As we set the table for a family meal, my daughter and I discussed how table settings have changed. We still have basic rules, but the formality of two forks, one for salad and another for the main course, seems to have vanished. Perhaps it’s due to simpler meals. a desire to be more casual, or have less clean up.

Later, I googled to satisfy my curiosity about table settings and searched for photos. There are basic rules for the placement of utensils and a correct way to set a table if the meal is casual, elegant, or formal. There was consensus about plates, silver, glassware, and the extra parts of a formal setting. Scrolling through four hundred-seventeen photos, (I was really enjoying this😊) I paused to look at beautiful decorative embellishments.

But in the art form and etiquette passed down for centuries, results unanimously indicated something was absent from a table-setting: a cell phone. There is no place for a cellphone in the place setting-not even now.

Voicemail, texting, and access to the internet, allow us to be fingertips away from communicating one mile or six hundred miles away. Convenience and connection keep us in touch. Research shows CCPUs (chronic cell phone users) have heighted anxiety among other side effects. But we seem to take that convenience with us to the dinner table, or gathered in the same room, and choose to connect with someone who isn’t seated in our line of sight, even though they are “near-here”.

In responding to a call or text, we place people around us invisible. They are invisibly present-an oxymoron, but so is talking on the phone when you have the opportunity for a live conversation. Our phone becomes our priority, not the people around us.

I probably haven’t given you new information, but my recent cell phone experience (while I was in the same room) caused me to go to another place based on reflections from a recent sermon and a devotion I read.

Do we do that with God?

He’s omnipresent, but do we ignore Him? Do we consult His wisdom about a matter before moving forward? Or do we think, “I’ve got this.”

Do we remember He is present when I use careless or disrespectful words?  We excuse, “but I was irritated,” and forget I have an ever-present unseen listener who should be honored, and so should the listener.

Am I consciously aware of His presence, even in solitude, or on a walk, when my very breath depends on His mercy and grace?

In Philippians 4:5 (NIV), the apostle Paul tells us, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

He’s near here—near and here.  Let’s not disregard and make Him invisible. Unlike a cell phone, there is always a place for Him at the table and when I remember that, I make room for others in my line of sight.

What are your thoughts on the nearness of our ever-present God? (If you want to comment on phones and etiquette, that’s fine too.)

Looking for encouragement? Click here for Bible verses about the nearness of God.

Well into the first semester, here are 15 Timely Thoughts to Encourage College Freshmen

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