What will you do with your family during your time at home in the coming days?
By Dennis Rainey
These are unprecedented days. Just think of it—less than two weeks ago life seemed fairly normal. But in these days of the coronavirus much of our normal life has come to a halt, and suddenly many of us suddenly find ourselves with much more time at home than we ever dreamed of.
Like many of you, our children are leading their families to adjust to this new normal.
Our daughter-in-law, Marsha Kay, is balancing our son out by creating a quieter approach to family time, getting out her fave books (like Little House on the Prairie) to read aloud, old board games, and ordering a puzzle or two.
Our daughter Deborah receives school assignments online for her girls, but she also keeps them busy with art activities, online dance classes, and chores (to earn tablet time). She says they like to bake together, and she talked about baking cookies for neighbors.
Another daughter-in-law, Stephanie, reports that she’s using the time to get her four kids (three are teens), involved in yardwork, painting the playroom, and closet purges. She also says, “I want to have each kid start a project that fits them that they can work on every day. Knitting, woodwork, cooking, something that they will look forward to.”
I’ve have realized that this Covid-19 outbreak may also be an opportunity in disguise. Remember high school … and those dreaded two words, “POP QUIZ,” when the teacher surprises the class with a test? I think this pandemic is a “Spiritual Pop Quiz” … a spiritual opportunity for you to grow faith and relationships in your family.
Please hear me, THIS MAY BE A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY.
You, your spouse and your children/grandchildren may never experience anything like this again.
You may be feeling like you are stuck at home, but COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis of faith for singles, marrieds, parents and grandparents.
Psalm 78:5-8 tells us:
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.
So here’s my question: Can God be trusted?
And if so, how can He use us in this moment? Will your faith grow during these next few weeks, or will it atrophy? What will carry the day: faith or fear? How can we use this time to be purposeful as we love one another, and lead our family to grow their faith? And how can we be on the alert for opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and how He has changed our lives?
What’s your game plan for this weekend? For the next week during the day? Evenings?
You’ve been given a gift of extra time at home. How can you seize the moment if this thing continues for a couple more months … or more?
Ask God, “What’s my assignment in this crisis for today, this weekend and then the next 60 days?”
People who do not know Christ are afraid. But for followers of Christ, this crisis is an opportunity for all of us to live out our faith in courageous ways and call others to do the same.
A lot of singles, married folks, parents and even grandparents have been given a huge gift of a schedule that has some serious margin in it … and it looks like this gift of margin is going to keep on giving for a while. So other than completing school assignments, watching movies or YouTube, or connecting on social media … what are you going to do with your spouse and children to grow their faith during this time?
And grandparents, listen up, we are not exempted just because we may live elsewhere from our grands! What’s your plan? How can you help your adult children just a little bit?
Have you asked God what your assignment is?
Here are a few thought-joggers …
Use the dinner table to debrief at the end of the day with your spouse and children. Call this ATQ … “Answer the question.” Ask them, “How are you feeling as you watch all the reports or hear about the coronavirus on social media?” Caution: Don’t expect them all to be fast processors … allow them to think.
Our good friends, Jim and Cara, just shared with me that they called their adult children last night and asked them, “How are you feeling about all that is taking place around COVID-19?” Jim said, “I’m pleased to report that each of our children are not afraid. They are all trusting that God is in control.”
Dinner table or a call … ATQ.
2. Huddle Up Saturday
Call for a Saturday or Sunday morning “Family Huddle” at 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. (no sleeping in past 8:30) and do the following exercise:
· As appropriate, ask each person to look at their calendar and total up the number of hours in their week that once were filled but are now canceled. (Sports, practices, hanging out with friends, church, youth group, etc.)
· Ask each person to pray and ask God, “What are one or two things that You want me to do with some of these hours?” (Something they want to do.) And, “What are one or two things You want me to do some of those hours this weekend as a family to help others?”
· Get together as a family and share your answers.
· Discuss and explore how your family could join together and give some of those hours to others…reaching out to them, helping them, praying for them, getting groceries, etc.
· Post your ideas at #KindnessChallenge.
· Close your “Huddle” with prayer for one another and others.
3. Make this Easter one your family will never forget.
Take 45 minutes one evening this week and discuss, “Since we won’t be going to church, what are some ways that we could celebrate Christ’s death for our sins, burial, resurrection and ascension? How can we celebrate all that on Easter morning this year?”
A few quick ideas …
· Wear your Easter-finest clothes even though you’re staying home.
· Discuss: How does the message of Easter address our fears?
Stay tuned…Barbara will be writing a follow up blog with even more ideas of how to celebrate and grow faith.
4. Cuddle up
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, so why don’t you grab a cup of coffee or tea with your spouse, find a quiet place, get cozy and separately read Psalm 145? As you read, jot down your answers to these questions: What does this Psalm teach about who God is? How does this Psalm relate to what’s taking place in your life with the COVID-19 crisis? What is one assignment that you believe God is giving you that you need to fulfill? And one thing that your family needs to purpose to do before Easter?
BONUS cuddle question: Take turns discussing how you are processing the crisis. Discuss how you and your spouse are different in how process these events? Discuss how these could events could cause tension or isolation, and how might that impact your marriage?
5. Cuddle up in a GREAT Hiding Place
This is one of Barbara’s favorites—it’s a book, called The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. It tells the story of her experiences in World War II and the Ravensbrook concentration camp, and it teaches incredibly riveting lessons on faith and fear. Here’s what Barbara says about this book…
“If you haven't ever done this, might I suggest reading The Hiding Place out loud to all your kids of appropriate age (9 or 10 and above). Even if they've read it and roll their eyes, just keep reading. Mom and dad and even the kids can take turns reading it aloud. This was one of the best things I did with Laura and Debs when they were teens. One chapter each night before bed. I loved it, needed to hear it and I think they remembered a thing or two about God's sovereignty! And at first, they rolled their eyes. I remember!”
Just keep reading. At the end of each chapter ask, “What is a lesson you learned in this chapter?” And, if appropriate, “What did you learn about the importance of faith?”
6.“Nothing echoes like an empty mailbox” --Charles M. Schultz (creator of the comic strip “Peanuts”)
Use an evening for everyone in your family to write letters to grandparents, other family members, friends, and people who you know are in need of encouragement. And if one member of your immediate family needs encouragement, have everyone else in the family write that family member and tell them what they most appreciate about them. Each person should find a Scripture that is meaningful to them and write out that passage of Scripture in the letter.
7. Go take a hike
Go for a walk with your spouse or with your family, and discuss:
· What is the biggest crisis that you’ve faced before the coronavirus pandemic?
· How did you respond to it?
· What did you learn about trusting God from this previous crisis?
· How can you apply what you learned to this current crisis? How can you pass those lessons of faith on to your family in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?
Close your walk by praying for one another.
Complete a jigsaw puzzle together, but make it a faith lesson. Consider that the puzzle box top is absolutely essential if you are going to put the pieces together as the puzzle maker designed them and to solving the puzzle. Without the box top picture, you really have no way of knowing what the puzzle is supposed to look like. (If you have a copy of the book, So You’re About to Be a Teenager, re-read chapter one for how this can be done.)
Give your children a puzzle, but do not let them see the box top. Start a timer and give them 10 minutes. Tell them they cannot talk, but to work together to begin putting the puzzle together. NO TALKING!
After 10 minutes they will be ready to explode, and some of them will have given up. Let them talk, then unpack the illustration by asking, “Why is the box top so important?”
Then plop your Bible on the table and ask, “How is this book, the Bible, like a box top?” The bible is a picture of how you can put the pieces of the puzzle of life together in the right way
The Bible introduces us to the “Box Top Maker” who is ready to help guide us in life. Then ask, “How does this illustration apply to the coronavirus pandemic?
You find plenty of inexpensive puzzles at Walmart, but if you want to go big, then order Barbara’s favorite: Liberty Puzzles, made in Boulder Colorado. We’ve been there twice and it is absolutely one of the most fascinating manufacturing plants we’ve ever been to. Check them out … they are closed now, but will reopen April 2 (they think).
9. The dollar jar
Consider establishing a dollar jar with $5 or $10 (or whatever) to reward your kids with a dessert date at home, or with a trip to their favorite dessert place after the quarantine is lifted. Take a dollar out every time they complain or disobey or say they are too tired or gripe that you’ve taken another $1 out or who has gotten angry. And consider putting a dollar in when a child does chores without pushing back.
10. Every mom’s dream
Challenge each family member to clean out and organize their closet. Make it memorable by baking cookies and celebrating the great job everyone did. Put a time limit on it … no more than two days … hey, we had six kids and some of their closets were pretty bad. Also, this means the parental units have to do this, too!
Clear out the clothing that hasn’t been worn in the last couple of years … set a goal to clear out 10 percent, 25 percent, or ?? percent of clothing. Have some fun doing it and collect what you come up with in the living room.
As a family take the clothing to a faith-based outreach center, inner city church, or, if none are available, Goodwill. We’ve taken a lot of clothing (and we’ll take more this time too) to Friendly Chapel Church in North Little Rock … Brother Paul Holderfield runs a soup kitchen that clothes and feeds hundreds. Consider asking each person to tithe his/her allowance and take the cash with you as you take the clothing.
11. Go big: feeding of the 5,000 (okay, it not 5K, but it could be 100 or more).
Get five or six families to chip in and provide lunch for your grocery store personnel. Call the store manager of your grocery store and ask if you can have Chick-fil-A (or another nearby fast-food restaurant) cater meals for all the employees. Find out how many works on each shift of your grocery store, and ask if you can provide lunch or dinner for all the employees at your store. Then call the restaurant and ask them to deliver sandwiches and fruit trays.
All this is a way of saying THANK YOU to a group of folks who are working hard!
Ditto for your family’s physician office … Call and explain you want to say thank you to them with lunch because they serve so many, especially in this time of crisis. Or call the fire department, or the local police or sheriff’s office, and see if they can accept a meal.
12. The 93 minute, 28.3 second workday
One spring weekend day, a “work day” for the entire family to focus on a room, or on the entire house, and help clean it up. Then tell them that your work day will actually be 93 minutes and 28.3 seconds!
13. Go to a movie … in your living room.
Find the film Chariots of Fire online and hold a Movie Night with popcorn and all and watch it together. Most kids 18 and under have never seen this movie, and a few adults as well haven’t seen it.
Again, at the end of the movie ask, “What are the lessons of faith from this story?”
14. The family that prays together stays together
As a family take time to pray for family members in your home and outside of your home. Pray for protection, for good health, for God to provide for them, and for God to use this crisis in their lives and family.
Begin to pray as a family for what your family can do for others in a way that is safe for others and your family.
Discuss: How does prayer exhibit faith? (Hebrews 11:6)
15. Go fly a kite.
With your spouse.
With your whole family.
As you fly it, ask this question: What lessons of faith can you learn from flying a kite? (With wind, the string that holds it down, also holds it up. The Scriptures are given by God to anchor us so that we can fly!)
And one last thing … this Spiritual Pop Quiz is in no way like those tests in high school that last 10 minutes. This crisis is going to last for a while and truly get our attention.
WHAT WILL YOU DO with this opportunity?