A trash truck drove by as I sat at the stop sign, coffee in hand, from the coffee shop I go to almost every day…I lied. I go there every…single…day. It’s a problem, I know, I know. I watched the trash truck as it passed and thought, “Oh yea, those guys are essential. They have to be out working.”
The City of Canyon had just issued a “shelter in place” order for our city that day, and that only “essential personnel” should be out and about if possible. You can imagine what life would look like if there were no trash trucks out hauling our waste items out to the ever-growing-trash-mountain on the edge of town.
I dare say that my baristas are ESSENTIAL because they bring me my 16oz Americano, with heavy whip, and sugar free vanilla without me even having to speak. By the time I walk in, they are already whipping it together for me! Essential? Yes indeed.
As the trash truck drove by, and thinking about all the churches who couldn’t meet in person anymore, I had this strange wrestling match with the Lord. I whispered, “Is the church essential?” Does ministry, and church, and the spiritual things and the eternal things actually matter?
The answer I reached by the time I drove from 15th Street to 23rd Street was an emphatic YES! It matters more than anything! But that’s another blog for another day.
These are strange times that we are living in. Never in my life have I seen a “shelter in place” order in the United States, much less, one that seems to be sweeping around the world. I have seen churches scrambling to figure out what the church is supposed to look like when you can’t meet or be in the same room. Rural churches are trying to figure out how to get online to reach their congregations….and those who are not in a congregation yet.
I’m actually excited about it, because I just know that behind every obstacle is an opportunity. As the new song from Hillsong says,
“I’ll count the joy come every battle
‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be”
So we are making Lemonade! But the first week of the quarantine, I found myself ABSOLUTELY emotionally disoriented. I found myself vegging on Netflix, not having much motivation, then bursting forth with frantic busyness, then crashing and feeling alone, and then the cycle would repeat.
There’s this guilt like maybe you’re “not doing enough.”
There’s an exhaustion from trying to get your work done, and the work that the school teacher has been doing with your kids all year.
There’s a pressure to try to figure it out and do more, to “fix it.”
There’s an impending fear about the foreseeable economic future.
There’s a scrambling to understand what is going on.
There’s a fight to hold onto faith, and not think too far into the future.
…Except that Jesus is still in the boat with us.
In the midst of this, the most common action is to bunker down and veg out on Netflix, and scroll endlessly on social media. But is that what God dreams for you during this time?
So when you’re stuck at home and can’t do anything…here are 5 things that YOU CAN DO to stay whole, and even GROW during this season. Let’s look at this from the lens of how humans are “braided beings” made of 5 basic parts: Physical. Social, Emotional, Intellectual, and Spiritual.
1. Grow Physically
Let’s start with the easiest one. Our physical world involves everything that our 5 senses interact with. Start your growth by getting small victories in the tangibles. Get out of bed in the morning. Take a shower. Make your bed first thing (I know that seems dumb, but it is important to feel fresh and sharp). Refuse to sit around in your pajamas all day. Don’t give into the “slob nature.”
Set up an area that’s your “work space” so that when you’re at work you can be “at work,” and when you’re not at your “work space,” you can be present “at home.” It’s just a little mental game you can play with yourself so that if you’re working from home, you can be ALL IN wherever you are.
Exercise is important to get those endorphins going (this is one that I have not started this week, but plan to add next week). If you’re on a diet, don’t take this time to bury yourself in ice cream and let yourself go. DON’T LET YOURSELF GO!!! Sharpen. Contrary to popular belief, you can end this quarantine stronger and better!
Proverbs 29:18 says that “without a vision, the people cast off restraint” so make sure you have a vision for this unique time that we may never have again. In some ways, this can truly be a gift!
2. Grow Socially
You’ll have to be INTENTIONAL on this one. I’m going to start with family (that’s your tribe around you during the Covid 19 quarantine). We were aimless the first week, but then sat down and made a “Covid 19 bucket list” as a family. It’s a list of things that we want to do while we have extended time together. This list includes: movies to watch, games to play, exercise we want to do, sleeping on the trampoline one night, a Pokemon tournament between the four of us, and on and on. It would be so easy to just send them off with their devices and zombie out…but we want to GROW as a family during this unique time.
I’m also going to place “church” here, under “growing socially” because it involves all the other people in your local congregation.
Your church is most likely trying very hard to keep everyone’s spirits up, and keep them engaged, and love on them, and just BE the church really. But it’s so easy to just say, “Yea, I’ll watch the livestream later,” or “I’ll go onto YouTube when I get a second tonight” (but most times we forget).
So go live when you church goes live, or if it’s pre recorded, watch it as a family at the normal time you go to church. Routine is so refreshing to your family. Take a shower, put yo clothes on, and “show up” as my old football coach used to say.
During these services it is VITAL to Interact (even if it feels weird at first). Say “amen,” don’t multitask, but rather, FOCUS, just like you would if you were sitting there. Don’t go cook lunch while it’s going, but for once, SIT STILL and just BE.
“Enter In” to the Presence of God during worship, and power your way through the awkwardness if you’re not familiar with worshipping through a screen. Focus on the words of the songs you are singing…engage…press in.
Make sure to tithe and give offerings to keep the church reaching out in effective ways. This is not the time to pull back in this financial crisis, but rather, to PUSH FORWARD as the church of the Living God! I am so excited to see churches and pastors reaching so far beyond the reach of their 4 walls and out into their communities. I PRAY THAT THE CHURCH BREAKS THE INTERNET!!!!
Zoom your Sunday School class (it’s free if your meeting is 40 minutes or less. Also, you can just restart it after 40 minutes if you go longer). Keys to Zoom-type-meetings that we’ve found is:
- try to cut down on background noise or mute yourself if you have loud things going on around you.
- Put a Bible lesson on for the kids in the other room so you can focus.
- Take turns listening and talking.
- Leave a good amount of time to talk about how everyone is doing and have honest prayer requests.
- Try to stay focused during the Bible Study portion. Our first week of Zoom-type-meetings with our Sunday School class was hilarious, but we didn’t get much done. It was a litany of babies and animals, and background TV noise and distractions. We figured it out after week 1, and it’s getting better each week as we learn how to do this online thing.
We just found a new app that is a lot like Zoom, but it’s called “House Party” where you can do games like “Apples to Apples” and “Pictionary-type-games,” while still being in a Zoom-type format. We are learning and growing in this dimension each week. And Growing feels good!
3. Grow Emotionally
This one has to do with one aspect of our internal nature. Here are some suggestions. Slow down and breathe for 5 minutes at the beginning of your “work time.” Set a timer on your phone. It’s going to seem like a really long time, but your job, starting out, is to shut down every stray thought and focus on “deep breathing.”
Refuse the impulse to be frantic. After the 5 minutes, Take another 5 minutes to evaluate your emotional state. This isn’t weakness. This is being emotionally responsible, and what we call good ol’ EQ.
When you do notice how you’re feeling about “this” or “that,” try not to judge yourself for feeling that way. Feelings are merely indicators of your emotional state, much like pain is an indicator that something is broken in your physical state. Swirling emotions of anger and sadness, or even what we’ve deemed depression, are all emotional indicators telling you that something is wrong.
Maybe you need to grieve something properly. Maybe you are angry about something, but have been trying to “tough it out.” Maybe you have some unresolved conflict with someone and it’s either low grade in the back of your mind, or sharp at the very front, making it where you can’t think of anything else.
Maybe this pain is telling you to SLOW DOWN, but you want to be tough and push through. The problem is that this pain is causing you to react in ways that are spilling out onto your family…and hurting them.
Ask yourself questions like: Do I feel like “a waste of space?” Have I been trying to earn my reason for existence? What I mean by that is, sometimes people feel like they have to be productive to prove that they are worth the breath they are breathing, ie. “not worthless.”
Maybe you need to give grace to yourself because you won’t be able to do everything like you are used to. And, while you’re at it, maybe give grace to those around you. This whole “doing EVERYTHING differently” is hard on them too. Everyone is just a little wacked sideways from this whole thing.
Filter through who you need to forgive, or maybe who you have angst with. Perhaps there’s a tough conversation that you’ve been putting off? Maybe something someone said on Facebook made you mad, and every time you see their posts, you feel a bit of your blood boiling and you need to let that go? Forgive? Return kindness in exchange for offense?
4. Grow Intellectually
This one probably doesn’t sound that awesome to many people, but it is important that our brains do not turn to mush during this time. Instead of binge watching every season of “The Office,” take the time it would have taken to go through three to four episodes, and pick up a stimulating novel. Right now, I am working my way through some of the Barnes and Noble “Classics.”I have reasons for reading the classics that I’ll put in another blog for another day, but these are writings that are still in print long after the authors are dead. Right now, I’m on “Ivanhoe,” but plan to read “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “White Fang,” “The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “A Tale of Two Cities,” “War and Peace,” “Rhetoric” by Aristotle, and “Republic” by Plato. I’ve always said, “Every great leader is a reader.”
Some of the shows I’m watching are historical dramas. Then I go and research who these people were, what was going on in this time period, and how close to reality the show was. I want to take this time to sharpen my mind and understand what great people have spoken over the ages.
Beyond reading, Eli and I put together a Lego-type-mechanical-arm that he got for his birthday. Puzzles are good. Board Games that make you think. Crossword puzzles. Stimulate your mind and stretch it and learn something new!
5. Grow Spiritually
This is the most important one, and that’s why I left it for last. This moment has the potential to lull the church to sleep, OR to make it cry out to the God of Peace. Here’s how it worked for me. Week 1: I was all over the place, just like I described above.
Week 2, I told myself that I had to get a grip on myself and move forward. I always said how important it is to pray with your kids, and to let them see you really “pray through” as us old Pentecostals used to say. They need to see us worship…REALLY WORSHIP, not just when the stage lights are on and sound is mixed perfectly, and the smoke machines are going, but even if we were in a Taliban prison. I’m not there yet. I still need my Palace Coffee in the morning, and some kind of praise music, but I have my eyes set on a goal. It is a mental goal that I will be thriving spiritually even if I were being tortured in a Taliban prison. That’s where I want to be…but I’m not there yet. So when we have a million excuses as to why we have gone anemic spiritually, here are a few things that YOU CAN DO:
Make an action plan for where you want to go in Scripture. Do you want to read through the Bible in a year? Or do you want to focus in on one book of the Bible for a few weeks? Do you want to hit all of the 13 Pauline Epistles? Or do you want to compare the 4 Gospels?
Make a plan, and chip away at it with whatever time you have each day. This should be a long-term project. I have chosen to write my reflections on each book of the New Testament before I die. This is a very long term project, and I’ve spent the last year and a half, just in the Book of Ephesians. I’m about to finish my 350 page commentary on my findings and thoughts about the book. It’s not professional. It’s probably not that special. But it’s what I’ve discovered as I dug into the scripture for myself. I’ve also done Hebrews, Colossians, Philippians, and Galatians…so I’m on my way.
Have a focused Prayer and Worship time every day, and do it first thing off the bat. Give God your best and first minutes of the day. No excuses. If you want to GROW spiritually, give God your first and your best. It will set the tone for the rest of the day. Wake up early if you have to, but DO NOT NEGLECT THIS TIME with the Lord. Draw from His strength. Lean into Him.
Since I can’t go to my usual spot at Palace Coffee and zero in with God, I start the fire in the fireplace, and I have my own special place on the rug next to the fireplace where I PRESS INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD. The whole family comes to the living room. We put a worship playlist on YouTube. I put a blanket over my head and kneel on the floor and cry out to God over various things.
This week, Eli, my son, came and curled up under me as I prayed on my hands and knees, blanket over my head, and he asked me how to pray. I had the wonderful opportunity to teach him a variety of ways to pray, from intercession, to adoration, to thanksgiving, and travailing prayer. This has got to be one of the sweetest moments I’ve had as a dad. I wouldn’t have had it without Covid 19.
Like I said…time to make lemonade and GROW during this time in all 5 areas…or not. My prayer for you is that you’d grow through this season. Who knows, maybe we’ll look back and see this as a blessing, a time of revival in our personal lives and in our churches.