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: 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

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!”

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. 

Reminders: Take Courage

by Ardith Hoff

Courage has been defined as, “not the absence of fear, but being afraid and doing the difficult thing anyway.”  We all have our areas of fear, and we think that if we could just conquer our fears, we could do some great things.  If the above definition is true, being brave does not depend on our ability to conquer our fears, but on our willingness to do the fearsome thing in spite of our fears.

It has been reported that speaking in public is the number one fear of a great majority of people.  Most of us have worried about getting up in front of a group of people and completely forgetting what we wanted to say, or of saying something stupid and then regretting what we said. 

A friend, who was a college professor, told me that he often had vivid nightmares in which he would realize that he was in front of a class stark naked.  He would wake up sweating with his heart pounding.  The ironic thing is that he enjoyed teaching, and was always well dressed, and well prepared for his lectures.  The better prepared we are, the less we have to fear, not just about public speaking, but in every endeavor we undertake.

Some people are afraid to speak to other people about their faith.  They might be afraid that they will offend someone if they are from a different religious background.  They might be afraid other people will think they are being smug or judgmental when they talk about the need for everyone to know the “truth” that they believe in.  They might be afraid that people will not want to be friends with them if they come off as too, “holier than thou”.

All of these are legitimate concerns, and might in fact come true, but we can take courage from the reassurance that we are given in

2 Timothy 1:7: “For the Spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  Also, “Be strong and of good courage.  Do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.” Deuteronomy 31:6   We also need to remember: “If God is with us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:21

Reminders: Why Me Lord?

by Ardith Hoff

God often chooses unlikely candidates to carry out His work.  There was Noah––a drunkard, Abraham and Sarah––an elderly couple, Moses––a stutterer, Rahab––a prostitute, David—an adulterer and murderer, Jonah––a man who tried to run away and hide from God, Matthew––a tax collector, a little boy with five loaves and two fish, and Saul (who became Paul) who had been a persecutor of Christians.

This list sounds more like a bunch of losers and criminals than a group of people who might be God’s first choice to do His work.  Try giving this list of misfits to a job recruiter and see how many would get hired to do some of the most important jobs of all time.  Each of these people was a reluctant participant.  Some of them were well aware of their shortcomings, and like some of us, wondered, “Why me lord?” 

There were probably many people better qualified than them or us.  They and we wonder why God asks someone like those people or us to do His work?  The logical answer is that He wouldn’t!  Yet He did, and we ourselves are being asked to bring his message of salvation to the world.  Most of us feel totally unqualified and inadequate, just as most of the people on the list did. 

Only God knows the real answer to why He picks the people He does.  We can only speculate that He wants us to know that if He can work through people like that, He can also work through us.  When God recruits us to work for Him, He prepares us to do the job He assigns us to do.  He gave Noah the ability to build the ark and gather the animals. He gave Moses the ability to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.  He gave each of them exactly the skills they needed to do the job.  He has promised to do the same for us.  When God calls us, He equips, provides, and enables us.

“May the God of peace…equip you with every good thing to do His will…” Hebrews 13:20-21
“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13