Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Drawing Close to God in the Digital Age – My 3 Favorite Faith Apps




Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

Here’s what I know about my attempts to build new habits: unless it’s readily accessible, it’s probably not going to happen.

As much as I understand that reading the Bible every morning will make me a happier person, if I don’t head directly to the living room with my first cup of coffee, I’m likely to get lost in a list of other things while my Bible sits unread.

Being the clever girl that I am, I’ve discovered a few apps that have enabled me to overcome my inherent disposition toward procrastination. Since the last thing I see before I close my eyes and the first thing I see upon opening them is the screen of my iPhone, I now incorporate a few favorite faith-based apps into my daily routine.

Most nights, I head to bed early and spend an hour reading. As my eyes get heavy, I turn out the lights and turn on my iPhone to watch or listen to a program on FORMED – http://www.formed.org/

Think of this site as the Netflix of Catholic Media. And it indeed is growing in that direction. Created by the Augustine Institute, FORMED is a streaming service that offers full-length movies, e-books, audiobooks, lectures, and one of my favorite video series, Symbolon, an exploration of the Catholic faith in 10-minute bite-sized videos.

FORMED is where I go to stream a movie on my iPad, listen to an audiobook while I’m commuting in my car, or watch Opening the Word to deepen my understanding of that week’s Mass readings.

Although FORMED is subscription-based, Saint Mary’s and Our Lady of Peace Churches have provided FREE access to everyone in Summit County, whether you belong to a church or not.

To access FORMED for free: Go to www.formed.org. Under Parish Code enter: Z8RVK4 (all caps) Create a profile, then login to access movies, audio, and e-books.  On your phone or tablet, in your car or at home, take this free media with you wherever you go.

When I wake at six a.m. and reach for my iPhone, I’m greeted with my Bible Verse of the Day from THE BIBLE App – http://www.youversion.com/

My daily Bible verse is always a source of inspiration. More often than not, I share it using the Bible App’s ready-made graphics to my Facebook and Instagram pages to encourage my friends. The Bible app provides over 1,000 translations of the Bible. It also has an audio version, videos, and several devotional reading plans. With this app, reading the Bible becomes as automatic as checking your email.

Recently, I wrote about the benefits of meditation. My new favorite guided prayer meditation is thanks to this app: Reimagining the EXAMEN - http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/23542/reimagining-examen-app
I’m crazy about it. Based on a 500-year-old prayer by Saint Ignatius Loyola, it is one of the most useful prayer methods I’ve encountered. 

 The Examen uses five questions to guide you gently through a different topic each day. I often use the Examen app before drifting off to sleep. I find that going through the questions centers my mind, brings me closer to God, and helps me drift into a restful sleep.

Download one or all of these apps and make them part of your daily walk with God, it will transform your life.

Now, let’s enter Week 2 of 9 sharing the Psalms together.

I had chosen a different psalm for this week until I saw the graph showing a sharp spike in suicides in our county. I don’t know what has caused this dramatic increase. But I understand how a small disappointment can grow into what feels like an insurmountable mountain of despair.

If you are somewhere in that darkness, please seek help from a mental health counselor immediately. Don’t wait and hope that you can handle it on your own. Reach out and let others help you now.

One of the greatest tricks of depression is the story that we are alone and if we admit that we are hurting, other people will think we are weak. That is a lie. You are not alone. You are loved. You are stronger than you know.

This week’s Psalm is a reminder that as we seek help from mental health professionals, from friends and family, we can also turn to God because He sees our hurt and wants to comfort us. 

Please know that you can and will feel better someday. Until then, God is your shelter and your strength. "Be still, and know that I am God…who surrounds and protects you. You are close to my Heart.”

Psalm 46

1 God is our shelter and our strength.
    When troubles seem near, God is nearer, and He’s ready to help.
So why run and hide?
2 No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails.
    When the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless.
    When mountains crumble and the waters run wild, we are sure and fearless.
3 Even in heavy winds and huge waves,
    or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless.
 
10 “Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God.
    I am honored among all the nations.
    I am honored over all the earth.”
11  You know the Eternal, the Commander of heavenly armies, surrounds us and protects us;
    the True God of Jacob is our shelter, close to His heart.
 (The Voice translation)
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Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of A Map of Heaven and other books. You can reach her at www.facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths

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