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: Memory Test

by Ardith Hoff

An old guy named Al seemed to be wandering through the drug store aimlessly when the manager asked if he needed help.  Al said, "Yes, please, I'm trying to find acetylsalicylic acid".  The manager asked, "Do you mean aspirin?"  Al replied, "Thank you!  I never can remember that word! “Seminary PLUS Newsletter, July 2018

We can laugh, but I myself can attest to the fact that, when the memory starts to go, we tend to remember the strangest things and forget the most important thing we need to remember at any given moment.  I remember an embarrassing time when I could talk about an obscure movie I saw in 1995, but forgot the name of my own nephew to whom I had just told about the movie that very morning.  Was my mind playing tricks on me? 

Most people over 40 have momentary lapses of memory from time to time, but most of us can function pretty well.  We learn to write things down so that we will have ways to remind ourselves of where we need to be and what we need to be doing.  Of course, some things are easier to remember than others because they are so engrained in our system that they seem to come naturally.  Things like walking, eating and brushing our teeth are so routine that we do them without thinking much about them.  Things we do less often, like resetting the clocks in our cars, can be much harder to remember how to do.  Luckily, we have auto owner’s manuals that can guide us through the process if we need it.

So what do we need to help us remember the most important things we need to know to be good Christians?  Do we need to write notes for ourselves?  Do we need to have someone remind us?  Do we need to consult the owner’s manual?  The answer to all three is yes!  We need to write down helpful verses and post them on the refrigerator or buy handy plaques that we will see every day that remind us to be our best selves.  We need to go to church so that the pastor can remind us of what Jesus has taught us and we need to consult the Bible, which is the owner’s manual for our Christian faith.  And most important of all is to pray and then rely on Jesus promise in John 14:26: "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

Food for Thought: High Standards

by Ardith Hoff

In the Zits comic strip, teenage son Jeremy told his mom that he had started to clean his room but gave up because he knew his work wouldn't measure up to her expectations.  She asked, "So it's MY fault that your room is looks like a landfill?"  He replied, "Hey, don't blame me for your high standards!" Houston Chronicle, 10/18/16, p.D6

Most parents do try to set high standards for their children and rightly so.  We want our children to learn to do a good job in whatever they do.   We know that if we let them get by with shoddy work at home, they are likely to do so in whatever job they undertake in the workplace.

Unfortunately, some young workers have not learned good work habits at home and come into the working world with unbelievably immature attitudes about work.  I know a business owner who hires mainly young people.  He tells of the problems of hiring and maintaining a reliable work force.  He said that in one day he had four people call in to say that they would not be able to come to work.  They each offered excuses for why they could not come to work.  One young woman even said that she could not come because she had to take her kitty to get his nails clipped. 

We can all see how silly such an excuse is, but how about the excuses we use for not living up to God’s high standards?  Is it that His standards are just too high and we know we can’t live up to them anyway, and we use that as an excuse not to try?  Is it that we have so many petty little things to do that we just don’t want to take time to do the things God expects of us?  And what does God expect of us?

The prophet Micah responded to the Israelites’ complaint that they didn’t know what God wanted from them.  The prophet said “He has told you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8. God’s desire for us is very simple.  God wants us to love Him with all our hearts and let our obedience stem from a heartfelt desire to be pleasing in His sight. 2 Corinthians 3:6   This does not mean we just need to follow a lot of man-made rules, it simply means that we should learn to follow Jesus’ example by living upright and decent lives, doing good, and showing diligence, respect and dignity in all that we do.

Food for Thought: Learning Can Be Uncomfortable

by Ardith Hoff

A new missionary recruit went to Venezuela for the first time.  He was struggling with the language and didn't understand a whole lot of what was going on.  Intending to visit one of the local churches, he got lost, but eventually got back on track and found the place. 

Having arrived late, the church was already packed. The only pew left was the one on the front row.

So as not to make a fool of himself, he decided to pick someone out of the crowd to imitate.  He chose to follow the man sitting next to him on the front pew.  As they sang, the man clapped his hands, so the missionary recruit clapped too.

When the man stood up to pray, the missionary recruit stood up too. When the man sat down, he sat down.

Then the preacher said some words that he didn't understand, and he saw the man next to him stand up.  So, he stood up too.  Suddenly a hush fell over the entire congregation.  A few people gasped.  He looked around and saw that nobody else was standing.  So, he sat down.

 After the service ended, the preacher stood at the door shaking the hands of those who were leaving.  When the missionary recruit stretched out his hand to greet the preacher, the preacher said, in English: "I take it you don't speak Spanish." The missionary recruit replied: "No I don't.  Is it that obvious?"

"Well yes," said the preacher, "I announced that the Acosta family had a newborn baby boy, and would the proud father please stand up, you stood up."

When talking about her role as a professor at Stanford, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she explained the process of learning to her students this way: "It's not my job to make you comfortable. Actually, it's my job to make you uncomfortable."  Much of learning is just that, very uncomfortable.  AARP, December 2017, p.42

As it says in Philippians 4:9: “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”  To grow in faith, can be uncomfortable.  But to follow Jesus’ example is the only way to do so.  Learning, and in turn growing, requires getting outside of our comfort zones.  We can drift along in our old habitual ways of doing things and not move forward or we can learn from Jesus how we can change and grow.

Reminders: Stranded on the Side of the Road

by Ardith Hoff

Have you ever been stranded on the side of the road with a car problem?  I have had that experience more than once.  One incident happened several years ago, before we had cell phones, but I have no doubt that if it happened under similar conditions today, the response would be similar. 

My husband and I were on a back road far from home, with not much traffic on the road, when our car suddenly quit.  There were no houses in sight, just cornfields and woodlands.  We had no idea what we were going to do, but my husband got out to have a look at the engine.

While my husband had his head under the hood, two strangers came by.  They each stopped to see if we needed help.  The first driver offered to call a tow truck, but my husband declined, hoping he could fix the problem.  By the time the second pickup stopped, he had figured out that our battery was not charging.  Fortunately, the second driver lived about two miles away.  That driver offered to go home and get a spare battery to lend us. 

He said he had something he had to do first, and that he would be back in about an hour with a battery.  While we waited, ten more strangers stopped and offered help.  We could just chalk it up to Midwest friendliness, but we’ve had similar experiences in Europe and again on the East Coast in this country. 

There seems to be a basic decency in ordinary men and women, and why wouldn’t there be?  God created us!  What He knew, that we sometimes forget, is that His creation was perfect.  He realized that a senescent and thinking being, in His own image, would need to have some say in their own lives.  He knew that we would need the freedom to decide for ourselves how we would behave. 

We don’t know why a small percentage of people decide to act contrary to God’s wishes, and for that matter against what most people agree is appropriate behavior.  We do know that when people turn to God, they can learn to behave better.  “…The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” Galatians 5:22

Reminders: The Voice of God

by Ardith Hoff

A friend told me that his new girl friend told him that she often talks to God.  His sarcastic question was, “And does He answer?”  When she said, “Yes!”  He was shocked, and continued to probe.  “Is he a bass or a baritone?” he asked.  She told him that she didn’t have to hear His voice to know when God was “speaking” to her.  She said that sometimes He sounds like her mother reminding her to think before she speaks, or to be careful whom she listens to, and sometimes He sounds like her dad telling her to, “STOP DOING THAT!” when she catches herself doing something she shouldn’t be doing.  Other times she said she heard her father’s softer voice telling her how important it is to care for others.  She said she heard the voice of her pastor reassuring her that, with God’s help, everything will be okay.  The boyfriend was not impressed.  He said he told her she was crazy.

We all have the ability to recognize God’s voice.  While we might not literally “hear” if God is a tenor, baritone, or bass, everyone who has invited God into their lives knows when He is speaking to us.  We get a feeling, or like the, “girlfriend” we get the memory of a voice of caution, reason or encouragement. 

Some people believe that they have gotten a specific call to service as a pastor or a missionary.  Some actually feel the hairs on their neck stand up or a chill or flood of warmth washing over them.  Some have a vivid dream in which they understand that God is letting them know what He wants them to do.  For some, an inventory of their gifts and talents makes it clear what they are meant to do, but for others, the “call” is less obvious.  For them, it is worth prayerful discernment––meaning to be open, asking God to make His call clear, and to trust that He will equip them for the role He has planed for them.

“If any man serves me, let him follow me, that where I am, there shall also my servant be.  If any man serves me, him will my Father honor.” John 12:26

Reminders: Resolutions

by Ardith Hoff

Larry hustled over to his next-door neighbor’s house just before midnight on New Year's Eve and rang the doorbell.  When Thad answered the door, Larry said, “I've resolved to be a nicer person in 2018 so I needed to pop over real quick before then, and say you're a real moron.” Houston Chronicle, 12/31/17

New years resolutions are usually well intentioned, but most do not last very long unless we make a real commitment and have a specific plan for how we are going to do the things we have resolved to do e.g. saying we will exercise and then joining a gym or fitness class. 

The same is true of the good intentions we say we have for being a better Christian.  For some, that might mean going to church more often.  For others it might mean praying more often or reading the Bible more faithfully.  Still others might resolve to treat other people more compassionately, as in loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Those are certainly worthwhile goals, but like any other resolution, there must be a specific plan and firm commitments in order for them to work for us long term. 

Some people seem to think that saying they will do better at something means that they have already done it, but good intentions are not the same as actually following through.  Setting a special time to get ready and drive to church, or setting aside a certain time of day to read the Bible and pray, actively searching out people to be kind to and putting up reminders for ourselves to be more kind to telemarketers and others who irritate us, are all concrete ways to help us do what we say we want to do.  Without such planning and commitments, there is little to keep us from falling back into our comfortable old habits of never getting around to doing the things we resolved to do or doing them only sporadically. 

“Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a faithful man?” Proverbs 20:6   We say we will be faithful (faith full), but it is not easy; yet we know it is God’s command. “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17