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!

Reminders: Gossiping Gertie

by Ardith Hoff

Gertie the church gossip kept sticking her nose into the other members' private lives and spreading false rumors.  Church members didn’t like it, but didn’t know what to do.  Gertie made a mistake, when she accused George, a new member, of being an alcoholic after she saw his pickup truck parked in front of the towns only bar one afternoon.  She commented to George and others that everyone seeing it there knew what he was doing.  George a man of few words just walked away.  He didn't explain, defend, or deny; he said nothing.  Later that evening, George quietly parked his pickup in front of Gertie's house... and left it there all night! 

We all make assumptions based on too little information.  It is easy to jump to conclusions when something appears obvious.  A bigger problem can happen when we speculate about a situation with other people.  We run the risk of starting a rumor that can hurt another person.  What’s worse, others in whom we confide our suspicions sometimes repeat the information as though it were fact.  Innocent people have lost their reputations over rumors they can’t disprove.  For example, when we see someone walking into a doctor’s office, we might assume they are sick, while they might just be there for their annual wellness check up.  We should all be concerned about our neighbors, but we have to be careful to keep our concerns private until we know the facts.  It can be hard to know how to proceed.  If the person is a close friend or family member, and we think they might need our help, the best thing we can do is to speak to that person directly.  If they don’t tell us that they are having a problem, then chances are they do not want our help.  All we can do is pray for that person, and leave it to God.  It isn’t as if God doesn’t already know whether or not there is a problem, it’s just that we are admitting that we don’t know.  We are asking God for guidance.  Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

Reminders: How Heavy Is It?

by Ardith Hoff

An elementary school teacher tried a little experiment with her students.  She asked them to bring one tomato to school for each person who had been mean to them.  They were to put them in a plastic bag and carry them everywhere for a week.  Some children had several tomatoes in their bag, and complained that the bag was getting too heavy to carry around, but the teacher insisted that they carry them anyway.  Later in the week, some of the children started to complain that their tomatoes were starting to stink.  The teacher did not let up until the end of the week when the experiment was over.  She asked the children why they thought she had asked them to continue to carry their tomatoes.  The children were so disgusted with the whole thing that they didn’t even want to think about tomatoes anymore.  The teacher persisted!  “Have you ever been hurt so badly by someone that your whole body ached?  Has the pain of it all weighed you down so much that you couldn’t seem to think about anything else?  This happens to a lot of people.  It seems like there is just no way to get past the pain that person caused.  Then the teacher asked the children to think about the children that each of the tomatoes in their bag originally represented.  “How do you think your bag could have been lightened, and you wouldn’t have had that tomato in the bag in the first place?”  Some of the children were still puzzled, but several of them caught on to the point of the experiment.  “If I had forgiven that person, I wouldn’t have had to carry his stinking tomato” one little boy proclaimed.  “That’s it!” said the teacher.  “If we forgive those who hurt us, we don’t have to carry the hurt with us.  The bags we carry get lighter, and we feel better.”

We all carry grudges from time to time.  Shortening the time we carry them by forgiving the person who caused the problem can lighten our load more quickly.  As it says in Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.”

Reminders: The Coin Toss

by Ardith Hoff

One Sunday morning Jimmy was wondering why his friend Bobby was not at the game.  By the time Bobby arrived, the game was well under way. "Why are you so late?" asked Jimmy. "I couldn't decide between going to church and going to the game.  So, I tossed a coin," said Bobby. "But that shouldn't have taken that long." said Jimmy. "Well, I had to toss it 35 times."

We all have to make tough decisions. There are so many things to do, and so little time.  Sometimes we don’t seem to have a choice at all.  For kids it might be activity schedules that adults have already decided for them.  For adults it might be work schedules that keep them from going to church.  Other times it is just too hard to decide what is most important, even when we have a choice.  No one should be made to feel guilty if they actually have no choice, but sometimes we might have more choices than we know.  The truth is, free will is a wonderful, God-given privilege.  The problem is that having free will means we must make choices.  We can flip a coin 35 times or we can make careful (prayerful) choices.  Just taking a few quiet moments to think through the alternatives, and to meditate on whether we really do have a choice can sometimes make a big difference in what choices get made.  Maybe there are things we can do to change work schedules, or we can find a different church service to attend at a more convenient time.  Maybe it is just a matter of changing our priorities.

There is a story about a boss who seemed very wise, and one day, during an interview in his office he was asked, "Sir, what is the secret of your success?" He said, "Two words." "And, Sir, what are they?" "Right decisions." "But how do you make right decisions?" "One word." He responded. "And, sir, what is that word?" "Experience." "And how do you get Experience?" "Two words." "And, Sir, what are they?" "Wrong decisions."