Archives for posts with tag: Holy Spirit

As a child did you ever have your mouth washed out with soap because you said a “dirty” word? If so, those are not pleasant memories. Chances are pretty good that if you are reading this, you of an age when that is not going to happen again.

I have been thinking a lot about two dirty words lately. Actually there are three words but one of them is hyphenated. Are you ready? The words are “discipline” and “self-control.” They are not the kind of words that result in a soapy cleaning of the mouth but they are not among the favorite words of most folks.

Jennifer Cohen, says that “Self-discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately be happy.”* While this may be true, discipline is something that most people find easier to impose on someone else than on themselves. It is not easy to exercise restraint over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.

I tend to articulate more easily in verbal rather than written form. One of the problems, though, is that I can go on and on trying to make my point if I sense that the hearer is not getting it or if I am having a hard time finding the right expression. I can rightly be accused of often talking a lot and not saying much.

In an attempt to discipline myself I have taken on writing assignments with deadlines. It started with accepting the responsibility of writing a weekly newspaper column. The editor expected me to have it ready by Monday and it was not to exceed 500 words. The timeline pushed me to get it done and the limited space required that I carefully selected my words. In later years my job included a weekly e-newsletter with some of the same limitations. Thoughts for Thursday that you are reading right now is an effort to continue that self-discipline even though it is not a requirement of employment and there is no compensation.

My daughter and son-in-law and another family came from California to visit over the Labor Day holidays. We had a wonderful time and food was at the center of much of our enjoyment. When I weighed myself after they had gone I realized that I needed to get serious about the weight I had been gaining.

I decided to begin a routine of walking several miles daily. Three or four miles in the morning. Three or four miles in the evening. At least 4-5 times a week. In the beginning I was faithful to the commitment I made to myself. Then other things took too much of my time. One day it was raining. It was hot in the evening. Then it turned cool in the morning. There are so many excuses that make it hard to discipline myself to keep up the routine.

Of course, discipline is needed not only to make you do things you would rather not do. It also serves a preventive purpose. It is imperative to exercise self-control to avoid actions or thoughts that are harmful to us or to others. One of the definitions for discipline in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”

John MacArthur asks the question, “Why is discipline important?” Then he provides an answer. “Discipline teaches us to operate by principle rather than desire. Saying no to our impulses (even the ones that are not inherently sinful) puts us in control of our appetites rather than vice versa. It deposes our lust and permits truth, virtue, and integrity to rule our minds instead.”

One of the most famous studies of self-control is known as “the marshmallow test,” which found that children who were able to resist eating one marshmallow—in order to be rewarded with two in the future—later showed higher academic achievement than those who had wolfed the treat down immediately. The study’s results seemed to indicate that self-control is an innate ability with wide-reaching implications for our lives, but later studies have suggested that our self-control actually changes significantly over our lifetime, and can be improved with practice.**

Self-control is a desirable trait for every person and is essential if one is to live an honorable and decent life. I wish that discipline and self-control were the “one and done” kind of experience but I know it is not. It is a lifelong effort. The Apostle Paul includes self-control (self-discipline) as one of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that characterizes followers of Jesus. The good news is that we are not alone in this lifelong exercise. God is present and willing to help us.

Jamie Jenkins

* https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2014/06/18/5-proven-methods-for-gaining-self-discipline/#4367ccb23c9f

**Psychology Today

National League Cy Young Award winner R. A. Dickey

He was born Robert Allen Dickey on October 29, 1974. Like his grandfather, who was called by his initials, he became known as R. A. He knew poverty and remembers his parents stealing flatware from the Western Sizzlin’ restaurant. His alcoholic mother and emotionally absent father divorced when he was three years old.

R. A.’s childhood and adolescence was full of struggle and conflict. He was a fierce competitor and regularly involved in fights. It was not unusual for him to sleep in his car or at friend’s house, or to break into vacant houses and spend the night there. He was sexually abused by a thirteen year old babysitter when he was eight years old and later by a teen-aged boy.

His athletic ability brought satisfaction and a sense of self-worth to this Nashville native as he grew up. He was an English literature major at the University of Tennessee where he had a 3.35 GPA and was named Academic All-American and Academic All-SEC. He was also a star athlete as a football quarterback, basketball forward and baseball pitcher.

R.A. Dickey, with Team USA, signs autographs before

1996 was a banner year for R.A. He was a member of Team USA in the Olympics. He was picked in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers. After being drafted, he was initially offered a signing bonus of $810,000. But Rangers trainer Danny Wheat saw his throwing (right) arm hanging oddly in a picture of him with fellow USA starting pitchers in Baseball America.

Dr. John Conway, team physician conducted a physical examination that revealed a missing ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The UCL is necessary for daily functions as routine as turning a doorknob. As a result of this discovery, Doug Melvin, Rangers General Manager, told Dickey and his agent, “We are going to retract our offer.”

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In his autobiography, R.A. describes his feelings as he sat in the GM’s office and heard his words.

“I don’t feel devastation, or even  anger. I feel rage. Complete rage. It feels as if it starts in my toes and blasts up through my body like a tsunami, into my guts and right up through the top of my head.

“I have an urge as primal as anything I have ever felt….But I do not lift a finger. I do not leave my chair. It’s as if there is a strong hand on my shoulder holding me back, giving me pause. In that instant I have a self-control that was not there a moment earlier.

“I hear a voice: ‘Relax, I’ve got you. Relax, R.A. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. I’ve got you.’

“The voice is the Holy Spirit. The restraint is the Holy Spirit… The tsunami passes.”

As he goes to the airport for his flight back home to Nashville he feels “the rage dissipating, replaced by a terrible loneliness. A loneliness that feels terminal.”

On the flight home he searches “for comfort, any comfort at all, and finds it, not in Doug Melvin’s seven words (We are going to retract our offer), but in the Holy Spirit’s three: ‘I’ve got you’.”

Sounds pitcher R. A. Dickey hurls a pitch into the

This is the place where the music swells and you get the feeling that all is well. Not so. The next several years brings momentary success and significant failures for R.A.  He travels a long road filled with disappointments and struggles- 11 years in the minor leagues. One writer said, “Despite being twice consigned to baseball’s scrap heap Dickey battled back. Sustained by his Christian faith, his wife and children, and a relentless quest for self-awarenes” he finally achieved his life-long goal of being a Major League baseball player. In 2012, Dickey was selected to his first All-Star Game, won the Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award, and became the first knuckleball pitcher to win the Cy Young Award.

As a conventional Major League pitcher R.A. was marginally successful. After advice from his manager and pitching coach, he focused on becoming a knuckleball pitcher. As of the 2017 season, Dickey (now with the Atlanta Braves) and Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright are the only two active players in the majors who use the knuckleball as their primary pitch.

R.A. Dickey Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

The Holy Spirit’s words, “I’ve got you,” in 1996 was not a promise that everything would be easy. However, they were words of assurance to R.A. that he was not alone and no matter what happened it would be okay.

The promise made to R.A. Dickey is given to everyone: “Relax, I’ve got you. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. I’ve got you.”

Jamie Jenkins