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: Pride vs Humility

by Ardith Hoff

“A man received a promotion to the position of Vice President of the company he worked for. The promotion went to his head, and for weeks on end he bragged to anyone and everyone that he was now VP. His bragging came to an abrupt halt when his wife, so embarrassed by his behavior, said, ‘Listen Bob, it’s not that big a deal.  These days everyone’s a vice president.  Why they even have a vice president of peas down at the supermarket!’

Somewhat deflated, Bob called the local supermarket to find out if this was true. ‘Can I speak to the Vice President of peas please?’ he asked, to which the reply came: ‘of fresh or frozen?’”

Pride can be a good thing from the perspective of doing something good and feeling a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment from it.  However, it can easily become a problem if we allow it to grow into a sense of smugness—a general feeling that we are somehow better than others.  Self-awareness can help us to embrace humility, recognizing our own capacity towards self-deception, and accept that we can do nothing on our own will keep us from falling into the trap of poisonous pride.

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” Galatians 6:4

We have to be honest with ourselves and give God the glory for anything good we have done. “Every good and perfect gift cometh down from above.” James 1:17

Humility rests in knowing our strengths, our weaknesses, and our place in the broader scheme of things.  Consider for example, how small each of us is compared to the vastness of the universe.  We are but a tiny speck on an insignificant planet, at precisely the right distance from the sun so that we do not burn up.  Who are we to think of ourselves as someone special, except in the eyes of a loving God?  Whoever we are, and whatever good we have done is not of our own doing alone.  It is because God has permitted us to do it.  We are nothing without Him. 

Food for Thought: Watch for Warnings

by Ardith Hoff

A state trooper pulled over a woman for going 15 mph over the speed limit.  After he wrote her a ticket, she asked, "Don't you give out warnings?"  He replied, "Yes ma'am, they're all up and down the road.  They say, 'Speed Limit 55.'" Reader's Digest, June 2003, p.69

We tend to see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.  We all have a great capacity to ignore warnings.  Our doctors warned us not to gain too much weight, our dentists warned us to floss and brush frequently.  Our mothers warned us not to take up with the wrong crowd. Our pastors warned us to keep our words honest and civil and our thoughts and actions pure. 

The Bible warns us not to fall into temptation unawares.  God doesn’t seek perfection from us, but rather maturity in spiritual matters.  We need to be mindful of the temptations that creep into our lives unexpectedly. God’s warnings aren’t meant to condemn; they are meant to help us grow up so that we can be effectively used in building God’s kingdom on earth.

As Paul said to his disciples: "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” Acts 20:21

And Peter also reminded his followers: “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” 2 Peter 3:17

We too need to be on guard against being inattentive to the warning signs all around us so that we do not fall into situations that cause us to ignore what we know is right.   

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity.  God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Food for Thought: The Tricks We Fall For

by Ardith Hoff

A young man in his thirties walked into an all-night convenience store in the middle of the night, pulled out a gun and demanded that the clerk put all of the money in the cash register into a bag.  The clerk had been trained to obey anyone with a gun and did as he was told.  Then the robber, who was a smoker, demanded that the clerk also put a carton of cigarettes in the bag.  Once again, the clerk remembered his training and refused, saying that the man did not look 18-years-old.  The robber was flattered by the clerk’s inability to judge his age and quickly whipped out his driver’s license to prove his age.  The clerk looked over the license and put the cigarettes into the bag.  Two hours later, the police arrested the robber at his home address, which the clerk had reported.

We can laugh at the stupidity of the robber, but how many times have we fallen for something that appealed to our ego or vanity.  We are all susceptible to flattery and false promises that we think will make us feel or look good.  We are easily tempted to do something that we think will bring us the kind of attention we crave.  We fail to think things through before we engage in foolish behavior even when we should know better. 

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” 2 Peter 3:17

 The good news is that as Christians we can resist temptation by putting our trust in the Lord rather than our own judgment. “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:12-14

Vigilance and prayer can keep us on the right track.  “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”  Hebrews 2:18

Reminders: "Comfort Ye My People"

by Ardith Hoff

A little girl came home, and her dad asked her where she had been.  She said she had gone to see the mother of the little girl in the neighborhood who had died.  The father, who himself had always struggled with what to say to someone who had just lost a loved one asked his daughter, “What did you say?”  The little girl replied, “I didn’t say anything, I just climbed up in her lap and we cried together.”

We all struggle with what to say to people who are grieving.  We can’t say that we know how they feel, because even if we have lost loved ones ourselves, we can’t know how someone else feels.  We want to be of comfort, but we don’t want to make the grieving person feel even sadder than they already do. 

The little girl in the story above had the right idea.  Just being there to let the person know that they are not alone is one of the most comforting things we can do.  What we say is of much less importance because, at the time, the person grieving is more than likely a bit overwhelmed or in shock.  Words may be hard to comprehend.  A simple hug or touch of the hands may be much easier to take in. 

The traditional way to express our sympathy in this region of the country is to bring a casserole or baked goods.  If the family has out-of-town relatives they need to provide for, food might bring comfort.  It shows that we understand and are there with something tangible rather than just saying something like, “Call me if you need anything.”

A visit, after others have gone home, can help fill the void one often feels after a death.  A well-chosen sympathy card can also bring comfort in the days after the hubbub of the celebration-of-life activities are over.  Cards often contain helpful bible verses such as the following: “God blesses those people who grieve.  They will find comfort! “Matthew 5:4 or “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26 or “Comfort ye my people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1

Reminders: Cooperative Leadership

by Ardith Hoff

Researchers have determined that Canadian Geese fly many thousands of miles as they migrate.  The researchers have learned that the geese take turns at the point of the V.  They rotate so that some can rest while another goose takes the lead for a while.  Another amazing discovery is that by flying in a V formation, each goose creates a lift for the goose behind it with each lift of the wings, thus increasing the efficiency of the whole group.  If one goose gets injured or ill, two other geese from the flock stay with it until it is well enough to fly again.  The geese at the back of the flock are the ones that do the honking.  Researchers speculate that the honking serves two purposes.  It encourages the others and communicates whether all is well in the ranks or not.

By cooperating in rotating roles, by flapping wings to provide a lift for the next one in line, while caring for each other and even honking at the right time, the geese are able to migrate thousands of miles.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the ability to cooperate, like migrating geese, were present in more families, churches, neighborhoods, cities, and within and among countries?  The art of leadership is to engender the kind of cooperation that moves a group toward mutually beneficial goals.  When the leadership (parents, church pastors and administrative boards, community, and country government leaders) learns to lead by establishing goals that benefit the whole group, the chances of cooperation rise.  Unfortunately, individuals or small groups within any organization often have their own agendas and goals. 

Organizations that are God centered have the best chance of succeeding.  Looking to God’s word and inviting His presence during group decision-making processes can make all the difference.  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 “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. Proverbs 3:5-6 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Reminders: Seven Ingredients or Ten Commandments?

by Ardith Hoff

Can you recite the seven ingredients in a Big Mac at McDonalds?  How about the Ten Commandments?  Most Americans when surveyed did a better job naming the seven ingredients of a Big Mac (two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun) than the Ten Commandments. 

Some people might have missed the pickles and onions, but they seem pretty trivial to most hamburger lovers.  Most people probably can name (or at least guess at) most of the Ten Commandments, but they sometimes conveniently leave out some important ones, like “keep the Sabbath day holy” or “do not use the name of the Lord in vane”.  These have become trivialized in modern society, and are often thought of as, “optional” like pickles and onions.  We all know that even if we can recite the commandments verbatim, we are incapable of keeping them perfectly.  That does not excuse us from trying, or from ignoring them altogether. 

Whether we can name them all correctly or not, most of us have been taught right from wrong.  We know when we are doing something that we shouldn’t be doing.  We also know when we ought to do something we aren’t doing.  Most of us don’t need a set of stone tablets sitting in front of us to know how to behave, but just in case you are one who for some reason has never seen the Ten Commandments, or need a reminder, here is the list found in Exodus 20.

  1. I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other God before me.   
  2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.                       
  3. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.                                  
  4. Honor your father and your mother.                                                   
  5. You shall not lie.                                                                                                   
  6. You shall not commit adultery.                                                                     
  7. You shall not steal.                                                                               
  8. You shall not bear false witness.                                                               
  9. You shall not kill.                                                                            
  10. You shall not wish for your neighbor's wife, house, or property