Taking your Sacred Smartphone in Hand

 Just out of seminary preparing for my first officiating at a funeral, I recalled the advice of one of my mentors: “when you meet with the family ask for photographs of the deceased and build your words around them.” The photos, whether posed or candid, enabled the mourners to focus on meaningful stories and memories that could be shared with others. 

 I was startled to recall that advice again a few months ago when I started paying attention to the thousands of photographs on my laptop. The photographs I was rediscovering seemed like they were from a previous life not just that they were taken of the years of my life, but more startling was the realization that in light of Covid-19 the excitement of the travel which so many of the pictures document is for now impossible. Out of sadness I quietly recited the Kaddish - the Jewish mourner’s prayer - for myself and the joy that I have shared with my wife in our global travels which encompassed Africa, Antarctica and Alaska to start with the a’s. After this recitation, my spirits rose as I sensed that my photography, past and future might provide spiritual enrichment.

Putting aside the inevitable out of focus, could be anywhere, just typical snapshots, I began to see something else. There were photographs that were the result of attention to people and place, awareness that something was happening or being expressed, almost as if God was directing my lens and trigger finger. This comprehension was reinforced by the words of artist and Jewish scholar, Melvin Alexenberg: “Recognize that as you are creating a photograph, God is creating through you. Both the subject of your photo and the photograph itself are facets of HaMakom. Open your eyes in wonder everyplace. With eyes of wonder you can discover the miraculous in the mundane. Stop long enough to uncover veiled aspects of HaMakom expressed through the built environment and frame them through your lens.”

Alexenberg’s words have inspired me to look closely at these special images in my own digital photo collection and to explore what I can do to encourage others to find such treasures on their own computers and smartphones. His insights also suggest how we can use the smartphone as a spiritual utility to help us open our “eyes with wonder to discover the miraculous in the mundane.”

How encouraging it is to think about using our smartphones not only for such practical purposes as email or internet searches, but also for our emotional and spiritual well-being. Start with consciously reviewing the photos on your smartphone. Treasure the photographs of family, friends also being aware of how your captured memories remind us of moments that have enriched your life.  Then with smartphones in hand, let us enrich our lives through allowing God’s guidance to capture that miraculous in the mundane!


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