When I first felt drawn by God into a more intimate relationship, I began to look for ways to open my heart up to him. It was then I discovered the early church fathers and mothers. I began reading the ancient writers who had deeply personal and passionate lives of prayer and I wanted to emulate them. My companions on the journey were Brother Lawrence, Thomas a’ Kempis, Theresa of Avila, and Augustine, among others.
With these spiritual writers as exemplars, I began to engage in what I called spiritual experiments: meditation on Scripture, centering prayer, Bible memorization, sacred pauses during the day, and personal times of worship. When something helped me connect better with God, I continued it. If a particular practice didn’t seem to help, I discarded it. But, over time, I adopted practices that helped me grow in knowing and loving God and I cherished my times alone with just him and my Bible.
Enter social media.
One day I was having lunch with an acquaintance and we were talking about our spiritual journeys. When told her of some of my practices, I was afraid she’d think me strange, but she didn’t. Instead, she brightened and asked, “Have you tried Pray-As-You-Go?” then went on to explain that it was a website developed by Jesuits in Britain that offers daily meditations on Scripture complete with music, thought-provoking questions, and scripture readings.
I tried it. That website helped me to reflect with focused consciousness on God’s Word and to pray about the specific things the read passage brought to mind. And the music was beautiful. A song by Karen Money that says, “All I long for most is mine when He draws close to me” and worship songs from the Monks of Kerr Moussa Abbey in Africa that I never have heard anywhere else. I was hooked on Pray-As-You-Go. Now I had God, my Bible, and my i-Pad.
There’s an app for that.
That was just the beginning. In 2014, I took a year-long spiritual formation course, meeting once a month at a nearby college. In one session we discussed centering prayer, an ancient tradition of sitting in God’s presence without an agenda, just enjoying being with him and yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit. During a break, I was talking to a fellow student about the practice and he asked “Do you have the Centering Prayer app?” Really? You need an app for that? But, as he talked, I became intrigued and downloaded it later that day.
I have used it a couple of times a week since. The app (simply titled Centering Prayer) helps to put a framework around the prayer experience. It gives a minute or so of introductory music (you choose the style), a very short prayer to open minds and hearts to God, then a timer for your desired length of prayer time. I have mine set for fifteen minutes. At the end of that time, a very soft gong sounds. Then there is a closing psalm to be read (also of your own choosing).
The app has helped me learn the art of centering prayer. Its introductory material helps to calm my mind so I am able to be fully available to my Father in Heaven. The timer lets me be oblivious to time (otherwise I was checking my watch to make sure I didn’t take too long and miss an appointment elsewhere), and the music and closing ease me into and out of the meditative mode.
Then came blogs.
Blogs have been around for years, but I had never found them very helpful for my own spiritual growth. Since I have begun to explore the area of Christian blogging, though, I have discovered a community of people who are like me – seeking God and desiring to share Him with others.
The secret to successful blog reading for me has been in finding the right authors to follow. I started with the well-known names in Christendom and, though they were good, they were not satisfying my spiritual itch. So now, when I read a book that helps me spiritually, I Google that author and see if he/she has a blog. Often they do and I have found some great spiritual companions that way. One of my favorites is David Timms, a college professor whose book on the Lord’s Prayer intrigued me. His blog is Because of Grace and blesses me every time I read it. I have never met him, but feel that I have a fellow traveler on the road to knowing and loving God.
Old meets new.
Why does my story about forays into social media matter? Because I think I am typical of many Baby Boomers in churches today. We may have e-readers, but still prefer reading print books with a pen in one hand. We know the generations following us thrive on social media and that lifestyle is not attractive to us. We know quite a bit about the Bible, but are seeking ways to connect with God at a heart level.
I have found that, with a little bit of help, our minds can open to new possibilities and to ways to use whatever tools God has provided to encourage our spiritual growth. We don’t have to leave behind our connection to the world of the ancient church fathers to reach out to engage with social media. We just need to know the path to finding the right stuff.
If you have found a website, app, or blog that has helped your spiritual life, I would love to hear about it. You can find me at www.beverlyvankampen.com.
Beverly J. Van Kampen is an author, blogger, and Bible teacher. Though now retired, she had a successful career in commercial real estate development and, later, in directing an online theological study program for Our Daily Bread Ministries. She has authored The Bible for Skeptics, The GodSense Devotional, The GodSense Journey, and The Bible Study Teacher’s Guide. She resides in Spring Lake, Michigan with her husband Warren. You can connect with Beverly online at her website.