Reminders for Everyday Living!

"Reminders" is a column written by Ardith Hoff, Westby UMC member and contributor for the local Westby Times newspaper.  Ardith's weekly "reminders" offer insight and guidance for our everyday lives.  We wanted to make her column available for everyone beyond the subscribers of the local paper. After finishing the "Reminders" series, Ardith started another series of articles entitled "Food for Thought". These articles continue to provide thought provoking points for us to take into consideration.

We hope you enjoy these articles and find them insightful and helpful, not only in your everyday life but specifically in your walk with the Lord!

In the summer of 2018, Ardith decided to compile the "Reminders" articles into a book, 101 Faith-Based Reminders, which has been published and available to purchase. The proceeds of the book sales will go towards local missions and outreach projects. The cost of the book is $10. If you are interested in purchasing a book, please contact the Westby United Methodist Church at westby-umc@driftlessministry.org.

Food for Thought: Serving Others

by Ardith Hoff

Paul Williams (b.1940) is an American singer and songwriter.  This Academy Award-winning composer has battled through alcohol addiction and gained a marvelous insight from an old-timer he met in recovery over twenty-five years ago.  This man asked Williams, "How are you treating the world today, Paulie?"  Williams replied, "Don't you mean, 'How's the world treating me?'"  The gentleman quickly answered, "No, I mean exactly what I said.  No matter how the world is treating you, if you are caring, loving, and kind in the way you treat the world, your journey will be easier."  Serving not only helps others, it improves our journey as well. Reader's Digest, February 2015, p.42

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 While human tendency is to want to be served, we are called to serve God and our neighbors. We are to think of others first.  Asking ourselves how we can help others shuts down our selfish nature and gives us a reason to exist.  If we simply focus on ourselves, and what we can get out of life, we miss the opportunity to feel good about ourselves. 

Have you ever noticed how empty it feels to get something you want when you see others who need so much?  On the flip side, it feels so good to be able to help someone else.  Not only are we doing what is right and kind and just for our neighbor, we are serving God in the process.  We are acting on God’s behalf.  That is not only an honor, it is a job we commit ourselves to when we accept Jesus as our savior.  It is what we are called to do in response to God’s saving grace.

God has promised to reward those who do His will and give of themselves in service to others.  “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38  

Giving does not just mean giving money and material things it also includes giving of ourselves, our time, effort, intellectual and emotional support.  We each have the ability and know how to do good for others.  In so doing we are the ones who benefit most.  We are the ones who feel God’s grace.

Food for Thought: Jumping to Conclusions Can Be Tricky

by Ardith Hoff

A mother picked up her son from the city swimming pool one afternoon.  When she saw that he didn’t have his towel she asked him where it was.  He said, “Somebody stole it!”  The mother marched right into the office and asked to speak to the pool manager.  “What kind of an operation are you running here?” She shouted.  Somebody stole my son’s towel!”  The manager was very apologetic, but reassured the angry mother that he was pretty sure it was just that the towel had been misplaced and offered to look for it.  “What does the towel look like?” he asked.  “It’s white and it says Holiday Inn on it” the mother replied.

While it is just a joke, we can imagine that something similar could actually happen.  It is parental instinct to want to protect our children.  Too often in today’s world, children are bullied or taken advantage of.  We all want to make sure to keep our children safe and it is understandable that a mother might be upset that the adult whom she had trusted to watch over her son might not be doing a good job.  She wanted to make sure he or she was held accountable for not protecting her son and his property.

The problems the joke illustrates are that the mother assumed that it was the manager’s fault that the towel was missing, that she assumed that someone had actually stolen the towel and yet we can probably assume that she or someone in her family must have stolen the towel first.

Looking for someone to blame, making unfounded assumptions, and doing things we know are wrong are the kinds of sins we all need to guard against.  It is also a good idea to teach our children not to make those same mistakes.  If we steal something ourselves it is logical that our children would either assume that it is okay to do so as well or to assume that others would do the same. 

“Do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? Proverbs 25:8

“And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.” Deuteronomy 17:13

Food for Thought: The First Food on the Moon

by Ardith Hoff

Just minutes after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon a remarkable event took place.  Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon and took communion.  He had arranged with his pastor to consecrate the elements of bread and wine and took them with him in the space capsule.  He said that he wanted to pause in a solemn moment of thanksgiving to mark the success of the moon landing.

He had also planned to share the event publicly and to read an appropriate Bible verse from the Gospel of John, but was not allowed to do so because of previous backlash from when the Apollo 8 crew read from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas time.

Afterwards, Armstrong commented, “I ate the tiny toast and swallowed the wine.  I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility.  It was interesting for me to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon and the very first food eaten there were the communion elements, and that the first words spoken on the moon, were the words of Jesus Christ.”

The verse Neil Armstrong read on the moon is this: “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in Him, It is he that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

When we think of the courage it took for those astronauts to make that historic journey, and how grateful Neil Armstrong was to be able to thank God and to partake of Jesus body and blood in remembrance of His sacrifice for all of mankind.  Let us also thank God for his presence in our lives and for the freedom to celebrate His saving grace whether in our own churches or wherever we go.

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Reminders: What is Your Religion?

by Ardith Hoff

There is a humorous story about two men on a bridge.  One of them is about the jump.  The gist of the story is that they are both Christians, from the same denomination, and the man asking the questions of the jumper gets down to the finer details, such as which subdivision of the subdivision of the denomination the would-be jumper belongs to.  Everything was exactly the same up until then.  It was clear that they had identical religious backgrounds, but on the final detail they differed, and the man asking the questions calls the jumper a heretic and pushes him off the bridge.

It seems funny, because it is so ridiculous, yet many wars have been fought, denominations split, families divided and whole new religious groups formed over what to outsiders seem like trivial differences. What defines a religious group is unity within a community of believers who share the same faith.  It is too easy for differences to become so entrenched that it becomes impossible to establish unity because no one wants to compromise.  In most religious groups either you believe the dogma of the group or you don’t.  The result often leads to divisions and spinoff groups.

John Wesley put it well when he spoke about differences within the denomination he helped establish while trying to reform the denomination to which he belonged.  He said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things love.”  In other words, there are many points upon which most Christians agree.  However, there are fine points where we disagree.  It appears that Wesley thought people should be free (at liberty) to disagree, but to always do so with love.

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him” 1 John 5:1   We are all God’s children, and as such, we all deserve respect.  As Paul wrote to his followers in the early church in Corinth: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10   “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

Reminders: Wisdom is not Just for the Eldery

by Ardith Hoff

It has been said that wisdom comes with age, but it is more accurate to say that wisdom comes from experience.  It is true that the older we get the more experiences we have had a chance to witness.  A wise person learns from other peoples’ mistakes because she knows she will never live long enough to make them all herself.  A wise person knows enough to use common sense.  He knows that if at first he doesn’t succeed, chances are, skydiving was not for him. 

A wise person has the ability to judge what is right and wrong.  He knows that going to church does not make him a Christian any more than going to McDonald's makes him a hamburger.  That does not mean that wise people don’t go to church.  They do!  They know that in church is where they will learn some of the most important truths about what’s right and wrong, and how to behave more wisely.  They learn that if they tell the truth they don’t have to remember what they said.  They learn that to have meaning and purpose in their lives, they need to live their lives in an upright and responsible way.  They learn that Jesus was the greatest teacher of all, and showed us that to be humble is more important than to be famous. 

In James 3:13 we read: “Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”  You don’t have to be old to understand that it is better to do what is right than to constantly worry that your misdeeds will eventually be revealed.  It is better to be a good example than to copy the behavior of others who may seem brave and admirable, but are actually foolish and doomed to fail. 

In Proverbs 19:20 Solomon reveals the secret to wisdom: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and you will be counted among the wise.”  Wisdom is the opposite of foolishness.  It is a sign of maturity not age.

Reminders: Finding Hope in a Troubled World

by Ardith Hoff

It’s easy to feel pessimistic if we listen to all of the horrific news reports that air constantly.  It seems like all we hear about are the things that are going wrong in the world––from terrorist attacks and school shootings to local drug busts.  It seems like things are getting worse and worse.  When we allow ourselves to dwell on the bad news, we risk becoming cynical, and begin to think that there is no hope.

It has been said that an optimist hopes for the best and gets disappointed.  A pessimist thinks the worst will come, and gets pleasantly surprised from time to time.  An optimist might greet disappointment with something like, “Such is life!  It’s time to move on to something better.”  A pessimist might greet a pleasant surprise with something like, “Fine, but it’ll never last!”

If you are looking for lasting peace, look no further than a local church where the hope of eternal life offers the optimist a reason to celebrate that the gift of salvation is the ultimate reason to look forward to something better, including life after death.  Even the hardened pessimist needs something to believe in.

It’s worth investigating the Biblical promises of peace found in John 14: 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”  And continues, “I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”  Once we accept the truth of these promises, we can relax and know that no matter what happens in this world, there is a better life to come.  The Bible presents us with a plan found in Philippians 4:6-7: “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds all understanding.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”  Learning to, “live in Christ Jesus” takes practice and some professional help from someone who has studied the Bible.  What a great privilege and opportunity it is to experience the love and grace of God and the wonderful way of life Jesus exemplified for us.

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:1