Binge-Mode: How to Make the Most Of Our Time in Seasons of Forced Isolation
Have you ever noticed how selective our memories are? Some of the most impactful moments of our lives will not even show up as a blip on the radar. However, sometimes the most random occurrences are those you will never forget. To this day some of my clearest memories come from my elementary years. Of course, there is a lot of reasons to remember some of it. I was, after all, a Dream Lake Dragon. Our
classrooms were old airplane hangers from whenever the property functioned as an airport. Our playground was by far the coolest (and maybe least safe) playground I’ve ever seen in my life – a humongous pirate ship made out of monster truck tires and splintered wood, tire fortresses, and an abundance of rope swings. However, one memory sticks out from each year: day #180.
Any teacher will tell you about day #180. It’s also known as the last day of school. I remember anticipating the last bell as the whole class would count down from 10 seconds and sprint out the door. What did this newfound freedom mean for me? Well for the next 3 months, here’s what my schedule looked like most days:
- 8:00AM-11:00AM – Basketball
- 11:00AM-2:00PM – Video Games
- 2:00PM-5:00PM – Hang out with friends
- 5:00PM-7:00PM – Basketball
- 7:00PM-9:00PM – TV and Video Games
Those were some productive days, right? I think everyone who has ever experienced a summer vacation knows what I’ m talking about. Usually, they are times of prolonged laziness where stay up way too late and get up even later. Looking back on it, those summers were an odd time of life.
What might be even odder is the current period in which we all live. Not in the last 100 years has society all over the world come to a grinding halt in so many ways. Many parents find themselves at home not working. Many kids just got the word that school has officially been canceled in their area for the rest of the year. It is like all of us have entered this summer vacation-like dream, and still worse, none of us knows when it will end.
But that leaves us with a question: for those of us who are in this time period of life right now, what can we do? Or maybe you are a parent during this season – what can you have your kids do? Go to the park? Forget that – it’s closed. Vacation – yeah, I’ve heard cruises are just awesome right now. They have a few “Buy 4 nights/get 86 nights free” packages, allowing you to float endlessly around the Caribbean.
I think if many of us are honest, times like our present ones bring out the worst in us. If we look at our unofficial daily agenda, it looks something like this:
Facebook – check. Instagram – check. Pinterest – check. TV – Check. Facebook again – check. And again – check. And again – check. Wind down with some TV – check. Sleep.
Maybe I’m in a boat by myself, but when I see that, I don’t want my life to look to consist of just that. I’m sure many people would agree with me on that. If you take a look at most of our wasted days, I don’t think it’s because we want them to be consumed with TV and social media. However, the days kind of just happen! But that leaves us with a question –
In this time of prolonged waiting, what can we do to redeem the extra time the Lord has given us?
Before How, Who?
Before we get into things we can do, someone might certainly say, “David, c’mon! Nothing is wrong with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or TV. Do you know what I would say? “You’re totally right!” But, that does not really settle anything– there are other questions that need to be asked. One of those questions is “who are we made to be?”
If you look at the beginning of Genesis, you’ll notice in chapter 1 that God creates human beings and gives them a distinct task. “Be fruitful and multiple, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28a). Most of us have heard that part. But then he continues, “…fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” In the original purpose for mankind, they were to rule over the earth as under-rulers: ruling over the earth while God rules over them. They were to extend God’s glory throughout the whole earth, harnessing all the creative potential in our universe to develop culture and technology. This is why God is not surprised that we have cell phones. God created electromagnetic fields, knowing one day we would discover how to hone their potential into something beautiful. It’s as if God has created this world as a technological Easter Egg hunt – humans walk around and find little nuggets of creative resources God put there in creation. They then use these to build products and culture. God designed that way knowing we would grow in our abilities and understandings of how to use this world for the most good and for His glory.
However, as we all know the Bible continues. We later read about how humanity sins against this God and inverts the created order. Instead of living as under-rulers with God being their head, they seek to define good and evil themselves and in the process fall from grace. The result? Now the creation is under a curse until Jesus Christ returns one day and sets the universe right again. But until then? Genesis 3:17-19 details how creation will not fight back against humanity. Now instead of exercising dominion over creation, we make ourselves servants of the creation. Talk about an upside-down universe!
Here’s how this impacts you and I – we live in a world that has many good things in it. However, we must fight back so that these good things do not rule over us. In other words, we will be tempted to destroy and waste our lives with good things. How might this happen? Easily. You take something good like Netflix or Facebook. Those are fantastic technologies that can provide great entertainment. However, if you are watching hours of those a day and not using the creativity God has given you, there is something that has drastically gone wrong. These good things, added up over the course of time, can zap years from your life. The New York Post did a recent study in December of 2019 and concluded the average American will spend 8.9 years of their life watching TV. 8.9 years! Again, there’s nothing wrong about watching television or surfing Facebook, but the big question remains: “are these things exercising dominion over you instead of you exercising dominion over them?”
With this in mind, I think the Bible would call us to be intentional how we spend our time. Watch TV – and have a blast doing it – but do so setting guards over yourself. I would suggest limiting your time to a certain amount of minutes per day. Same goes for other entertainment like Facebook and Pinterest. Build-in other activities into your schedule. What other activities you might say? That leads us to our next two thoughts: activities that have us spending time directly with the Lord and activities that foster our creativity as human beings.
How We Relate to God Directly
- Set Aside a Time to Hear – The very best habit you can develop in your life is the daily routine of reading the Bible. Notice what I did not say. I did not say listening to your favorite Bible teacher. Notice I did not say reading a devotional. Not that any of these are bad, they are not the same as personal study and neither one will teach you how to read the Bible like reading it yourself. Just you, the Bible, and a pen in your hand. Try to read through books over the Bible over the course of a couple weeks or months, doing so a few verses at a time. But why would we do this? In an age that so desperately wants a “fresh word from God,” it’s ironic because God has already spoken. Maturity in Christ cannot be gained apart from the frequent study of His Word. It’s impossible. Sure, you might grow in some Bible facts here and there, but they will never be applied to your life. Maybe you or someone you know struggles with reading? Someone in my family did as well, but they now use an audio Bible. Set the Bible to slow and have it read to you, pause it, take notes, then resume. Don’t know where to begin this? Let me give you my format for your own reference: I get a composition notebook and a pen. I write down the date, then ask the Lord to give me wisdom in reading His Word and to open my mind. From there, I start reading, usually a couple verses at a time. From there, I start writing down what I see. I start asking myself questions, writing them down as I go and try my best to answer them. I usually do this anywhere between 20 minutes and 45 minutes. In the end, I ask big questions and try to answer them: 1) How does this text point to Jesus Christ? 2) What does this teach me about God? 3) What does this teach me about myself?
- Set Aside Times to Speak– After you have finished your Bible study, you might want to take 5-10 minutes and speak to the Lord based on what you just read. However, that is not the only time during the day in which you can go to him. Try to schedule out multiple slots during the day to go to the Lord in prayer. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes if you have to and put your phone on silent in the other room. The normal routine I shoot for is this: 10-15 minutes of prayer in the morning after I study the Word. 20-30 minutes praying during the lunch hour. After that, I try to pray the Psalms between 15-20 minutes before I lay down at night. You might wonder what I mean by praying the Psalms. Take a look at some videos I’ve created to learn how to pray the Bible. It’s a habit I started years ago, and now I will never go back to any other way. I included a book on the subject as well just in case you would like to read it.
- How to Pray the Psalms
- How to Pray New Testament Books (James)
- How to Pray the 10 Commandments
- Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
- Make Some Calls – One of the ways we relate to God is almost counter-intuitive: through his people! Christianity in its true form is impossible to live in isolation. Why? Because it requires you to both know others and be known yourself. The three ways God changes us into a people devoted to him are, 1) through His Word, 2) through prayer, and, 3) through your local church. That is how he designed it! With that being said, pick up your phone and try to intentionally make calls to people in your congregation. Check up on them, not just with the “how are you doing’s?” Rather, ask questions that require them to think about their answer so you can really hear how they are doing. “What has your mind be most anxious about during this time?” “What promises of God have been hard to believe during this time?” Pray with them over the phone. Download a membership directory from your church’s website and pray through your whole church once a week, taking a little time each day to do so.
How We Display Our Love for Him in How We Creation
One of the ways you can redeem this time is through skills and trades. While that first word might be familiar to most of you, the second word has lost some of its luster in recent years. A skill is something that you can do. For instance: reading, athletic ability, horseback riding, billiards, etc. Then what’s the difference between skills and trades? Trades are skills that you can do later for income. For instance, you can learn photography with the hope of one day having a side business where you photograph people’s weddings. Or you can learn computer programming with hopes of one day making a career out of it.
Try to find certain skills or trades you can improve on during this time. Don’t know where to start? Here is a list of some options all over the map, for the creative and nerd alike:
- Become a Graphic Artist on the Computer – Maybe you want to learn how to draw cool superheroes, create logos, design t-shirts, or make a whole career out it. Well, that is totally possible – for free! Inkscape is a great program you can download at no cost. Well, I shouldn’t say no cost – it does cost some hard work to get good at it. They have training videos on this same site, plus you can probably type in “Draw__________ Inkscape” on Youtube and get a ton of free tutorials. For example, imagine one of your little girls being able to draw a Unicorn fiesta!
- Writing – Practice your writing. Start a blog or start writing a story. Pick up a book on how to write well and improve your writing. For those of you who like writing non-fiction and would like to work on your writing, take a look at this book. It’s about quoting and how to interact with other people’s arguments. Sounds boring right? But it was crazily-enough one of the most fun books I have ever read. Alright, enough of the nerdy stuff…
- Photography – Have you ever thought it would be neat to capture memories in your family as well as possibly do get some spare money on the side? Find a camera and take a class on photography over the internet. You literally could become a master at this by the time June or July rolls around. Think about it: you would be able to help people in some extraordinary ways, able to give the gifts of memories to people for the rest of your life. One of my favorite websites for things like this is Udemy. They provide dirt cheap classes. If you wait around a week or two, they usually offer 90% off on all their classes, so never settle for paying full price. Right now you can find a photography class for $16. By the time you see this, it might have gone up. If so, just wait a week and look again. What if your picture hangs up in someone’s living room 80 years from now? Pretty cool, right?
- Learn a Language – ¡Hola amigo! Pasa esas papas fritas. I know you might have passed high School Spanglish, but what would it be like to actually speak another language? What if you could go on one of the mission trips and actually speak to everyone in Spanish? Duolingo is a free resource you can download on your phone or use on your computer. Give it a shot! They have a ton of languages to choose from!
- Baking – Maybe you love shows like The Great British Bake Off. Make it your goal to learn 3-5 supremely difficult things during this time. Maybe that will be a 15-layer cake or an epic cake design. Use your time to work on projects like this that can use to benefit and serve others after this pandemic ends. Also, you can gladly leave a slice of any project you are working on at my door. Please, someone, learn to make chameleon cakes! Is that not the coolest thing you’ve ever seen in your life? Ahghghhhhhhh!!!!
- Computer Coding – Look at learning how to do basic websites with HTML and CSS. Then start moving to programs like Visual Basic, C#, and other cool programming languages. Christ has given us the ability to make computers – now we can learn how to use this technology in a way that exercises dominion over it. You can find sites for these all over the internet. This could be the foundation for you building websites or one day getting a job as a computer programmer. When most people think of that, it is they think of a rocket scientist. However, if you are somewhat familiar with computers, you can learn just easier than you think. If you can follow instructions and bake brownies, you can learn code. CodeAcademy.com has free scholarships for kids affected by COVID-19 right now, so maybe take advantage of that.
- Music – Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be around a campfire and all the sudden be able to pull out a guitar? Think of the fun and warmness you could provide at that moment, giving people a memory they will never forget? Interested? Look around for a reputable teacher in your area. If you are in the South Georgia area, I have a small militia of guitar students who need practice teaching. For a fraction of the cost of normal music lessons, you could begin your journey and give some of my students an opportunity to teach! Contact me if you are interested! Other instruments you could learn: piano, digital audio workstations, harmonica (check out Udemy.com for this), and cajon.
- Reading – Research shows that reading stimulates the brain infinitely more than reading on a laptop, smartphone, or watching TV shows. Maybe you haven’t read in a long time. Pick up a book that might help you in your walk with the Lord. Or maybe go on a journey in a work of fiction. Either way, use the brain the Lord has given you. Maybe you struggle with reading – what if during this time, you were able to correct to that? Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that’s not possible? I have a friend who has helped people who struggle in reading (kids and adults) learn to excel in it and love it! Contact me if you are interested. For those who are readers already, here are some of the good books I would recommend that I have read:
- Prodigal God by Tim Keller
- East of Eden by George Steinbeck
- Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (harder read)
- Desiring God by John Piper
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (great for kids)
- Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ by Andrew Naselli
- The Chronicles of Narnia or The Harry Potter series (if your conscience allows you in these area)
As the people of God, our risen Christ has re-made us to be many things – intentional and self-controlled are two of those things. We know both of those must be present in order for us to live fruitful lives that will glorify our king. With this possible prolonged season of isolation in front of us, may we prayerfully seek the Lord both in our activities with him and our activities that reflect him through creativity.