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James Cook column: Staying connected

Did you know there are over 200 million cell phone subscribers in the U.S? At the same time, a third of the world’s population has never made a phone call.
There are over 200 million users of MySpace, and Facebook just reached 350 million. More than 14 million photos are uploaded on these websites each day. Facebook alone hosts 1.7 billion photos. About 100,000 users register every day.
Did you know it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, TV 13 years, Internet four years, iPod three years and Facebook two years to connect with its audience?
One in eight married couples in the U.S. today met online. One in four workers has been with their current employer less than a year. The number of text messages sent and received everyday exceeds the population of the total planet. How well are you connected? What have we compromised for the speed of connecting with others?
Are we truly connected? Do I have your attention? Technology is great and don’t get me wrong, there is a place for it. But, I wonder how many of us know our neighbors’ names and have spoken with them recently, person to person. When was the last time your child called you instead of texting you? I have two teenagers, I understand from experience. It is easy to connect on a surface level, gather information, touch base and stay connected today. Can you tell if someone is actually smiling or upset using their Blackberry? J
When was the last time you wrote a letter or thank you card to someone? There are so many ways we can communicate and connect with each other. Are we taking the time to connect on a personal, emotional and spiritual level with God, our family, friends, coworkers, and community? Are we too busy to walk down the hall at work and sit down with someone to hear what they are saying or experience what they are feeling?
What would happen if your doctor sent you a text message to ask you how you were feeling? “Where does it hurt?” Does your pastor send you the sermon on your Ipod or Blackberry?
There are many different levels of connections. I believe we need to think about what it truly means to be connected and have connection with others and with God. I believe being in the present in someone’s presence is vital to any relationship. The quality of our connections most often determines the quality of our lives. In the workplace, the quality of the business often depends on the quality of relationships between the people working there. Our efficiency, productivity and creativity are the indicators of how well we are able to balance the tasks of work and relationships.
The speed of the internet and instant messages limits the human connection we all need and desire. They are great tools that enhance our ability to keep in touch, but real connection is in being present. True connection is experienced through a touch, a smile, laughter, tears and conversation. When you experience true connection, you instantly recognize how it looks, feels and sounds. And that’s a good thing.
The good news of the gospel is this: God is trying to connect with us. Even though we may find ourselves stressed to our limit and pressed for time, including making time to connect with God, he is still trying to connect with us. We can be sure of this ń God is actively seeking a connection through the Holy Spirit.
That is especially true in current times when many are experiencing loss: of jobs, homes and the family unit through separation and divorce, causing so much stress, grief, fear and loneliness.
If we purposefully set aside the time to connect with God through prayer, he will meet us there. God wants to give us hope, peace and reassurance of his steadfast love, but we must take that first step to seek his will and guidance in our lives, that is, to be present in the moment. As we are all part of God’s creation, he also wants us to be actively connected to and with each other.
So, how do we do this? Ask yourself: when was the last time I set aside time to pray and listen for God’s response, made a visit to a friend in need, made a phone call to check on an elderly neighbor or relative or wrote a note of appreciation to someone who did something special for me? Live in this moment: Ps.46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” Also remember, in Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world. I am with you.”
Have I made a connection with you today?
James Cook is chaplain at Rowan Regional Medical Center in Salisbury.

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