Beyond Grand Master

I was playing chess with Alex last week, when I made a move that caught him off-guard. He asked, “How did you do that? I never saw it!” I explained that I had plotted out my moves three or four moves ahead, anticipating what his reactive moves would be to each of mine. Truth be told, he has not played very much, and it really isn’t a fair competition because I’ve played so much more than he has.

That concept of thinking moves ahead is nothing new, though. And I’m no great chess player. It is said that master chess players think as far as ten moves ahead, and make adjustments if their opponents make moves different than those anticipated by the master.

I was listening to someone on a video the other day who said, “God plays chess while the devil is trying to play checkers.” It was a funny statement. But as I began to think about it, I realized that the concept is right.

God knows the end from the beginning. He has thought through every move and counter-move possible in our lives. He has a strategy to make us victorious. And nothing the enemy tries can work. No mistake on our part can hinder Him from accomplishing His goal of bringing us to victory if we stay submitted to Him. He may make adjustments because of the poor decisions we or others make, but it won’t stop Him from winning.

And the game of life is practically rigged in our favor when we allow Him to maneuver all the pieces. He is beyond the level of grand master, and He is playing an opponent who would barely qualify as a beginner.

So today… don’t sweat what looks like a bad situation. The One who is beyond grand master has a strategy for your life, and He knows exactly where to move every piece to guarantee victory! Just let Him work His plan.

Focus

Alex and I walked through the store, and he asked if we could check out the toy section. I obliged because we were in no hurry. He looked at two items, and then he informed me he was done. I was slightly amazed and amused. So I asked if he was sure that was all he wanted to look at. His response? “Well, I’m just so focused on fish right now that I can’t really stop to think about other stuff.”

It’s true. He’s suddenly become deeply intrigued with fish. You know, the kind you keep as pets in a small aquarium on the counter. Or in this case, his desk.

When Alex gets focused on something, it is hard to distract him or derail him. It’s been Thomas the Train, Disney Cars, Nintendo gaming systems, and even chickens. When that boys locks in on an interest, everything else can fall by the wayside, and he isn’t even fazed. He Googles. He YouTubes. He takes notes. The kid does his research, and it is really quite impressive. What he does not do is get distracted or lose interest. He stays dialed in.

I think that is kind of how the Lord wants our relationship with Him to be. Not that we would completely ignore other people or responsibilities, becoming so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. Rather, that we would be so focused on Him… on His goodness, His blessings, His love… that we would not even give worries, problems or concerns the time of day. That we wouldn’t give up attention on Him to pay to something else which has no eternal value.

What are you focusing on today? Whatever you focus, you fuel. If you’re obsessed with looks or what someone else thinks of you, you won’t have time or energy to give to much else. And if you’re focused on how good God is to you every day, you won’t have time or energy to waste on things that would drag you down. Scripture encourages us to “set our minds on things above.” Why? Because that focus will fuel what really satisfies us in life.

I’m sure that fish are in Alex’s future because he is staying quite focused. And I’m sure that God’s goodness will be in yours if you will focus on Him!

Thinking Cap

I have my thinking cap on today. It helped listening to a podcast on how important our thinking process is to so many areas of life. It helped that I needed to mow the grass and had time to myself to ride and think. And it helped that I had some woodworking projects to do for our craft business.

I’m at this place in life when I’m doing a lot of introspection… and I love it! I love thinking about the potential and possibilities of different options. I love thinking about what is now in this season of life and what could be in the next season of life the Lord has prepared for us.

In this thinking process, it feels so great to be expanding my horizons to consider things I would like to pursue. Obviously, I’m a communicator, and so speaking and writing are in the mix. But as I look at the overarching purpose for which I was created and placed on this planet at this specific point in history, I begin to see some new avenues to explore… avenues which I believe will weave their way onto the greater path I’m walking.

I don’t suppose you would call these dreams I’m pursuing. These are smaller facets of the whole jewel of my life. Some of my thoughts involve helping people. Some involve attitudes I want to have… or people I want to model my life after… or character traits I want to make sure I implement in my life. Some of these thoughts have to do with creative outlets for talents and skills.

I don’t seem to have too many of these days… days when thoughts can just ebb and flow. Even today, I had to tackle several tasks of life and ministry. But today I’ve tried to make the most of this thinking time… tried to use it wisely.

What are you thinking about today… right now? What will you think about tonight when you crawl in bed, pull up the covers and turn out the light? Will you make time tomorrow… even if just a few minutes… to just think about what could be? I hope you will. This has been super refreshing… renewing… for my mind. And I hope that, as you pause to think, you’ll see all the good God has done for you, along with all the good He has in store for you!

Think about it!

Trust The Dot-Placer

Remember those dot-to-dot picture puzzles we used to do as kids? PR31 and I were just talking about those. I loved doing those things. It seemed so simple. Sometimes, you could just look at all the dots and actually see the object in your mind before a single line was drawn. Others, however, were not as simple. You might think the line needed to go a certain way, but there was no dot there, or it was definitely not the next number in order. So what did you do? You looked for the next dot, and you drew your line to it.

Maybe today, your life feels like one of those dot-to-dot puzzles. Mine certainly does sometimes. Just about the time I think I see where I think the line is going… or should go… there is no dot there. So what do I do? I stop, look for the next dot, and draw my line there. Then I may have to stay on that dot for awhile as I search for the next one.

Why? I trust the Dot-Placer. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5-6 that we should trust the Lord with all our heart and not depend on our own understanding… that we should acknowledge God as the Dot-Placer, and in doing so He would direct us to the next dot to which we need to draw our life’s line.

It’s not always easy. At some points along life’s dot-to-dot, we think we have it all figured out. We think we know what the shape is going to turn out to be. We think we know where the next dot should be and where we should draw our line. But God has a magnificent, intricate plan laid out with all the dots in the right places. And if we will just draw our line to His next dot, we will end up in the right place… at the right time… in the right way.

If your life feels like a crazy dot-to-dot puzzle today, hang in there. Don’t draw your own line or add your own dots. Stop on the dot where you are, and look for the next dot God has laid out for you… even if it takes a little while to find it. Trust the Dot-Placer. The picture is there, and it is coming into focus a little bit at a time. One day, you’ll look back and see why He directed you along those dots in the way He did.

Not Just Ice Cream

This past weekend, we had a massive garage sale. Friday in particular was brutally hot, and we spent most of the day outside. Although I must admit, I tried to stay in the actual garage with a fan blowing on me as much as possible.

In the middle of the day, a dear family friend stopped by and visited with us for awhile. She is the sweetest lady you could ever meet. She is thoughtful, gracious, considerate, and never to be outdone when it comes to generosity. After her visit, we all commented how fun it was to have her stop by.

Later that afternoon, she texted me to let me know that she was picking us up some ice cream and would be by to deliver it to us shortly. I told her she didn’t need to do it, but she insisted. And sure enough, about ten minutes later, she rolled into the driveway with her delivery. For the record, it wasn’t just ice cream… It was Blue Bell. I grew up in Texas, and so the jingle… “Blue Bell, the best ice cream in the country,” actually means something to me.

I thanked her profusely, as did the boys. What she didn’t know until I told her, was that when I slipped inside to gobble down a quick lunch earlier, I wanted some kind of dessert. I had thought to myself, “It is so hot, some ice cream sure would be good.” But I knew none of us would be going to the store that day because of the garage sale, and so I figured ice cream was just out of the question. It was just a fleeting craving and a fanciful whim… so I thought. Until she brought ice cream.

I had not said a word to anyone about ice cream. I didn’t have to. The One who knows all things delights in every detail of my life, according to Psalm 37:23. He knew that He could nudge her heart to buy ice cream, and she would do it. So He did.

She did not know that I needed that ice cream reminder that day to remind me that if my Heavenly Father can cause someone to bring me the dessert I wanted on a whim, then He can tackle the other part of that verse, which says He also directs the steps of my life. It was a subtle reminder, but it was not lost on me. He threw it, and I caught it.

So when is ice cream not just ice cream? When it reminds that person receiving it of how intimately involved God is in their life. You see, it wasn’t just ice cream she delivered Friday… It was love… It was encouragement… It was hope.

So, this week, let’s be sensitive to those nudges… because we never know when it is not just ice cream.

Two Good Questions

Benjamin Franklin kept a journal in which he would ask and answer two questions each day… one at the beginning of the day, and one at the end of the day. At the beginning of the day, he would ask himself, “What good shall I do today?” And at the end of that day, he would ask himself, “What good have I done today?”

I love that because he planned to do good everyday. He didn’t just hope to do good… He strategically planned it out.

And then he held himself accountable to his goal. He knew he would have to answer that question at the end of the day, and it motivated him.

What if we each took ol’ Ben’s concept and used it as our own each day? What if we strategically planned to do even just one good thing tomorrow? What if we wrote it down? And what if we then held ourselves accountable to it tomorrow evening to make sure we followed through? Imagine how different our tomorrow might be! My guess is that we would be so glad that we did good, we would want to do it again the next day.

According to Ephesians 2, God planned for us to do good works. Seems like if we would just put Ben Franklin’s plan into practice, we would find ourselves getting on God’s plan and making a significant impact on those around us.

Ben Franklin asked two really good questions. My question today is… Will we do good tomorrow? I plan to, and I hope you do also!

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