Smartphone Smarts

Smartphone Pic

How often do you check your Smartphone?

We seldom find ourselves in places that don’t offer Internet access or phone signals these days. We carry Smartphones to work and to school. We glance at our Smartphones while we’re shopping and send text messages while driving. We have many small interactions with our Smartphones each day; but, some people spend hours checking e-mail messages and spend even more hours deeply engrossed in social media. If you’ve wondered if your Smartphone is taking over your life, here are some things you can try:

  1. Talk now. You can always text later, or tweet later, or email later. God wants us to put healthy boundaries around our times of leisure, our times with friends and family members, times when we’re sharing meals with other people, and times when we’re taking our “Sabbath-rest.” We often fail to fully “enjoy the moment” when we’re living with our Smartphone in our hand. And, here’s a thought: “Why do we always assume that Smartphone-interruptions are more important than what we’re doing at the moment?”


  1. Take a phone-free day. Part of learning to master the use of our Smartphones is learning the art of self-control. Every Smartphone has an “off” button; and yet, we are often unwilling to use it. How in the world can we escape the fear of “missing something important”? How in the world can we fight the dopamine surge that hits us when someone “likes” something we post or when someone re-tweets one of our thoughts? We’re driven to make snap decisions when we’re carrying Smartphones. Have you ever found it difficult to refrain from instantly responding to your Smartphone’s last beep or vibration? Perhaps, it’s time for you to break that routine. Use the power button on your Smartphone more often. Or, if that seems to be totally impossible, perhaps you could switch your Smartphone into “airplane mode” and relax for a few hours? Who’s actually in control—you or your Smartphone?


  1. Avoid searching for answers to every question. Embrace serendipity. Just think about how many interesting conversations you might have if you stopped trying to answer every question you have by searching for the answer on your Smartphone. People are fascinating and we can learn many things by simply interacting with other people. When was the last time that you asked someone for a set of directions? When was the last time that you asked someone to help you, or to explain something that you didn’t understand? Person-to-person interaction can be far more exciting than staring into your Smartphone’s flat screen. Why not give it a try?


  1. Keep your Smartphone off the table. God created us to share our lives with other people. And yet, we’re often tempted to snub other people by paying attention to our Smartphone when we’re sitting in the presence of others. Having dinner with a friend or family member is about far more than ingesting the calories. Dining with a friend or family member is an “occasion.” Have you ever been offended by a person who left their Smartphone on the table while you were sharing a meal? What are we saying to our friends and family members about the priorities in our lives when we leave our Smartphone on the dinner table while we are spending time with them, so that we can instantly respond to an unexpected call or text message? Maybe it’s best to keep your Smartphone out of sight (and out of mind) when you’re sharing precious moments with your friends and family?


  1. Look before you snap. I love to take pictures of my granddaughter; but, I’ve also learned that “living life” through the lens of my Smartphone steals the very moments in life that I’m trying to capture. I want to experience important times and moments, but I’ve learned that I don’t need to document everything. Living memories are even more precious. When important things are happening, why not simply live the moment intensely and entirely—and enjoy the memory?


  1. Don’t be afraid to kiss your Smartphone goodnight. It’s always going to be tempting to pick-up your Smartphone one last time. But, did you know that your Smartphone emits blue light, which your brain associates with daylight? This type of exposure can wreak havoc on your body’s clock. The last link that you visited, or the last tweet, or the last email, or the last text message can affect your sleep pattern for hours. Is your last game of “Candy Crush Saga”—your end-of-the-day series of text messages—or that last group of e-mail exchanges really necessary?


Adopting a special “Code of Conduct” can’t solve every problem. But being mindful and more attentive to the patterns in our lives can help us to break out of half-acknowledged habits. Smartphones are habit-forming, and we need to think about the habits we want to form. There are things in life that are worse than missing a telephone call. There are things in life that are worse than discovering that there’s a list of e-mails waiting for you after your vacation, or after a long weekend with someone you love.

Our “micro-interactions” with Smartphones can steal precious moments that can never be recaptured. And that’s why we need to be “smart” enough to put our Smartphones down for a while, and learn to enjoy the precious gift of life in a different way.

Smartphones, GoogleMaps and God


Butterfly 2

Smartphones are a necessary part of life these days.

My calendar app helps me remember important meetings and my messaging apps keep me in touch with other people. The SmartNews and Flipboard apps that I’ve installed on my Smartphone keep me up-to-date when important events unfold in the world, and I’ve learned to enjoy iHeartRadio when I’m eating lunch. I’m spending far too much free time on Facebook these days (and that should tell you something about my age) and I faithfully track my bicycle rides using Strava. My Smartphone contains pictures and videos that remind me of important moments in my life; and, of course, the GoogleMaps app has helped me to find obscure places on many occasions.

I’ve often said to my wife, “How in the world did we ever live without GoogleMaps?” We use GoogleMaps every time we’re traveling. We almost always use GoogleMaps when we are heading into Pittsburgh because the app alerts us to congested traffic patterns and directs us around automobile accidents. GoogleMaps chooses the most efficient route to our destination and helps us avoid unnecessary delays. GoogleMaps recently directed my wife and I onto a narrow road that slinked its way through a wooded part of Virginia and brought us safely back onto the highway on the other side of an accident that had backed-up traffic for nearly 15 miles.

I’ve learned to trust GoogleMaps. I trust an app on my Smartphone to pick a route for my travels, and I trust an app on my Smartphone to let me know when I need to change course. I unflinchingly trust GoogleMaps to lead and guide me from place to place. And perhaps just as importantly, I’ve learned to trust GoogleMaps to guide me toward home at the end of the day.

And, if you think about it, prayer does the same thing, doesn’t it…?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Prayer is the most powerful tool in our spiritual lives. God gently moves in the center of our lives as we seek-out His guidance and direction in all we do. God opens doors and God clearly closes them. God knows the best way for us to travel between wherever we are right now and wherever God wants us to be. And yet, how many times do we all find ourselves moving toward an unknown destination on an unclear path? How many times do we all jump out of bed in the morning, and begin yet another busy day without taking even a moment to ask for the guidance and the support of the God who loves us?

The next time you take-out your Smartphone and use GoogleMaps to direct you safely toward a destination, take a moment to think about your life of prayer. Think about the God who has promised to travel with you everywhere you go. Think about the God who promises to walk beside you and to safely bring you home at the end.

I’ve often said to my wife, “How in the world did we ever live without GoogleMaps?”

Perhaps an even more important question is: “How in the world can we ever live without the power of prayer, and without God’s guiding and supporting hand in our lives?”

Not sure what’s best?

I’m really excited to tell you about a new link on the Home Page of the ExploraStory Cafe called: “Tackling Tough Stuff.”

We all face challenges and difficult situations in life, don’t we? We all have those moments in life when we’re not sure what’s best. That’s what “Tackling Tough Stuff” is all about! In fact, if you click the “Tackling Tough Stuff” link, you’re going to find the following:

Bullying: What Teens Taught Me After an Incident of School Violence

How to Respond When Someone Tells You About Childhood Sexual Abuse

How Can I Support a Grieving Friend During and After a Funeral?

I hope that the audio files I’ve created can provide guidance and insight into some of the challenges and difficult situations that we encounter in life. And, as always, if you have a topic that you would like us to take-up in the ExploraStory Cafe, please let me know!



Something New!

I’m pleased to announce the addition of a new menu option for those who visit the ExploraStory Café.

Beginning today, you can access audio files that contain recorded messages that I’ve shared with others during times of worship and prayer. I hope to update the recordings on a weekly basis.

To access the recordings, please choose the “Audio Messages” option on the Home Page menu bar.

I hope that these messages can help you to even more deeply reflect upon your journey of faith.