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: Price vs Value

by Ardith Hoff

Comedy writer Megan Amram wrote, "I just spent $30 on apples at Whole Foods and then dropped both of them!" Reader's Digest, February 2015, p.95

We all complain about prices.  It is hard for some of us to believe how much prices have gone up over the years.  We try to save money where we can but might be willing to spend a little more for things that are truly important to us.

We are skeptical, and rightly so, of deals that seem too good to be true.  We don’t like to be taken advantage of, so we do our homework and check out the competition to make sure we are not paying too much.  Then too, we try to be careful to weigh the price against quality.  Sometimes it pays to spend a little more to get better quality in something that needs to last a long time or is better for us.  Other times it seems foolish to spend more for things that are only of temporary value.

When my grandchildren, who live in another state, were young I would send birthday cards with a little money in them.  I always shopped for an appropriate card that I thought each of them might enjoy.  However, once I happened to be there to see one of them open my card, I soon realized that the envelope and card were quickly cast aside for what he knew was the real prize.

Relative value is a difficult concept even for adults.  Sometimes we associate the price paid with the value of an item, yet we all know that the most valuable gift of all (the gift of salvation) though it cost Jesus His life, is free to us.  Some people are skeptical that anything that is free could actually be of great value, but this is one case where we have to suspend our usual skepticism and know that because God loves us, He was willing to sacrifice his only Son in order that the price for our sins be paid in full. 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 6:23

Food for Thought: Problems Solved!

by Ardith Hoff

A businessman walked into a bank in New York City and asked for a $100 loan.  He offered his luxury Mercedes car as collateral.  Since the collateral was worth far more than $100 the bank manager quickly approved the loan.  A year later, the man came back.  He repaid the loan and the 10% interest and was ready to collect his car.  Finally, the puzzled bank manager asked him: "Excuse me, sir did you really need that $100 so badly that in order to get the money, you left your luxury car with us for a whole year!"  The man replied, "That's simple, where else in New York City can I find such a great parking place for just $10 a year?"  Problem solved!

In a less plausible story, a little mouse was lost, in a dense woods, unable to find his way out.  He came upon a wise old owl sitting in a tree. "Please help me, wise old owl.  How can I get out of these woods?" asked the mouse.

"Easy," said the owl, "Grow wings and fly out, as I do." 

"But how can I grow wings?" asked the mouse. 

The owl looked at the mouse slyly, and said, "I think I can help you with that," then swooped down and gobbled up the mouse.  Problem solved!

Sometimes there are clever and sensible ways to solve our problems, and other times we are more like the silly little mouse and look to the wrong source for help.  We need to be ever vigilant to make sure we are consulting the right source for help in solving our problems. 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1: 2-4

"Accepting Christ as our savior won’t make all of your problems go away, but your greatest problem will be resolved.  John 16:33 teaches us that believers are not immune from problems, but Romans 6:23 tells us that Christ resolves our greatest problem.” Dr. Chris Kouba  

When in doubt, if we prayerfully consult the word of God, chances are: “PROBLEMS SOLVED!”

Food for Thought: Be Open to God's True Meaning

by Ardith Hoff

The winner of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee did so by correctly spelling the word koinonia.  Most champions win with a word that few people have ever heard, much less know how to spell.  The Scripps' press release defined koinonia as an "intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.”  Adapted from an article on People. Com, 6/1/18

Finding just the right word, spelling and pronouncing it correctly are challenges for speakers, writers and translators.  For example, I know a man who was part of a team of interpreters who helped translate the Dead Sea Scrolls.  In a class he taught entitled, “How the Bible Happened” he explained some of the problems they encountered.  He said that often there is no exact word to translate from one language to another.  What’s more, they couldn’t always be sure of the context in which a word was being used.  He said that they had to prayerfully consider each passage and then rely on what God seemed to be leading them to believe was the correct translation.

When my cousin was a missionary in Vietnam, and was first learning the language, she told a helper to, “Put the dishes in the cupboard,” but the inflection she used came out as, “Put the dishes in the prison.”  It was a harmless mistake that got a laugh from her helper, but is an example of of how context matters.  The word in Vietnamese is the same, but is pronounced differently whether meaning one place of confinement rather than another.  It is similar to the English word “wind” meaning a rush of air or “wind” meaning to wind a wire around something to form a coil.

When we who are not trained linguists come upon words or phrases we are having trouble understanding, we need to prayerfully search for the correct meaning.  This is not to say that we should not listen to what our pastors and bible commentators tell us, but that we need to guard against false prophets.  We must trust God to implant His true meaning within us.  “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”  2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV

Reminders: Worshipers Anonymous

by Ardith Hoff

Pete was leaving church after the Christmas services.  When the pastor greeted him, he said, “Pete, it’s time you joined the army of the Lord.  We need to see you here every Sunday.”  “I’m already in the army of the Lord, Pastor,” Pete replied.  “Then why do we only see you on Christmas and Easter?”  Pete looked to the right and to the left, and then leaned over to whisper, “I’m in the Secret Service.”

Some churchgoers would like to fade into the woodwork because they feel like they are too busy to be an active member of the church.  They might not want to get involved in the Bible studies, fundraisers and the outreach ministries most churches routinely schedule.  As a young mother with two children at home and a full-time job, this writer remembers wanting to be invisible at church in order to avoid being asked to teach Sunday school or join a ladies’ group.  I had done both when my children were younger, but once I was a full-time teacher, a housewife and mother, I really didn’t want to get overly involved in church activities.  We attended church regularly as a family, and the children attended Sunday school, but that was it.

I suspect that some young parents might avoid going to church all together because they don’t want to get too involved.  For people who work full time, and in many cases extra hours besides, weekends are extraordinarily busy also.  There is all the work to be done at home, and all of the children’s activities to attend to as well.  We should have great respect for the families that make going to church and Sunday school each week a priority.  They are teaching their children the values of a religious education and continuing spiritual growth.  Let’s give them credit and encouragement.  Let us understand if they are reluctant to work at the church cookie sale on a Saturday morning.  They need our support and not our chastisement.  “Bring up your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Reminders: Is There Grass on Your Path?

by Ardith Hoff

In one region of Africa, the first converts to Christianity were very diligent about praying.  The believers each had their own special place outside the village where they went to pray in solitude.  The villagers reached these prayer places by using their own private footpaths.  When grass began to grow over one of these trails, it was evident that the person to whom it belonged was not praying very much.  Because these new Christians were concerned for each other's spiritual welfare, a unique custom sprang up.  When noticing an overgrown “prayer path,” he or she would go to the person and lovingly warn, “Friend, there's grass on your path!”––Our Daily Bread, November 18, 1996

In this country we don’t have a way to monitor another’s prayer life.  Even if we did, we wouldn’t think it is any of our business how often people pray.  Prayer should be between an individual and God.  The only “prayer path” we should monitor is our own. 

Some people have prayer routines.  They might pray upon waking, at certain times during the day and before they go to sleep.  Some people might only pray when they feel a need for God’s presence in their lives.  Some people only pray in church, and some never pray at all.  The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “Pray without ceasing.”  That is hard for most people to imagine.  It seems impossible because we need to concentrate on what we are doing.

Linguists would tell you that the word translated as “without ceasing” means continuously not continually.  The difference is that continuous means often or regularly whereas continual means without stopping. 

We can be in an attitude of prayerfulness while doing other things.  It’s like walking and chewing gum at the same time.  We need to watch where we are going, but we don’t need to be consciously aware of the chewing motion to keep chewing gum.  Even if we pause to swallow, from time to time, we are still chewing gum.  That is not to trivialize the importance of prayer in the life of a Christian.  It is just to explain that we can be open to God’s leading while doing other things.

Reminders: Gifts and Grace

by Ardith Hoff

Some parents encourage children to make gifts and cards themselves.  They tell them that hand-made gifts are especially appreciated.  The gifts are not only specifically made for the recipient, but they also represent the effort its creator puts into the gift. 

One father who received a gift from his six-year-old son was a bit puzzled as to what it was.  It was a short length of two–by-four wood with an uneven row of, partially pounded in, six-penny nails.  The father smiled and thanked his son for the gift.  He then hung it in his bedroom and hung a necktie on each of the nails.  Several days later the son asked the father if he was enjoying his gift.  

The father said that he loved it and invited his son to see where it was hanging.  He wanted to show his son how well it worked as a tie rack.  Upon seeing the gift, the son cocked his head with a puzzled look.  He said, “Isn’t it hard to pound on up there?”

The father suddenly realized his mistake, and immediately took down the board.  He found two hammers, and asked his son to join him in pounding in the nails.  The boy beamed and said, “Aren’t you glad I got them all started?”

We all know that the greatest gift of all is the gift of salvation.  We know that if we believe in Christ, our sins will be forgiven, and we have the assurance of eternal life.  But sometimes God allows gifts that are not as easily understood, i.e. difficulties of some kind.  It is hard for us to understand what God has in mind when we receive what might seem like less than perfect gifts.  We wonder why He permits them.

We get the answer in Corinthians 12:8-9: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.”  God’s gift of grace is sufficient for us all no matter what we have to deal with.  May we all recognize difficulties as gifts.  May we also thank God for the blessings they bestow.