The Last C

On social media, there’s this event called a “photo dump” when someone indiscriminately (or so they say) simply dumps a bunch of photos they’ve had on their phone. This supposedly isn’t to show off, impress anyone, or to even make sense of the content. It’s merely a dump for dump’s sake.

Every so often, I hope you have a place where you can do this on the mental/emotional/spiritual level. Some go to therapy, some engage in a sport, some go running, some paint, some smash things, some have coffee with a trusted friend. Me? I write. I’d like to say that all I’m about to dump is valuable, helpful, redemptive, or at least clear. But I won’t.

So I welcome you to witness my dump. Oops. That came out wrong. Oops. So did that. Oh dang. I’m not off to a great start, am I? Anyway. Onward.

My thoughts as of late are centered on ambition, drive, results, purpose, calling, and disorganization. Do you ever feel that on the other side of a piece of glass is You 2.0? But that glass is bulletproof and you can’t drag them over to your side. That other You is like you, but is crushing it. The vision and the reality match up, the potential is realized daily, the way you wish you were, You 2.0 is. The pane of glass though. How do I take what I am and make it better? Is it a step thing? A gotta-really-want-it thing? A systems thing? A missing ingredient thing? A grind-it-out thing? A fake-it-til-you-make-it thing? An organization thing? What is it that keeps you from You 2.0?

I want so many things. I want my life to reflect untouchable joy. I want my wife to daily drown in a tsunami of love that I have for her but can’t quite express effectively. I want my children to walk more closely with Jesus than I do. I want to let my wife choose not to work. I want a house on more land with plenty of room for my future grandkids to visit. I want the people I serve to love Jesus and live Jesus in their world. I want to write a book. I want to travel through Europe. I want to connect with as many young(er) student pastors as I can in order to encourage them not to view their ministry as less than critical to the Kingdom and the Church today. I want to ride a motorcycle. I want to play the drums. I want to stand on a stage and deliver the truth to young people and watch God’s Spirit do in them and for them what only He can do. I want to take a selfie with my wife in every state as we travel in an RV and see them all. I want to see young people living in love with Jesus, with His Word, with His style of love, with His commandments, and with His passion for the least of these. That’s not all, but it’s a good start.

I’m what you call a “slow processor”. Last night for dinner we had sumptuous barbeque sandwiches, dripping with flavor because it say in a crockpot for 8 hours while we were all at work. I like to think of my mind as a crockpot; it’ll take a little longer to get there, but (hopefully) it’ll be worth the wait. However, in the crockpot of my thoughts, there is often trouble brewing. I’ve got fears that somehow got into the mix.

I’m afraid that I’m actually not doing the good I want to be doing. I’m afraid that I’m unwittingly perpetuating the reasons that the young people I serve today will turn it all down in the near future, citing inauthentic “Christians” as their evidence for the flimsiness of “religion”. I’m afraid that where I am now is where I’ll be tomorrow and next year. I’m afraid that I didn’t get the memos most other adults seem to have gotten on how to do life effectively. I’m afraid that sharing what I’m afraid of might change your view of me. I’m afraid that my wife isn’t actually receiving the life I wanted to give her. I’m afraid that my kids look at me and wish I was a better dad to them. I’m afraid of too much change too quickly and I’m afraid of not enough change not quickly enough.

I know that everyone has both wants and worries. I know I’m not unique. But I’m the only one inside this cranium, so to me whether any of it is unique or not is almost irrelevant. This is what I live in and think about every day. Here’s some solace: You ever seen someone walking their dog but they’ve got that dog one of those fancy retractable cable leash thingies? The human holds the reel of cable on this spring-loaded mechanism and the dog can choose to go 20 feet ahead or 2 feet ahead? When I get into my own thought life and really dig into where my thoughts lead me, frustrate me, challenge me, teach me, frighten me, or comfort me what I’m really doing it taking that leash out to its further reaches. I know certainly that I am God’s and God is mine. I know that the relationship I hold dearest is also held by His hand. I know that I cannot go anywhere He does not see and care supremely about. But when I let my thoughts dwell more on my worries than my worship (to limit it to those two), I feel that I’m way out on the end of that cable; still connected, but perhaps out further than is wise or healthy.

I swear to you I had no idea where this blog post would go. I almost always have a good solid plan of beginning, middle, and end when I write these. You might have picked up on this one that I barely had a beginning. So, this is stream-of-consciousness stuff, for better or for worse.

Behind the curtain of this blog page are the drafts that have gone unpublished. I recently noticed I have 64 drafts. SIXTY-FOUR. I’m not sure how that number strikes you, but to me, that seems like a lot. That’s 64 undone things I wanted to get done. What’s one thing YOU want to get done?

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to recapture my thoughts. Typing that makes it appear on a screen and reading what I just wrote makes it sound preposterous. You ever gone to a zoo and inside one of those butterfly sanctuaries? This is what I imagine my attempts to better capture my thoughts will be like. But when you do–when you get that winged creature to land on the back of your hand you get to see it more clearly; to see the vibrant colors that were once not only inside the chrysalis, but inside the butterfly itself in the form of “imaginal” discs….well….hang on. We’ve got to stop here. We’ve stumbled onto something weird and possibly potent. The beautiful color of a butterfly’s wing started off inside the body of the pupa. This is called the imaginal disc. You see the word Imagine in there right? I’m not a butterfly expert, so I’m not sure this is a correct derivative, but it’s pretty cool that the wings of a butterfly that we all are so struck by are not unlike what we dare to imagine for our own lives. What do you imagine right now? What future image do you have of yourself?

I want to make sure I’m not saying something that I don’t want you to hear me saying. I’m not about chasing dreams. I’m not about living in some lofty transcendental state that (while serene) is also out of touch. I’m not about shirking what’s in front of me today in some pell-mell goose chase of what I’d rather be and see. No, that’s not it.

When I say I want to recapture my thoughts, I suppose that ultimately what I’m doing is merely echoing the Apostle Paul when he said, “…we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) For me, that starts with corralling. I’ve got to coral my thoughts. Many of them are wild and don’t want to be hemmed in like that. I don’t care. If a horse is going to be useful it first must be broken. So first step is to corral. I can do better at this than I’ve done. I often treat my thoughts like I’m sitting in a deli window counter and watching them pass by on the street outside, admiring them momentarily and watching them wander off. I can do better than that.

After corralling, I’ll critique. Is this a keeper? Is it worth going any further? What practical use is there for this one? Go into your closet. If you haven’t touched it in a year then get rid of it. What’s left? Those are the keepers. That’s what critique for me needs to look like. Critique for me assesses if a thought has long-term value and unless I can assign it a date, it’s just a nice thought. No offense nice thought, but kick rocks.

After the critique comes the _________. The alliterist in me (bonus points for making up the word alliterist) wants so desperately to put a “c” word there. C’mon, Jerry. Coral…Critique…C______. Are you shouting at the screen? If so, could you shout a little louder? I’m still searching. I wanted to say “control” but there’s something about that that feels too rigid. I actually just Googled “what’s it called when you put a horse in a starting gate for a race?” There’s no official term for that, but I’m sure if there was it would start with c. That’s really how I view my thoughts that I’ve corralled and critiqued. They need to be released with their strength harnessed and leveraged for all the good they can do.

UPDATE: That last C: Catapult. Yep. There is it. Shout out to my co-worker Wendy for handing that word to me. (I’m not sure how I missed it, but I did.) Let’s review: Coral, Critique, and Catapult. What is a catapult move? A catapult ratchets back and activates the thought that’s waiting to be launched. (I had previously thought of “chamber” as in “chamber the round” but anyone not into guns might have lost the imagery.) How do I catapult the thoughts that are keepers? After a fair amount of learning from some trainings I’ve taken, I’ve come up with a tool to help activate thoughts and complete tasks. I’ve tweaked it many times, but I’m happy to share it with you. You can download it here…

I’m going to work on this more so that I can continue to grow as a person; intellectually, emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually. As always I welcome your thoughts on this and thanks for coming along with me on this dump.