A New Year: Milton’s Story

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We gave our pastor, Milton, a “pink slip” a couple of months ago. It was a difficult proposition for everyone involved and, of course, created mixed feelings among our church members as we played a trump card regarding the livelihood of this man who has led our congregation for over 10 years. Although it may be time for new leadership, our little church probably can no longer afford a minister on a full-time basis.

Milt may not be the dynamic leader that some ministers are, but his sincerity in what he believes, what he has inspired me to believe in, can’t be surpassed. Lacking the panache that packs them in on Sunday, Milt offers his understanding with a quiet humility that I find endearing.

The times my family has shared with him during the past decade while our girls were growing up have been special. Although he has never pushed his singing ability to the forefront, his version of Going Home at my mother’s memorial service was one of the most beautiful tributes I have ever experienced. Singing with him a few weeks ago during holiday services was memorable, too.

Milt and I have a lot of interests in common. We both like to read, like varied kinds of music, we enjoy medieval history (and fiction), and, although I might be the more relaxed at hamming it up in front of a group, we’re both naturally shy and reserved. Other than at church functions, we have never “hung out” as friends, mostly because we live in separate towns and we’re too practical to drive our older cars and use up gas for outings that aren’t a necessity. That will have to change.

When Milton’s position at our church ends in a couple of months, I want it to bring a positive change for him. One of my resolutions is to make sure our friendship continues. I want to be there for him the way he has always been there for my family and me. Hopefully both our social and spiritual direction will continue to bring us together.      

I told him that if I hadn’t been sitting up front in church where I could distract him, I would have taken notes during his New Year’s message. I asked him for a copy and he handed me his notes hot off the pulpit — notations, highlighter marks and all. Here are highlights from Another New Year by Milton S. Butler.

The trees are coming down; the presents have been put away; the visitors have returned home; and the income tax forms and seed catalogues will be arriving in the mail soon. Some good things take place during the holiday season that we wish could continue the rest of the year.

Now, in this time of transition, a new year lies ahead with all sorts of possibilities for whatever we want to make of it. There is a freshness about the future at the beginning of the new year that carries with it a hope; a promise. In some ways, we can begin again in whatever way we choose.

We sense a need to set goals and stretch our abilities. So we make resolutions: less food; more exercise; fewer TV shows and more fellowship; a time each day for spiritual nurturing, and more. These personal resolutions are usually broken within a few weeks because it is human nature to become discouraged when we look ahead to a whole year of doing without chocolates, or cigarettes, or pumping away at that boring exercise bike for a half hour every day.

Our goals become more possible if we look ahead one day at a time. They also become more possible when we are spiritually centered. We could do worse than resolve to begin each day, if only for a moment, in the conscious presence of God, in gratitude for another day of life given to us, and in resolve to live that day as fully as possible.

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