by Rev. Dr. Bart Milleson
“Life Changing Testimonies”
Lately, I’ve been reflecting upon the inspiring testimonies that were shared by Kevin Rutherford, Chris Booze, Alton Bowen, and my wife, Helen Milleson, during our renewal services. Likewise, I’ve been thinking about the witness Dyanne Snyder gave on September 25 about her Aunt Teddy. Hearing these heart warming stories of faith took us to a whole new place of blessed assurance and joy.
Along these lines, I believe God wants us to look for every opportunity we can to share sacred stories about persons we seek to emulate and pattern our lives around. Why? When we share life changing testimonies, we help each other navigate journeys of discipleship. We help each other become more like Jesus.
Indeed, it is true that each of of is a living testimony of what it looks like to follow Jesus of Nazareth: The Perfect Son of God, Fully God/Fully Man, The Prince of Peace, The Savior and Redeemer of the world, Our Dearest Friend, Good Shepherd-The Light of The World.
This brings to mind one of my favorite scriptural passages. This is a passage I see everyone of you living and breathing day by day, moment by moment:
“Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence… When I think of all of this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, ad how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
(Ephesians 3:12:12, 14-20. “The New Living Translation of The Bible.”)
I thank God for each of you. In your own unique way I see the love of Jesus shining through you. I feel the love of Christ flowing through you. When I’m with you, I feel hope pouring through the veins of your souls. Even though we have been through a whole lot lately and continue to grieve the death of many dear loved ones, there is this sense that the roots of Christ’s love are growing down even deeper. As these roots spread out, we reach out to each other even more. As these roots grow deeper, we reach out even more to sisters and brothers who have not yet opened up the gift of God’s making new love revealed in Jesus.
Together, we reach up our hearts and hands and are carried to higher ground as we walk toward the city of God. We do this together as we dare each day to be carpenters who ask God to use us to build front porches to his Kingdom here on earth. Together, we claim the promises of God revealed in Ephesians 2:10 and 3:20 : “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Love in Christ,
I must admit I’m still “catching my breath” and trying to spiritually and emotionally process all of the deaths and new health related challenges we are prayerfully navigating as a community of faith. Before we can begin coming to grips with the death of one of our dear loved ones, another one of our dear loved ones dies. Recently, it’s got to the point where I am afraid to answer the phone wondering what unsettling news will be reported next.
Praise God, we are part of a caring, compassionate, and “Blest Be The Tie That Binds our hearts close together in Christian love” kind of community of faith. We are so close we have all had the wind knocked out of us; therefore, I think that it is important that we continue to take extra special time to be with one another and share expressions of love and encouragement. For instance, may we keep on asking God to give us answers to the question: “In what ways can we make the time, be still in the presence of God, and really listen to each other as we share the details concerning how it really is with our souls right now?”
Along those lines, I think it is important for us to ask God to give us the courage to help us get more and more in touch with our feelings. Trust me, I know that becoming more aware of feelings particularly feelings related to grief can be quite frightening. On the other hand, the alternative is much worse. Unless we take the time to be still with God, ask him to get in touch with our feelings, and share our honest feelings with him, denial can wreak havoc within our beings.
Naming and experiencing our feelings in the acknowledged presence of God with us will open us up to encounters with the living Christ Jesus reaching out his healing hands to place salve on our bleeding wounds. Also, I find it helpful to share my honest feelings with a dear trusted friend. Crying tears in each other’s presence opens up windows of grace and the Holy Spirit carries us into the loving arms of Jesus; the One with whom we are yoked; the One who always keeps his promises; the One who said: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29, “New Living Translation of the Bible”).
In summary, I find that when we release our honest feelings with God and one another, the Holy Spirit carries us on angel’s wings to places of gratitude. We rise up on wings like eagles and we are carried to Jesus who sits above all of the principalities and powers of the earth. His name rules above all names. The realm of God is here. Tears of sadness and hurt given to Jesus usually become tears of gratitude helping us live into the promises of God. We open up his Kingdom light as healing flows through windows to heaven that fill our wholly and holy souls up with joy.
"Chaplain or Evangelist?"
I invite you to take the time to read the article written by Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson, The Yadkin Valley District Superintendent of The United Methodist Church. It is entitled, "Chaplain or Evangelist?" As I read the article, I prayed, "Thank you God I have the opportunity to serve with the congregation of Trinity U.M.C. Thank you God I am serving with sisters and brothers who recognize each one of us is a minister, missionary, and evangelist of the Gospel. Thank God, I am serving with a church who believes in reaching out. Thank you, God, I am serving with a congregation who recognize the importance of prioritizing my ministry around getting out in the community and forming relationships with persons who are not yet followers of Jesus.
As a pastor, I enjoy wearing many hats including pastoral care; however, I have learned like Dr. Patterson wrote that increasingly God wants me to continue to reshape my priorities to reach out in the community and serve as an evangelist. Frankly, I think God wants all of us to do this. Likewise, I invite you to let me know if you would like for me to visit with you and help you discover your spiritual gifts. Knowing our spiritual gifts helps us shape ministry around them and become more involved in ministry. The more involved each of us is in the ministry God wants us to do, the more freed up each of us is to embody the unique forms of ministry God most wants us to do.
Three Powerful Books I Highly Recommend
As most of you know, I love to read. Two books I highly recommend that speak to the core of our vision: "Trinity reaches out with hearts and hands to share Christ-like compassion" are "Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life," by Henri J.M. Noun, Donald P. McNeill and Douglas A. Morrison and "A Nazareth Manifesto: Being with God" by Samuel Wells. Another book is written by best selling author Brene' Brown. It is entitled, "Rising Strong."
I encourage EVERYONE to participate in
Trinity's CHURCH-WIDE RETREAT
AT CAMP HANES APRIL 29-MAY 1.
Please see information related to the
retreat in this newsletter.
It will be awesome and life changing!
Some Thoughts on Reaching out to Share Christ-like Compassion:
. Daring to care greatly through Christ-like compassion looks like being with others in ways that reveal God-with-us.
. Daring to care greatly through Christ-like compassion involves daring to be exposed to the tears of our sisters and brothers without trying to fix them or explain them away.
. Daring to care greatly through Christ-like compassion looks like learning to feel our emotions deeply.
. Daring to care greatly through Christ-like compassion looks like choosing to care enough to be with the most vulnerable human beings on earth.
. Daring to care greatly through Christ-like compassion looks like having the courage to risk caring even though we may experience disappointment and failure.
Remember, you are a blessing of God!
“Reaching Out with Hearts and Hands to Share Christ-Like Compassion”
It’s remarkable what happens when a fellowship of authentic followers of Jesus allow God to give us the courage to prayerfully persevere along the journey of naming and claiming a vision around which to shape and inspire our ministry together. Since January of 2015, we have persistently asked God to help us claim a core vision and core beliefs around which to shape our ministry.
As a church, we have recently claimed the vision: We will reach out with Christian compassion to bring others to Christ and to help, teach, and share God’s love with all people. In my opinion, one of the most memorable ways I have heard our vision proclaimed is to announce it the way I first heard Jamie Blume say it in September: “Reaching Out with Hearts and Hands to Share Christ-Like Compassion.”
Examples of ways we are growing forward our vision to reach out with hearts and hands to share Christ-like compassion abound. There are way too many examples to write about in the October newsletter; therefore, I encourage you to share stories of ways we are reaching out to share Christ-like compassion. One such story I briefly lift up is the story many of you have heard Helen, my wife, talk about.
The first week of August, Helen met a 55 year old Mother and her 38 year old son. She came in contact with them through her position at Randolph Hospital in Asheboro where she serves as a social worker and Faith Health Navigator. It did not take her long to realize that the mother and son had been homeless for 5 years. Why? Due to overwhelming health challenges the son has faced, such as having received two kidney transplants, they went bankrupt. They moved from place to place including staying in homeless shelters, living in a rusty old camper, staying one night at a time when they could scrape up the money in the cheapest, as close as you can get to almost condemned, run down motels they could find. Not only this, they spent many seasons “on the streets” without a spot to lay down their heads for the night. During this time, since they had no mailing address, they did not receive notice of a hearing related to the son’s continuing disability. Since the social security office did not receive any explanation of their absence at the hearing, social security discontinued sending his disability payments.
One Sunday morning in August, as part of my sermon, Helen shared the compelling calling she felt to reach out to this family and persevere through many obstacles to help them find a place to stay. Helen asked for prayer from the wonderful congregation of Trinity United Methodist. Immediately many of you approached her, offering prayers, as well as financial support. Once again, you put into action “Reaching out with hearts and hands to share Christ-like compassion.”
One significant snag among many the mother and son faced was the fact that they had been evicted 5 years ago and owed $3,160.00. In order to move into the one room apartment Helen found them, one of two things would have to happen: 1) Raise the money or 2) ask the owner of the rental house to forgive the debt. Immersed in prayer and quite nervous, Helen called the gentleman who owned the rental house and explained the situation. She took a deep breath, prayed, and waited for his reply. Even though she only waited a few seconds, it felt like minutes when he finally replied, “They don’t owe me anything… As a matter of fact, for more than 5 years now, I have stored all of their belongings. (They thought they had lost everything.) Let me know when they move into their new place.”
On September nineteenth, Helen and several persons who have received “Faith Health” volunteer training in Randolph County helped the mother and her son move into their new apartment. While they were un-packing boxes, Helen received another sign from God about ways he moves through willing hearts and available hands in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. She reached her hand into a box and pulled out the following picture frame that had a scripture verse written upon a plaque. It read: “For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also and him that hath no helper.” (Psalm 72:12.) Helen cried as she remembered what the mother and son had told her several times, “In all these years we never had anybody stick by our side no matter what happened.” Helen had told them several times, “Well, that’s no longer true. You have me.” Along those lines, please continue to pray for the family and Helen as she works with them over the long process it will take to work with social security to get the son back on disability.
Thank God we are part of a family of faith where we stick by each other no matter what happens. Praise God for the ways he sticks by our sides no matter what happens! To sum it up, isn’t it remarkable what happens when we come together to serve our Savior and Lord: Jesus Christ and put into action what he compels and equips us to do? The triune God takes the amount of faith and resources we entrust to him and multiplies them to move mountains to the sea. Thanks be to God!
It Gives Us Great Joy to Follow Jesus with you!
Immersed in Christ’s Love with you,
Bart and Helen
“With Holy Senses Opening Wide"
When I was on vacation up in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Glendale Springs in beautiful Ashe County for a couple of weeks in August, I asked God to help me become more child-like, take me by the hand, and guide me on “holy senses opening wide” prayer walks. I prayed, “Holy Father, still my brain and focus my heart. Awaken my prayer senses and bring me into intimate awareness of your abiding presence.” (Actually, my prayer wasn’t quite that fancy and sounded more like “Lead me.”). It took me awhile to step into the rhythm of walking in the Spirit…. (It didn’t take me near as long to become child-like. Helen says I like to think I’m really five years old having this tendency to forget the six that comes after the five.) Step by step, I envisioned Jesus taking me by the hand and guiding me on my walk through the woods. I kept repeating the prayer, “Dear Jesus, help me see what you want me to see and hear what you want me to hear.” I felt the soft carpet- like moss under my feet. I sat down in the middle of a natural fern garden and listened to birds raising songs of praise. (Of course some gnats wanted to join in on the fun and distract me. Not only that, evidently while my senses were tuned into God, I also got a little bit too close to poison ivy. After all, the Christian journey is full of distractions. Maybe God will bless those “itchy” distractions too if I extend the invitation.) Even stepping into poison ivy was worth it because a couple of times my journeys through the woods led to the sighting of a fawn. One time I moved within 30 feet of the baby deer enjoying her morning apple tree snack. I think this happened because she was paying more attention to the tasteful delight than the funny looking man wearing the big hat. Every now and then, I felt gently nudged along by a cool flowing breeze and I recalled the words of Jesus to the woman of Samaria at the well: “The wind blows where it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.“ (John 3:8. “New Living Translation of The Bible).
Some time along the way, the wind changed up and I felt a lit bit like I imagine Mary Poppins did when she held up her umbrella and the winds carried her away to a new adventure. I sensed Jesus saying to me, “You know something Bart? You don’t have to be on vacation to breathe and walk with holy senses opening wide. Our Father empowers us to be available and aware all the time any where any place.” I picked up the Bible and read, “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.” (1 John 4:16b-17a).
Quite often, no matter when or where, a frequent prayer bubbles up, tears flow from my eyes, and I pray, “Thank you God for sending Helen and me to be in ministry with Trinity Church in King, a fellowship of followers of Jesus who are willing and ready to walk “With holy senses opening wide. Holy God, thank you for living in us and through us. Thank you for making us a community of Christ-like love and compassion.”
Immersed in God’s making whole love with you,
Nothing upsets parents more than to see their children cut each other off and quit communicating with one another. Imagine how God feels when he sees his children treat each other this way. Furthermore, imagine how God feels when he sees his children who claim to be followers of Jesus refuse to have anything to do with each other. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons prior to his arrest and crucifixion Jesus prayed the following as recorded in the Gospel of John. ‘Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.’ (John 17:11b, “The Bible: New Living Translation.”).
When I take a look at the news and read posts on Facebook, it appears to me like we are living during a time in which more and more persons who claim to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord are scapegoating one another for the world’s brokenness kind of like Adam did when he blamed “the fall” on Eve. That’s why I feel sad when I see people who are followers of Jesus hide behind bushes by seeking to strip down the mystery of being into soul reducing categories such as: Conservative, Liberal, Holy Roller, Luke Warm, Bible Thumper, Bible Hater, Mainline, Independent, Republican, Democrat, and the list of reductions slides down the slippery slope called “I’m Better Than You” into names too filthy to mention here. When we who call ourselves Christians act like this we invite persons who are not followers of Jesus to shout, “I told you those Christians all think they’re better than everyone else. All they do is fight. Who needs Jesus if people who say they follow him act like that?”
Indeed, any time we identify each other as less than God’s beloved children, not only do we treat God’s creation as “trash,” we push Jesus away from loving others through us the ways he wants to love others through us. We all end up becoming less than our Father God made us to be.
I believe that God desires that we see every other follower of Jesus from the perspective of getting down on our knees to wash each others feet. We are all forgiven sinners in need of the perfect love of Jesus. The more we immerse ourselves in prayer, the more clearly we will see Christ shining through even those persons with whom we from time to time disagree. As we learn to live together as One Body, The Body of Christ, God transforms us into living prayers who go and reach out to persons who have not yet come to know the Only One Living God made known in Jesus of Nazareth.
“It is no accident therefore, that in prayer, in the presence of Jesus Christ, we are brought inwardly before the revolutionary leveling of God’s infinite concern for every soul that comes into the world. ‘Christianity taught us to care. Caring is the greatest thing-caring matters most.’ These words of Baron von Hugel’s are borne out in Christian prayer; for to come into the field of force of God’s infinite caring is to feel inwardly the terrible pull of the unlimited liability for one another that the New Testament ethic lays upon us.”
(“Dimensions of Prayer,” Douglas V. Steere)
Thank you God for Trinity Church in King, NC. We all one because we believe Jesus is our Savior and Lord; therefore, we love one another even though each of us is far from perfect. We don’t all agree upon every issue. Sometimes we may even passionately disagree on an issue; however, we continue to treat each other as sisters and brothers because we are more in love with Jesus than we are issues and causes. We are a church full of holy power because we pray, “God, help us place Christ-like caring for one another above all else.” We believe that the God we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will lead us into the truth in his time in his way. So we pray, “Bind us together Lord.” “Bind us together Lord.”
Make us shining lights of agape love where people gather to learn how to share holy conversation and bring healing to a land full of division and polarizing hatred.
Help us live like we really believe God is working to bring about his will on earth as it is in heaven. With every word and action help us embody the bold confidence of faith anticipating Christ’s second coming to earth when all shall see, “Jesus is Savior and Lord of all.”
Growing with you in faith, hope, and love
“So We Do Not Lose Heart”
I rejoice to be part of Trinity Church: a community of faith who embodies living testimonies of Christ-like compassion. How is this possible? We cooperate with the Holy Spirit who empowers us to put into action the wisdom revealed by the apostle Paul:
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”
(2 Corinthians 4:7-10, The Bible: New Living Translation).
“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”
(2 Corinthians 4:16, The Bible: New Revised Standard Version).
In other words, we do not lose heart because we view our suffering and the world’s suffering through the light of Christ’s compassionate love made known at Calvary. While Jesus gave up his life on the cross, tears of pure agape love poured forth from his entire being; therefore, we look up at Jesus on the cross and pray, “I am a fragile clay jar. Fill me, Lord Jesus."This reminds me of a comment Adel Lewellyn made during our visit on June 9th.“Yes,” Adel said, “In my almost 90 years of life, I have faced many hardships. I go to God first. I don’t wait. I let God get hold of me before the hardships get the best of me. God not only gives me the strength I need. He gives me what I need to reach out and do what he wants me to do for others. That keeps me going in spite of their pain and mine."
We don’t lose heart because through prayer we lift up the tears that overwhelm us and hand them over to Jesus. Jesus takes our tears and give us his heart full of compassion. His compassion helps us fall deeper in love with God; deeper in love with other followers of Jesus; deeper in love with persons who are not yet followers of Jesus; and deeper in love with the authentic selves God designs us to be. May the reservoir of God’s perfect love continue to fill our hearts with the making whole compassion of Jesus who gives us the courage to share Christ’s agape, enter into each other’s shoes, and shine with the treasure that heals shattered clay jars.Bart
Triune God, fill our hearts with Holy Spirit breathed hope. Make us the
living, breathing body of Christ, his presence in homes, schools,
businesses, neighborhoods, ball fields; gathering places today.
Remind us, we, your church, are the nucleus of your Kingdom come.
Empower us to
dare to gather, pray, and be carried away by the movements of Pentecost
creations into prayerful experiments we have not yet tried to go new
places in different ways to touch sisters and brothers who have not yet been reached with his soul filling, life changing embrace.
As I reflect upon the expressions of spilling out anger and unrest most recently occurring in Baltimore, I am reminded we as followers of Jesus are called to be vessels of Good News in a sea of conversations where so many become a drift in home made life boats that fly the flag: “The world is going to hell and I’m going to stay as far away from the unrest as possible.”
Instead of looking for underlying causes, because they reveal we all must learn how to love more like Jesus loves, the history of what happens when we take matters into our own hands reveals we tend to get lost in strategies of denial or methods of coercion and conquest.
Forming our identities around any reality less than we are all children of God erects tear you down identities formed around “Us Versus Them.”
It’s too easy to see the world through the lens of polarization: Democrats versus Republicans; Blacks Versus Whites; “The Haves” versus “The Have Nots;” Muslims Versus Christians; Ethnic minorities versus law enforcement.
Praise God for Christian leaders like the ones in Baltimore who reached out to gang leaders and called them to rise up to the responsibility of leadership and join in the common cause to love the place where many live rather than tear it down.
All Christians are messengers of Good News who go forth to claim the victory God has already won as revealed in the crucified and risen Christ.
The author of 1 John says it best: THIS IS HOW GOD SHOWED HIS LOVE AMONG US: HE SENT HIS ONE AND ONLY SON INTO THE WORLD THAT WE MIGHT LIVE THROUGH HIM. THIS IS LOVE; NOT THAT WE LOVED GOD, BUT THAT HE LOVED US AND SENT HIS SON AS AN ATONING SACRIFICE FOR OUR SINS. DEAR FRIENDS, SINCE GOD SO LOVED US, WE ALSO OUGHT TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” (1 John 4:9-11, Phillip’s Version, The Bible).
So I offer this prayer I felt led to write:
Hearts of perfect love God’s wholeness embrace…
Becoming Holy Spirit’s hands reaching out to touch wounds and immerse tears in grace…
When all at once the gap between giver and recipient melts away revealing awareness we are gazing into Jesus’ face.
April 20, 2015
On April 16, 2015 Helen and I gazed into the wide open eyes of our
second grandson, Samuel Lucas McGugan. Holding him carried us
into new depths of delight. As I reflect upon the experience of gazing
into his eyes, the following reflection comes to mind...
With Eyes Open Wide
With eyes open wide a new born child gazes into the heart of God's
Seeing for the first time...
"And a little child shall lead them."
Holy triune God, lead us to gaze upon the realities of second birth,
being born from above through our Saviour's love.
Born to behold the sights and sounds of our Creator's love...
As a mother cradle's all of the weight of her new born child, so our
Father God desires that everyone of his sons' and daughters' invite him
to carry all of who we are in the nurturing embrace of Jesus.
Being set free from all attachments that distract us from gazing into
the heart of perfect love.
With eyes open wide we greet each new day
anticipating resurrection life, wonder, joy.
In Christ's Love,
I had to choose a character described in the scriptures
whose shoes I don’t want to
wear, Job rises to the top of my list.
Job is faithful, innocent, he does everything right.
Then for no good reason at all everything that matters most to him is taken away.
Job felt isolated, overwhelmed, devastated, alone.
For 7 days, his friends waited in sheer silence with him.
Then they started talking trying to explain puzzles only God can solve.
In the face of inexplicable mystery, often it’s better we say nothing.
Quick easy answers avoid the agony, sorrow, suffering, pain.
Job lost all except his relationship with God.
What can we learn from Job’s gettin’ down real conversations with God?
Shoutin’ like, “Why God?” “Why?” “I will not rest until you tell me what this is all
Finally after an excruciating wait, God finally makes his presence clear.
God offers no answers. Instead, he takes Job on a tour of creation.
God asks Job to explain to him the mysteries of the universe. Kinda’ makes ya’ laugh.
Because Job gave his suffering to God; because Job shared all of his thoughts, feelings,
and cries for help with God, God carried Job into a deeper awareness of his presence
and steadfast love.
Many in our Trinity Church family feel a lot like Job now. They are facing excruciating
We pray with you. We cry with you. We wait with you. We hope with you.
“Lord Jesus, may the tears that fell from your face on the cross expose our tears to the
light of resurrection.”
Love in Christ, Bart