Saturday, April 25, 2015


When Nick, the physical therapist, went to work on my elbow each session, he would stretch, massage, push, pull, and all but sit on my arm to get it to go as straight as possible. When he'd done all he could, he'd look at an assistant and say, “Get the goni!”, and she would come back with a measuring tool that would tell him quantitatively how successful his efforts had been. While he continued to hold my arm as straight as possible she would position the device and read the number off to him. If he didn't like what he'd heard he'd stretch, massage, push and pull some more. Sometimes, however, his eyes would light up and he'd say, “That's the best we've seen yet!”, releasing my arm (!!!) and moving me on to some kind of strengthening activity.

The device became such a familiar sight, and I finally asked him what it was called.

“It's a goniometer,” he said.

A what? I had him repeat it a couple of times, and later went home and looked it up online. A goniometer is a tool used to measure angles and is derived from the Greek words gonia (angle) and metron (measure). The ones used in this facility had two long flexible arms attached to a central plastic dial. The dial would be placed at a joint with the arms laying along the bones on either side, the central dial giving a reading of the extension achieved...a measure of success.

I just thought it was a fun word to say and repeated it to myself often during the session when I needed a smile. Physical therapy had been a world unknown to me when I first walked through those doors a couple of months ago. The exercises, equipment, and hands on muscle manipulation were all things I had never experienced before, and I found it all pretty fascinating. This new addition to my vocabulary represented the same in my life experience, as well.

God will use any new or challenging situations to teach us life lessons that we couldn't learn any other way. And the vocabulary we use in talking about them likewise gives him a clue as to the success of the venture. The words we choose in our everyday language tell His listening ears if we're making good progress in the area of focus or need more time under the Master's hand.

The goniometers at the facility sat in a pencil cup on a central desk. When Nick called for one as described above, often it seemed that the aide would grab the one that had one of its arms broken off, a victim of Nick's habit of sticking them in his back pocket after use and then later sitting on the same. Even plastic will only bend so far!

We likewise have choices tucked in the back pockets of our life experience, and the words we say determine in part the length of our stay in our situation. We can pull out a broken response of defeat and discouragement, or consistently speak life, hope and health into our days. The choice is ours, but God hopes we'll pick words that will make both of us smile.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue...”

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