My Mind is Like a Coffee Pot – a story about filtering words

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.”


Noticeable lack of filter (photo: Wikipedia)

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.
(Proverbs 17:28.)

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.
(Proverbs 17:27.)

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.
(Psalm 141:3.)

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.


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11 Responses to My Mind is Like a Coffee Pot – a story about filtering words

  1. Whenever our coffee machine breaks we revert to an even more primitive version of the cowboy system (learned it from my big brother when he was burning the midnight oil writing plays in Irish) It is basically the same, but without the purpose designed coffee pot. Make it in an ordinary open saucepan. When the coffee is ready, the grounds settle to the bottom of the pot (most of them) making it easier to pour.

  2. Pastor Bob says:

    The tongue, James wrote about it.
    Enough said.

  3. Mary Anne says:

    Sign I recently saw in a gift shop: “I drink coffee for YOUR protection.” Must. Have.

    There’s also the infamous recipe for “Texas” coffee: take a pound of coffee, stir in a little water, boil for an hour, and toss in a clean horseshoe. If the shoe sinks . . . it ain’t quite done.

    I love my strong coffee, but there are limits . . . X-P

  4. Jean says:

    The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
    and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.
    (Proverbs 17:27.)

    The other night I was trying to show my three year old how to play a new game and half way through, I realized how much I was *saying*…no wonder he was struggling! Words, words, words…with no time to process. As a parent, the most important lessons are unspoken and the only way to make sure your words really count is to use them with intention.
    Less said = more powerful.

    Thank you for the reminder of this verse. Gonna write this one out on a index card for the fridge… 😉

  5. Laura Droege says:

    I don’t know how I missed this post the first time around, Tim. It’s a good one. I have a problem filtering my words, too. In certain situations–say, in groups–I’m the wallflower and I have difficulty breaking in to the general conversation. (Do I interrupt? Do I shut up? How do these other people know when it’s their chance to talk, or whether it’s okay to say that? It doesn’t make sense to me. Baffling.) So when I get the chance to talk–say, with my family–I can say too much. This is a good reminder that just because I can say something doesn’t mean that I should. I need God to help me filter my words and thoughts.

    P.S.: Besides, all those snarky, borderline-appropriate things I might say (but shouldn’t to actual IRL people) have a use: I can put them in my novel’s characters’ mouths and show how it inflicts damage on them.

  6. Ellen says:

    I am in my seventies and realizing how much more I need to ask questions and listen. Especially when I was raising my children, I fear my my name was Mrs. Didactic.

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