Self control

Published 8:26 am Thursday, July 19, 2018

We are now officially in the dog days of summer – those hot, sticky, muggy days in which doing anything takes a great deal of effort. As I write this the air conditioner is struggling to bring some order to the mugginess of an office left to its own devices for a while. No wonder people stay hunkered down in their homes. It’s too hot to do anything.

Many years ago the Methodist minister/ bishop/writer Will Willimon penned a meditation entitled, “The Dog Days of Pentecost.” For those of us who live according to a liturgical calendar, it makes sense. It’s that long season – the longest of the church year –stretching from late May/early June to just before Advent, with its preparation for Christmas. It is a long season. Sometimes it is an effort for good church folks to get really amped up for the 33rd Sunday after Pentecost (it’s also called “Ordinary Time,” but don‘t get me started on that one).

It’s especially long these days, just as it is for everyone else. The Sundays seem to drag, one lesson after another, sometimes without a choir to jazz things up. To find the word of the Lord is always a challenge, but especially in these days when folks are thinking about the beach, the mountains or that next cool drink. But – and this is where I get into my disdain for that “Ordinary Time” tag – any Sunday is a great time to let God’s word refresh us, cool us and maybe redirect us.

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It is a season that doesn’t have a liturgical agenda – no birthday for Jesus, no solemn reflections on our sinfulness, no lilies and pomp for Easter. Just Pentecost. And yet Pentecost has enough to celebrate on its own. It is the season that starts with people hearing God’s word spoken in their own languages; a time to celebrate the gifts that God’s Spirit gives us, and to reflect on which one is most speaking to us now.

In the fifth chapter of Galatians Paul stops his spleen-venting at the cluelessness of that congregation long enough to remind them that there are gifts of the Spirit that cleanse and refresh us in a way that nothing else can. Gifts like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

All of these have something to teach us, and the dog days of Pentecost are a great opportunity to slow down and pay attention to those lessons. I don’t know about you, but it’s that last one – self-control – that always gets my attention.

Taking the time to listen to what God has to teach me about living in the Spirit, and how that inspires me to get rid of some things and some mindsets. Any time is a good time to do that, but especially in these hot, muggy days when moving anywhere is an effort.

TOM ROBINSON can be reached at (434) 808-3038 or