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: The Hand of God

by Ardith Hoff

A printing company was making leaflets for a local church, and the client wanted a logo designed with Earth being shielded by the hand of God. The company sent the client a proof of their design, and shortly thereafter, they got a phone call.

The client complained: “The hand looks too human. Could you please design a hand that looks more like God’s?”  Source: clientsfromhell.net

As the person who designs the bulletin boards each month for the mission of the month at my church, I often try to choose images that symbolize the cause we are supporting each month.  It can be a challenge to find or create appropriate images to represent each mission.  So far I have not tried to create an image of the hand of God, but it is an interesting question, as to what it would look like. 

Sometimes the best way I can think of to characterize a mission is to use pictures of either people carrying out the mission or people needing or receiving the benefits for the mission. Other times showing what we can contribute might be more effective.  For example, when we are collecting food for the food pantry or to provide the ingredients for Christmas meals for needy families in the community, images of food can get the message across more quickly than just listing what is needed.  

In like manner any attempt to symbolize how the hand of God is working in our midst we might use pictures of His handiwork.  A beautiful sun set, a healthy child, or a choir singing His praises are all appropriate images.  In addition, we use symbols such as the empty cross to represent Christ’s victory over sin and death. 

No matter how we picture God, or if we picture God at all, is unimportant.  What matters is how God sees us.  In 1 John:3-2 we are told: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

If we want to see Jesus as he is, and ourselves in His presence, we must see ourselves as His disciples, follow his example and do what He has instructed us to do.  “…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8. 

Food for Thought: God Needs Our Help

by Ardith Hoff

A farmer bought a run-down abandoned farm with plans to turn it into a thriving enterprise.  The fields were overgrown with weeds, the farmhouse was falling apart, and the fences were broken down.  On his first day of work, a preacher stopped by to bless the man's work, saying, "May you and God work to make this the farm of your dreams!"

A few months later the preacher stopped by again.  The farmhouse was rebuilt, there were cows and other livestock munching on feed in well-fenced pens, and the fields were filled with crops planted in neat rows.  "Amazing!" the preacher said.  "Look what God and you have accomplished together!"   "Yes, reverend," said the farmer, "but remember what the farm was like when it was just God working it”.

The point of the story is NOT that God can’t accomplish anything He choses to, but that when He created human beings, He gave us “dominion over the earth and everything in it.”  What that means is that He put us in charge.  He also gave most of us the ability do whatever we need to do in order to earn our own way and to provide for our families and to do good for others.  He has called us to do the work.

The best part is the promise He gave us in Romans 8:28 that “All things work together for good for those who love the lord and are call according to His purposes.”  This doesn’t mean we can live any way we choose, and God will fix our messes.  Romans 8:28 is a promise to believers–– those who are living for Christ, not those who claim to believe in God but are living like the devil.  The verse applies to those who love God, and are doing our best to obey his commands.  Even though bad things will impact our lives, He will use them to ultimately bring about good.

Joni Eareckson Tada, an inspirational speaker, author, and singer, is a quadriplegic. She has been confined to a wheelchair for more than 40 years. When people ask her why God allows suffering, she often says, “God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”  And what does God love?  He loves it when people enter into relationship with Him and become more like Him.  Joni’s life and ministry are a stunning testimony of how God can use a tragedy like a paralyzing diving accident to impact the lives of millions.

Food for Thought: Compared to What?

by Ardith Hoff

When I hear someone say, ‘life is hard.’ I want to ask, ‘Compared to what?’––Sydney Harris

It is all too easy to feel sorry for ourselves!  Even when we have good reasons to complain, because we are sick, in pain or grieving some loss, we are still alive.  We still have choices.  We can wallow in our misery, or we can find ways to deal with it in constructive ways.  And no, it is not always easy, but no one in this country is without resources.  There are helping services for almost any problem imaginable.  Sometimes it is not physical help, or medical help we need so much as spiritual help.  If we are feeling down or overwhelmed, we sometimes tend to shy away from the very resources we need the most –– other people.  That is a natural self-defense response.  Society has taught us to hide such feelings.  We have gathered from the way people who are showing their pain that it is a sign of weakness.  We understand intuitively that others can’t fully understand our pain and might judge us harshly.  Some people might even tell us we are being selfish and that we just need to snap out of it!  We naturally want to avoid other’s scorn or, heaven forbid, their sympathy.

While it is true that there are things we need to do to get past our troubles, we may need help getting the right help.  For Christians, the first step is prayer.  Whether you believe that God intervenes directly in our lives or not, taking time to get outside one’s self and allowing our own better judgment to advise us is a healthy first step.  Humbly seeking God’s help is even more rewarding.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. “1 Peter 5:10 ESW

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16   Remember that God manifests himself through people.  He can direct us to the people who can help.  He can also give the people we need the knowledge and expertise to provide the best solutions to our problems.

Reminders: Do We Cause Some of Our Own Problems?

by Ardith Hoff

A man was waterskiing and dropped into the river.  As the boat circled to pick him up, he noticed a hunter sitting in a duck blind in the reeds.  The man put his hands up and joked, “Don’t shoot!”  The hunter responded, “Don’t quack.”

The implication in the joke is that if you don’t do something to make someone think you are a duck, you won’t get shot.  While it is just a joke, there are things we do that can get us into trouble.  The way we act has a lot to do with how we are treated by other people.  If we pretend we are something we are not, we might get better or worse treatment depending on how we are perceived. 

While I was working in a hospital supply room, right next to the emergency room entrance, a well-dressed man strutted into the emergency room and demanded to be seen right away.  The admissions secretary handed him a clipboard and asked him to fill out the form.  He raised his voice and told her that he did not have time to fill out any stupid form.  “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” he shouted.   

To which the intake worker said, “It doesn’t matter who you are sir, you need to remain calm and wait your turn”.  That man obviously thought that his station in life should permit him to get instant service.  He “quacked”, and he got shot down. 

Most of us are not that extreme in our self-righteousness.  But we sometimes think we are at least a little better than some others who are, in our eyes, less accomplished or less wholesome.

“For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.” 2 Corinthians 10:18
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.” Proverbs 16:2
“Judge not that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1  

When we put ourselves above others, we are judging them as less important than we are.  We don’t always think of it that way, but that is what we are doing.  Let us be aware of our own conceit, and may we all stop “quacking”!

Reminders: The Art of Negotiation

by Ardith Hoff

A speaker, who is a professional mediator for large corporations, was giving a speech on negotiating.  He said that when people are having disagreements, they often talk over each other trying to make their point.  They do not want to hear the other’s point of view.  He then told a story from his own life, when he was first learning to interact one-on-one with his daughter after his wife died. 

He said that he was trying to get eight-year-old Emily to hurry up so that they could get going to work and school.  Emily very stubbornly refused to move, and the father kept urging her to hurry up while he was rushing around gathering up his briefcase, her lunch bag, etc.  Finally, in his frustration, he got down to her level, got in her face, and demanded that she, “MOVE IT!”

In the car he asked her why she had been so stubborn.  She said, “Dad, you weren’t connecting with me.  You never even looked at me or said my name.  You could have been telling the dog to get a move on.  I wanted you to see me, and hear why I needed a little time to think before we left the house.”

He said that he was stunned that his little girl had just taught him more about negotiating than all of the college courses he had ever taken on mediation skills.  Emily had demonstrated for him that everyone must connect with the person they are trying to convince to cooperate with them.  He said that he immediately started teaching people how to connect with their adversaries before beginning any negotiations. 

Taking the time to find common ground with a person or group with whom you wish to negotiate and listening to the others’ points of view can speed the resolution to many disagreements. 

“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” Proverbs 14:29. In our haste to get what we want to accomplish we often forget to consider the other person’s needs.  God cautions us: “Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

Reminders: Remember the Sabbath

by Ardith Hoff

A farmer, who was out to check on his cattle after church one Sunday, saw some movement on top of his haystack.  He realized that someone was on top of the hay.  He discovered that a parachutist had fallen from the sky and landed there.  After making sure the guy was okay, the farmer asked him what had happened.  “Oh, my parachute wouldn’t open.  I was just lucky that your haystack broke my fall.”  “Well,” the farmer said, “You should have checked around before you jumped.  You would have known that around here, nothing opens on Sunday.”

Are you old enough to remember when what the farmer said was true?  There was a time, when people remembered the Sabbath day and kept it holy.  Only essential work was done, and almost everyone went to church, and observed a day of rest.  Many people still do, but for others Sunday is just another day, except that they might not have to go to work.  For some, there is plenty of work to do at home to catch up on things they can’t get done during the “work week”.  Others have to work, because they have a job that requires them to work on Sunday. 

In Luke 14:5 Jesus said, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?”  He said that in response to someone who felt He shouldn’t be doing God’s work on the Sabbath, which was against Jewish law.  So yes, Jesus made exceptions.  He was making it clear that we should be doing God’s work on Sunday.  The problem is that the exception seems to have opened up a loophole for a lot of people.  “Sabbath,” by definition is a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening and by Christians on Sunday.

Jesus did not abolish the tradition; He still expects us to keep the day Holy.  He expects us to use it to stay connected to God’s word and His commands, to worship Him and take time to rest and reflect on what He has done for us and what we can do for others.