Category: Meditations

Meditations – July 11, 2018

By  Pastor Todd Holman   St. Paul United Methodist Church, La Porte City
Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2,3 NASB)
Let no one say when they are tempted, “I am being tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself does not tempt anyone. (James 1:13 NASB)
One of the most challenging things we are called to do daily is examine ourselves. If we desire to change or grow in a positive and healthy way we must develop a sense of self reflection. James reminds us of no better way to grow than through reflecting on the various trials that we encounter through testing. However, in sharp contrast is the idea of temptation. As James opens in chapter one he demonstrates the difference of understanding temptation and testing. Ironically while both are not Godly, they systemically are the products of trials we face.
John, who struggles with making the right decisions in his life, finds himself in trouble with the law on a routine basis. He’s not a bad young man, but he does hang around people who lead him into the wrong things. A friend asks him to stash a bag of marijuana for him. John gets caught with it and is facing serious charges only to find his friend denies ever being part of it. The day comes when John’s eyes and heart are open to Christ. As John attempts to make sense of his past with his new-found faith, he claims that God led him into all the things that brought trouble in his life, so that he would find faith in Christ. This is unfortunately how many people tend to deal with bad decisions. It crescendos into a refusal to take responsibility for the things we often do. James reminds us, God can not be tempted, and does not tempt anyone.
God is not to blame for the negative things that happen to us. God is the solution. Granted, life may be a struggle, and extremely difficult at times, and yet the everlasting promise is that God is always there watching over us and guiding us. When we claim faith in God through Christ, testing will come in life. It is the choices that define who and what we are living for when we make them. I pray that you all take time to reflect and examine yourself, so that you may find a righteous and prosperous life being guided and led through the hope of love and peace in Christ.

Meditations – July 4, 2018

By Pastor Todd Holman, St. Paul United Methodist Church
To one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to that person it is sin. (James 4:17 NASB)
I recently shared in the privilege to participate in the annual Vacation Bible School held in our church. I am amazed and impressed with the leadership and their organizational preparation for what is an exciting week for approximately 50 young children within or related to our community. One of the overriding themes amongst leadership and recited repetitively during the week is how wonderful it is to serve God and the children simultaneously. It is a great revelation to see the loving and caring hearts of the people here reaching out to others in the Spirit of doing what is right and pure in motivation.
In contrast, the above Scripture in James is the tail end of a chapter in which the writer calls out the selfish motivation and worldly gain that hinders most people’s spiritual life. The chapter carries the overtone of selfish ambition that inhibits people and their relationships.
For example, throughout many years of ministry I have had nominal, non-practicing, or ex members of the church contact me seeking help in their personal relationships. Their desire is to fix shortcomings or faults of the other person. This angle is an attempt to manipulate the other person by wielding the “power of God” to gain the upper hand.
There is a great deal of selfishness involved when a person seeks counseling to not better themselves, but rather to call out the faults in other people they are partnered with in some way shape or form. The writing of this chapter carries the overtones of some business relationship in which people are taking advantage of one another or seeking personal gain at the expense of others.
We all maintain a variety of relationships in our day to day life. James reminds us that these relationships can only be whole and fruitful when it is about serving one another by the will of God. When we only attempt to serve ourselves and our position, it systematically destroys our relational trust with God and each other.
Take care to look after one another in service and love.
God’s blessing,
Todd

Meditations – June 27, 2018

By Pastor Mike Ashman  Zion Lutheran Church – Jubilee, Rural La Porte City
Dear Friends,
I lost one of my heroes this past weekend. Fred Meuser died of complications following surgery. To me, Fred was one of the most remarkable people that I have ever met. I remember the first time I visited Trinity Seminary in Columbus, OH.
Even though I had been through college, I was still a small-town person. Needless to say, the trip through Columbus was filled with wrong turns, dead ends and scary moments in traffic. Upon arrival, this kindly “older” gentleman greeted our group. He then proceeded to show us all around the seminary, giving us a personal guided tour. He then led us to the registration table where he bid us farewell, followed by the words, “By the way, my name is Fred Meuser, I am the president here.”
In our world of AI and apps, I feel that somewhere along the line we have lost our sense of community. We come together in cases of emergency and celebrations, but all too often we see just faces passing in the crowd. No smiles, no recognition, no names – followed by tweets and blank stares.
I still recall a time when people like Fred built a sense of community even amid constant change. Students arriving, other graduating. Rules changes about financial aid. An ever-changing church. With a caring faculty and staff, that sense of community held strong. Professors ate lunch with first year students. People were more than just faces and names – profiles of future pastors and bishops. We had a real sense of community that almost every student missed the moment they left.
I have carried that gift with me wherever I have been a pastor and will continue to do so. Fred’s gift is one of the reasons why I find myself at kitchen tables, nursing homes and softball games. Community takes work; it takes commitment; it takes time. Community means working together and for each other. I can only hope that I can one day be remembered with a longing memory and tear-filled eyes.

Meditations – June 20, 2018

By Pastor Mike Ashman   Zion Lutheran Church – Jubilee, rural La Porte City
Dear Friends,
Every time I look at my right hand, I see a couple of square marks just above my wrist. A few years back while working in fast food, I was cleaning a panini press when the cover landed on top of my handing searing its’ marks into my flesh. As a diabetic, I have learned that I do not heal well – so my body carries many scars from where my cat scratched my arm to where I recently walked through the raspberry bushes. Some are reminders of mistakes I have made. Others are reminders of my humanity, like the scars from my cancer surgery.
And then there are the scars that cannot be seen, the ones that linger in the heart and souls of many. Even when they start to heal, we pick at the scabs so that we can once again feel the pain, perhaps relive the memory. Sometimes we hold on to these old wounds like battle scars, proudly bearing them. These scars are the most dangerous as it means that process of forgiveness has not been completed. Old wounds from days past – family struggles, painful memories filled with grief and anxiety – the type that create ulcers, not only in the stomach, but in the fabric of the soul where they fester and weep.
In my line of work, I have seen the divisive work of sin as it tears apart families, churches and communities. Forgiving is not the same process as forgetting; forgiving involves letting go and giving over all that separates us. We still bear the scars; they will never leave. We know where they are and we do not hide from them. Each of one them has a story to tell, but with God’s love, with the scars of both hands and feet we can experience forgiveness, both for ourselves and others.

Meditations – June 13, 2018

By Pastor Mike Ashman  Zion Lutheran Church, Jubilee – rural La Porte City
Dear Friends,
This past weekend I officiated at my niece’s wedding near Appleton, WI. What a wonderful time as families gather together to celebrate. I often hear that phrase that people do not gather together as families and neighbors as they did in the past. Times have definitely changed, but our need for human contact and community has not.
A couple of years ago during the Pokémon Go insanity, I was traveling on one of my visits when I noticed a young man on a bike holding his cell phone in front of his eyes as he biked. What he did not notice was the light pole in front of him. Face first crash. Amazingly he shook it off returning to his game.
In our present time, I believe this young man can be seen as symbolic of the human predicament. We are so wrapped up within our own reality that we fail to see that vast horizon with all its diversity and beauty. God has called us as stewards of all of creation.We are called into community – one that not only needs texts and tweets, but also the gentle voices of family and friends along with holding of trembling hands.
God has called us by name. May we echo God’s love through human contact as family, friends and community.

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