I’m almost embarrassed to say how little this “shelter-in-place” mandate has altered our lifestyle. Other than not going down the mountain every one or two weeks for church, music lessons, shopping and appointments, the only real change has been the increased screen time. Church, lessons and shopping are now all on-line. Plus we’ve been taking advantage of some of the great on-line learning resources that have now been made temporarily available for free. We just started The Great American Story course through Hillsdale College. Next will be the World War II course taught by Victor Davis Hanson. How cool to have my own kids able to learn from one of the same instructors that I sat under while studying philosophy at Fresno State! Downside is that it’s more screen time.
Ditto for Ligonier Ministries who has just made all their on-line resources available for free through June, including their interactive group Bible studies! We’re talking about a monumental amount of sound Biblical teaching now just a click away. For example, you can take Elisabeth Elliot’s video course “Suffering Is Not for Nothing” with over 1000 other participants and invite a bunch of friends to be apart of your on-line study group. Downside is that its more screen time.
Not all of Ligonier’s resources require a screen. One of my favorite freebies is their internet radio app called RefNet. We discovered this audio resource when Tom’s Mom was sick with cancer. We even added it to her Alexa so all she had to do was say “Alexa, play RefNet” and a 24/7 line up of her favorite teachers–Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, Nancy Guthrie, and dozens of others–would play at her command. The messages are interspersed with quality traditional Christian music, Bible readings, devotional readings, and even news breaks from a Christian perspective. At a time when our elderly are now even more isolated than ever, this could be a life changing gift for someone you know. They even play the Lamplighter Theatre’s audio series in the evenings for the kiddos. My younger boys love these action packed stories and I love that they don’t need a screen to enjoy it. Last night we blasted “Escape From the Eagle’s Nest” from the front porch while they sledded and built a line of snowmen down the middle of the road (fewer than 10 and they were all at least 6 feet apart, of course).
I’m a serious podcast junky and being home 24/7 has only fed that appetite. Growing up in a house without TV meant the height of electronic entertainment was listening to Family Radio. The voices of J. Vernon McGee and Charles Swindoll were as familiar to me as the sound of the furnace clicking on in the morning or the crunch of the gravel as my Dad’s car pulled into the driveway every evening. I love it that my boys already know by name the voices of Steve Lawson, Doug Wilson, Paul Washer, James White, Alistair Begg, the Apologia guys, the Cultish guys, the G3 guys, the Just Thinking guys, and even the gals from Sheologians, What Have You, Relatable and my favorite Mama Bear apologist, Alisa Childers.
But even the voices of the best teachers can become a distraction and like Saul, we need some music to soothe the soul. I used to be a hymns and classical-only kind of gal so Bach was my go-to method of relaxation. The whole world of classical music is available for streaming on-line. Now I get the even greater privilege of hearing Joel practicing my favorite hymns on the piano, or Nathan doing the same on his violin or cello, or Titus rearranging some Bach for his mandolin. But Titus has also broadened my musical horizons with other genres and now I’m enjoying listening to him play things like “Take Me Home West Virginia” or “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” or even his original “A Blues 65” on his Youtube channel. If you all aren’t subscribed to it yet, you should be.
The boys have also figured out other ways to utilize the airwaves during this time of social distancing. A while back I bought a cheapo 4-pack of walky-talkies which they managed to rig discarded radio antennae onto. From the top of our ridge they’ve been in communication with their good friends who live in another town about 30 miles away. These friends also own a weekend cabin up here so they’re sheltering in place less than 1/2 mile away but no one can get together. So out come the walky-talkies. They’ve even been playing games over them by drawing out each-others’ moves. Radio Jenga anyone?
With all these sounds and lit-up screens around me, I’m left wondering what a pandemic would have looked like before the age of wifi. For us that was just last summer. Until then our only option up here was very costly satellite internet. We had to walk down the road to a friend’s house to catch a signal or to the camp office to plug in. Then Tom signed up to get his Mdiv through the distance learning program at Master’s Seminary. That’s when we realized just how much of a pain it was going to be to get all his work done at the office and just how impossibly expensive it would be to pay for satellite ourselves. So we prayed about it. We prayed that if seminary was really God’s will for Tom that He would provide the way to get it done. THE NEXT DAY Kingsburg Media Foundation was at the camp, scouting it out to see if we were a possible candidate for their reduced-cost internet services. What a timely provision! And even more so when I think of how difficult it would have been to shelter-in-place without being able to access our church service live-stream, shopping, classes, music lessons, and more on-line.
I guess there’s never really a good time for a pandemic but it amazes me how the advent internet has changed the face of this one.