7 Strategies for Accordance Users during the COVID-19 Crisis
To the church at Ephesus, St. Paul wrote,
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
(Ephesians 5:15–16 NIV)
Perhaps if he were in our context today, Paul might also tell us to make the most of every opportunity because of the contagions that are surrounding us!
Due to Covid-19, our lives and social interactions with others are starting to come to a crawl if not an all-out standstill. While none of us asked for this kind of interruption in our lives, that doesn't mean we can’t put our extra time isolated from each other and in our homes to good use. And I don’t mean binge-watching Netflix or putting in extra hours playing on the Xbox.
Over a month ago, we received a note from an Accordance user in China where the coronavirus first began to get worldwide attention. He wrote the following:
My reliance on Accordance has just increased a whole new level with the outbreak of the virus in China. I am currently at home with my family, stockpiled food and not going outdoors. Sitting with Accordance in this current situation is a true blessing.
Anyone who knows me knows that I was an Accordance user long before I worked for the company. I’ve always been grateful for my digital library that can be accessed anywhere and at any time. That got me thinking this past weekend of all the ways we can make use of the “extra” time that none of us asked for.
Although I’m primarily focusing on ways that Accordance users can benefit from our software during this time, I’m not writing this as a sale piece. These are some suggestions for what we can do to make use of our time, primarily involving Accordance (since this is the Accordance blog), but a few other ideas, too. And we welcome your ideas in the comments.
So what can you do with your extra time? Here are a few ideas.
Many of us often give the excuse that we don’t have enough time to pray, although we ought to be too busy not to pray, as the saying goes. Now many of us will have that additional time. We may have a list of sick friends and family that will keep growing over the coming days. We will pray for them as well as our own protection. We will pray for the doctors and scientists working on a vaccine and that one can be found as quickly as possible. We will pray for the medical staff taking care of those who are sick right now. We will pray for our clergy as they minister to their parishioners and congregants in this challenging time.
We can also pray the prayers given to believers by the Holy Spirit: the Psalms. This is the original prayer book, first to the Jews and then used by the Church. Pray through one psalm a day or find a plan for praying through the entire book in a week as many monks do. When we pray the Psalms, we should personalize the words to our own situations. Often someone will ask, “How do I personalize the imprecatory psalms? Normally, you can make the enemies of Israel into your own struggle or sin. In our current situation, we can pray that God will “break the teeth” (Psalm 3:7) of the coronavirus!
2. Read/Study the Bible.
There is so much that can be done here. We have lots of different reading plans in Accordance for reading through the Scriptures. Read through the Bible in a different translation or in an original language text if you’ve had studies in Greek or Hebrew. Spend more time in reflection of what you’ve read. Write your thoughts down in Accordance Notes or keep a separate handwritten journal. Work your way through a book of the Bible with a commentary or other reference book. If you’ve never read the Intertestamental writings, use the time to explore those. Even if you don’t consider them as canon, they were written by believers (like other books in your library that you read!) and are crucial for understanding the social context of the New Testament.
3. Learn or Brush Up a Biblical Language.
Many who study original languages in seminary gradually lose those skills over time. This is the perfect time to work through a Hebrew or Greek grammar. Or translate one or more verses a day, exploring in detail those portions that prove difficult. I often hear people who have never studied biblical languages say they would like to learn them. Learning Greek or Hebrew on one’s own is not easy, and I don’t normally recommend doing it outside a classroom setting, but many have learned on their own in the past, so it’s certainly possible.
When I was in seminary, I learned about a professor from a previous generation, who studied his New Testament Greek while in a prison camp. I can’t remember his name, and I can’t remember whether this was a WWII or Korean prison camp, but I’ll try to find out and update this post. Anyway, he had been carrying a Greek New Testament and A. T. Robertson’s big Greek grammar in his backpack. For whatever reason, his captors let him keep these two books. He later said that part of what kept him sane during his captivity was looking up every reference in Robertson’s grammar in his New Testament. Now, being confined for extra time to our homes is not anywhere near the difficulty of being in a prison camp, but that’s not to say that we can’t take on a large study project such as what I’ve described here to keep us focused.
4. Read that Book, Commentary, Journal You’ve Been Putting Off.
If you’re like me, between print and digital, you’ve probably got more books to read than you can realistically get to in your life. Sometimes I buy books thinking I’ll get to them later. Well, now it’s later, and you may finally have the time!
I would also like to point out that we often read reference works like commentaries incorrectly. When I was in college, I was asked to teach a Sunday School class, and this prompted me to purchase my first commentary. It was Judges and Ruth by Arthur E. Cundall and Leon Morris in the Tyndale series. Although I was only teaching Judges, I read both sections of the commentary from beginning to end, and found it quite rewarding! Later, when I went to seminary, I discovered that most people (unfortunately) don’t read commentaries this way. We often consult commentaries a section at a time. But doing so misses out on thematic arcs that are present in books of the Bible as wells as overarching points that a commentator is trying to make. Put your commentary and the biblical text side by side and study both books from beginning to end. Don’t skip the introduction in the commentary either because it sets the stage for everything coming afterwards.
And let me say that the above applies to more than just commentaries. Often journals have themes for individual issues. And if monographs are consulted only as reference, the reader is really missing out. Once I even heard of someone who had read the "Little Kittel" an article at a time devotionally and had eventually worked the entire way through the volume!
5. Transfer All Those Marginal Notes from Your Print Bible to Accordance.
I’ve done this before and found the process quite rewarding. For years, I prized wide-margin print Bibles for writing notes directly adjacent to the biblical text. But realistically, this is very limited because there’s only so much space in the widest margin of a Bible. Fortunately, Accordance provides virtually unlimited “margins” through the use of User Notes. And I’ve actually taken print Bibles and begun the process of retyping previously handwritten notes from a print Bible into Accordance User Notes. The process itself is quite rewarding because it allows re-reflection upon thoughts and insights that seemed important at one time. I’ve even discovered in some cases that I didn’t want to transfer a particular note to Accordance because perhaps I had changed my mind or what I once thought was important now seemed trivial.
6. Take Your Accordance Skills to the Next Level.
How many times have I heard, “I’m pretty sure I’m not using Accordance to its full potential.” If you find that you have some extra time over the next few weeks, check out our webinar schedule, watch some of the videos we’ve posted online, and work systematically through the new Tutorial system in Accordance 13. We’ve designed Accordance with the goal of making your study of the Scriptures more productive. The better you know the program, the better you will be able to engage in serious study of the Bible.
7. Spend Time with Your Loved Ones.
All this extra time to study the Bible will be wasted if you keep it to yourself. If others are present in your household, spend time in discussion instead of just watching the television together. Go on walks and say hello to your neighbors, even if you have to practice social distancing. If you live alone or far away from loved ones, call them on the phone or through video-chat—not just to check on them but to have the meaningful conversations we often had more of in the past before quick texts and social media memes became the norm.
I've often found that I can hear God's voice most clear in the times when I've slowed down--whether by purpose or circumstance. There are lots of opportunities for us to listen for Him now.
2020 will certainly be a year we will remember for the rest of our lives, but it doesn’t have to all be negative. We didn’t ask for this situation, but we can certainly do our best to make the most of the circumstances in which we’ve found ourselves, knowing that Someone greater is still in control.
The LORD is king,
He is robed in grandeur;
the LORD is robed,
He is girded with strength.
The world stands firm;
it cannot be shaken.
(Psalm 93:1, JPS)
What about you? What are your plans for extra time that you may now have? Leave your ideas in the comments—regardless of whether they have anything to do with Accordance or not!