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: Curiosity

by Ardith Hoff

Most people are familiar with the children’s books about Curious George and the saying “Curiosity killed the cat.”  Both, imply that curiosity can get you into trouble.  For that reason, as well of some of the reactions from exasperated teachers, when my son asked too many questions, he did not like to be labeled “curious”.  He preferred to say that he was “on a quest”.  To him, that sounded more adventurous and positive.

It is true that people who have a reputation for asking too many questions of other people, can appear to be prying.  Most of us like to talk about ourselves, and if asked appropriately, a person who is interested, can make people feel valued and important.  The trick is to keep an appropriate balance between being interested and being nosey.

On the whole, curiosity is a powerful motivation for learning.  Children who are curious are often also more creative.  Most innovations and scientific discoveries are made by people who think beyond the usual boundaries of traditional education.  Questions like why and how, also lead to questions like “Why not? and “How could we do something better?” 

Some people think that we need to accept some things as sacred that should not be questioned. They think we should read the Bible literally.  For example, they might think that “The tree of knowledge” that led to the downfall of man came about because Eve got too curious and wanted to know what God meant when he said the fruit was “forbidden”.  Some things are beyond our ability to understand, but that should not keep us from wanting to know what God wants us take away from His Word.  It has not stopped professional theologians from continuing to dig deeper for the right answers.  That has led to many different interpretations of the same passages in the Bible and to whole new denominations and splinter groups within denominations.  That seems like a sad development.  Somehow, it seems like there must be one irrefutable truth, and many groups think they are the only ones who know it. 

The reality is, that only God knows the whole truth and what he intends.  I believe that it is God's will to give to all people abundantly without rebuking them for asking questions that lead to the promise that they want or need for their good and His glory. 

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12.  Maybe God likes curious kids.  They can get into some trouble, but they can also find satisfying answers to our need for a variety of approaches to God’s Words.

New Reminders: Beauty

by Ardith Hoff

Beauty can be described as a positive characteristic of a person, animal, place, or thing that can be seen or felt as pleasurable, meaningful or satisfying.  It usually refers to something observable but can also be perceived emotionally as a beautiful idea or awesome phenomenon.  

Something beautiful is almost always experienced as a positive reaction.  Great beauty can be awe inspiring.  Of course, something that is awesome can also be awful.  For example, to a person who buys a home on the beach, with a beautiful ocean view, might think the ocean waves look and sound awesome, but when a storm blows in, those waves might threaten the home.  The homeowner realizes that the waves look and sound awful.

In similar fashion, a woman’s hands might look ugly, to the woman to whom the hands belong.  She might think that, compared to the hands she remembers from her youth, her arthritic, gnarled joints look awful.  Yet, to an artist, who is preparing to draw the hands, they might look emblematic of hard work and a life well lived, and he might describe the hands as “Beautiful!”

To some people, beauty is not at all about outward appearance, but more about deeper human qualities, like kindness, compassion and decency.  In nature, beauty is hidden in everything, including rocks and wild weeds.  Beauty is present in every human being.  Indeed, it is in every part of God’s creation and in many human endeavors.  However, at a conference, I once heard a scientist describe the math and physics behind the development of the atomic bomb as “beautiful”.  When we understand what those calculations led to, it is hard to think of them as anything but extremely awful, horrible, devastating and fatal for the unfortunate people who were in the bomb’s path and radiation zone.

When assessing others, we need to focus more on a person’s morality, personality, values, and intelligence rather than exterior appearance.  Too often, we judge people by how they look.  The media’s obsession with physical attributes, has caused many, young girls especially, to have a warped idea of what they should look like.  That has caused some to have self-loathing that has led to such negative feelings of insecurity and body hatred that many have committed suicide.  So-called “beautiful people” who are judged by their looks, can also have a hard time feeling loved for their internal attributes.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.  Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4. 

New Reminders: Achievement

by Ardith Hoff

When we think of achievements, we usually think of something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, with great or heroic deeds.  But there are simple accomplishments that we achieve every day that we don’t always give ourselves, or others, full credit for.  We care for our pets, our children, our homes, our cars and sometimes extended families such as parents, grandparents or siblings.  These are often ongoing, repeated accomplishments that we tend to take for granted, but are some of the most important things we can do.  Beyond that, we do our jobs, and tend to the things we are responsible for each day.  Great achievements, like finding a cure for cancer or winning a Nobel Peace Prize are not realistic goals for most people.

Setting reasonable, achievable goals and doing our best to plan for and reach them are just as heroic in the everyday world most of us live in.  Most of us are capable of, and are willing to go above and beyond, when a situation arises that calls for extra effort, courage and decisive action, but such situations rarely present themselves, unless we have a job as an emergency worker.  Most of us are ordinary citizens who gave up our childhood dreams of becoming famous for whatever we thought we might achieve and accepted the more mundane, but fulfilling, lives we lead today.  The key word being fulfilling.  If we don’t feel like we are fulfilling our purpose in life, it may be time to reassess and prayerfully considered what God might have in mind for us.

It could be, that we need to change our attitudes about what we are doing and give ourselves credit for what we have done, or there might be something we can do differently to achieve something important.  God did not call Simon and Andrew away from their lives as fishermen because they weren’t very good fishermen.  He called them because he had a different purpose in mind for them.  

The Bible tells us that, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14   What that means is that the gospel calls us all to be God’s messengers to nonbelievers and to bring God’s good news to those we encounter.  It does not mean that we should all quit our jobs and try to become full-time pastors, missionaries, or evangelists.  We are not all suited to those professions.  It simply means that we should demonstrate, with our loving words and actions, that we are Christians who are blessed to know Jesus as our savior and are content to serve in whatever capacity the Holy Spirit leads us, whether as someone famous or as a humble servant.

Prayer Seed: Mark 5:36

Prayer Seed: Dear Abba, I know that with You, anything is possible. Sometimes I forget this and at these times, my faith isn’t as strong as it should be. Please help me to remember that as long as I have You in my life, I don’t need to worry about anything as long as I turn these worries over to You and trust that You will work things out. Thank you, Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.


 

Prayer Seed: Psalm 66:4

Prayer Seed: Dear Abba, Because “Selah” means to pause and praise, I need to remember to take time periodically throughout each day to take a minute and pause to give You praise. Please help me to stop and thank You for the little things You do for me and give to me each day. Abba, I praise and thank You for the blessings and guidance You give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


 

Prayer Seed: Mark 4:40

Prayer Seed: Dear Abba, Thank you that I can turn to you at any time, during any situation and ask for help. Please help me to have enough faith to know that when I do ask for help, You will take care of me and guide me through the storm. In Jesus’ name, Amen.