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New Book, New Page, New Puzzle

Chaplain Bill Wolfe / Llano County Sheriff's Departmetn

Hello, and welcome to the Chaplain’s Corner 2009. New Year’s 2009! Wow. I can still remember back in high school when I thought the year 2000 was so far in the future that it would never get here. Doesn’t seem possible, yet here it is again…another new year.

A new year. A time of new things. Some of us are lucky enough to get new patrol cars. Some of us got a new Sheriff. There will be new Super Bowl, World Series, and NBA champions. Some of us have made new New Year’s resolutions and some of us have renewed New Year’s resolutions that were not kept last year. And for me…a new puzzle book.

There are times when I enjoy doing pencil puzzles, and the idea about what to share this time out came as I was holding a new “Dell Pencil Puzzle – Vacation Special … Winter 2009” edition. One type of puzzle I’ve discovered in the last year is called Tanglewords. It’s similar to a cross-word puzzle in that you fit words into a pre-defined grid. It differs in that you fill in the blank with words from a provided list of words rather than working from definitions. The grid has some black squares that you work around, and the starting letters of each word are filled in for you. There are multiple words of varying lengths for each letter supplied. The object, then, is to decide which word comes off of each starting letter and in what direction…up, down, or diagonal.

Let me explain a bit more about how the game unfolds, and hopefully you’ll be able to see my point in rambling along here better. You have a starting letter in a particular square; all around that square may be lines of squares 8 or 10 squares long, and you might have 5 words in the list starting with that letter that are all 5 to 8 characters long. Any one of them would fit in any one of the available spaces. You have to look for clues as to which is the right word. Sometimes if you move to a different starting letter and get a word from there, it becomes more apparent which word fits with the other letter. Some words fit in easily; many take more study and thought.

More than once on any given puzzle, I have to look at the solution in the back of the book to see if I’ve got the right word in the right place. Sometimes I get ’em right on the first try. Often, though, I’m glad I’ve got an eraser on the end of my pencil. Eventually, I’ll get all the words in their right places. Occasionally, I mess it up badly enough that I give up. In either case, I turn to a new page and there’s a new puzzle waiting for me – a new grid and a new set of words to place in it.

You see where I’m going with this? It dawned on me that there are similarities between our lives and the book containing Tangleword puzzles. In a sense the new puzzle book represents a new year in our lives…a new year containing new puzzles, new challenges, new opportunities. The puzzles themselves are a picture of our lives. If we look at our lives – at the future – we’ll see that we have a “blank grid” which we fill in with the little details of life.

The “word list” that we have to work with is comprised of our priorities and the things that make up our life, such as work, family, friends, entertainment, recreation and possessions. It’s up to us to fit these things into our lives so that the puzzle is complete. Each word has a particular place to fit as they intertwine to form a satisfying (completed) puzzle. And of course, just when we get the puzzle complete…everything fitted just right, we turn the page, and there’s a new puzzle facing us. The list of words for this new puzzle may or may not contain all of the same words as the previous one. It may contain promotion, a new job in a different agency, a new home, a new health problem, or change in a friendship.

Like with the puzzle in the book, some words in our lives are obvious where they fit…others we have to study on to figure out just where they fit. Unlike the puzzle in the book, however, in real life we sometimes try to put in words that aren’t supposed to be in there. When we get things wrong, the puzzle won’t work. Sometimes too, words are deleted by events which may be beyond our control, and they leave empty places. When that happens, as hard as it may be, we have to turn the page and start on a new puzzle with “heartache” and “memories” in the word list. But giving up and throwing the book away should never be an option.

For some, all the words can be fitted into the puzzle grid, but there are some areas that have no letters in them. If you look carefully, those places are probably three letters long. You can’t leave “God” out of the word list and truly have a completed puzzle. And as we place the words into our puzzle, we need to periodically keep checking in the back of the book (the Bible) to see if we’re doing it right.

As we go into this new year, I pray that you are successful in completing your puzzle(s). And don’t forget to keep God in the word list and check with Him often to see how you’re doing.

Thanks for “riding along.” Blessings to you and yours.


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