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!

Recently, 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.

Reminders: There is No Perfect Church on Earth

by Ardith Hoff

A farmer went to a big city to visit his sister for the weekend.  He attended church with her.  When he got home his wife asked how it was.  He said it was okay, but all they sang were those praise songs.  He said it would be like if I talked to you saying, ‘The cows are in the corn, the corn, corn, corn.  The cows, the cows are in the corn, corn, corn’, and then repeated it several times while clapping to the beat.  I’m never going back to that church!”

Weeks later, the farmer’s nephew came out to the farm.  He went to church with the farmer and his wife.  When he got home his mother asked how it was.  He said it was okay, but all they sang were old-fashioned hymns.  They went something like, ‘Come thou majestic exalted one.  Harken unto Juda during this time of tribulations, and incline thine ear to thy ransomed, captive souls.’  That dragged on for six long verses, but they only sang verses 1,3 and 6.”

The truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect church on earth.  If it’s not the music, as in the story above, it might be the preacher whose sermons are too long.  The worship services are either too early or too late.  They are too formal of too casual.

The concept of church initially simply meant, “an assembly of God’s people”.  Early Christians often met in secret to escape persecution, but the institution of “church” as we know it, has changed.  It has divided into denominations, and evolved over time into an almost infinite variety of belief systems and styles of worship.  The key here is to find a church that best suits your needs for spiritual growth, and as the author Richard Carlson put it, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” 

There are good reasons to find a church that comes closest to feeling right to you, and worshiping among people who care about each other, and believe in a God who cares about them.  There are good reasons to find a church where the word of God is used as a guide for living the best life one possibly can, even if it isn’t perfect.

Reminders: Be Wise as an Ass

by Ardith Hoff

What happens to us is less important than how we react to it.  Take the case of the donkey that fell in a pit.  The farmer who owned the donkey had trouble figuring out how to get him out.  He decided just to bury the old donkey where he was by filling in the pit.  He started shoveling dirt into the pit.  At first the donkey brayed and honked in complaint, but after a while he just started to shake the dirt off, and stepped up on top of it.  Eventually the pit was filled in, and the donkey was able to climb out on his own. 

The moral of the story is that we should all be as wise as that old donkey.  When we find ourselves in a “pit”, and someone throws “dirt” on us, we should shake it off, step up and climb out of our own metaphorical pits.  It is all too easy to just sit there complaining, and becoming angry and vengeful.  What’s worse, when we find ourselves feeling down, it seems like everything that happens, heaps misery on top of misery. 

Jesus set a good example when He was being mocked on the way to the cross.  Matthew 27:27-31 tells us that the Roman soldiers stripped Him, put a ruby robe and a crown of thorns on Him.  They put a staff in his right hand, then pretended to bow down to him, mocking him saying, “Hail to the king of the Jews”.  They beat him with the staff, and even spit on Him.  Christ did not complain or use his Godly powers to retaliate.  Instead, He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

Few of us will ever be subjected to such humiliation and torture; so why is it so hard for us to shake off the petty frustrations and slights that happen to us?  Why is it so hard for us to forgive those who hurt us?  We claim it is because we are, “only human”.  We use that as our excuse for sitting in our own little pity parties grumbling.  Let us resolve to be as wise as an ass, to step up and find a positive way to climb out of our own misery.

Reminders: Signs of the Times

by Ardith Hoff

Ole was the pastor of the Norwegian Lutheran Church.  Pastor Sven was the pastor of the Swedish Covenant Church just down the street in their small town.  One day they joined forces and were seen pounding a sign into the ground.  It read, “DA END ISS NEAR! TURN YERSELF AROUNT NOW BAFOR IT ISS TOO LATE.”  As a car sped past them, the driver leaned out his window and yelled, “Leave people alone, you Skandihoovian religious nuts!”  From the curve they heard screeching tires and a big splash.  Shaking his head, Rev. Ole says, “Dat's da terd one dis mornin'.”  “Yaa,” Pastor Sven agrees, then asks, “Do ya tink maybe da sign should yust say, “Bridge Out?”

If only there were signs that would warn us when we are headed for trouble.  Such signs could save us from all kinds of mistakes that cause us to go blindly forward when we should take a different path.  Even when there are signs we sometimes ignore them.  We think we know where we want to go or what we want to do. 

A mother of a teen-age daughter was trying to teach her daughter about how to handle boys who were a little too forward.  She said, “Be kind but firm.”  What the daughter took from that was that she should understand boys’ natural desires, but it was up to her to be strong and not to give in.  That advice fits many situations.  When someone wants us to do something that is not right, we need to be strong and say, “No!” kindly but firmly. 

The Bible is full of good advice and clues about how to live, but they don’t always seem clear to us.  We don’t always have time to search for the right answer when a troubling situation arises.  Having good values firmly in mind is important.  It’s like having a set of “Bridge Out” signs that pop up when temptations and right-or-wrong decisions arise.  If you don’t have warning signs in mind, find a church and Sunday school where Bible teachings can help instill and reinforce them. “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41