Reminders for Everyday Living!

"Reminders" is a weekly 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.  We hope you enjoy it and find it insightful and helpful, not only in your everyday life but specifically in your walk with the Lord!

Recently, 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.

Reminders: Happiness is a Choice

by Ardith Hoff

People say money is not the key to happiness, but if you have enough money surely you can have a key made.  Not so!  Money helps us feel somewhat more secure, but it does not guarantee happiness.  Buying something we think we need or want might make us feel better temporarily, but the feeling does not last.  Things have a way of losing their luster over time. 

True happiness is more enduring.  Even when life is not going well, a happy person is able to maintain a positive outlook.  One of the hallmarks of a happy person becomes evident when situations are most difficult.  We have all seen stories on TV featuring someone who has just lost all of their earthy possessions due to a disaster.  People who can express their gratitude for still being alive see the blessings in knowing that things are replaceable, but lives are not. 

One of the keys to happiness seems to rest on one’s ability to appreciate what he or she has and to express gratitude for it.  The top recommendation from experts on achieving lasting happiness is to take time each day to count our blessings, and to practice gratitude for and contentment with what we have rather than looking to the future for some situation, thing or event that will bring us happiness. 

In Philippians 4:11 the apostle Paul wrote: “I am not speaking of being in need, for I have learned that no matter what situation I am in, to be content.”  The amazing thing is that Paul was in prison when he wrote that to his Christian followers in Philippi.  What Paul had learned is that he could depend on God for whatever he needed.  He knew that even when things are at their worst, there are blessings to be found.  We just have to look for them.  We really can choose happiness and find joy wherever we are.  The only time you have is now.  “This is a day that the Lord has made.  Rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Reminders: What's It Worth?

by Ardith Hoff

A motivational speaker started his presentation by holding up a one- hundred-dollar bill.  He asked, “What’s it worth?’  Someone in the front row said, “A hundred dollars if it’s real”.  The speaker crumpled the bill, “Now what’s it worth?”  “A hundred dollars!” came a chorus of answers.”  Then the speaker threw the bill on the floor and started to grind it under his foot.  “Is it still worth a hundred dollars?” he asked.  Every head nodded.  The point he was trying to make is that the bill’s worth did not change because it got a little sullied.  He went on to say that a person’s worth does not change either just because we get a little, “crumpled or stepped on”.

When we are put down by others, or feel inadequate to the tasks before us, it is easy to start thinking that we are worth less.  We need to remember that we are all God’s children, and that we have been made perfect through Christ’s sacrifice and death for our sins.  This does not mean that we will always perform perfectly or that we will keep all of God’s commands.  It simply means that God does not love us any less, just because we don’t behave perfectly.  It means that he has provided a way for us to retain our value, by sending his Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins.  This also does not mean that we should ignore God’s commands, and just do as we please.  It means that if we believe that Christ died for us, and confess our sins, he will forgive us, and we will be found blameless before the Lord. 

What others think of us, does not determine our worth.  What we do or fail to do does not change our worth in the sight of God.  Because the price has already been paid for us, we are considered priceless.  When we come to understand this, it makes us want to behave better, and try to live up to God’s plans for us.  We will never be able to behave perfectly, but with God’s help we can do better, and we can know that we will be happy in His presence forever.  Remember, you are priceless in God’s sight!

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 

Reminders: There is No Perfect Church on Earth

by Ardith Hoff

A farmer went to a big city to visit his sister for the weekend.  He attended church with her.  When he got home his wife asked how it was.  He said it was okay, but all they sang were those praise songs.  He said it would be like if I talked to you saying, ‘The cows are in the corn, the corn, corn, corn.  The cows, the cows are in the corn, corn, corn’, and then repeated it several times while clapping to the beat.  I’m never going back to that church!”

Weeks later, the farmer’s nephew came out to the farm.  He went to church with the farmer and his wife.  When he got home his mother asked how it was.  He said it was okay, but all they sang were old-fashioned hymns.  They went something like, ‘Come thou majestic exalted one.  Harken unto Juda during this time of tribulations, and incline thine ear to thy ransomed, captive souls.’  That dragged on for six long verses, but they only sang verses 1,3 and 6.”

The truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect church on earth.  If it’s not the music, as in the story above, it might be the preacher whose sermons are too long.  The worship services are either too early or too late.  They are too formal of too casual.

The concept of church initially simply meant, “an assembly of God’s people”.  Early Christians often met in secret to escape persecution, but the institution of “church” as we know it, has changed.  It has divided into denominations, and evolved over time into an almost infinite variety of belief systems and styles of worship.  The key here is to find a church that best suits your needs for spiritual growth, and as the author Richard Carlson put it, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” 

There are good reasons to find a church that comes closest to feeling right to you, and worshiping among people who care about each other, and believe in a God who cares about them.  There are good reasons to find a church where the word of God is used as a guide for living the best life one possibly can, even if it isn’t perfect.