows me best and keeps saving me:

1. Don’t make looking at your phone/computer the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night.  Those are precious minutes to be alone with God in the palace of your soul as Theresa of Avila would say…to get centered, to be directed, and to reflect.  Protect them and be nourished; read the Bible and pray, even if it’s only for a few moments.  I bet you’ll be more likely to approach the day with a sense of who you are and what you’ve been given to do, rather than just reacting to circumstances or being led around in other ways.  You’ll probably have less anxiety and get better sleep too.

2.  When you’re not traveling, put your phone down somewhere instead of carrying it around on your body.  At home it’s in my kitchen, in the office it’s on my desk.  This reminds me that I am not part of the machine, shockingly, and it is not part of me.  I can check it thoughtfully, when I’m really available, instead of it checking me with every new tweet.  

3.  Look around at your physical environment.  I hope that sounds dumb to you because you do it all the time already.  Look up at the vastness of the sky and pause at the trees you pass.  You’ll be reminded of the loving Creator in all this beauty.  Notice the people around you and consider what they might be going through. We don’t want to miss opportunities like this story Jesus told because our heads are stuck in our phones.  

This word from a Spirit-led ancient challenges me to take the long view with my smartphone habits:  Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.  —-I John 2:15-17, The Message.