Part 10 of a 12 part devotion
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”Psalm 30:10
I like to play Video Games! Not the first-person shooter games or anything like that. I do not have enough coordination for those types of games. I remember growing up watching my younger brother playing “Space Invaders”, “Missile Command”, and “Defender” for hours at a time. I barely lasted a minute when I took the joystick of our Atari 2600.
I had pretty much given up on video games until September 20th, 2006. That was the time I found one of my favorite websites, “Big Fish Games”. These are games designed to challenge the mind, not your dexterity. The website included what is now called CASUAL games, like Match 3, Strategy and simulation, and my favorite, Hidden Objects.
The best of the Hidden Objects genre is a series of games called “Mystery Case Files”. In each game, you are a British Detective who specializes in the paranormal. You start each game with a letter from the Queen of England who dispatches you to some desolate place where something very strange is going on.
You move from one scene of the game to another, solving puzzles or looking for hidden objects that are in plain sight but surrounded by hundreds of other objects you do not need. In each scene, you need to recover some item that will help you in a future scene, a past scene that you need to revisit, or the final scene in which you solve the mystery.
The thing I like best about these games is you can determine the amount of help you think you are going to need. First, when you enter a scene, an area of that scene will SPARKLE, an indication that you will need to look here specifically. Second, there is a HINT button in every scene that will highlight something you are looking for or something that you need to do next, but only if you click on it. I will use this if I am unsure of what I need to do next. Unfortunately, Most games will limit the number of HINTS you can receive or will make you wait a couple of minutes until you can get another one. Third, there is a MAP that will show you all the scenes that you have been to and will indicate if there is still something that you need to complete in that scene. Lastly, many other gamers have placed a WALKTHROUGH online that will tell you exactly what you need to do in each scene to get to the end of the game. I have never played a game where I did not have to use some combination of the HELP features.
The Mystery Case Files series has over twenty games now, each year getting harder and harder to solve without help. I like the games because you choose the number of hints, map suggestions, and walkthrough lookups you use to solve the mystery. I admit that when they first started coming out, although they were easy compared to the ones that come out now, I used a lot of hints to get through that first game. I recently played it again (Due to the increased amount of free time in 2020) and I found it was not that challenging after all. Although I did not remember the plot of the game, the mechanics were very similar and I knew what needed to be done without any hints.
I realized also that these games have also made me a better teacher. As you may recall, I teach Special Education, specifically High School students with a moderate to severe intellectual disability. Although I am teaching virtually, I encounter the same problems with students that I have when they are in front of me in the classroom, specifically in how much HELP do I need to give them in order for them to complete the task at hand?
I have a few students who ask for help immediately after I explain what to do. When I ask them what they need help with, the answer usually is “Everything!” These are the students who need the SPARKLE. In this case, I will point to the area the task they need to complete first. I will then revisit them frequently, adding more SPARKLE until they complete the task.
Some students need HINTS, which are technically the same as a SPARKLE but the main difference is that the help is not given unless it is asked for. For these students, I try to encourage them to work out their own solutions before reaching out to others. Like the game, the HINTS can not be used over and over again, so you must pay attention to when a HINT is given.
Some students need the MAP or in this case, a visual chart that outlines the steps of a task, something they can refer back to when they are unsure of how to proceed. Those students with the MAP still require me to revisit them to review their progress, but not as frequently.
Some students will only be able to proceed with the task if they have a WALKTHROUGH. This is a Teacher Aide sitting right alongside, breaking down the task into its individualized components. While doing this, The Aide walks a thin line of helping too much and completing the task for the student entirely and not giving enough help to ensure completion.
Although these are four different ways to help students, they are completely interchangeable. A SPARKLE can turn to a WALKTHROUGH in an instant if a student is encountering problems. In addition, I have also noticed that some students will change what level of help they need, just like I do with my video game. Sometimes we can get through a task with just a SPARKLE, but some days, we may need more to complete the same thing.
Unfortunately, none of these strategies will work on the student who has just given up. There are some games that I have played that are just too complicated and I have just quit playing them. I know that I don’t have the skills to complete that game. There was once a game I had bought that in the middle had an arcade game similar to Space Invaders, that you had to get a certain score to move to the next scene. After several times of failing, I became frustrated! There was no HINT option offered and no way to SKIP that part of the game. I was undeniably stuck and simply stopped playing and moved on to something else. Although I was disappointed that I did not solve that mystery, I was glad that I realize my limitation when I decided that game was not for me.
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”Psalm 30:10
In verse 10 of Psalm 30, David invokes God to help him. Psalm 30 was written after a period of great calamity in David’s life. At this point in time, he was suffering the consequences of what he did to Uriah the Hittite, husband of Bathsheba, with whom he had the affair. He was recovering from a life-threatening illness and the was great unrest among his children. David, finally remembering God who brought him to the palace in the first place, implores God to get him out of this and restore David back to a time when everything was going well for him.
Don’t we do the same thing? We progress through our lives, hardly thinking of God and his Son. When Life is good, we tend to think about how WE have achieved success and happiness. We disengage from spiritual things while we focus on the physical and material things of the moment. But then, we are given a task, a problem to overcome. It could be financial, as the loss of our job or a medical condition that literally knocks us off our feet. Steady relationships crumble overnight and worries, doubt and anxiety rob us of daily pleasures.
Like the games I enjoy, God has already put a HELP system in place to aid us in finding the solution. God will place SPARKLES, people in our lives at the right time that will help us find what we need to overcome.
He has Given us a MAP, in this case, a memory or how things went wrong in the first place and what we did or did not do in the past that lead us to this current crisis.
Our prayers are like the HINT button. God will always provide for the solution but we have to have the courage to ask Him. He knows the end of our game, the solution to whatever mystery we find ourselves in even before we realize that we have a problem. Unlike the game though, you have no limits on the number of prayers you can use or how often you can seek his help.
Lastly, God has provided us a WALKTHROUGH, the Bible. In the Bible, you can find an example of every situation that you find yourself in, along with God’s final solution to the problem. The Bible also tells us how the game ends and who wins! By Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, all of our problems have been made “light and momentary” and “are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Remember that game I had to give up on, that was just to difficult for me? Well, I believe that God does that in our lives as well! I did a number of jobs before I became a Special Education Teacher. In each of those positions, I started out fine but I eventually got to a point in that field where I did not have the necessary skills to go any farther. I repeatedly prayed that God would give me those skills, but He knew that wasn’t where I was meant to be. In July of 2001, I had been fired from American TV and Appliance after six years of working retail jobs. I realized on that day that I did not have the skills for a sales manager. Later, God gave me a SPARKLE. As I was talking to my Mom, complaining about my lack of success in finding my career niche, she innocently asked me, “Why don’t you go back into teaching?” I had a degree in High School Social Studies, but the best I ever did was a substitute high school and middle school teacher for Milwaukee Public Schools. During those six years of working retail, my two sons had been diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum and I had gotten a glimpse of their special education teachers and the work they were doing. I began to ask questions (HINTS) and started a certification program at UW Milwaukee (WALKTHROUGH). This is now my 20th year as a Special Education Teacher! God knew where he wanted me to be before I was even born. He used SPARKLES, HINT, MAPS, and WALKTHROUGHS to get me to the point I needed to be!
No matter what part of the game (your life) you are in, you can always turn to the game designer (God) for help on how to get to the next scene and solve the mystery of how you can achieve eternal life.
Dear Creator, Thank you for helping me throughout my entire life. I am grateful for all the answered and unanswered prayers that show me what to do and when to do it. From little nudges throughout the day to huge U-Turns that allow me to course correct, you have guided me to where you need me to be. I look forward to the rest of the journey!
I thank you for reading my blog and look forward to any comments or criticism of what I have discussed.
If these words have impacted you, please feel free to share them by email or any social media platform.
“You Turned My Mourning Into Dancing!”, my book, is available for purchase here.