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Middling has Potential and Not Just for Monkeys

I think I may be a terminal moderate. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad.

I’m in the middle of:

  • Eat only organic, antioxidant, cleanse …. Fast food’s fine
  • Ace the hardest question …. Do only what you have to
  • Use it till it dies …. Aw, toss it
  • Olympic downhill …. Couch it, fireside in the lodge
  • GPS, latest tech …. Still breathing, okay — Go!
  • Proclaim …. Deny

I’m more of a:

— Read the label, now the next one, fix it if you can, try the Nastar course, monitor your own pulse, seek what’s true — kind of gal. Jumping in at either end makes halfway seem a long ways off.

It’s fun to be a monkey in the middle. Did you ever play that game? Where the job of the two players on the outside was to keep the “monkey” in the middle from getting the ball. They’d toss it high overhead or run past and hand it off. The harder the monkey works to get the ball, the harder the players – let’s call them zookeepers – had to work to avoid him. If the ball was intercepted the zookeeper at fault was in the middle and the game began again.

Fun. Unless the monkey just stood in the middle. No sport to that. Yes, the fun is in the effort and the winning and then the exchange of positions. In fact, when I started my practices with this game I would have a mutiny on my hands if I stopped the play before everyone had the chance to be a monkey.

Today, we even get bogged down in aggravated debate about whether we’re descended from monkeys. For the record, I would much rather be a monkey than a zookeeper. Never was very good at making sure the doors are locked and the light is off. I’m more a middling kind of gal. Like to hang in the center and invite my friends. It’s more fun when you have 2 or 3 in there with you. Then you have a barrel full of monkeys (a fun game, too) and you can extend your reach. Not so surprising if you suppose that Jesus actually said,

 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20)

Seems right. I find I act very differently when I am in the large outside ring instead of a small inner circle. I’m kinder and gentler in there. I guess I try harder there. Because it’s important to me to get along with the ones I am close to and because we have a job to do: we gotta get that ball!

It’s about the common objective and the game plan. Wouldn’t it be cool of we could link up end to end and transmit the same, perfectly reproducible, identical in intensity, unaltered in frequency, never diminished message from the first monkey to the last? Now THAT would be a cool strategy. Hard, yes. Impossible, nearly, but no. Our nerve cells do it everyday as a matter of design; it’s called an action potential.

Ah, but all I hear is “who needs a middle man.” Hey, somebody’s got to chase the ball. And why would monkeys want a ball anyway? Maybe because they would be tempted not to share a banana. No action potential there.

Taking the low road to get to the high road

God’s idea for me today was… “sometimes you have to take the low road to get to the high road.” Now, I have never considered myself a settle for average or below kind of person. (And let’s face it, when my kids say they “failed” a test, they are usually worried they may not have gotten an A.) But what of the “C” grade? What of the middle ground? By definition, that’s where most of us fall, even though we reach for the heights.

Honestly, I am thinking about this as I consider how to get one of my children to do “what’s good for her.” (the high ground) Why doesn’t she see that if she doesn’t get off her butt and get exercise and work on her skills she will fail at the soccer tryouts? But telling her this is not motivating. Yesterday, of her own accord, she apparently pulled out the hand weights (I know because she left them for her sister to trip over – okay). I am pretty sure she did this because she wants to look better.

Now I have designed training programs for her, sketched out stretching routines complete with stick figures, made the calisthenics workouts fun with the latest exercise equipment, and nada. The equipment sits and stares at me. And I think to myself, what’s good for her doesn’t even start to get her interest. Taking the high ground is way beyond eye level. Nope. I know what’s motivating: appealing to her vanity, her baser human nature, perhaps even her fear of falling. Because then she will respond. But that feels like such low ground to me.

And then God says, “Sometimes you have to take the low road to get to the high road.” And then He spoke Christ among us who said, “Follow me.”

I think the highest roads may not even seem like an option to most of us. I have to climb all the way up there??!!! But small steps along a gradually inclined road – that sounds more like the Lord’s style. Gradually progressing, continuously rewarding. That does leave most us navigating the middle ground. And perhaps that is just where He wants us. Because I think it may get very steep at the top. We’ll need a bit of fitness training before then.

I read a piece of great advice this week: “If you struggle with resolve, try intentionally having a mediocre day. Shoot for 60% in everything you do, and see if you don’t exceed expectations all day long.”

Something about a new year is inspiring. I don’t think it’s the view. I am hoping it’s the perspective. Have a 62% day, y’all! Tomorrow, let’s go for 64%.

Sabbath in the Midst of Thinking and Doing

Let me just set something straight. Kinesthetic does not mean kinetic.

Kinetic means constantly in motion. Something like an electron orbiting a nucleus or ants on an ant hill or small children on a playground. I find great joy in all those images, but that is not how I experience the Christian life. It is how, on some days, life feels imposed on me. But I extract myself from those situations as quickly as I can. I don’t like crowds or pushing or hurry.

I do however like motion. At my own pace. Give and take. Motion I consider and then take action on. Decided motion. This is how I experience kinesthesis in my life and in my faith. Call me cautious or shy or deliberate. You wouldn’t say I’m stalled; I am a do-er. But don’t call me impulsive; I’m a thinker. Ha! I guess you could call me maybe. 🙂 Thanks Carly Rae Jepsen. I like living in the state of maybe. Readying for what’s next. Attending to the now in anticipation of the what’s next.

I am sometimes guilty of doing a bit too much preparing. Digging in with my head down with no intention of moving on until I’m sure I have everything just so. And on impulse, I have made a snap decision to two. Not quite sure which is the right way, but doggonit, someone has to do something so let’s just do it.

But on my best days I am the middle voice – think/do, ponder/do, research/do, pray/do – in each thing I do. And honestly, you can take that forward-slash out of each of those. I’m not aware of a particular moment where I move from ‘now I’m thinking’ to ‘now I’m doing,’ it’s more of a swaying. More like a jumping-the-waves feeling. Forward and back. In and out.

This seems to be part of my created nature, this operating from the middle ground. I find myself in the middle on lots of things. the moderator. the facilitator. the…peace-maker. And frankly, that middle place is often not that comfortable. You’ve got things, or people, bearing down on you from both sides. Threatening to crush you or perhaps trying to tear you limb from limb to get at the ones on the other side. But, from where I stand I can see something to love about both sides. I truly want them to hear each other and to see each other’s hearts. Perhaps if they’ll come close enough to me, the other will overhear.

For years I complained about being caught in the middle – all that crushing and wrenching. Until God changed just one word. “Wendy, you’re not caught in the middle, you’re placed in the middle.” And everything changed. If I was placed here, then I must have the resources to operate here. The waffling and uncertainty were all part of the territory. They were a package deal with the ‘hear everyone out.’

It does get exhausting. But it’s not my way to retreat to rejuvenate and then re-enter the fray. I can’t sit behind my dais to hear both sides and then retire to my chambers to make a firm and final decision. I need to be in the thick of it. So where does one find Sabbath?

I read today, Sabbath is not just a rest from work,

“Sabbath is also an experience of rest in the midst of work, contemplation in the midst of action, and receptivity in the midst of giving and serving.” ~ Kenneth H Carter, Jr.

It’s intended for us in the middle of things. Available to us in the midst. All I need to do is to remember to call on it then. Perhaps it’s the forward-slash I can’t quite describe – which seems to separate mind from body yet animates my transition from one to the other and back again.

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