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Posts Tagged ‘crossword puzzle books’

It is a grey Sunday afternoon, in the middle of our strict, Sydney lockdown. I sit at the table in our living room, idly wondering what to do next. I have various options, but I am too unmotivated to take any of them up. Instead, I sit and stare, almost frozen into inaction. It is as if those restrictions in the world outside our four walls are reaching inside me too, shutting down my heart and mind and restricting any creative thoughts I may have.

I take a deep breath and, as I do, the first few words of Psalm 23, read again recently, come to mind.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

My soul does indeed feel a little weary right now. Day after day, we hear news of ever-growing numbers of COVID cases in our city. Week after week, we cannot go to visit family members. And, one by one, events I was looking forward to participating in or speaking at are cancelled.

Yet, as I sit there in the silence, I hear God’s gentle but insistent whisper. Look around you, Jo-Anne. Look at all you have and be thankful!

I gather my thoughts together and try to focus. My eyes settle first on some things right in front of me on the table. I see an excellent, helpful book I am reading, while next to it lies a pen and a book of crossword puzzles. I love words—and I love challenging myself to work out the answers to those rather cryptic clues. And there is my steaming cup of tea too, along with a buttered scone—simple, heart-warming pleasures. Yes, Lord, I truly am grateful for each of these things and the joy they are giving me right now.

I lift my eyes then and notice my precious, old piano, inherited from my grandparents, with its lid up and some music open, as if waiting to be brought to life. Even as I glance across at it, so many memories come flooding back of hours playing this same piano in my grandparents’ home as a child. And I know God is reminding me to be so thankful for these memories—and for that fact that I can still play and enjoy doing so.

My eyes continue to roam around the room. I see comfortable lounge chairs, a TV, family photos and some precious, little possessions in a nearby china cabinet. The room is warm on this cold afternoon and I glance up at our very effective reverse cycle air conditioner. Once again, I hear that whisper in my spirit. Look at all you have, Jo-Anne—and be thankful.

Then I gaze out through our balcony doors to the shrubs and trees beyond, their various shapes etched against the sky. They look so green and vibrant, even on this dull day, and remind me that, whatever is happening everywhere right now, God’s natural world out there is so still amazingly beautiful.

Yes, Lord, despite everything, I know you are still watching over me, still caring about me, still longing to lead me and to restore my soul. You are my faithful, ever-present shepherd—and I am so thankful.

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I am something of a fan of lifelong learning. When I first went to university eons ago, I majored in German and Japanese. In my second year, I added Classical Greek to the mix. Then in my forties, I studied New Testament Greek. And about a decade later, I set about learning some basic Turkish so I could find my own way around Turkey when visiting a friend there. I loved the challenge of learning a new language and remember telling my friend I would rather work out how Turkish fits together than spend my time doing puzzles like crosswords or sudoku. At least I was learning something strategic that could mean the difference between getting lost in Turkey and not getting lost!

IMG_20190525_121805677But times change—and sometimes these days those brain cells of mine do not function as efficiently they used to. So, while I still love recalling the various foreign words and phrases I spent so long learning, I also enjoy a good crossword puzzle. Earlier in my life, I would have regarded them as a waste of time, but now I can see much more value in them. Firstly, they are fun! Secondly, they force my brain to work harder as I try to recall those unusual or not so unusual words I must have read somewhere or unravel the slightly cryptic clue that is all I have to go by. And thirdly, I learn so many new words or reacquaint myself with old ones, all of which adds to the vocabulary available to me as I write.

I must admit, however, that it is a cause for celebration when I manage to solve a whole crossword puzzle in my Times Big Book of Quick Crosswords! Yes, I could find an easier crossword book, but then where would the real challenge be in that? Instead, if I find myself stumped, I look up the correct answer, learn the word or get the connection, then mark that particular puzzle with a cross—I did not solve it myself. But if I manage to do so, then I jubilantly put a big tick and a ‘Yay!’ above it! And to my surprise, in recent months, my strike rate has slowly improved from around one in five puzzles solved to one in four. Maybe one day, I will be able to solve every puzzle—who knows?

But there is another area in which I dearly desire to grow so much more. I want to know God better and keep growing in the things of God. I want to be able to sense the Spirit’s presence in me and around me even more each day. I want to learn to be more obedient to those promptings deep in my own spirit to pray or to act. I want to write more of the things God wants me to write—and to do it even better, as God leads. In short, I want to do what the Apostle Peter urges us all to do:

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Is that your desire too? Let’s all keep growing in the Lord, until that day when we meet him face to face!

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Jo 12I enjoy doing crossword puzzles and was recently given a crossword book that is just the right level for my slightly addled brain. This enables me to take a break from writing now and then, yet still play with all those fascinating words in the English language. What fun!

The other day, while tackling one of those mega crosswords that completely fill a large page, however, I found myself flummoxed. There seemed to be so many clues that could be taken different ways. For example, one clue simply said ‘hide’. So … did that mean the noun ‘hide’ or the verb ‘hide’? But if it meant the noun, ‘hide’ can have at least two different meanings. Or take the clue ‘sort’. Did that refer to the verb ‘sort’ or the noun meaning ‘type’? And what about that one little word ‘dear’? Did it mean the opposite to ‘cheap’? Or did it mean ‘sweetheart’ or ‘beloved’?

But most confusing of all was the clue that simply said ‘badgers’. Now I took that to mean those animals called badgers. ‘They must have another obscure name,’ I thought. ‘I’d never know that.’ So I left the spot blank until the end. Then, when I saw that the answer had to be ‘pesters’, it finally dawned on me that my ‘badgers’ clue meant the verb ‘harasses’ or ‘nags’, rather than any animal! There I was, trying to think of a scientific name for a badger when the clue meant something quite different.

As I thought about those crossword challenges, I began to wonder how often I myself confuse or mislead others with those words that roll off my tongue so readily each day—or spill out onto my computer screen. How glibly I can say one thing yet be thinking the exact opposite! How many times I seem to opt for those pious-sounding words and phrases that sound good but lack integrity and can leave others feeling puzzled or, even worse, discouraged!

There are some verses in Psalm 139 that have always challenged me about the words I speak—or write.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. Psalm 139:1-4

Hmm. To me, it is a very comforting thought that God sees into the depths of my heart and knows me through and through. There is no pretending with God—and that is so freeing, don’t you think? But it also challenges me deeply that God knows every word I utter, before it even leaves my mouth. I cannot fool God with my words. I cannot get away with saying one thing and meaning another with God. And it does not please God whenever I try to fool others around me either.

So Lord, this day and forever, may all the words I speak and write honour you and be as honest and unambiguous as I can make them. And, as King David also prayed:

May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

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