Parable of the Puzzle Part One: Check in Frequently

I’ve never been attracted to casinos or even Lotto, but this last month my latent addiction gene has been revealed by an intriguing puzzle game I found while searching the Apple app store for games for the grandkids. Puzzle Craft is a resource-matching minigame, apparently a bit like Farmville for those that have played that on facebook, but using puzzles and strategies to earn the currency, rather than the IAP or “in app purchases” that so frequently characterise these tablet interface games. I have paid nothing more than the original $1.49 and had many hours of fun; can’t wait for the update.

What has that got to do with the godshapedlife? Well, our God has a great sense of humour, because my frequent ipad breaks have been featuring in a number of prayer conversations. In recent years I have treasured the assistance of spiritual director in learning to notice the presence of God and the movement of the Spirit in the midst of life experiences. Although circumstances have meant that I had a break from my regular meetings with a Spiritual Companion this year, my prayer life has thankfully still included that holy listening that Spiritual Direction can draw out of the daily routine. I can truly say I have experienced the Spirit in the midst of this particular life experience! So, tongue in cheek, I thought I'd share a few things God and I have talked about this month (I have decided to stretch this over three posts, so here is Part One):

1. Check In Frequently.

The Puzzle Craft kingdom starts with a basic camp in the middle of an almost-bare clearing, but by regularly and strategically farming the paddocks and later quarrying the mine you build up resources of food, minerals and workers that enable you to upgrade the settlement through levels like village, town and eventually castle. Using finger swipes and virtual coins, you match tiles to accumulate resources, and use them to invest in the economy of your increasingly busy little township. With enough food and materials, you can hire workers or construct buildings that cut down on the amount of toiling you have to do in the fields and mines. What I didn't discover till some way into the process, was that the game relies on frequent real-time visits to the ipad, to collect your bonuses. After two hours you have more coins to save into your kitbag, as well as bread from your flourmill, scythes, hammers and fruitbaskets to use as tools on the farm or in the mine, and cats, guns and mine lamps to help you overcome obstacles that also come your way. So several times a day, I have been firing the tablet up to check if I have taxes to collect or new resources to gather.

Early on in this process - when I was already noticing muscle fatigue from too frequent swiping of the screen! - I was given a time of solitude/silence as part of a staff devotion. My conversation with God that morning revolved around my escalating “addiction”. Why, I seemed to hear the Lord say, do you not stop and talk to me as often as you stop and play Puzzle Craft? Good question Lord, and a moment for humble repentance. But that confession has led to a new spiritual practice. The fact is,  I wasn’t stopping for conscious prayer as often as I could, despite having preached a sermon this year on using mini-Sabbaths/Daily Office to connect with God at quiet moments through the day. (I do now use traffic lights, hand-driers and dentist appointments as mini-Sabbaths, but none of these were as regular as my visits to Lonbain, my virtual Puzzlecraft kingdom). 

So why not do both? When I sense that it is time to check my taxes, I first go to my online devotional for the day, and re-read the scripture and the prayer. This enables me to think about the theme of that passage at a number of different levels, depending on what I have been up to just before. It has enriched my prayer life and given me a sense of God’s presence, and I then open up the puzzle app and play for a few minutes (or more!). Some people use a stopwatch app to do this; for the moment I just rely on my mental puzzle clock!

And I “feel God’s pleasure”.

To Chew Over: What activity do you undertake often during the day, that could be a prompt for a god moment in midst of daily life?

Everyday, Lord, I'll
Learn to stand upon Your word
And I pray that I
I might come to know You more
That You would guide me in every single step I take, that
Everyday I can
Be Your light unto the world

Everyday, it's You I live for
Everyday, I'll follow after You
Everyday, I'll walk with You, my Lord.