Friday, January 22, 2010

God, Life and Everything - Facebook Prayer Chain

I write a column called "God, Life, and Everything" for the Hudson Valley News. The title reflects the broad scope I want to take. Everything in life falls under the eye of God, and if we watch carefully, we can catch a glimpse of God in it all.

About a year ago, I got on Facebook. I did it mostly to keep in touch with youth group kids, especially as they went off to college.

If you’ve ever been on Facebook, then you know that not only can you share information about your daily comings and goings but you can play games (I like Farkel and Mafia Wars), give friends virtual gifts and join groups with silly names like, “I’m in favor of a ‘dislike’ button.”

Still, the main thing is keeping in touch with friends, and for me things started to become interesting when an old buddy from high school “friended” me, which means he found my name and wanted to reestablish contact. Friending is the act of inviting someone to become your Facebook Friend. If they accept your offer, then the two of you can access each other’s personal information, chat, even share pictures and videos.

It was great to hook up with Paul. Then came Lucy, and Jim and Marcy. Before long more than forty friends from back home were my friends from Facebook. After awhile, we got to know the names of each other’s children and (yikes!) grandchildren. We even began planning our thirtieth class reunion – which we had last summer.

It really was much more interesting because now when I went up to someone I di

Soon other friends from the old days were sharing each other’s names, and before long, I had reestablished contact with more than forty former classmates. Just in time, too, since they were busy planning our thirtieth class reunion. The whole thing was organized on Facebook.

It’s all been fun.

Then, last week, one of my old classmates sent out word that she had a brain tumor. Now this social chitchat has changed. Prayer chains from California to Illinois to New York have been activated.

She gives updates on the visits to the surgeon. Her sister gives updates. Friends send out prayers for recovery. Everybody stays informed, aware, and concerned.

Why is this important? Whether you believe in God and prayer or not, it is so helpful to know that others care. There’s something powerful about knowing that you are not alone in the midst of your trials, that you are surrounded by love even if you can’t see the people doing the surrounding.

There is a lot of valid talk about how technology is alienating us. Many lament that people don’t write letters anymore and mock those who text each other while in the same room. We despair over those who spend countless hours in front of their computers “networking.”

But like so many other tools, it’s not the technology itself that causes the problem. It is merely a tool and can be used well or foolishly. For me, Facebook has been a way to revive relationships I thought were long forgotten. And in the case of one friend, it has opened up a much larger circle of caring and prayer. When used with concern and love, even Facebook can be good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some praying to do.