Pastor’s Message 02/20/2024

The Origin of “All Good Things”
“Those who are taught the Word should share all good things with their teacher.”
— Galatians 6:6

In August of 2011, I attended a weeklong workshop at the Collegeville Institute entitled, “Writing and the Pastoral Life.” Shortly after returning home, I couldn’t help but gush about my experiences. Have you ever traveled somewhere that had such beautiful sights and memorable experiences that you struggled to describe them to people who weren’t there? That’s how I felt when I tried to write about my time at the institute.

Four years later, I still gush about that week.I still struggle for words to describe how good the time was. So I resorted to saying it was, “all good stuff.” The phrase became my signature, and after reading the above verse, I changed it to “all good things.” There is little difference between the two phrases, but they express the same sentiment. There is so much in life that we can call “good.” For all that stuff and those things, we thank the Source of goodness.

The origin of “all good things” is not only one verse of Scripture. It’s not one workshop in Minnesota. The origin of all good things is the One who declared this world, “good,” with the words of creation. And yes, he is always good!

I encourage you to set aside time to name all the good stuff in your life: past, present, and future. Name those experiences. Share those stories. Turn your gaze toward the heavens and away from the screens. Tell the Lord, “You are good.” Hear him say in return, “So are you.”

all good things to each of you,
dr. d

Pastor’s Message 02/13/2024

Isaac’s Insights & Leroy’s Lesson

Since adopting Leroy the puppy (or perhaps I should say, being adopted by him), I can’t help but reflect on his similarities and differences to Isaac, my beloved dog who passed away last June. I’ve even called Leroy by Isaac’s name accidentally a few times, and he seems to know who I’m talking about! I can already tell they are very different dogs, but one thing they share in common is that they are naturally teachers. Isn’t that so true of our canines and felines? It’s no wonder that God teaches us through them. After all, He created all of the animals of earth, sky, and sea before forming us from the dust. They existed before we did, and along with all of creation are telling the glory of God.
As we enter the Lenten season, we will hear the statement, “Remember that from dust you came, and to dust you shall return.” The animals are some of our best teachers of this truth: we live, and we die, but through Jesus Christ we die to self so we might live forever with Him!
As hard as it was to say goodbye to Isaac last year, in Leroy we’re experiencing resurrection life in a new way. I pray that you will find new life as well this season as we worship together, vision together, and pray together as the body of Christ.
Know how grateful I am for each of you. It’s an honor to serve as your pastor.
all good things,
dr. d

Stewardship Message 02/04/2024

A Message from George Purnell, Our Stewardship Chairman

Dear Friends:
I bet you have been noticing how our church has entered a period of spiritual renewal. We are all so grateful to have our church family back together after a period of disruption last year. Maybe you are like me… I had almost forgotten that the Holy Spirit of Jesus was right there with us the whole time, but now I am in full realization that we were in His hands all along. What a great feeling it is to be a part of this church family, where all of us are committed to strengthening and growing our mission together to serve our Lord Jesus.
This coming Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday is really going to be super at FUMC. After our worship service, we will have lunch together, just like it should be! Our luncheon fellowships are always a joy, and if we look what happened in Acts, it should be no surprise.

Luke told us how it was at Pentecost in Acts 2:42:

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

Later in verse 46 Luke says that “they shared their meals with great joy and generosity”. This sounds like FUMC West Point to me!

This Sunday, “Souper” Bowl Sunday, we’ll share a meal of soup and salad (and desserts, of course!) and no doubt it will be a joyful occasion. We’ll also exercise our generosity with an opportunity to complete a commitment card for our 2024 stewardship giving. Pretty much every member of our church has a renewed attitude of “what can I do to support our church family’s missions?” I know you feel it, too. This Sunday is our time!

I hope to see you Sunday. Bring your commitment card which you will receive in the mail, but more importantly bring YOU ! Our church family has so many resources, so many God-given gifts, and so many opportunities to serve. It indeed will be a joy to fellowship with you. See you there!

With heartfelt gratitude,
George Purnell, Stewardship Chairman

Pastor’s Message 1/30/24

Born in Jail

If you were in worship this past Sunday, you know that we adopted a puppy. We named him Leroy, and he is quickly becoming acquainted with church life! He’s been invited to help lead confirmation and will probably be back for future lessons in the children’s sermons. If you need his help in your Sunday school class or event, please let me (his secretary) know.

Leroy actually came from the Choctaw County jail, one of seven puppies born to a dog cared for by the staff and inmates. One by one, the puppies have been adopted to new homes. Though they were born in a place of incarceration, through love they have been set free to new homes. His name means, “the king,” and while we are working daily to make sure he doesn’t “reign” in the house, we also remind him that he is a beloved pup of God.

In Romans 8:2, Paul writes, “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Because we are all sinners, we are all “imprisoned” without Christ Jesus. His life and love have opened a door for us to be adopted as children of God. But do we truly live as a free people?

On Sunday we also talked about praying with confidence and authority. As children of God, we have every reason to be confident that Christ Jesus hears us. We have been set free to serve the one who freed us! Let us boldly pray and confidently live as a people of grace who are consistently extending grace to others.

all good things to each of you,
dr. d.

Pastor’s Message 1/23/2024

After a Wintry Week

Last week the sky offered an unexpected gift of time.
~ Margaret Renkl, The New York Times, January 22, 2024

I woke up this morning to a beautiful reflection by Nashville-based writer, Margaret Renkl, about last week’s freezing temperatures and icy streets. Renkl acknowledged the laments of the week: people unable to get to work and losing their pay, having to drive in risky areas because of jobs that can’t be done from home, those who have no home searching for shelter.

Then, Renkl turned her attention to the wildlife in her yard and her neighbors’ children playing in the snow. She paid attention to what she hadn’t noticed before and sensed a holiness in the world that she would not have seen without a winter storm.

I can’t help but think about what the kingdom of God looks like when I think of last week’s weather. There is much work to do. There are needs to meet and changes to make to ensure all God’s children are safe and fed. And we must not miss the blank canvases that God gives us to pause and be with him in gratitude and generosity.

Modern-day “inconveniences” can be invitations to remember we are not in control. We learn a little more about surrender and acceptance, about humility and awareness.

What lessons did last week’s ice and snow and cold teach you?

What are changes you will make as a result of the sky’s gift of time?

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message

A New Start for the Newsletter

For the past few months, the church staff, along with the help of Communications Chair Art Shirley, have been looking at updated, economic-friendly ways for us to improve the church’s newsletter. We are excited to share that we will now be able to assemble the weekly newsletter with photographs, our new church logo, an easily readable format, and a much lower cost. With continued increases in the costs of postal mailing, we can be good stewards of our resources by distributing the newsletter electronically.

We know this will be a big change, and here’s what we need from you to ensure you stay updated on everything First United Methodist:

Contact the church office by Wednesday, January 31, and let us know if you would prefer to receive the newsletter via text message (through Remind) or email.

Have you seen our beautiful posts that Julie, Stacy, and Jessi have sent out with church announcements and on social media over the past couple of years? Those were made on a program called Canva, which we will use for the newsletter, too. We can’t wait for you to see how bright and beautiful it is!

We know this will be a big change, and thank you for understanding. We look forward to hearing from you!

all good things,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message-January 9, 2024

Epiphany Worship Series: A Grateful & Generous People
During the Advent season, I shared with you that there were two words the Lord kept bringing to my mind for our life as a church in 2024. Those words are gratitude and generosity, and we are planting ourselves in them. Did you know that the verb, “to give,” appears over 1300 times in the Bible? In most of those instances, God is the subject, the one who does the giving. In the remainder, God is commanding us to give. Gratitude and generosity are two practices rooted in such giving. We are recipients of God’s generosity, and out of our gratitude, we are generous to Him and with one another. You can’t have one without the other in God’s kingdom!
In our worship series that began on Sunday and continues through February 11, Scripture is guiding us in how to be both grateful and generous. In The United Methodist Church, members commit to give in these areas:
1. Our Prayers
2. Our Presence
3. Our Gifts
4. Our Service
5. Our Witness
We’ll be elaborating on each of these in the weeks to come with concrete examples of each and invitations in how to participate in all five areas. Thank you in advance for all you have done and contributed to our church in 2023. I look forward to opening God’s Word with you each Sunday and being filled with His Spirit each day!
all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – December 19, 2023

One More 2023 Pastoral Letter

Dearly Beloved Friends (And Flock),

This is our last newsletter of 2023, and as I reflect on the past year, I understand why the New Testament writers always began and ended their letters with words of thanksgiving. Paul, Peter, James, John, and any anonymous writers expressed how grateful they were for the letter’s recipients. Let me begin with the same blessing that I give thanks to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ for the ways I see the Holy Spirit at work in you.

I’ve had to write you a number of pastoral letters this year, and it felt appropriate to end with one that looks upwards & forward. Now is the opportunity for us to live out what we believe, and what we believe in is resurrection. New life. New beginnings. Miracles. We are already showing signs of such new birth! Two words that the Lord keeps impressing upon me for 2024 are gratitude & generosity. I will share more in the Epiphany worship series about these words and what they might mean for us.

I will update you that the finance committee will meet this week to discuss and hopefully approve our budget for next year. By the end of this week, we should also have most of our church officers in place and ready to approve. Both officers and the budget will be distributed to our active members soon after. In early January, we will talk about stewardship as well, how you might commit not only your monetary gifts but the gifts of your hands, feet, and hearts.

I give thanks for each of your hearts. It is an honor to serve as your pastor, shepherd, and friend. Let us take our sheep lives into 2024 with gratitude and generosity!

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s message – December 12, 2023

More Glory Sightings

On behalf of the Staff Parish Committee, I’m delighted to share that Gail Foote has accepted the position of office manager, to begin on January 1, 2024. Gail is no stranger to our church’s membership or staff. She has served as Director of Family Ministries in the past and is involved in many areas of church life. Most likely, if you are reading this newsletter, then you have gotten a text from Gail! Her gifts of hospitality and encouragement, among others, will be most welcome as she returns to the staff.

We’re also thankful that our new pianist, Kindal Gammill, will start playing weekly in January. These two “newest” members of the staff have something in common that I believe is so important: the Holy Spirit led them to us, and they answered a “nudge” from the Holy Spirit. Glory sightings emerge when we respond to these leadings and nudges.

When the angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells her that she will bear a son named Jesus, the Savior of the world, Mary asks a legitimate question: HOW? Gabriel responds by saying, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you: (Luke 1:35).

The same Spirit that came upon Mary is upon us. We are overshadowed by the same God who brought forth eternal life. What have we to fear? Let us give thanks for all the ways that God’s glory is shining, and may his Light shine through us.

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian

Pastor’s Message – December 5, 2023

Stewarding the Season

What a beautiful start we have had to the Advent season with Sunday’s worship service, fellowship meal, and outing for our youth to go ice skating! And we have even more joy in store next Sunday, December 10, with the Blessing of the Tree. Don’t forget to bring an unwrapped toy that you’ll bring forward in the worship service. We’ll look forward to sharing these alongside our blessing box this month.

We are in a season when we are more aware than ever of God’s blessings. Normally by this time of the year we have shared with you three things: the budget for next year, a stewardship campaign, and a list of upcoming officers for next year. Please know that all of these are all still in progress right now, and you will be hearing more about them soon. With many changes in our congregation this year, we’re taking our time on these important, administrative matters and adapting just as we have made adjustments to some of our annual traditions and activities.

One thing that I am committed to improving everyday as your pastor and shepherd is communication. As we enter a new calendar year, know that the staff, church leadership and I will be following up on these three important items with clarity and integrity. In fact, I am really excited to share with you more about all of these in the weeks to come!

What I do ask of you right now is to steward wisely the time God has given us with practices of prayer and thanksgiving. Every day, let us pause to name where we’ve seen God’s glory and where we need his grace. Every week, let us set aside time to worship together as a church family and to fellowship with each other. And let us regularly ask the Lord how we might bless others as he has so richly blessed us.

all good things to each of you,
dr. darian