Do you remember Gumby and Pokey?
Gumby, a green clay humanoid and his buddy Pokey, the orange pony, can be twisted, turned and shaped into multiple positions. When I think flexibility, I think of these two.
I used these figurines for years in my teaching, pulling an arm over Gumby’s head or flattening all of Pokey’s legs up against his body. They provided a great visual to go along with a discussion of how we can adapt ourselves to the needs of others.
Some of the positions looked highly uncomfortable.
I have found this to be true in my own life.
Years ago I discovered that values-based living helped me avoid becoming contorted, over-involved and exhausted. Walking through seasons of pain certainly required serious evaluation of what I could and could not do and gave opportunity to pare life down to only that which really mattered. I am grateful for those lessons.
These days I’ve been having regular meetings with myself to evaluate options. While I am now able to say yes to any number of meaningful activities, is it wise? Do the things I agree to take on sit squarely with those fundamental values? And if not, will I say no?
I continue to learn how letting go of good things frees me to align with God’s best things.
This season of pre-Christmas preparation is an excellent time to put boundaries to practice. Is this activity or request something I can freely do, without guilt or obligation? Am I living from a place of values-directed choice or bouncing from one externally driven demand after another? Do I know the difference?
I desire to schedule in enough quiet time and space this season to hear God’s gentle whispers of direction so I forgo some good things to know His best.
With love and gratitude,
Are you remembering to remember?
I read the account of Joseph in Pharaoh's dungeon recently and how he showed kindness to a fellow prisoner – a cupbearer - by interpreting his dream. Joseph then made one request of him: “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” (Genesis 40:14-15)
As the story goes, Joseph’s interpretations were accurate and the cupbearer was granted freedom. “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23)
I can imagine the cupbearer seeing the light of day and not wanting to look back. He had escaped the confines of dungeon life, re-entered his service to Pharaoh and got busy enjoying freedom.
He forgot to remember.
I don’t want to be like the cupbearer. These days are rich and full, beyond anything I could have asked for or imagined a few years ago. Relationships nurture my soul; work stretches and rewards me; my physical being is strong and relatively pain-free. Such abundance.
How times change.
All I need to do is open journals from three years ago to find intense wrestling with pain and loss upon loss. Two years ago I wrote: “Journaling and writing posts have been a rich resource for recounting the goodness of God and the kindness of others, and I am grateful to have this record to return to. Life will take twists and turns, distracting and changing my focus as I move ahead out of these confines and perhaps even to work.”
Are you reflecting on the past to more fully appreciate the significance of the present? Do you regularly recount the goodness of God and His faithfulness? I want to, as I'm continuing to learn that remembering to remember keeps me grateful.
I thank God with every remembrance of you. (Philippians 1:3)
With love and gratitude,
A data plan could change my life.
Last weekend I had the joy of leading an Ending Poverty Together workshop in Ottawa, a city I had never been to. I spent a grand total of 28 hours in our nation’s capital, nine of which were in the seminar, and then flew to Toronto for meetings. It didn’t leave a lot of tourist time.
I hopped in my rental car at 4:30 Saturday afternoon and headed on the route described to me as “Ottawa’s must see” places. I took a few detours amidst perpetual construction zones preparing the city for next summer’s 150th birthday celebrations, but eventually enjoyed seeing the Ottawa River, 24 Sussex Drive and our Parliament Buildings.
Then, as I rounded a bend, a large Y intersection quickly approached. Once again the signage proved unhelpful and I gave it my best guess and hung to the right. The road quickly became a bridge and halfway across a small plaque read, “Quebec”.
“Not the Quebec”, I thought. “Surely I haven’t driven out of the province!” But, I had. With that short drive, all signs went from two languages to one – French. I decided against a prolonged tour and the possibility of having to ask for directions, so made a U-turn.
I know that the Ottawa River separates Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec. Going across that body of water logically meant arriving in a different province.
I’ve been chuckling about the experience this week but also pondering the parallels to life. During my drive I spent so much time looking for the immediate signs to give direction that I lost sight of the big picture. Similarly I find myself asking “Where is my focus today?” and “Am I getting so caught up in the details of life that I’m missing a higher story?”
But that wasn’t the end of my driving escapades. After I found myself heading east on Toronto’s 401 at the height of rush hour (when I needed to be going west!) I decided to buy a one-day data pack. It changed my life.
Okay, not really. But the difference of experience was profound. Instead of straining to read upcoming signs I could relax into knowing that Betsy, my phone co-pilot, would announce where I needed to go with ample warning to get there. She did a great job.
Have you been crossing bridges you didn’t expect recently? Heading east when you wanted west? I know that my path becomes clearer and my confidence stronger when I reconsider the big picture—and I don’t need GPS for that.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst