As with every new year, I reflect on how I want to live my life and who I want to be at the end of the new year. This year is no different! When we were children, our family received a pinball machine for Christmas one year. We thought it was wonderful and played on it for hours. We got very good—cue up Pinball Wizard. We knew exactly how far to pull the plunger to maximize extra points for certain pathways, bonus points, and free spins. We learned when to press the flipper buttons in order to send the metal ball racing up one of the pathways for more points and an opportunity to get another free spin.
When my parents moved out of their home some years ago, we received the pinball machine and it has lived in our basement. We found someone to tune it up, and our children played a few rounds for the lights, bells and free spins. However, it didn’t hold a their attention in light of their Wii Fit board, Guitar Hero, or Mario Kart, so it slowly became the depository of half finished craft projects, and miscellaneous odds and ends that didn’t have other homes in our basement.
We have been cleaning out our home in preparation for selling it and move to Alabama and we dug out the pinball machine. We have had fun playing with it since it is accessible and actually works. Since no one is particularly good at it, we can play in good fun and not our usual intense competition.
As I was playing it recently (instead of cleaning out yet another closet) a few thoughts came to mind on the parallels of our pinball machine and my prayer life.
Use it or lose it. As I mentioned, I used to be pretty good at our pinball game. However, years of disuse has eroded my abilities. Just having it in my basement hasn’t made me a better pinball player. Having unread devotional books by my bed does not bring me closer to God. Last week’s discipline, or last month’s retreat quickly fades. I need that time with God daily to keep my connection to the Spirit sharp.
Clearing the clutter. We had this game, but since it was so covered with clutter, we didn’t play for years. What is cluttering my life? Is it actual clutter that is gumming up my daily life making me less efficient as I care for our home? Is it the mental clutter of worry, anxiety, bitterness, or complacency that are covering my good intentions to connect with God? What in my daily life is making my time with God look less appealing? What is my daily life is actually a barrier to good time with God?
How you start matters. On our pinball machine, you can haphazardly pull the plunger back and hope that you get a free spin of the wheel…but that rarely works. However, if you carefully pull it back to just the right place, you can get a free spin almost every time. As I worked to find that exact spot, I realized that how I start my day matters as well. If I start it intentionally with God, then I have a much better chance of starting my day well…with peace, joy and direction.
Bonus points. There are bumpers on the game that when you hit them you get 10 points. However, if you hit the right place, you can light them up and then each time you hit one you get 10 times the points! 100 points! To me that is the multiplication effect of the Holy Spirit on my life. I can go through on my own and have mediocre interactions with people, or, through the power of the Spirit, my efforts can be multiplied and I can hear from the Spirit the words that the other person needs to be encouraged and built up. I can make better decisions on how I spend my time or my money. I can experience more joy and freedom.
Sometimes less is more. One of the early lessons we learn on the pinball machine is when to hit the flipper button. Don’t press it willy-nilly or the ball will often go behind it. This is key in talking…how quickly do I start talking instead of listening? This is key in doing…if I am doing, doing, doing, I may miss the opportunity God has for me. Think Martha and Mary.
So, in you look at your prayer life in 2018 like this pinball game, how are you going to play the game in 2018? Can you even find the game? What would it take to dig it out? What can you do to get better at it to increase the multiplication effects of the Holy Spirit in your life?
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Col. 4:2, NIV)