Don’t Call Me Jack: A Social Editorial on the Proper Placement of Nicknames

One memorable Sunday morning in the first grade, the woman signing me in at First Christian Assembly in Cincinnati asked me for my name. In a moment of youthful spontaneity, I told her, “Jack. Everybody can call me Jack.”

She printed me a name-tag that read, “Jack Bohlender.” For weeks, my Sunday School name-tag said “Jack,” and for weeks, I hated it. That was the last time I ever asked to be called Jack. Nearly fifteen years later, I still hate it. Don’t call me Jack, ever. It makes me grumpy.

Nicknames are tricky. They’re either spot-on or terribly off, and for that reason, hold the power to either endear or alienate. There’s something truly annoying about being called by a nickname you dislike. It triggers both a bitter distaste for fake familiarity and a profound longing to be known.

While a good nickname might leave the subject with warm fuzzies, a bad one leaves them with a twinge of resentment and a nagging relational emptiness as they think to themselves, “Gosh, I wish they would’ve gotten that one right.” (If you’ve ever called me Jack, rest assured: whether or not I voiced them, I’ve had all of these thoughts about you.)

In contrast, a well-placed nickname can work wonders if it carries the right amount of weight. Even if you don’t like nicknames, almost everyone has one that hits the sweet-spot of their own personality, that one that makes them smile.

For me, that name is “Jacks.” Even though it’s but one letter away from the nickname that I detest so vociferously, there’s something about “Jacks” that will always warm my heart. It’s not a permanent nickname. No one uses it for me exclusively – some of my closest friends don’t even use it at all – but it does seem to come out casually among those who know me the best.

“Proud of you, Jacks.”

“Jacks, pass the potatoes.”

“Don’t know how to tell you this, Jacks, but you’re out of your mind.”

Something about that extra “s” tips the nickname scale for me. It’s intimately unique, and yet widely applicable.  When I was a project manager for IHOP–KC‘s marketing team, Steve, Mallory, and Lala would use it with an “x” when we opened up a new print project.

“Jax, let’s shoot to send this to print next week.”

“This calls for more coffee. Jax?”

“Jax, we need to get a P.Q. rolling on this pronto.”

What’s amazing to me here is, even though I like the name “Jackson,” the simple removal of that last syllable makes a small piece of my heart, deep down in there, leap with joy every time I hear it. In that split second, I feel more known; heard, than usual, and that’s the power of a properly-used nickname.

The next time you assign a nickname,  please take all of this into at least moderate consideration. Think about the linguistic complexities that often lie silent between the characters in our three- or four-syllable names. What our names already say about us, and what they’ve yet to explain. Ask yourself: Is a nickname necessary here? Can I make it better? Can I make it count?

Above all, please just never call me Jack.

Is Nothing Sacred?

Kenny Chesney’s cover of ‘Beautiful Day’ came over our stereo system at the Gap today. One fourteen-year-old customer tapped my shoulder. “Hey,” he said, signaling intently at the speaker above us, “this is U2, right?”

“No,” I replied smugly… “This is an abomination to rock and roll.”

Mental Correlations

One of my sisters went Rambo in my bedroom with a sizeable packet of white mocha powder. Nearly every square inch of my hardwoord floor is covered with a fine, white coating, with an incriminating trail of twinnie-sized footprints suggesting a quick exit.

For some reason, it reminds me of all of those anthrax scares that were in the news like ten years ago. I guess this is just how my mind works.

2010 in Review

Most years, it seems like the Christmas season approaches us and warrants the same response: “Geewhilikers, it’s December! This year’s really flown by…”

This year, however, has been different. While I remember the last few moments of 2009 with great fondness, they seem separated from the present by the distance of an entire lifetime. 2010 was a big year for me, filled with great accomplishments, abysmal failures, and a veritable collection of lessons learned. I laughed, I cried, it changed my life.

As much of a “late adopter” as I can be, dreading change or transition until its arrival and  often living in denial of it once it does come, I found myself refreshingly resilient in 2010. It’s not that the year itself was entirely negative, there was just a lot that happened. Speaking numerically, I went through a lot.

#1) I graduated high school. My senior year at The Daniel Academy taught me the value of enjoying boyishness before jumping into manhood. While I was ready to be done with the schoolyear for the entire schoolyear, I learned that patience is truly a virtue. I also learned that Christian schools don’t do well with the idea of a “prom,” and there are some subjects in Student Council meetings better left untouched.

#2) I gave a girl concert tickets with romantic implications. She took her boyfriend. They later thanked me for giving them “the coolest date ever.” Lesson learned: say more with words, and less with carefully-decorated envelopes.

#3) I went through three laptops, a desktop, sixteen cell phones, and an iPad. (I sold the iPad. That’s an entirely different blog post.) What can I say, I’m an electronics nerd, and one who’s well-versed in the art of the Craigslist trade.

#4) I counseled a group of awesome 17-18 year-olds at Awakening Teen Camp. Peter, Kevin, European Danny, Asian Danny, Canadian Danny,  Jordan, Ben, Jed, and Thomas… it was such an honor to lead you guys and grow in the Word for two weeks. You guys rock.

#5) I worked another year for IHOP–KC’s marketing office. On top of my networking responsibilities, I serve as Expendable Crewman for the office, making coffee and giving unwanted, unhelpful advice to the designers* when need be. Shawn, Steve, Jane, Maggie, Adam, Kristen, Eduardo, Gedy, Isaac, Joel, Lala, Stephen, Stasha, Mallory, Nathan, and Katie, you guys are a blast to serve and I’m blessed beyond words to work with you.

#6) I went to California twice. I went to Sacramento in September for TheCall, and then to Azusa in November with a team from IHOPU. Thanks again to everyone who supported me on those trips, you spoke prophetically with your finances into what Jesus is doing in my inner man. I’m eternally appreciative for that.

#7) I failed the Missouri driver’s test three times. It’s not that I’m a bad driver, it’s just that… alright, I’m horrible. Lack of real practice and training are the causes my dad and I cited whilst explaining my third failure to the nice folks at the testing center on Douglas Rd. We’re now waiting on a fax from the Department of Revenue allowing me to re-take the test, again. Hey, at least I have a new year’s resolution for 2011.

#8) I did a semester of TheCall School at IHOPU. Running with a group of people my age, and a few old people, under the leadership of Sam and Brooke Cerny has been the highlight of this fall / winter for me. I love, love, love, the TCI/Strike Force family. Quality guys and gals we’re talking about, most of whom are single. (Apply here.)

One wall that I’ve hit repeatedly in years past is my own personality. Often trying to be prematurely profound, I’ve missed real opportunities to enjoy the present. The truth is, though, there’s no reason to lament the future as if it were past. Matthew 6:34 says it best: tomorrow will worry about itself! It’ll be here eventually, and in the meantime, I’d rather be a confident seventeen with a few profound moments than mishandle my youth by trying to be forty.

Above all, I learned to laugh at myself this year. Where I may’ve taken myself too seriously or been too hard on myself, I learned that it’s okay to be seventeen. It’s a great feeling, really, looking back and realizing, “Even when I was failing, I was doing my best at it.”

I can only pray that this next year follows in the footsteps of 2010. It’s been long and a little terrifying, but like John F. Kennedy at the end the Cuban missile crisis, I’m better prepared for the future than I was beforehand.

*Exhibit A: “It just doesn’t pop. Can you make it pop?”

Why I’m Back on Twitter

I’m not quitting the blog, but I can use Twitter as a creative outlet that actually saves me from taking myself too seriously.

This post was less than 140 characters. #booya

Why Being Single is Awesome

Back in the day, when Brent and Kjirsten Steeno led IHOP–KC’s Summer Teen Intensive, (Awakening Teen Camp‘s predecessor) something they would always tell us in support of the program’s no-dating rule was, “You’ve really got to learn to enjoy your singleness.”

Now, this statement was ironic coming from one of the most in-love couples I’d ever known. Even before I was old enough to realize that girls exist, my inner cynic would always try to rip it to shreds.

So,” I’d often expound on my confusion in frequent conversations with myself, “we’re supposed to enjoy being alone? That sounds awesome. Let’s all become monks for the rest of our lives. Singleness. Man, this rocks!”

What’s really amusing, though, is that as fond as I am of systematic reasoning, I never truly analyzed the notion until last week. I had scrutinized the heck out of the concept’s surface, but had never permeated its surface tension. I didn’t understand it, because I didn’t try to.

I did night-watch in the Global Prayer Room for a few nights last week with a group from TheCall Institute. We were supposed to be interceding for our team in Juaréz, Mexico, but the Lord put me on my heart. I realize just how conceited that may sound, but the Lord will do it to us from time to time. Most of the time, He’ll do it when we’re feeling the least self-absorbed.

I had a strange Marty-McFly moment with the Holy Spirit where he walked me through my prophetic history in about five seconds. The dreams He’s put on my heart over the years. The strange meditation methods He’s given me. The milestones in my walk with Him, and in my inner man’s upbringing.

“Look at the couple of girls you’ve had feelings for,” He spoke to my heart, “now, which of them would’ve freaked out at this Word I gave you, or this dream that’s been on your heart for years.”

I realized, the answer was “all of them.” I realized what would’ve happened, had those feelings gone anywhere, and the opportunities with Jesus that I would’ve missed. In the place of my bitter confusion, I was suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude for hedge of God’s protection that’s been around my heart.

Now, I’m pretty confident in who I am before God: I’m Jackson Taylor Bohlender. I’m godly, I’m smart, I’m trustworthy, I’m funny, and dang-it, if I’m not cute. Even when I think I’ve got myself figured out, though, these are still formative years. I’m still growing into my nature, my perspective, my calling; everything I’d have to lay down in order to be in a godly relationship.

As a goal, marriage is still pretty exciting. It’s accountability unto purity; carrying each other’s hearts in that purity as you both ascend the hill of the Lord. When you stumble upon a certain reservoir of jelly beans, though, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision. To pursue it outside of the Lord’s timing, tossing oneself cavalierly into the servitude of love, is to welcome unnecessary, unhelpful bondage with open arms. As a reality, meh… I think I can wait.

As this segue between mindsets transpires, the question becomes not “Why on earth don’t I have a girlfriend,” but rather, “Why, unto Kingdom, would I?”

At what point can I give a girl my all? When I stop looking for someone who fits into my calling, and start finding the one I’d give it up for. Until then, I’ve got a lot of dealbreakers. Those facets of my personality that I’m not yet willing to forfeit are what make it possible to enjoy my singleness.

I don’t like parties. I really enjoy watching documentaries alone. Save for the occasional sweater intervention (oh yes, they happen) by my parents, I’m free to wear, act like, and be who I am, as I grow. Laying it down too early as 17-year-old Jackson would result in an entirely different 20-year-old Jackson, and the truth is, I like where I’m headed.

Thought from MB’s Message Tonight

I just got home from Mike Bickle‘s evening session at Prayer & Prophetic 2010. Mike does such a great job of introducing people to IHOP–KC’s vision and core values, because he lives them out, and it’s who he is.

He walked us through his 1982 encounter with the Lord in Cairo, the Intercession/Holiness/Offering/Prophecy acronym that constitutes who we are and what we do, and its application to our day-to-day lifestyles. All in all, it was a very normal first-night-of-the-conference message; nothing I hadn’t heard before. Something stuck out to me, though, when Mike encouraged us to sow into the prayer movement.

As he spoke of Nehemiah and Ezra establishing the singers and musicians in the house of the Lord at King David’s command, it hit me like it never has before: taxpayers’ dollars were going to the prayer room. The government on Earth was sowing into God’s government from Heaven.

What’s it like to live in a world where the prayer movement gets a federal bailout? When the powers that be not only realize prayer’s role in government, but its necessity!

Now, I haven’t had time to develop this thought fully. It’s been about an hour since the thought popped into my head, so it’s admittedly half-baked in the oven of my mind. . . but I want to live in that Kingdom, where the increase of His government knows no end.