"Remember, every connection holds within it a seed of holiness, which is the potential to notice the God who makes all connections possible. In my experience, successful practice of God's presence online has derived exclusively from cultivating these connections and properly attributing them to God's movement."
--Adam Thomas, from "Digital Disciple"
I thought the lunch Elizabeth packed me for my train trip home tells it all. Seeing it was a HUGE "gee whiz, aw shucks" moment for me. Seriously, I think the last time anyone "packed me a lunch," I was ten years old. I learned at an early age to make my own. Much of the pleasure of my train trip home was to savor the little snacks she put in there.
One of the things I dearly love about taking the train is I have hours and hours to be both social and quiet...but I particularly like the quiet. It's unencumbered time to think and reflect and read. My little bag of traveling food reminds me of the wonderful intersection of the IRL (" In Real Life") world and the virtual world that social networking has, if we are bold enough to embrace it.
I have been meeting various Facebook friends, mostly those connected to the spirituality blogging and "Episco-geek" world, for over three years now. When I have taken long trips to visit them, I have some fun playing a little bit of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" with the trip, on Facebook. The visits have always been rewarding and uplifting, and there is a real closeness that deepens with these people, who, were, already, in some ways, close.
The spiritual blogging community is an interesting critter indeed. Many of us started our blogging careers under semi-anonymity, and in looking back I don't know if that was because we thought we weren't going to be any good, or because what we were doing at the time felt too much like someone reading our diaries in public. I suppose many of us started blogging because we weren't always being fed in our churches, or we had a growing spirituality we didn't always understand. I don't think any of us thought we were God's literary gift to the church. But we started feeding each other somehow.
As Facebook got more popular, we started de-cloaking a bit via Facebook and got to know each other, from a distance, anyway. Elizabeth's blog was one of the first ones I started reading on a regular basis. Her self-revealing style gave me confidence to start telling my own stories in a more authentic way, and I am still appreciative of that. I didn't use to think any of my stories had any healing value for anyone other than me. She made me think otherwise about that. I came to appreciate it's not so much about my stories, per se, it's that there is a universality to all our stories. A story about my life may be close enough to someone else's, and in hearing mine they may find a handle on theirs...then they can begin to tell their stories, who will be heard by others, etc., etc.
So seeing that lunch bag took things full circle, with "being fed." It struck a huge chord with me, with what it is we bloggers are trying to accomplish. I don't think we write because we are frustrated unpaid writers, I don't think we write because we have big egos and want to splash them all over the Internet, I think we write because we want to feed people, with God's help. There is simply a place where our wordsmithing from a distance makes us hungry to share physical time and space with these people in real life. God's movement through cyberspace creates real connections, that, if we can manage to trust in that power enough to take a car or train or plane trip, can lead us to a new form of "family."
I always come away from these trips feeling like I've discovered a long lost relative--a relative in the Family of God--and if a blog or Facebook page can lead us to God's presence and a real sense of family, it's not much of a stretch to believe God sees us as "in the family."