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: 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.

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.

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. 

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