It’s time for Summer Reading Club at the library!!! YES!!! My kids love reading! As I have written before, it’s not unusual to find my children in their rooms reading books for fun. It’s like the favorite past-time around my house. If they’re not reading story books, they are looking through non-fiction books, searching puzzle magazines or looking for words in word search books. Books! Books! And more books!
So, when Summer Reading Club started, I knew it would be a hit! I explained to my kids for every twenty minutes you read, you get to fill in one bubble… There’s only 50 bubbles… 1000 minutes… we will get this done in no time… ok well, 10 hours. With as much as my kids read, we should have this done in less than 10 days… right… wrong!
All of the sudden the joy of reading has been sucked out of them. Suddenly they’re watching the clock instead of getting into their books. Whereas before, they could read for hours and be in love with their books not wanting to put them down… now 20 minutes seemed like a life-time. All of the sudden they don’t want to read.
WHAT!!! 2 days ago, they would have happily been reading! Two days ago, I wouldn’t have had to tell them to get a book, it would have already been in their hands. What happened?
Sadly, I know exactly what happened. Telling my kids that they have to do something has taken the focus off what they normally do for fun. The intention is good- read. Reading is good for my kids. The incentives are awesome! Who wouldn’t want a free T-shirt, coupons for free food, and coupons for free outings??? The problem is now we are reading for those reasons, not for personal growth and fun. Now their focus is on the physical goal of filling in that bubble after 20 minutes.
This has happened more times than I would like to admit in my prayer life.
I end up restricted to a set time. The kids are getting up in 20 minutes… or…My kids are watching a TV show for 30 minutes. I’ll try to squeeze in time with God here… I pull out my Bible read a quick passage and say a quick prayer. Done in record time.
That’s great- you spent time with God today. CHECK
But was it really quality time with God? Or was it a check off my good Christian list?
I know the answer to this… it’s no different than my kids looking at a book and not really reading it for 20 minutes just to fill in a bubble on their Summer Reading Program Sheet.
The joy, the fulfillment, the purpose is completely sucked out when we treat our prayer life as a check list. The time is ultimately wasted time. My kids are better off to put that book down than to pretend to read… Am I better off to just skip my time with God than to force a quick prayer session? I think the answer depends on you. But for me, crammed time results in the same as no time.
I get it. Some days I am busy. Some days my kids wake up before I am ready. Some days I am rushed.
But on those days, my peace is disrupted. Because I have set other things before God. When God told the Israelites to have no other Gods before me. He didn’t mean in a list format. 1. God, 2. Family, 3. Money … He meant “in my presence.” No other gods in His presence.
Am I allowing my obligations to become a god?
Truth… Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I allow my family to become a god- a priority over God… Sometimes I allow my job to become a god- I mean I have to make money and God did bless me with this opportunity… Sometimes I allow busyness to become a god- because life just gets too busy and the only way to deal with being busy is to become busier. But these are all excuses.
The reality is that I GET to pray! Hear me carefully- My time with God should never be a “have to” but a “want to.” It is a privilege that I get to spend time with my Father in Heaven, talk to Him, and read His word. Jesus was beaten, nailed to a cross, and ultimately died so that I could have this privilege.
Praise God we live under the period of Grace! Otherwise I would have to offer plenty of sacrifices for my failure to keep other gods out of the presence of the One and Only God.
The only way to make sure I am not doing this, is to make sure that I am spending time in the presence of my Heavenly Father. No checking the box. No obligated set timer. No memorized or set prayer. But actually sitting in the presence of God, because I want to spend time with Him. Reading His word to grow closer to Him AND praying because I want to talk to Him and grow in relation with Him.
To ensure that I am allowing no other gods before my God, I must be active in my prayer life. I cannot treat it like a check list. No filling in the bubbles. I need to spend time with God because I love spending time with Him. No other reason!
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18