More Coffee than Water
Back in ’84 I was rafting the San Juan River in southern Utah with a bunch of other college students on a ten day field trip. Every morning our professor, Rod, would stoke the campfire, put the pot on to boil with fresh water and a handful of grounds, and we’d find coffee waiting for us as we got up. This type of coffee on the trail is what I grew up calling Cowboy Coffee.
Except one morning.
One morning Rod put water and a handful of grounds in the pot but forgot to move the pot onto the heat. Then he went down to the river to shave.
The next person up was Rod’s T.A., Ray. Ray saw the pot off the heat and thought Rod must have forgotten to get the coffee started. He grabbed a handful of coffee grounds, threw them in the pot and placed it over the heat. Ray went back to roll up his sleeping bag.
Rod returned from the riverbank and looked at the fire, knowing he’d forgotten to do something. He saw the pot over the heat so thought what he must have forgotten was to put in the grounds. He grabbed a handful of coffee grounds and tossed it in the pot.
One pot, three handfuls of coffee grounds.
The whitewater rapids weren’t the only thing shaking the boats when we rafted downriver that day.
The Benefit of a Filter
If I came with a warning label when I was younger – say back in ’84 during that rafting trip – it probably would’ve read: “Has lots of things on his mind. Doesn’t say much of it out loud. Noticeable lack of filter when it does burst forth.”
I even had a sign up in my bedroom back in high school that reminded me “Silence is the only successful substitute for brains.” It’s biblical, even if I didn’t know it at the time:
Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
and discerning if they hold their tongues.
I tried keeping my mouth shut. I wasn’t very good at it. Eventually my thoughts would spill over and reach my tongue in an unfiltered mess, leaving people jitterier than that triple load of cowboy coffee on the banks of the San Juan River.
People who didn’t know me then might not believe it. They think I’m more like the person in this verse:
The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.
Side by side verses, one describing how people see me now and one describing how I was then.
But the truth is this is how I still am sometimes. The warning label from my younger days still applies: I have a lot of thoughts, I am not disposed to talk much about them, and when I do I have a filtering problem. My filter is better now than it was then, but it still needs work. So I pray along with the psalmist:
Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
God knows I’m not so good at being the gatekeeper of my thoughts and words. Lord help me speak well and wisely, no matter what’s in my thoughts.