Can I go ahead and say that I resent “Quarantine Reading List” posts? It’s not that I don’t like to read. Quite the contrary. However, as soon as the schools stopped here, my reading time was cut down significantly. Why? Because it’s hard to read when you have someone screaming in your ear that they want a snack. That’s why. The quarantine reading list just seems to add a little insult to the injury of it all.
What I’m trying to say is that while I think that this particular season of being stuck at home presents some opportunities, for many of us it presents challenges as well. Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to have a devotional life when your children seem to need constant uninterrupted attention. Perhaps you are finding that social seclusion or being housebound is affecting your mental health in such a way that you find it hard to concentrate. Perhaps you’re trying to figure out how to navigate the unique challenges of working at home for the first time.
Then there is the added dynamic of distraction that comes with internet access. At the touch of a screen, we have access to endless entertainment, news sources, and enough pictures of cats to wall paper the Great Wall of China.
I believe it needs to be said that distraction isn’t a neutral spiritual practice. While it might be helpful to take a break here and there, the things we distract ourselves with affect our souls. Writing presciently in 1985, Neil Postman noted the negative effect of political advertisements on our political discourse. In his opinion, political ads brought political conversation down to the level of images playing on the emotions rather than rational argument appealing to facts, statistics and thought out arguments. Famously, Postman advocated not for raising the standards of television, but lowering them. He said,
“Television, as I have implied earlier, serves us most usefully when presenting junk-entertainment ; it serves us most ill when it co-opts serious modes of discourse—news, politics, science, education, commerce, religion—and turns them into entertainment packages. We would all be better off if television got worse, not better. “The A-Team” and “Cheers” are no threat to our public health. “60 Minutes,” “Eye-Witness News” and “Sesame Street” are.”Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death .
I’m not quite as pessimistic as Postman, but I do agree that the danger of television rests not in the flippant forms of entertainment, but in its serious forms. Every day as we turn on the news, check our feeds, and read commentaries, not only our minds, but our souls, are being influenced. How aware are we of this? How intentional are we to make sure that our distractions are not leading us away from God and the person He is working to make us into? These resources are offered as a counterbalance to the draw of social media and 24 hour news to enrich our quarantine time either as individuals or as families.
1. Social Distancing Daily Office: Nothing could be more helpful in combating the creeping influence of distraction than a regular balanced diet of scripture and prayer. I made this up at the beginning of the quarantine and have been more or less using it to keep me centered on Jesus, especially when I feel like selling my kids on ebay. I strongly encourage you to use as much or as little as you need and adapt it to your own method/personality as much as you need.
2. 30 Edifying Things to Watch When You’re Stuck at Home: There are two types of people. Those who sometimes check out by turning on the TV, and those who lie about checking out by turning on the TV. Brett McCracken at The Gospel Coalition put this out at the beginning of the quarantine to give us a list of things we can entertain ourselves with in an edifying way.
3. Abide.co: Looking for daily meditations to help you rest deeply in Jesus? Check. Need something in the middle of the day to fight off anxiety? Check. Need something to listen to as you fall asleep, but that will help you fall asleep rather than keeping you awake? Check. Want something to put on for the kids to listen to that will help them to fall asleep while listening to prayers and stories from the bible? Check. The Abide app is a Christian Meditation app with daily devotionals, meditations to help you cope with difficult issues in your heart like anxiety, depression, or anger, and even stories designed to help you (or your children!) get to sleep. I started using the Abide app sometime earlier this year, and it has helped me through some difficult spiritual seasons when I very simply found it difficult to posture my heart in prayer at all. I strongly recommend this app for Christian Meditation.
4. Minno: If you own a TV and have kids, sometimes you just simply are going to turn the TV on. While there’s plenty of good television out there for kids, little of it serves the purpose of communicating biblical truth. Minno has set out to do just that. If Christians made it, it’s on Minno. You can find everything from all the cheesy Christian shows from a generation past to classic Veggie Tales, Theo Presents (short cartoon presentations of central biblical theological truths), as well as family worship services, devotional videos, and lessons on individual books and passages from the bible. While I would caution parents against solely using entertainment to disciple their kids, the content on Minno can be a helpful way to engage with your kids spiritually.
5. Family Devotional Bible: For a long time our family devotional time began with prayer and bible reading, moved on to lessons on submitting to your parents and God’s wrath, then to confession (I’m sorry I yelled at you kids) and repentance. The ESV Family Devotional Bible has been a great resource for us. We read it around the dinner table, and as our kids have gotten better at reading, they take part in it more and more. Each passage ends with 3 questions and a key verse. It may not be memorizing the Westminster Larger Catechism, but we’re engaging with the teaching of the bible and that’s what counts.
6. XTB: If you’re doing online learning, you’re already making your kids do assignments. Why not begin building into them a habit of daily bible reading? The Good Book Company has great materials for daily devotionals for teens, kids, and preschoolers. I highly recommend their XTB materials. They’re solidly biblical, but not overwhelming.
I hope this list is helpful for you. What resources have you found helpful during your quarantine? Leave a comment and let us know!