Pastor’s Message – January 12, 2021

Bright Spots on a Dark Day

Last Wednesday, on a day when the Church celebrates Christ’s eternal light with the Epiphany, we witnessed a lot of darkness at the U.S. Capitol. There are many layers to those events that will take time and effort for all of us to unpack, and I encourage you to stay well-educated and to “pray without ceasing” in the weeks to come.

In the midst of a dark day, I read a couple of articles that revealed true bright spots, of Epiphany light. I am sharing them here and encourage you to seek them out online at the publication sources. They are two among many.

“How House Chaplain calmed tense hours in besieged Capitol with prayers for ‘God’s covering’” (Religion News Service: religionnews.com): January 6 was only the third day of work for the House of Representatives’ new chaplain. Read how the power of prayer and Scripture brought comfort and strength to those huddled in fear.

“ ‘What Else Could I Do?’ NJ Rep. Kim helps clean up Capitol” (Associated Press, apnews.com): A photo of Andy Kim helping to clean up the Rotunda shed an important light on the faithful staff who showed up in the middle of the night to do their unseen, unappreciated jobs of literally picking up the pieces. When I read this article, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus kneeling down to wash the disciples’ feet, and how he views “success,” even in the grandest halls of the world.

And now, beloved friends, how will YOU shine Epiphany light this week?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – January 5, 2021

The Season After Epiphany Worship Series:
A New Year of Spiritual Resolutions

A happy new year and blessed Epiphany to each of you. I hope these past couple of weeks have revealed the joy of Christmas to each of you. As I shared on Sunday, we have embarked on a new worship series all about resolutions/goals/intentions/(insert your word of choice) to help us grow closer to Jesus. In this first newsletter of the year, I’m providing you with upcoming Scriptures and sermon titles in the hope you will read those passages ahead of time in preparation for what the Spirit might teach us together. I’m also including a verse of poetry/song from the Bible for you to meditate upon or to sing. I look forward to growing with you as part of the wonderful body of Christ in this season of light!

January 10                             “Climbing Trees”                                            Psalm 29
January 17                             “Seeing the World”                                        John 1:43-51
January 24                             “Leaving Our Boats Behind”                       Mark 1:14-20
January 31                              “Celebrating What God Has Done”           Psalm 111
February 7                               “Preaching the Gospel”                               1 Corinthians 9:16-18

In honor of the Epiphany this week, let us sit with the prophet Isaiah. Take a moment to pause at the end of each line and re-read the line, letting its truth sink into your soul. Try adding your own melody to it and sing to the Lord, too.

Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. ~ Isaiah 60:5

all good things to each of you,

Dr. Darian

* Our church’s COVID-19 task force plans to meet the week of January 11 to reassess guidelines for our gatherings. Please continue to pray for these wonderful leaders as we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice together.*

Pastor’s Message – December 22, 2020

My Favorite Things: 2020 Edition

For this last newsletter of 2020, I’d like to share briefly about the book, album, and movie that have resonated most with me this year. These are not necessarily “the best of the year,” but they have been “the best for me this year.” I hope this sharing will encourage you to reflect on where you’ve heard God’s voice, too.

The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams (book): I had intended to read this book when working on my doctoral thesis, but it was displaced by necessary academic reads. When I finally read it back in February, I was blown away by Yip-Williams’ story. She reflects on her life as a young woman dying of cancer, and she manages not to shy away from lament but also not to avoid humor. And what a life it is. I especially love the cameo appearance of how a local church enters the story in a powerful way towards the end.

Reunions by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Every album Jason Isbell releases seems better than the one before. This one arrived in May, and though it was recorded before the pandemic, its messages resonated nonetheless. One of my favorite lyrics is, “It gets easier, but it never gets easy.” And when I heard, “Dreamsicle,” I immediately bought a box of dreamsicles to eat on my back porch in the hot summer months: a small but wonderful pleasure!

Little Women (movie): The last movie I saw in the theater was on January 3, and it was Greta Gerwig’s marvelous production of Little Women. Technically the movie came out in 2019, but I’m claiming seeing it with a friend in the theater as one of the best parts of 2020. Because so much of the story takes place at Christmas, I look forward to watching it again to close out 2020. The story is familiar, of course, but this is a whole new way of telling it: much like the Greatest Story we will hear this week, too!

all good things to each of you,
Dr. Darian

Pastor’s Message – December 15, 2020

“It Can’t Be”

Last week my parents sent me an article that embodied the hope, peace, joy, and love of this Advent season. The Washington Post article was about a dog named Abby who wandered away from her home in Dothan, Alabama. For three weeks, her pet parents searched for her and hoped that she would eventually come home-even though it was hard to “hope” as time passed.

Then on November 28, Abby’s pet parent, June, was working at her cashier’s station in Wal-Mart when a small commotion developed nearby. A dog had gotten in the store and was running loose. Employees followed it and tried to calm and safely catch the scared pup. June told The Washington Post that Abby came to her mind immediately. She said out loud, “It can’t be.”

A glimmer of hope grew in June’s heart as she called out Abby’s name-a shot in the dark. Within moments, the dog had come to her, and indeed, it was Abby. The dog that had been lost for three weeks had now been found by finding her way “home.”

There is something about the Advent season and Christmas that cause us to see miracles more clearly. It’s in the season that we recall that what to us “can’t be” actually did happen. Messiah has come, has made his home with us, so that we with Abby might find our way home to our Heavenly Parent.

As we inch closer and closer to that day when we celebrate the most miraculous celebration, may we embrace the knowledge that “can’t be” truly can. Let’s believe in miracles. Let’s turn that one candle of hope into a blazing Advent wreath of miracles!

all good things to each of you, Dr. Darian

Stewardship Message – The Gratitude Path – December 8, 2020

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.–James 1:24

Dr. Darian said to write about what I am grateful for in the year 2020. I have to admit that gratitude is probably not my first or natural reaction to this year. At the beginning of the year, it became apparent that my mother’s health was becoming more fragile, and I would need to be more vigilant in my care of her. Then the pandemic hit and I became somewhat housebound, due in part to my responsibility to care for her and in part due to my own status as a member of a vulnerable group (over 65, high blood pressure, high susceptibility to respiratory infections-I’ve had the flu 37 times!). And then in March, my son’s and daughter-in-law’s social networking business in Portland, OR, collapsed, and they had to let all their employees go. Yeah, gratitude for the year 2020 could be a hard one.

And yet I find myself very grateful indeed. We celebrated Mom’s 89th birthday this year (in a limited group, of course), and I have been reflecting a lot recently on how fortunate we are-4 children with spouses, 8 grandchildren with spouses, and 13 great-grandchildren-to have her in our lives for all this time. What a blessing for all of us!
Staying at home has meant less eating out, less fast food, more time for exercise, and more time for my own cooking. The result has been an improvement in my overall health and the loss of a few pounds. I am grateful for the opportunity to focus on my physical well-being.

My son and his wife, with more time on their hands, planted a huge garden in their yard this summer. My daughter-in-law, a talented cook, created a hot sauce made from their home-grown tomatoes and baked tomato pies, quiches and other culinary delights from their multitude of vegetables. My son then sold them at a pop-up market. They both reported having great fun doing something that they would never have gotten to do otherwise, and they shared their joy in doing it with me often in pictures.

Perhaps what I am most grateful for, though, is how the people of our church worked so hard to be sure that those of us who were homebound could continue to participate in the life of the church. I am so thankful every Sunday when I turn on my computer and participate in the worship service through Facebook, even when I am visiting my mother in Clinton, MS. What a privilege it is and how appreciative I am!

So, along with James, I am counting all of 2020 joyously, learning to be steadfast in the midst of trials, working on being perfect and complete in my faith in God and my appreciation for all His many blessings and abundant mercies in my life.

Gracy Taylor

Stewardship Message – The Gratitude Path

“Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now”. Saint Teresa of Avila

Millie Williams and George Purnell shared with us in our past two weekly newsletters snippets of their grateful hearts. It has been so refreshing to hear different people’s response to Dr. Darian’s challenge to share what we are grateful for.

As a relatively newcomer to West Point (3 years); I am so very grateful for this (my) church and it’s amazing outreach to various groups and community needs. From Rocky‘s and my first visit to FUMC, we were met with an outpouring of love and inclusiveness. This began when we walked into the church, after the service, an invitation to join a couple for lunch afterward, and a phone call the following day from a church staff member. We were overwhelmed with joy at the many opportunities to serve and be served by our church. You all immediately became our new family in a new land; as so many were literally the “hands and feet of Jesus” to us. I am truly grateful for the outpouring of love that I see exhibited to the “multitudes”; within our church walls and to various community needs, as well as, missions beyond our borders. In this strange time of social distancing; I am so very grateful and impressed with our COVID task force that have given so much time and planning to make the best of a strained time in the face of many mandates, both locally and statewide!!!! We have many talented members in our church family that have demonstrated their love and commitment in meeting the various needs of every age group by offering “ different “ ways to worship, both apart and collectively.

A very sincere thank you to all who work so diligently and often behind the scenes to keep our church family engaged and alive. Again, so many of our members are the “hands and feet of Jesus”; and I am supremely grateful. I challenge myself and each of you to use the individual talents that God has blessed us with to be His Light in our church, community, and the world. (Ref) Matthew 25: 37-40

Debbie Bond

Stewardship Message – The Gratitude Path – November 17, 2020

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

As disciples we should be grateful people, people who are aware of all the wonderful things that God gives and does for us. I am GRATEFUL for music. Music is an important part of worship and praise to God.

I am thankful that Mrs. Rachel has provided me with an environment that is warm, encouraging, and full of new possibilities. I am GRATEFUL that voice and guitar have helped me to feel and be more confident. Music has not stopped here at FUMC. It has changed, but it has continued. I have done voice virtually, in a private home, and now back in the church. I know God can hear me wherever I sing.

Palms 95:1 says “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.”

I pray that we all have hearts that can feel love, ears that can hear the music, and eyes that can see all our many blessings.

Millie Williams

Commitment Sunday will be Sunday, December 6th. Pledge cards will be mailed to members the week of November30th. You may bring your pledge card to church, mail it to P.O. Box 293, drop it by the church office or call Julie at 494-1658 to turn in your pledge. Thank you for your continued support of the FUMC ministries.

Stewardship Message – The Gratitude Path – November 10, 2020

A 92-year-old well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably coifed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, had to move to a nursing home. His wife of 70 years had recently passed away, making the move necessary.
As the admitting nurse maneuvered his walker to the elevator, she provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the beautiful curtains that had been hung on his window. “I love it,” he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.

“Mr. Jones, you haven’t seen the room; just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it!” he replied. “Gratitude is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged … it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or I can get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and every day I’m here I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away.”

He continued, “Life in an odd way is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you’ve put in. I’m still making gratitude deposits. I have had so much that I can still be grateful for and happy about.” To remain happy, remain in gratitude, and you’ll always have plenty to draw from.”
With a stewardship campaign about giving from our gratitude, hopefully this story will cause each of us to think how much we have had about which to be grateful. Like Mr. Jones so wisely stated, “Gratitude is something you decide ahead of time.”
Times might seem a little tough right now, but we can always choose to be grateful, especially for God’s many blessings. There are so many. We’ll never run out of them. So we can give and be grateful and know that it pleases our Father in Heaven.

George Purnell, Stewardship Chair

Pastor’s Message

The Gratitude Path: The Power of the Turn Around

I recently went on a vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, and I loved going on walks around the downtown area. On my first evening there, while walking to dinner at a nearby restaurant, I made a wrong turn and realized I would have to turn around and retrace some steps. Turning around on the sidewalk was easy, but then I was going against the flow of foot traffic! Going against the flow felt awkward, but it’s what I needed to do to reach my destination.

In Luke 17 Jesus instructs ten lepers to go to the priest after they cry out for healing. They obey, and along the way they are healed. One of the lepers notices his healing and turns around on the path to return to Jesus and thank him. Imagine how awkward it must have been to make that turnaround, to go against the flow of the other nine lepers, eager to make good time to reach the priest? The world may try to tell us that choosing to turn around in gratitude and going against the flow of complaint is too much trouble. But there is power in making that turn. When we choose gratitude, we return to Jesus.

This year’s stewardship theme revolves around choosing “the gratitude path” with this story as our guide. It is largely based on Kent Millard’s book of the same. We could easily list our grievances in the year 2020, but the Lord invites us to turn around toward gratitude. We invite you to ponder how God has blessed you this year. We hope you will reflect on what about this church makes you grateful. Giving flows from the grateful heart, and we desire for this campaign to have firm roots in gratitude. Be on the lookout for stories from within our church, and we hope you might be willing to share your stories of gratitude on this path we travel with Jesus.

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.

Pastor’s Message – October 27, 2020

Reading, Watching, and Listening In October

Every month I set aside one week to share in this space about movies, books, and music that have especially spoken to my heart recently. These are not advertisements for you to go out and buy the items but rather an invitation to consider what you’re reading, watching, and hearing, too. God speaks to us in all kinds of ways, and great conversation can arise among us from where we’re hearing God speak.

Evidence by Josh Baldwin (music): If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t yet, please do so @revdrdarian), you know that this album was the soundtrack of my recent vacation. Josh Baldwin currently serves as a worship leader in northern California, but his roots in the Carolinas come through clearly on this album. My favorite lyric is, “The only shadow I see / Is the shadow of your wing.”

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (book): I can’t say enough good about this book that is already on many lists for “best of the year.” Gyasi is a native of Ghana but grew up mostly in Huntsville, Alabama, in a Pentecostal church, and all of these influence her lead character named Gifty. The ways she writes about faith, grief, belonging, science, and family are hard to describe but so unforgettably beautiful.

The Trial of the Chicago Seven (movie): Movies have always introduced me to pieces of history that I previously didn’t know and challenged me to learn more about what happened (The fabulous film, Hidden Figures, is another example). I am eager to read more about this trial from 1968 because a two-hour film is not enough to learn about an eight-month-long trial. Still, the performances are great, and the writing superb. I am grateful for all that history has to teach us and the art of movies that introduce us to some of that history.

Through which songs, movies, and books is God speaking to you?

all good things to each of you,
Dr. D.