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: Be Careful What You Say

by Ardith Hoff

Children seldom misquote you.  In fact, they usually repeat word for word of what you shouldn’t have said.  We are no longer allowed to threaten to wash the mouths of children out with soap for using bad words, but maybe it’s some adults who need it more anyway.  Children learn from others what they say and do.  Unfortunately, using profanity has become very commonplace on TV, in the movies, in music, in books and in everyday conversations.  Some comedians don’t think they can tell a joke without using offensive language, but humor doesn’t have to be vulgar to be funny.  When we laugh at a dirty joke we risk ending up just as deep in the gutter as the person telling it.  Swear words, dirty words and unkind words are everywhere!  It’s hard to get away from them, but just because they are all around us, does not mean they are right.  A wise person once said that the main reason people use profanity is that they have very limited vocabularies.  Too many people speak from habit rather than from a thoughtful choice of words.  Some people use rough talk because they think it makes them sound tougher, stronger, or part of the “in” crowd.  The problem is that even though such words are considered acceptable by many people, they are not acceptable everywhere.  When we adopt a bad habit of using unfiltered words, bad words can slip out all too easily at just the wrong time.  How many jobs, sales, or promotions have been lost or how many speakers were not invited back because of just one four-letter word?  The best idea is not to get in the habit (or to break the habit) of using profane language.  It won’t change how other people use words, but it will make one’s own utterances more palatable.  Just because we have the freedom of speech does not mean that we should abuse it.  If you are looking for a place where you will hear only good words, walk into a church and listen.  May the psalmist’s prayer become our own, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” Psalms 19:14.

Reminders: “How's that Working for You?”

by Ardith Hoff

The above is a question made famous by Dr. Phil McGraw of the Dr. Phil show on TV.  When people are having problems in their relationships, he likes to ask how their strategy for getting along is working for them.  Quite often the guest being interviewed suddenly has to admit that it is not working well at all.  One of the usual problems is that one person tries to tell the other person how they should behave.  They feel like their take on the problem is the right one.  It’s like the old joke where a young lady thinks she has married Mr. Right only to discover (to her horror) that he thinks his first name is, “Always”.  We all like to think we are right, most of the time, and some people are so sure that they are right, that they never want to admit otherwise, even when proven wrong.  Then comes the second question Dr. Phil likes to ask: “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?”

He doesn’t mean that you always have to give in and let the other person think they are right all of the time.  He simply means that we need to allow for the possibility that the other person might be right some of the time.  The only one who is always 100 percent correct is God, and most of us even question that from time to time.  We all know that God answers prayers, when we take the time to ask, but we don’t always like His answers.  The interesting thing is, that once we start listening for the right answers, not just the one we want to hear, we realize that we don’t always have to be right to be happy.  We need to be open to other perspectives -- other possibilities.  If you are wanting a better strategy for learning to listen, look for a church where the congregation doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, but will help you pray for the right answers for you. 

Reminders: Tolerance with Love

by Ardith Hoff

According to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and the journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man's feet, and gave him food and drink. The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So, Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?"  The old traveler replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god." When he heard this, Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out of his tent into the cold night air.  When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham, and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I forced him out because he did not worship you."  God answered, "I have suffered him these eighty some years, although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?" 

The story is an illustration of how easy it is to criticize someone for not behaving the way we think they should.  We all know the old joke: “Do not criticize another person until you have walked a mile in his shoes… Then you will be a mile away and have his shoes.”  Of course, none of us would think of stealing another’s shoes, but we don’t always think before we criticize, and steal another person’s dignity. People who are looked at askance and made to feel uncomfortable are reluctant to be around others for fear of being judged.  The dilemma for most people is that we all like to sit next to the nice people we know who think and worship like we do.  We think we know how He wants us to worship Him.  The problem is that God didn’t send His Son to die just for those who dress nicely and always sing His praises in tune. Jesus came to save all people, especially the imperfect ones.  If you are staying away from church because you are not sure you will feel comfortable, just remember that Jesus tells us to love everyone especially imperfect people, and we are all imperfect.