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: Patience is a Virtue

by Ardith Hoff

Frank wasn't known for his patience, and he had absolutely no use for negative conversations.  When he got a call from his wife during a busy day at work, she talked slowly and didn't seem very upbeat.  Frank interrupted her and exhorted her to be brief and positive. She paused for a moment and then cheerfully replied, "I discovered that the airbags in our new BMW work great!

We could all use a little more patience at times.  We get so caught up in our own priorities that we try to tune everything else out.  I can remember times as a busy mother when I failed to respond when my son or daughter vied for my attention in the midst of something I was tying to accomplish.  By the time I turned to notice whatever they were trying to show me, the moment had passed and it was too late.  I regret those times, and I’m guessing I am not alone.  It might help explain why grandparents always seem to be more patient with our grandchildren than we ever were with their parents. 

Of course it should also be noted that we grandparents are often at a point in our lives when we have less pressing matters to attend to, especially if we are retired.  We also generally have had more life experiences that have taught us a certain amount of humility.  We no longer feel that we have to keep pushing to conquer the world, or whatever part of it we were responsible for.  We have learned that no matter how hard we try, we are not ultimately in charge of our lives.  There are far too many forces that are beyond our control.

Many of us have learned that God has a plan, and that we have to trust Him.  We have to wait on His timing, and trust what it says in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”

“Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient.” James 5:7

Food for Thought: Informed Wisdom

by Ardith Hoff

There was a great rowing race between a team of wise people and a team of foolish people.  The wise people won by a mile.  So the foolish people hired an expert to figure out what went wrong.  He reported that the wise people had one person steering and eight people rowing, while they had eight people steering and only one person rowing.

“Aha,” said the foolish people who immediately restructured their team: Now they had one senior manager, seven management consultants and one rower.  In the rematch, the wise people won by two miles!

After further intensive consultations, the foolish people fired their rower!

While we can all see the flaw in the foolish people’s reasoning, we don’t always recognize the flaws when we are part of the group.  We’ve all belonged to organizations that are “steered” by one person or a group at the top who make all of the decisions for the whole group and we feel that we are left alone to do the “rowing” and that when things don’t go well, we are the ones who will be blamed. 

Democratic principles do not always apply in business or even in churches.  While it is important that everyone work together to accomplish common goals, it is also important for the rank and file to have a say in how the race will be run.  When we are given a chance to have a voice, or a vote, we take ownership of the race and we feel not only an obligation to fully participate, but also feel we have a real stake in the outcome.  

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” Proverbs 24:3-6 

We need to acknowledge God as the pilot of our “boat”, and we know that we all have to be involved in carrying out God’s plans.  In a church where members of the congregation are all “rowing” together, the race to transform the world can be won. 

Food for Thought: Beware of Greed

by Ardith Hoff

 A big, burly man visited the pastor's home, a woman well known for her charitable impulses.  "Madam," he said in a broken voice, "I wish to draw your attention to the terrible plight of a poor family in this area. The father is dead, the mother is too ill to work, and the nine children are starving.  They are about to be evicted from their home and turned out into the cold.  They will be on the streets soon unless someone pays their rent.  I hope you or your congregation can help this poor family."

"How terrible!"  Exclaimed the pastor.  "May I ask who you are?" 
The sympathetic visitor put his handkerchief to his eyes. "I'm the landlord," he sobbed.

When we are greedy, we often want things that we don’t really even need.  We all have basic human needs that we have to satisfy every day.  These are listed as: air, water, food, shelter and sleep.  Beyond that there are emotional needs such as security, variety, purpose, acceptance and growth.  These may seem like lesser needs, but are important to our quality of life and provide the motivation for wanting to keep living.

In a developed society, our physical needs can usually be met by staying healthy and working.  Emotional needs, on the other hand, depend on having good relationships. We gain security by knowing that there is someone who is always there to keep us safe.  We gain variety by having others who can stimulate our curiosity.  We gain purpose by attending to the needs of others.  We gain acceptance in a family or group to which we feel we belong, and we grow by learning and changing in positive ways.  These are all necessary for us to feel satisfied.

There might be other ways to meet our emotional needs, but active participation in a religious community may be the best way to help ourselves fulfill most of them and help us feel happy and content.

“If they obey and serve the Lord, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment.”  Job 36:11

Reminders: Making God Laugh

by Ardith Hoff

We’ve all heard the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”.  In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Does that mean that we don’t really have a choice––that God has already decided how we are to conduct our lives?  Not at all!  It means that God has plans for us, but that he has also given us free will to carry out those plans.  We can make our own decisions, but He expects us to behave responsibly.  Galatians 6:7 tells us: “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows”.  In other words, we are free to make good or bad decisions, but we must also be ready to accept the consequences if we make bad decisions. 

Freedom always comes with responsibility.  It seems contradictory that we are free to decide yet it has to be according to God’s will.  Think of this way.  We are free to run a red light if we choose to, but we know that we might get into an accident or get a ticket if we do.  Traffic laws are there for a reason.  God’s laws are also there for a reason.  If we want the benefits of God’s love and promises, we have to obey His commands and consider His will in our decisions. 

Any parent knows that we want our children to become independent adults at some point.  We try to teach them to make their own decisions, but we also try to guide them to make responsible ones.  To do that, we sometimes have to let them learn by falling off the rocks we told them not to climb on.  If we think of God as our Father, we begin to understand that sometimes He is going to let us fall in order to learn.  It appears that if we use the free will God gave us responsibly, we will accomplish His purposes for us.  When we pray, “Thy will be done.” We are telling God that we want to follow His guidance, that we trust that His plans are right for us.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 5:1

Reminders: An Attitude of Gratitude

by Ardith Hoff

Bill and Joe were walking through a field.  Suddenly, they saw an angry bull.  They ran towards the nearest fence.  The bull chased them.  They soon realized that they might not be able to outrun him.

Bill shouted at Joe, “You come from a Christian family.  Pray for us!” 

Joe replied, “I come from a Christian family but I’m not a Christian.  I don’t know how to pray.”  Bill said, “Just pray what your family prays!  We’re in big trouble!”  “All right,” Joe said, “I’ll say the one my father used to repeat at the dinner table, “O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.”

When bad things are happening, it seems hard to feel grateful, but no matter what it is, there is always something to be thankful for.  People who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and have a short time to live, are often grateful for each day they get to stay alive and enjoy being with their family and friends.  They are grateful for every sunrise and sunset they get to see.  They are grateful to know that they can get their affairs in order, and know that heaven awaits them. 

Having known a few people in that situation, has brought home to this writer how much more grateful those of us who are healthy should be.  Not only are we not dying soon, (as far as we know), but we get to live a full and productive life, and hope to live long and enjoy our lives.

We should not wait until we are facing eminent death to realize how blessed we are.  Even when things are not going particularly well, we need to be in a grateful state of mind.  It is good for our health, our dispositions, and our effect on other people. 

When we are tempted to complain, if we stop ourselves, and adopt an “attitude of gratitude”, we can shortstop a downward spiral that will only make matters worse.  Focusing on all the things that are going right takes away our tendency to feel sorry for ourselves and complain.  

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Reminders: Entertaining Strangers

by Ardith Hoff

One cold December evening, several years ago, while living in Calmar, Iowa, ten miles south of Decorah, my husband brought home three young people, a young man and two young women.  He asked if I would fix something for them to eat.  We had already eaten, and I have to admit, I was taken aback to have three unexpected guests show up at that late hour and being asked to provide a meal.  But he explained that they were students at Wartburg College who had been visiting at Luther College for a musical performance. 

He further explained that their borrowed car had broken down; they had no money and were stranded.  The only place in town to get the car fixed was closed at that hour, and my husband could tell that they needed help.  Being an old farm girl, I always kept a quart jar of home-canned beef on hand for unexpected guests.  In just a few minutes I had a meal on the table, and we were enjoying visiting with our guests. 

We learned that they were from Nairobi, Kenya, and knew very few people in this country.  After the meal, my husband called the owner of the Ford garage.  Even though the garage did not normally do any mechanic work on Saturdays, the owner agreed to take their car in the next morning.  We provided sleeping arrangements, and gave our guests breakfast the next the morning.  

That Saturday was our church’s annual Pizza-making project where we were to make dozens of pizzas to sell.  We took our guests with us to church, which happens to be right across the street from the Ford garage.  We put them to work helping make pizzas while their car was being repaired. 

At noon we all sat down to a pizza lunch, made with the leftover ingredients, and the young male visitor, who was an accomplished pianist, entertained us.  Soon their car was again road worthy.  My husband paid the bill, and our guests were on their way.  “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in so doing some have entertained angels unaware.” Hebrews 13:2   Our visitors may not have been angels, but our joy at entertaining them was no less than if they were.  I thank God for that blessed experience.