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: What an Epiphany!

by Ardith Hoff

The day of Epiphany is celebrated in most churches as a day to commemorate the visit of the Magi (wise men) to the Christ child. It represents the realization that the long-awaited birth of the Messiah had occurred. It is considered the manifestation of the divine in the world, in the form of a human child. It represents the recognition that the Son of God had come to save everyone, Jew and Gentile alike.

Today the word "epiphany" carries a range of meanings, including "an intuitive grasp of reality," "an illuminating discovery, realization, disclosure, or insight," or simply "a revealing scene or moment." One definition of an epiphany is "a moment of revelation that usually changes you in some way." It may be a sudden intellectual or emotional experience or even a gradual clarification over time.

Most of us have had an “aha” moment when something has become suddenly clear to us, or a new and truer understanding has hit us. That moment might have seemed to come out of the blue or from something that opened our eyes to a concept we had not fully grasped before.

I vividly remember the day that I heard that my neighbor, who was a little younger than me, had suddenly died. I don’t remember the cause of death. What I do remember is my reaction to it. It suddenly occurred to me that “there but for the grace of God go I”. In other words, I realized more clearly that even a person in their early thirties can die––even me. I had always known that I would eventually die, but it became newly real how imminent that could be. My neighbor’s death was an “aha” moment for me. I realized that I needed to grow up, and take more responsibility for my life. I had to think more about what I was to accomplish as a Christian. I needed to get serious about what God was expecting of me.

“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” Ephesians 1:18

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 70

Food for Thought: Investing Wisely

by Ardith Hoff

On October 24, 2017, Albert Einstein's theory of happiness sold for $1.3 million at a Jerusalem auction. While traveling in Tokyo during 1922, the Nobel-winning scientist scribbled a note to the bellboy when he did not have cash for a tip. He wrote, "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." He explained that due to his fame, the handwritten note "will probably be worth more than a regular tip." Ninety-five years later it required a millionaire to buy that "tip," and the advice is equally valuable because it reminds us that contentment is central to a satisfying life. Houston Chronicle, 10/25/17, p. A14

In our current culture, a “calm and modest life” is not necessarily considered the standard of success. “Constant restlessness” is a more accurate description of most of our lives. It’s not that most of us set out to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our modern civilization, but it is hard not to. We have to actually work at pulling back from getting overly involved in meaningless activities. What we invest our attention in, determines how we will spend our time.

It is an unfortunate fact that most of us have to work for a living and do not have much choice about how we spend much of our time. It is also true that many people do not have a lot of choice about how they spend their so-called “free time” or even some of their money. This seems to most people to be their fate in life. Yet some people do seem to manage to free themselves from the constant quest for material things or leisure time that they think will bring them satisfaction if not great happiness. The truth is that more is not necessarily always better.

The very first investment God wants us to make is in our eternity. He wants us first to invest in a personal relationship with Him and with His Son Jesus Christ. In other words, the first investment God directs us to make is accepting salvation through the death of Jesus Christ on a cross.

This is made very clear in this Bible verse in Proverbs 16:8 "Better is a little with righteousness than vast revenues without justice."

God has promised to “prosper” us if we follow His will. It is how we choose to define prosperity that makes the difference.

Food for Thought: Time Management

by Ardith Hoff

Parkinson's Law reminds us that, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." This means that we need to be very intentional about the use of our time or we will consume all available time accomplishing very little. Why People Fail, Siimon Reynolds, 2012

One year, when I taught art at a middle school. The administration decided to try a new schedule in which the hands-on classes like Home Ec., Industrial Tech. and Art would have classes that lasted an hour and a half instead of the traditional 45 minutes. The idea was that the kinds of projects we would have students involved in would have more time to complete rather than having to stop and clean up after only a few minutes. It was a good theory, but it turned out to be a perfect example of Parkinson’s Law. The same projects I had taught previously in 45 minutes actually did take twice as long and were no more complete in the expanded time frame. I was as surprised as anyone, but no matter what I tried, it remained the same for the whole term.

I know that ever since I retired, unless I have a fixed “to-do list” and am determined to complete it in a certain time period, each job does expand to fit the time I give it. I feel busier than ever, even though I have far less that I actually have to accomplish.

When we start to think that we don’t have time to pray, or time to volunteer, or reach out to others, we need to stop and think about what we really want to accomplish and what is most important. The truth is that we can “find” the time for whatever we put our minds to. “A person plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Yes, maybe some things we think must be done will have to wait, but if we put God first, we really can do the things we know He is directing us to do. We simply need to be intentional and prayerful in our planning.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21.

Reminders: God's Transforming Grace

by Ardith Hoff

John Wesley is one of the founders of what came to be called the “Methodist” denomination.  People erroneously thought Wesley’s followers were using a “method” to gain salvation rather than making a commitment to simply accept salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Wesley actually believed that it is not only essential for us to accept Jesus as our savior, but also that we need to grow in faith.  In order to help people understand how God’s grace can work in our lives, he broke the concept down into three steps. 

Wesley’s language might have been helpful at the time, but to our modern ears, the words he used are not familiar and tend to turn people off.  But once understood, they make sense.  Wesley called what leads to accepting salvation, “prevenient grace”.  The word starts with, “pre” meaning before, as in previous to something happening.  It symbolizes the first step in accepting salvation, e.g., it’s like we are willing to enter a church, but are not yet sure we want to go all the way in.  God is starting to work at opening our heart and mind. 

The next step Wesley called, “justifying grace”.  We are starting our faith journey by confessing our sins and having them forgiven (justified).  By the grace of God, we believe that Jesus died and washed away our sins.  In the analogy, we are just part way inside the church. 

The next step is what Wesley called “sanctifying grace”.  The word “sanctifying” is not self-explanatory, but if we think of the word as it relates to the sanctuary of a church, we can imagine that we are all the way into the main part of the church.  We are ready to grow in faith.  Being sanctified means to be dedicated to studying God's word, being continuously in prayer, and ready to follow God’s plans. “For it is by grace are you saved through faith––and this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in [your] weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9

God’s grace is sufficient!  It is enough, before, during and after we accept Jesus as our savior.  We are transformed by God’s grace.

Reminders: Conflict Resolution

by Ardith Hoff

President Ronald Reagan said, “The person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and an ally, not a 20% traitor.” What's true in politics is also true in relationships, and especially in marriage.  Focus on the 80%. Time, 1/29/18, p.24

In the midst of a disagreement, it is hard to remember all the other issues we agree on.  We might feel like the party on the other side of the issue is trying to beat us down because we have a difference of opinion.  Long-standing friendships, churches and marriages have come unglued over rather minor disagreements.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to have arguments where both parties feel good at the end?  Easier said than done, right? 

There are some tested strategies that can help, if we can agree to abide by them.  First, we need to agree that we want to come to an agreement.  Second, we need to agree to take a cooling off time out.  One way to do that is to take 30 seconds for prayer to ask God to help us reach a peaceful resolution.  Next, we must agree that each side will listen care-fully (caring for the other party and hearing them fully).  Fourth, that we will be respectful (showing the other party full respect––no belittling of them or their position).  Fifth, that we will try to see the merits of both sides of the argument––maybe listing pros and cons of each, and finally, that we will try to reach an agreement or at least a reasonable compromise. 

The ultimate goal is to agree on an option that benefits both sides to some extent.  When one party wins by aggressive behavior or one party simply gives in, someone is losing.  That means we get outcomes that do not resolve the underlying causes of the conflict.  This process sounds good on paper, but in the heat of a disagreement it is hard to remember.  Sometimes having a neutral party mediate to make sure the rules are followed is necessary. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 9:5

Reminders: Beware of Jealousy

by Ardith Hoff

In February of 2014, a man in China had a nasty breakup with his girlfriend before Valentine's Day.  The jealous man bought all of the odd numbered seats in a local theater for February 14th so that couples couldn't sit together during the movie.  Those last five letters of jealousy are there for a reason.  Reader's Digest, September 2014, p.10

The above is an example of someone reacting in a petulant way because of his resentment about losing his girlfriend just before Valentine’s Day.  Feelings of jealousy can range from a momentary twinge of pain to serious depression (jealousy turned inward) or acts of retaliation (jealousy turned outward).  When someone gets something we had hoped for, but did not get, it is understandable that we would feel dejected. 

Even if we would like to be happy for the person who got the praise, prize, or promotion, it can be hard to accept, but we know that we must get beyond our hurt feelings and move on in positive ways.  As we are told in James 3:16 “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”  We can conquer selfish ambition and the jealousy that follows, when we don’t get our way, if we are open to what God wants for us.  

It’s when we go our own way without consulting God or trusting Him, that He brings us up short, and shows us a different path––one we might never have thought of if not for the disappointment we suffered.  James 4:2-3 puts it this way: “You desire but do not have...You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” 

When disappointment turns to rage, we have let our emotions get the better of us.  Let us remember to pray that God’s will be done, and then trust that He knows best. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18   If you look for it, you will find a blessing in every disappointment.