Catch and Release – A New Spiritual Discipline

Farmington Woods

In the condo complex where we live, in the ponds and streams that run through the property, we have some of the best fishing in Connecticut. We have large and small mouth bass, bluegill, perch, sunfish, pickerel, and pumpkin seed in abundance. When I taught my grand-kids how to fish, they wanted to eat everything we caught – but not clean it or cook it! However, we couldn’t eat them because, where we live, a golf course weaves through the property in a carefully woven mesh. The run-off from the chemicals used to keep this garden-like place beautiful means that we need to practice what fishermen call: catch and release.  Pretty self-explanatory. We also learned early on (they wanted to keep them in the bucket til we were done so we didn’t catch the same one over and over again) that it is best for the fish to release it as quickly as you catch it.

Recently God taught me a new spiritual discipline. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of spiritual disciplines, check out our web page on this. This spiritual discipline is so simple, even I can regularly practice it. I call it “Catch and Release.”

The idea behind it comes from two ideas: one from the apostle Paul and the other from the apostle Peter (two pretty reliable sources!). The first is from Paul:


We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 10:5

The Catch

I know that Christians often take this out of context, but I believe that the principle that we are to take every thought captive to obey Jesus is a valid one. In order to effectively take a thought captive, we first have to catch it as soon as it enters our conscious mind.  It doesn’t do much good to take a thought captive after it has already riled us up or brought on some fear or dread. More on this later. The second principle comes from Peter:

and Release

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you

St. Peter’s 1st letter chapter 5 verses 6-7

This idea that we are to cast all of our anxieties on God is what I am calling release

Putting it Together

I like to combine this new discipline with a modification of a simple discipline that many of us have learned from Richard Foster: the palms down / palms up. Foster introduced this to me in his great book: The Celebration of Discipline. In it we start by releasing (palms down) and then receiving from God (palms up). I have reversed the order and call it the catch (palms up) and release (palms down) discipline. This new discipline is done by recognizing as soon as possible when an anxious thought; a condemning thought (of yourself or others); a justifying thought; or a dread or fear of something in the future; enters your mind. Catch it as soon as possible. As soon as you notice that you are grousing about a past hurt; or defending yourself against a past accusation; dreading a coming event; afraid of a doctor’s prognosis; catch the thought. Hold your hands out with your palms up. You can repeat a simple liturgy. “Jesus, I catch this thought and bring it under the authority of your kingdom.”

Let it go!

Then turn your palms down and release the thought. Again a simple liturgy works: “Jesus I release this thought to You. I don’t want to hold on to it any longer.”

It is just that simple. I have practiced this discipline several times already today. Won’t you join me and catch and release every thought that is not in obedience to Jesus’s kingdom.