I found a dead monkey in the church parking lot this morning. Poor little blighter was just lying there, flat as a pancake, eyes vacant, trying to smile, wondering why the little girl who made him dropped him in the snow and left him to his soggy fate.

I picked up the crafty treasure lovingly cut and pasted by a tiny artist, ready to toss the thing into the trash without a thought. I do that, you know, with stuff lying around outside the church: beer cans, slurpee cups, ripe McDonalds bags scavenged by magpies. But the monkey looked at me longingly… and God whispered something about paying attention. The whole thing┬ámade me think of one of my favourite sayings:

Sometimes you have to shoot your own ponies.

I’m not sure where that mantra came from. I probably heard a maxim like it somewhere and tweaked the words to fit my own twisted world. But seriously, sometimes you have to shoot your own ponies.

In the first year of my ministry as the Lead Pastor here at DCC, I launched two exciting initiatives: BOOST and Family Gatherings. BOOST was a quarterly gathering of leaders focused on inspiration and training, which met a gaping need for leadership development. It was exactly what we needed at the time. Family Gatherings were awesome, too. Once a quarter, we canceled morning church, encouraged people to do church at home as families, and then met in the evening for a meal, board games, and a celebration service. This met a need for celebrating our corporate community and dislodged some of our religious trappings about the sanctity of Sunday mornings.

Generally speaking, people loved BOOST and Family Gatherings. But halfway into year two, I sensed they’d both run their course. New staff and other realities changed the landscape enough that neither were needed like they had been. BOOST morphed into something else for a year or two, then vanished entirely. Family Gatherings were scrapped after the second year.

I did that. I didn’t wait for others to wail and complain, didn’t wait for things to get too stale. I pulled the plug myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved BOOST and Family Gatherings. They were great ideas, perfectly suited for the needs of their day. But once the sun had set and a new day had dawned, well… time to dust off the rifle. Sometimes you have to shoot your own ponies. For their own sake, yes. But also so that someone else doesn’t beat you to it. If you shoot ’em, it feels like a compassionate act. If someone else has to step in and make the call, it feels a whole lot like someone murdered your darlings. My rule of thumb is, make your decisions before someone has to make them for you.

So… take a long, slow look at the landscape of your life. Is there anything flagging, anything sagging, anything old and tired and wrung out? If so, maybe you just need to inject new life into an old thing. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to admit that while that schedule or tradition or position or habit was beautiful, even God-given at one time, it’s run its course. Maybe it’s time to let it go. Yesterday’s manna quickly becomes today’s muck, bogging us down instead of setting us free. Don’t wait for the lynch mob to form, for peer pressure to dislodge you. Sometimes you have to shoot your own ponies.

What about you? Can you relate?