Dear Northway Church —

I’ve lost count of how many emails I’ve received with “COVID-19” in the subject line over the last month. While they have differed slightly in content and formatting, there has been a basic formula for all of the emails. Here is how this phenomenon has played out in my inbox:

  • One month ago: As the COVID-19 virus has spread into our country, {Insert company name} is working hard to ensure the safety of all our clients. Here are the steps we are taking. Please know that your health is our number one priority.
  • Three weeks ago: {Insert company name} has restricted travel for all employees and will continue to serve you as we are able from our offices. 
  • Two weeks ago: Due to the increasing concerns regarding the COVID-19 virus, we at {Insert company name}, are no longer meeting in person with clients . Your representative will remain available to you via email, Zoom, or phone. 
  • One week ago: We at {Insert company name} have closed our offices. Try calling us in April or May. Maybe we’ll be back in business. Who knows?

The emails may have been worded in a slightly different ways, but you get the picture. This situation has rapidly developed and radically changed our routines. Schools have been closed until April 6, we think. The date continues to be extended. Many businesses have closed completely or severely altered their hours of operation. Sporting events have been canceled or postponed. Recreational sports aren’t being played. Church events have moved to online-only. Everything, it seems, is on pause.

During this strange season, most of us have more time on our hands. Lots more time. Busyness has ceased and there are fewer distractions. Let me encourage you to not waste this time. While none of us wanted to see this awful virus invade our nation, I’m convinced that the Lord is using this for our good and his glory. 

Here are several things you can do to make the most of this time you’ve been given:

1. Spend quality time with God. As with most every other family in our nation, our morning routine has changed. There isn’t the rush to get out the door in order to get the kids to school on time. I’m able to get up early and spend more time reading and praying. Right now I’m reading through the gospels, but not in order. I started with John, now I’m in Mark, then I’ll read Matthew and Luke. While there isn’t a deep theological reason I chose this order, there is a reason. I’ll be happy to explain if you ask me.

As a church, we will be reading through a devotional plan together beginning on Monday, March 30. Everyone will have the opportunity to read the same passage each day and memorize the same verse each week. I hope you will participate and spend this time you’ve been given going deeper in your relationship with the Lord.

2. Spend quality time with your family. For our family, we’ve had many of our evenings returned to us with the cancelation of baseball and tennis. We’ve been able to eat dinner together each night and do various things together as a family. This past week we made a campfire and ate s’mores. We’ve played cards and board games together. We’ve played lots of basketball in the driveway. We’ve thrown the baseball, eaten dinner on the patio, walked the dog and met lots of our neighbors. The freedom we’ve had in our evenings have been, in many ways, a good thing.

3. Avoid the temptation to veg. It’s easy to find something to entertain you while you are stuck at home. There’s Netflix, Hulu, Disney +, and unlimited video clips available on YouTube. As long as your internet is working, you can easily spend this time bingeing on some television series. A few nights ago, I found myself scrolling through Netflix, looking for a great binge-worthy show. Nothing immediately grabbed my attention; however, I also felt a strong sense of conviction. I didn’t want to waste this season just vegging on some show. I’m not against watching television. Katie and I really enjoy watching This is Us together. A little is great. Too much television is, well, too much. So I put my tablet down and picked up a book I have on the influence of political rhetoric in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Five minutes later, I was asleep.

Which leads me to another way great way you can use this time:

4. Read a good book. Find one that has been sitting on your shelf or in your Kindle library, and you’ve just not gotten around to reading it. Read a classic. Or a great devotional book. Or a book on a skill or topic that is new to you. Use this time as a way to grow mentally.

5. Meet your neighbors. We’ve had more interaction with our neighbors in this week than we’ve had all year. Everyone, it seems, is out walking the neighborhood. While standing at least six feet away from one another, we are able to talk and find out more about their lives. As a result, I’ve been better able to pray for my neighbors in more specific ways.

6. Get caught up. Finally, go ahead and tackle a few of those things around the house that have been on your “to-do” list for a while. For years I’ve been saying that I wanted to get our basement organized and made into a space that’s more usable for our children. I’ve spent several hours now doing exactly that. When school and sports schedules resume (hopefully sooner rather than later), that project will likely go on pause again. Once life returns to normal, I’ll be running at a frantic pace and free time will be minimal. 

I’m sure you can think of other ways that you can best use this time you’ve been given. Whatever you do, just don’t waste it!

Finally, I want you to know how much I miss my church family. Online worship is the best we can do under these circumstances, but it doesn’t compare to physically being in the same room with you. I miss praying with you, talking with you in the foyer, serving alongside you, and just being present with my church family. I am so much looking forward to being together again in our faith community. 

I’m praying for you, our church, our community, and our nation during this time. Stay well and I hope to see you soon!

Your Pastor,