Clue

“I want to see Miss Scarlett in the billiard room with the wrench.”

There was shuffling of cards as she searched for one of the three so I could mark it off. If she produced nothing, then her sister would have to show me what she had.

We went around the mansion, taking turns rolling dice, trying to land on a space that would give us access to a door. We would use a secret passage to speed things along where a player can instantly move from one room to another. Then the accusation could be given. Ultimately, you want to be the first to reveal which of the characters became a cold-hearted killer.

It could be Mrs. Peacock taking a rope and strangling her victim in the kitchen when he got on her last nerve and asked for the salt shaker.

Or Mr. Green lost his temper and took out a lead pipe in a jealous rage to do away with his enemy in the study while he read a world map. Unknowingly, the next destination was the afterlife.

I didn’t realize in the original game he was known as a Reverand. The title was removed because it sent the wrong message that a church leader could go insane and commit a crime. That would be too shocking for the public to handle with a board game.

Professor Plum’s character always seemed shady to me. I wouldn’t be caught dead with him in a conservatory late at night if I met him in real life. Who knows when he would pull out that candlestick and end my existence while I was looking at a botanical?

Colonel Mustard seemed like he could at any moment take out a revolver, and without a second thought, blow away whoever was standing next to him in the lounge while drinking his scotch.

Other characters were considered, but Mrs. Silver, Miss Grey, Mr. Gold, and Mr. Brown did not make the final cut.

When she revealed her card, I was able to take it off the list. And so, by deduction, we were on the move to hunt down the culprit and figure out where, who and what was involved.

When everything is set up at the beginning of the game, three piles of cards are made with weapons, rooms, and suspects. One of each is drawn and placed in a golden-colored mystery envelope in the center of the board. The most alarming thing for me was discovering that my character had been murdered by one of the others playing with me.

How dare they take me out when they depend on me for everything in life? They just callously knife me while I am in the hall, lost and wandering because I don’t even know the hall’s purpose. Isn’t a hall just something that is used to get to somewhere else?

I kept calling off names, rooms, and weapons during one game and kept coming up with no answers. With confidence, she ticked off all her answers, moved along, and closed in on the solution to put us to shame. I usually go with a specific strategy to get to the bottom of what is happening by eliminating one variable at a time.

But, I was coming up short. So, I kept asking for the same items or people multiple times to be sure that I hadn’t overlooked something.

“Something isn’t right,” I said after exhausting all my tactics. “There is a problem with this.”

“What?” she asked.

We had been playing for a while, and there should have been a conclusion to this by now.

“You don’t think something is missing? I keep trying to determine who did this, and there are two instead of one on my list. I have asked for every single one of them.”

She glanced down and looked at her paper with her name at the top, where she had been marking off her guesses. Both of my girls are very artistic, so their papers always have artwork all over them.

They can’t sit without drawing flowers, dogs, cats, and everything else they can think of. They are so talented at it, I could sell them to pay off the mortgage.

It didn’t seem like she thought anything was wrong. So, we played on until I couldn’t take it anymore.

“I think maybe I put an extra card in the envelope when we started. We aren’t going to solve this.”

I had to quit the game and look at what had been set aside. There were only three cards like there should have been.

“I don’t get it,” I said. I showed her my findings, and she showed me hers.

“I think we have a card that has gone missing, so this would have never ended. Without that one suspect, we cannot come to the right conclusion.”

It was somewhat disappointing, and I thought about going online and buying the vanishing card. As I picked up the game, I noticed it underneath the board. Somehow, as we had put it all out, one of the suspects had hidden himself there.

I saw another rendition where you can lie through it unless the other players hit this big red button and challenge what you are saying. Your body language and facial expressions have to look genuine and go undetected as false by others around you to succeed.

I don’t think many of us would admit out loud how dishonest we really are. I am not talking about flat-out telling lies but living in a way that is not entirely what we want. We fake our way through things to keep the peace and make others comfortable even though we are miserable. If you do that long enough, it starts to feel normal.

In another version, the murderer is at large and can take you out before you figure out who they are. It’s a race against the clock to see if you can escape. You are in constant danger, dodging the fatal blow that will end your life.

I have had those situations in real life without realizing how close I had come to being a victim. It takes strong discernment to see the truth and to act on it.

One evening, I was out working in my yard, and a man approached with a clipboard.

“Do you have cable?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I think I can offer you a better deal.”

There was something about him that made me uncomfortable. It was starting to get dark, and I was near my garage.

“I am happy with what I have,” I said. He advanced closer to me, and I moved a few inches away.

I realized that no one was around, and all the houses were closed up.

“I think you should switch to my plan,” he said.

“I have said I am not interested.”

I moved enough so that he could clearly see that I was not at all needing him to go any further.

“I think you will like this better,” he said, coming into my garage.

I had my phone in my pocket, so I took it out.

“I have asked you to leave. If you don’t, I will call for help.”

I moved away again.

“I think you should take into consideration what I am saying.”

I started dialing.

When the 911 operator answered, he was sprinting down the sidewalk. I explained what had happened, and they sent a police officer my way. Those are the moments when you realize you have angels, and you need to have the best spiritual ears ever.

Friends may betray you, just like your opponent in a game of mayhem, and it’s going to hurt. Maybe they kill you with their gossip about you or slander your character, make unfair judgments, and spread it around. You will have to overcome unfair conditions as you walk through them, but God will show you where you have grown into a new person at the end of all of that.

The one thing that is clear if you ask God for help, it will come. In Jeremiah 33:3 it says,

This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: Call to me, and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own. (Message)

When life gets confusing, and nothing makes sense, send out a prayer, ask God for insider information, and listen as heaven will send the most valuable clue.

(Don’t let the Hall fool you…it’s not really a hall..it’s a room with no point…)
(Miss Scarlett was always a problem..)

Game Playing

“This is exactly what we need!”

I had heard this sentence so many times since living on the same street for a very long time. The advantage to having a lot of traffic is that I can put any item on the curb, and it will disappear quickly. Sometimes it will happen at midnight, while I’m not aware, and at other times, I will barely be back up the driveway, and the recipients will see me.

“Are you sure this is for free?” They will say.

If it’s garbage, it goes in the trash, but if it’s something I am told to give away, it will be displayed.

I had named the original tree that used to be there. If my girls had anything they no longer wanted and it was in good shape, they knew I would say,

“Go put it under the giving tree.”

I could have easily sold some of these things, but it was more fun to give it and less hassle for me. I had done my garage sales, and I gave away items when someone couldn’t pay for something, so why go through all that work? It took up less of my time to drag stuff down and walk away.

One day, my youngest daughter was being a bit more independent than I liked, and she was engaged in a back and forth with me. I started to run out of things to say, so I said,

“You know the giving tree out there? Things always disappear quickly. I might just sit you under that tree.”

She laughed, knowing she won whatever we were not in agreement over.

The tree got hit by someone under the influence, but the city replaced it with a new one.

The most memorable donation was my dining room table and chairs. I had just happened to go out just as a lady was loading them into the back of a truck.

I walked over to see that she was crying.

“This will be the first year for the holidays that my kids and I won’t have to use lawn chairs and an old table that is falling apart. I have five kids, so six chairs are just perfect. And it’s free? I could never have afforded this.” She was a single mom like me, raising her children, and didn’t have a lot of funds to spare.

While the world says we should hang on to what we have to survive, God says,

“Give.”

In Luke, it says,

Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. (Message)

When you are guided to do something that makes absolutely no sense, that generally means you aren’t in charge, but it can turn out to be the best for you.

“Where am I at for a total?” He asked.

The cashier looked at her screen and read off the amount.

“I will be done in a minute. I’m sorry,” he said to me.

In his cart, he had piled in every game off the shelves.

“That’s okay,” I said. “Do you sell these online?”

“Yes. This is how I make my living, and there aren’t board games like this where I live.”

I explained that I had spent time in line with my daughter, a YouTuber, as she has rescued and restored dolls for her channel. I knew what a haul was.

“I sell on Amazon, Etsy, and eBay. This is all I do day and night. We just moved to South Carolina from Illinois, but I make the drive back to get to all these places to pick up more. People who live in warmer areas don’t seem to sit around a table inside when the weather is so nice, but in colder climates, people do. What else are you going to do during a snowstorm?”

Against the standard way of working, he walked away from a job as a manager at a fast-food restaurant. He had been at this for seven years, and his knowledge had led him to a prosperous career. He tried college, but that didn’t go over so well.

“I was required to buy a $300 calculator for Calculus. I couldn’t afford it, but I worked the problem without it. I got the right answer, and the instructor accused me of mocking him. I walked away for good that day.”

Everything happens for a reason.

“So you gave up your health insurance and benefits to be your own boss?”

“Yes. I have a daughter and a son. My wife doesn’t have to work because I profit from this. I do it all by myself, and since the pandemic, people want board games to be at home with family.”

I saw a short, glowing person on his left side as he spoke.

I heard grandparent.

“With all these new ways of earning money, this probably wouldn’t have made sense to your grandparents. They would have probably told you to get a real job.”

That has been said to my daughter by the ignorant.

“Well, my grandma did trade shows. I always went with her to set up and help. So she understood.”

“How long has she been gone?”

“A couple of years.”

Now I knew who it was.

“We used to go to her house for Christmas and play one game after another. They had Clue, Monopoly, and Life. All the old stuff.”

He had multiples of those in his cart.

“Every crappy job I had until now, I have gotten something that I can apply to this business. I had to learn and then get brave and launch it. I am the happiest I have ever been. I own a house and a car that I would never have had without doing this. I have money set aside for my retirement and for my kids’ education.”

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Thirty-nine. I just know this is going to work out for a long time. My thirteen-year-old asked me why we don’t play games. After all the hours I put in, I can’t stand to look at them sometimes.”

“What if she helped you? So she doesn’t feel left out. You don’t want her to grow up and feel resentful.”

“I have always wanted to start a YouTube channel where I explain how to play some of these. People lose the instructions all the time.”

“What if she did that? What if your son and wife played the games and she had a channel?”

“That’s a great idea. She could make money eventually and do something besides playing a video game.”

“You are teaching your kids not to follow what everyone else is doing. They will see they can do anything.”

“I want that. For me, a regular job was not what I wanted, so I’m so glad I have this.”

It’s not easy as he leaves his home on a Thursday, does his shopping trips, gets back home on Sunday, and then has to work on packaging and marketing online.

I pointed him in the direction of two other stores nearby he wasn’t aware of.

“Those are both close. My goal is to fill the UHaul and get home quick.”

Bernie is living the dream. Why? Because he followed a lead that led to more information, he now has a full-blown way to live free and do something he enjoys. For most people, they wouldn’t have even tried, and for others, they would have spent their time complaining about how difficult it was. Not him. He couldn’t tell me enough about the job from Amazon rules, fees, and red tape. But he never was negative for one second. It’s just what he has to do to have his freedom. At one point, he said,

“America is great. You can do anything and be successful here.”

In Proverbs 18:21 it says,

The tongue has the power of life and death.

By his positive outlook, he is blessing the work of his hands. He is giving God something to work with. And he has taken a bold stand. He isn’t settling for what everyone else has been taught to be the only way to happiness. With that combination going for him, whether he is aware of it or not, he has gained the favor of heaven to bring in provision.

In James 1:17, this is explained,

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)

This man’s demeanor has all the earmarks of a person who has let God direct his steps. And, when that happens, it isn’t the usual jumping through hoops to make self-driven miracles happen or striving to be at the top. With God, it’s like breathing, simple, easy and no game playing.

Playing the Game Right

Just before Christmas, I found myself in the game section of the store. I often go there because I like to see what is new with the potential of being added to my large collection. On a shelf at the end of an aisle, I found a rather intriguing box with the words Japanese Card Game written on the back. I had no sooner picked it up to examine it, when a man was at my side with a cell phone to his ear.

“You have to get that game!” he said.

“No, honey, I am talking to a person at the store. She is looking at Machi Koro. I am telling her to buy it,” he said into his phone.

He then said to me, “I am talking to my wife, but I had to come over here to tell you to buy that game. It is really fun. We love playing it.”

“Thank you,” I answered.

He disappeared as quickly as he had shown up. But, he did such a good sales job for a guy who was not even employed by the store, that a lady standing next to me decided to purchase the game as well.

I took note of the price, and with all of the holiday shopping I had completed, I hesitated. I wondered if I should buy if for myself or not. It was only about $20, but I still have moments where I wonder if I should spend my money on me. I had one part of me saying I should, and another part was escorting me to a bankruptcy hearing for purchasing something ‘not necessary’.

I decided to buy it and left the guilt at the store in the toy aisle.

Our first attempt to play was a disaster. While it sounds glamorous and worldly to play a game that is from another country, there is also the formality of the rules not being crystal clear. I kept reading this: Game play should be about 30 minutes.  We read the manual from cover to cover and that took longer than a half hour.  What’s interesting is that when people do not comprehend an idea, the reader will read louder to see if revelation will come. I have concluded that the volume of voice does not bring about understanding. After two hours of being baffled, we turned to a YouTube video to lend us a hand.

It was one of those online viewing sessions where after hours of struggle you continually say, “OH!” “Hey!” “OH!” But, you cannot get the wasted hours back of sweating it out at the table wondering if buying the game in the first place wasn’t a huge mistake.

My daughter and I decided to try again the next day to see if we could get through one round. Basically, players are at the mercy of the roll of dice and how many coins they possess. The objective is to accumulate money to buy landmarks to win. I watched as she spent herself down to her last coin while I hoarded mine and spent very little. Time and again, she beat me by completing her buildings before I had barely begun.

I noticed that she had a very carefree attitude about spending her earnings while I clung to what I had tightly refusing to buy anything on my turn. Then, she would get just the right roll, and more coins would flow into her pile which she would immediately spend.

Finally she said, ‘You have to spend your money or you are going to lose every time.”

I decided to take her advice and fight off the feelings of panic when the space in front of me held no money to spend. I actually had feelings of discomfort rise up in me as this went against everything I had ever conformed to.

I began to buy ‘the ranch’ cards which once accumulated can start to make money back for the one who purchases them. By the end of that game, I had actually beat her! It proved itself to be true whenever we played. I may not have won every time, but when I let go of what I had to spend, I ended up farther ahead than when I held on and refused to spend a dime on anything. I became a stronger competitor by trusting that I could make money by spending money.ranch

 

The next day, I was out in the store looking at water purifiers. The mental dilemma surfaced of if I should buy one or not. Suddenly, a vision of our game from the day prior filled my mind.

“Buy the ranch!” I heard her say.

I put the item into my cart and happily went on my way. I discovered that if I don’t allow myself to have things, then my life is going to be about worry and hoarding versus living the life I know God wants all of us to have.  It is a matter of trust and a deep knowing that there is a love so deep that it won’t let you fall off the edge of a cliff into despair.  We have the choice to limit ourselves or to allow good to come into our lives.

In this new year, our slogan now is: Buy the ranch!

In other words, loosen the grip, and put God’s love for you in motion by not saying no to yourself all the time.  Before you know it, you will be playing the game right.

 

machi koro

 

Playing Your Cards Right

We gathered around Mrs. Iverson’s piano as she pounded out Farmer in the Dell. Our off key faltering voices attempted to sing the familiar song that we had gone over since starting kindergarten with her that fall. It was her way of getting us to settle down and to capture our full attention. When we finished the last note, she said,

“Children, I have something that I need you to take home to your mom and dad today. ”

She held up green and red papers that were folded neatly.

“We are going to be having a class Christmas party and this letter will tell your parents what you need to bring.”

This news brought on an uproar so she quickly ran her fingers across the keyboard to begin the song again.

After another rousing chorus, and peace had been established, she assembled us into a line to hand out invitations to the first school party of our young lives.

I was thrilled to have reached such a pinnacle. Being the youngest of six, I had observed my older siblings celebrating events to which I was not privileged to attend.

The instructions were that each child was to bring a boy/girl gift and in doing so, we would receive a gift in return. Over the weeks leading up to Christmas, our classroom became a blizzard of handmade construction paper snowflakes, endless Santa coloring sheets and a tree adorned with red and green paper chain garland.  Each day, more presents appeared as the kids began bringing in their offerings.

My mom bought a card game that was suitable for a child in that age group. She and I wrapped the gift and affixed a tag that was addressed to a girl from me.   I was so excited to contribute to the pile under the tree. Many of us often looked across the room at the various sized boxes and pretty bows wondering which would make its way into our little hands.

The day before the party, I came home to the delightful smell of spritz cookies and a tray that my mom was putting together for me to take to school. The days of waiting were almost over, and I could hardly sprinkle the colored sugar on the cookies in the right direction as my exhilaration grew.

I woke up in the middle of the night fully aware that something was not right. My stomach felt like a washing machine that was stuck in the spin cycle.  Chills ran up and down my skin, yet, I felt heat coming off my forehead.

“Mom?” I called out weakly.

Being a nurse, she was at my bedside in seconds with a basin. I guess by the time you have six kids you recognize a distress call even when you are in a dead sleep.  It was a good thing she brought the bucket.

After determining I was running a fever, she said,

“I don’t think you are going to be able to go to the party,”

I reluctantly fell back to sleep with tears brimming in my eyes at the thought of missing out on something I had waited my entire life for.  I slipped into the black abyss of stomach flu dreams.

By morning, I was not any better so I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going anywhere.

“I will have your sister walk up to the school later this afternoon and get your gift,” she said trying to console me.

I sipped on clear carbonated beverages and took small bites of saltine crackers as the virus worked its way through my body. Falling asleep off and on during the day only made time seem to go slower. I would wake up after a five minute nap feeling as if hours had gone by only to see the clock not advancing.

Finally, I heard my sister return and voices talking in the kitchen. I propped myself up in bed. This was the moment I had been waiting for.

My mom came into my room with a package that looked similar to the one I had brought.

“Hey. This looks like our paper we used.”

I looked up at her and saw a tinge of sadness.

“This is your gift. The teacher forgot to put it into the exchange.”

I unwrapped it and put it aside. The game that was supposed to bring so much merriment to another child now represented disappointment, and I would have rather thrown it into the trash.

Years later, I found the deck on a shelf in my parent’s basement unopened.  I opened the box and took off the shrink wrap and read the instructions.  I realized that I had let someone ruin something for me so long ago.  As a child, that is understandable.  I had felt rejected, unwanted, unworthy.  All these things that I felt in my heart that I could not express at the age of five.  I had decided that I would take it out on the gift that had an intent to bring happiness to the receiver.

As I played the game, I forgave this particular authority figure.  Had she done the right thing? No. However, what was the point of hanging on to the pain?  The only thing it accomplished was to keep me chained to my past.  The moment had come and gone for her, I am sure.  She probably isn’t alive today.  So, the only person I was punishing was me.

It is a well known fact that holidays with family and co-workers can be miserable for some.   There can be awkward silences, or suffering in silence and then later rampaging and venting about how we can’t stand Aunt Gertrude or that demanding guy who has an office next to ours.  The reality is, we can make this time of the year be what we want it to be.  We have a choice about how we react to situations and how we feel.  I am not suggesting that you ignore your emotions.  Just don’t allow them to overtake you and find yourself in a drama of grand proportions. Don’t allow your joy to be stolen by a dysfunctional problematic Grinch.  Eat.  Drink.  Be Merry. Pray.  Forgive.  Ask for forgiveness..because you are somebody’s Aunt Gertrude…and let the season be light.  As you forgive, you are forgiven.  All of this adds up to playing your cards right.

 

fish