On our journey with Jesus, we need to consider our spiritual needs and the needs of others. Our spiritual growth should be more than attending Sunday morning worship. We need to read the Bible, pray and strive to learn more about Jesus and how He wants us to act and what He wants us to do.

Here are some articles, "Reminders" and "Food for Thought", written by Ardith Hoff, a member of Westby UMC. These articles offer insight and guidance for our everyday lives. 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!

Sometimes we need a starter or "Prayer Seed" to start thinking about what God may be trying to say to us in a Bible verse, so we have a "Prayer Seed" section to encourage you to ponder the Bible verses posted.

New articles and prayer seeds will be added once a week to this page.

New Reminders: Joy vs. Happiness

by Ardith Hoff

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences in the way each is experienced.  It may seem like splitting hairs, because some of the same things that make us joyful also make us happy.  The difference is, in the source of the pleasurable feelings.  As far as the Bible is concerned, happiness is something we can hope for and even pursue, but it is just a temporary feeling like fear or sadness that come and go.  That is why the founders wrote that “the pursuit of happiness” is guaranteed in the United States Constitution, but not necessarily the lasting retainment of it.

Happiness is fleeting!  We speak of the happiest day of our lives, but we know that we are not always going to be happy.  There are too many disappointments, losses and life altering experiences that can disrupt our happiness.  There are always going to be illnesses and accidents, difficult interactions with people and disastrous events beyond our control, which will render us unhappy.  

We don’t have to have a perfect life to experience great happiness.  We can experience happiness, even in the midst of sorrow.  When someone tells a particularly touching or humorous story at a funeral, even the saddest mourners will cherish the happy memory.  Earthly possessions, satisfying accomplishments, and the people who love us are all blessings that help us feel happy.  However, according to the Bible, the only true source of lasting joy, is Jesus.

Joy comes from the assurance of eternal life in heaven as a result of Jesus the Christ’s death on the cross and the promise of salvation for all who believe.  As it says in Hebrews12:2 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Joy is a beautiful gift from God.  It is a state of being, that is captured in the Psalmist’s declaration in Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life.  You will fill me with peace and joy, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.”  

Just knowing that salvation is available to us brings us joy, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  We are free to reject it, but at our own parrel.  Who wouldn’t want eternal joy?  Yet all too many of us are out to get all the little moments of happiness we think we can get from worldly pleasures and keep putting off thinking about what comes after all the happy moments have passed.

Psalm 32:11 “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”  It is up to us!

New Reminders: Influence

by Ardith Hoff

In the media age, it has become common to encounter a wide variety of so-called influencers online.  They range from people who espouse crack-pot conspiracy theories to inspirational bloggers who have honorable motives to try to help us think more clearly about serious social issues.  The problem we have, is to choose wisely what we allow to influence our thinking.  Most of the time, we need to apply a healthy dose of skepticism.  We need to use our common sense to weed out the good from the bad advice and only allow ourselves to absorb that which we can verify as true, helpful and worthy to consider.  In other words, we need to be careful who we listen to.

To influence is to have an impact on the behaviors, attitudes, opinions and choices of others.  Influence is not to be confused with authority, power or control.  It should not be about manipulating others to get our way.

Influence takes many forms and can cause people to conform to a certain philosophy or set of beliefs.  It can affect how we treat others.  It can result in either positive or negative peer pressure.  It can result in obedience to a certain set of principles or to a certain leader, depending on how persuasive the influencers are.  We are constantly bombarded with sales, and marketing ploys that attempt to convince us to buy the latest thing or to order a magic health product.

We live in an increasingly secular society, in which religion has less and less influence on our daily lives.  Even people who considered themselves religious spend less than one day a week in their house of worship and on other religion-related activities.  Many more spend no time thinking or acting on religious beliefs.  Some may have some background in theological training, but are much more influenced by social norms and practices, cultural traditions and internet or TV media.

People who present themselves as authorities on a particular topic try to influence us into thinking and acting or even voting a certain way.  They try to convince us that they are best suited to point us in the right direction to get what we want out of life.  We need to weigh their veracity against the only authority that matters––God himself, who gave us the Bible to guide us.

The Bible spends a lot of time warning us not to underestimate the impact of influence in our lives.  Solomon wrote, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” Proverbs 13:20.  We are called to be influencers for good, not to adapt to the standards of others to fit in.

New Reminders: Fitness

by Ardith Hoff

According to Wikipedia, “Physical fitness is a state of health and well-being and, specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports, occupations and daily activities.  Physical fitness is generally achieved through proper nutrition, moderate, vigorous physical exercise, and sufficient rest along with a formal recovery plan.”

“Mental fitness is defined as a state of well-being and having a positive sense of how we feel, think, and act.  It means keeping your brain and emotional health in good shape. It doesn’t mean acing a test or practicing memory games or thinking puzzles, but rather exercises that keep you mentally well and build up your resilience to stress.” Dr. Andrew Miki, CBT Psychologist

Emotional fitness is part of mental fitness. It is what separates people who are simply able to think and perform well from people who are resilient to stress, who are able to act appropriately and control their actions in difficult or painful situations.  Emotionally fit people use their emotional energy in positive ways, to rise above pettiness with balanced and responsible behavior. For example, an emotionally fit person who is cut off in traffic controls his or her emotions and does not retaliate but is thankful that no one was hurt.

Spiritual fitness can also be part of mental and emotional fitness, in that it provides an avenue for developing positive thinking and appropriate behavior.  It provides a basis for knowing right from wrong.  It is a means to develop good character traits that help us not only think and act appropriately but to go beyond what is socially acceptable to what is required by a loving God. 

Becoming fit, in all areas, is a journey that requires discipline and hard work. No one becomes fit without practicing the types of healthy behaviors and exercises necessary to develop the body, brain, emotions and character.

For Christians, fitness in all areas is essential to our ability to carry out God’s commands and to become the kind of person we ourselves want to be.  We need to guard against a tendency to overdo in any one area of fitness to the exclusion of others.  We should also be careful not to become obsessed with building certain attributes associated with any fitness area to the extent that it interferes with other areas of our lives.  A balanced approach is critical.  It is a healthy way of living!  Its aim is to create our personal balance among physical, emotional, mental and spiritual factors.  These factors can play an important role in shaping our overall health.

Ephesians 4:15…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Prayer Seed: 2 Corinthians 13:11

Prayer Seed: Dear Abba, Thank you for our families, friends and the other people you place in our lives. Please help us to treat everyone we meet along life’s journey with kindness, respect and compassion so we can live together in peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


 

Prayer Seed: Luke 24:6

Prayer Seed: Dear Abba, Thank you for dying on the cross and concurring death so we can have the gift of salvation through Your sacrifice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


 

Prayer Seed: Matthew 21:9

Prayer Seed: Dear Abba, Thank you for coming to earth and living a life in human form so we can have salvation. Praise be to You Jesus! In Jesus’ name, Amen.