Pastor Darian

Author's details

Name: Pastor Darian
Date registered: June 5, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Pastor Darian's Musings: In Between: A Poem for Holy Thursday — April 17, 2014
  2. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Downton Abbey: Traditional Power — April 11, 2014
  3. Pastor Darian's Musings: Social Media Theology: The "Un-Friending" — April 3, 2014
  4. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Candid Clergywoman: Let The Healing Begin — March 27, 2014
  5. Pastor Darian's Musings: Insight From Isaac (and Jenn): Sacrifice, Cheeseburgers, and a "Complete" Joy — March 14, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Duties of a 1913 Preacher in Cleveland, MS — 1 comment
  2. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to John Coffey — 1 comment

Author's posts listings

Apr 17 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: In Between: A Poem for Holy Thursday

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And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”
Matthew 26:39 (New Revised Standard Version)

There's a semi-colon
In the middle of your prayer.

How long did that pause last
In between
Your plea for mercy
And your sigh of acceptance?

Did the deep groan
Of your troubled breath
Rumble the ground,
Rattle the sleep
Of your slumbering friends?

Did your nails claw the ground?

Did your knees bleed?

How many shallow breaths
Did you draw
Before you could speak again?

Was there bloody mud on your forehead
When you rose from the ground?

Could you taste the earth
On your lips?

In between
The falling and the rising,
In between
The "if" and the "yet"
You strap struggle on your back
You load anguish on your shoulders
You gather sin in your hands
You clamp your feet in shackles.

Your weary voice stirs us,
Wrestles us,
Pauses us:
"Will you go with Me
Into the in-between
Of this dark night
And a distant dawn?"

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Apr 11 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Downton Abbey: Traditional Power

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For four years, I've had phone calls go to voicemail automatically on Sunday evenings -- because of a little miniseries called Downton Abbey. There seemed to be as many people watching PBS on Super Bowl Sunday as there were watching the game. Perhaps we'll have to rename that day Downton Sunday?

For those of you who don't own televisions or just have no idea what I'm talking about, take this word of advice: it's pronounced DOWN-ton, not DOWN-TOWN. I made that mistake when talking to a super-fan of the show. Now that I'm a super fan, too, I must warn you not to make the same mistake!

Set in early 20th century England, the show centers around Downton Abbey, the estate of the Crawley family. The Crawleys employ a number of servants whose duties include cooking every single meal, polishing every piece of silver, and dressing every daughter in a new dress for dinner. But this is not a story of revolution or oppression or inequality among classes. Many of the servants love their jobs. The Crawleys seem closer to their employees at times than their own family members. The series begins with the sinking of the Titanic, and we experience World War I through the eyes of this historic estate. While the world around them changes, and homes like Downton seem to be fading into more modern times, patriarch Robert Crawley is determined to keep the house, and its traditions, alive. All the while, Downton Abbey abounds with crackling dialogue and conflicting personalities.

In the first episode of season 3, one of the Crawley daughters is getting married. For those who still want to watch the series for themselves, I will not reveal which daughter! There is a marvelous scene where the girl's two grandmothers lock heads. Mrs. Levinson, played by Shirley Maclaine, is from America and thinks that the obsession with tradition at Downton is ridiculous. Countess Violet, played by Maggie Smith, is hopelessly devoted to her heritage staying alive by keeping the traditional living of Downton alive.

Martha Levinson: “Nothing ever alters for you people does it. Revolutions erupt and monarchies crash to the ground and the groom still cannot see the bride before the wedding.”

Countess Violet: “You Americans never understand the importance of tradition.”

Martha Levinson: “Yes we do, we just don’t give it power over us. History and tradition took Europe into a world war. Maybe you should think about letting go of its hand.”

This was a "pause and rewind" moment. I heard what they said, and then I wanted to hear it again. Here is where art shed light on life.

In the Church, especially as we near Easter Sunday, tradition is forefront in our congregations. Family members return to the churches of their upbringing and expect certain traditions to still be alive. On any other Sunday, we may have flexibility with hymn choices and flower arrangements. But on the day we celebrate all things made new, there are certain lilies to order and six (or is it seven?) verses of "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" to sing.

At St. Luke UMC, the choir will sing a piece called, "Roll The Stone Away," as a benediction, a longstanding tradition. I will half-jokingly suggest that we change to Mumford & Sons' song of a similar name. There will be a few chuckles, but most people will say that change won't work. I will respect that tradition. :)

At this crucial time in the Church year, tradition can deepen our experience of God. Nothing moves me more than the bare, uncolored altar of Holy Thursday or the hollow bell rung after Christ's last words on Good Friday. Come Sunday morning, seven words of responsive reading echo as in an empty tomb: "He is risen. He is risen indeed!"

 Like Countess Violet, we can find great joy and meaning in a historic way of worshipping God. If we're not careful, however, we can find ourselves in the danger zone noticed by Mrs. Levinson: being led by a tradition instead of by the God who works through tradition.

We may find ourselves in conflict over the details of worship because "it's never been done that way" or "we've always done it this way." What if we stopped and asked ourselves about our traditions, both in and out of the Church, in all seasons of the year? Are we clinging to something that has power over us? Or does the tradition reveal Someone whose power knows no boundaries, classes, or mindsets?

May your journey to the cross, be it with or without traditions, abound with all good things, no matter how dark the night or how bright the morn......

Pastor Darian


P.S. Now, don't you think that this British band would be a nice complement to Downton Abbey? And this "rolled-away stone" would add to Easter joy? :)

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Apr 03 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Social Media Theology: The "Un-Friending"

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"I hope I didn't offend you."

I looked up from my plate of okra, tomatoes, and black-eyed peas to see "Joe," an acquaintance in the community. He looked strangely repentant. Mouth full, I raised an eyebrow in question. He sat down.

"I tried to tag you in a photo on Facebook, and you weren't there."

I smiled as Joe looked down at his hands, even more repentant.

"I thought maybe I'd offended you, and you'd uh --"

"Un-friend-ed you?" I interrupted him.

Joe looked directly at me.

"I didn't un-friend you, Joe," I said. "I deactivated my Facebook account. That's why you couldn't tag me in the photo."

Joe's face lifted. "So, you didn't un-friend me?"

"No, but if you read my blog, you'd have known that." (Now ends this brief public service announcement) :)

I understand Joe's sensitivity. The first time I realized that someone had deliberately gone to my page, clicked on "un-friend," and sent me into their Facebook past, I was irritated. How dare someone who had requested to be my friend take back that request! Was I not good enough for the company of their 1000 other friends? Did I post something offensive? Had I done something wrong? Frustration quickly gave way to self doubt and eventually to acceptance that the un-friending was not all about me.

In the world of social media, the internet, and email, we are a very connected people. Some of those connections are good, and some of them could benefit from a little un-friending. Sometimes strong friendships can take a turn for the worse. An argument. Long-held grudges coming to the surface. Growing pains. Life happening. Jealousy developing. Common ground wearing away. We find ourselves needing space from each other. Such conflicts do not necessarily mean we cut all ties to each other. We know that conflict is a part of life and often strengthens relationships. However, as the writer of Ecclesiastes sings about life's seasons, we recall "a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing." (Ecclesiastes 3:5, New Revised Standard Version)

Sometimes we need to hash out our stones together, and other times we need to deal with the weighty stones of our lives separately. Sometimes we need to tell each other everything, and other times we need to hold back in our words. Does this mean that we're harboring unforgiveness or avoiding reconciliation?

I don't think so.

Un-friending in real life, or changing our connections, is sometimes the space needed for forgiveness. Once we search our own hearts and invite God to show us where we need to give or receive forgiveness, reconciliation becomes a possibility. I applaud Joe for having the courage to inquire about a changed connection. That conversation turned out to be a humorous blog promotion. However, if there had been a problem between us, his humility would have created a wonderful opportunity for conversation!

The longer I'm away from Facebook, the more clearly I see that un-friending in social media or in real life is not necessarily a bad thing. It simply indicates change. Healthy questions can arise from that change. Why has this friendship changed? Was this ever a truly healthy connection? What about me, with God's help, needs to change?

May this Lenten journey continue to change us from the inside out as we draw near to the cross that changed all of us into eternal friends of God.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

P.S. Friends, this musing is intended primarily for friendships, not marriages. If you and/or your spouse are struggling more than usual, please contact a licensed counselor or family therapist to work through the changes of your lives.

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Mar 27 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: The Candid Clergywoman: Let The Healing Begin

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The people who were standing fell backwards, and the people seated in wheelchairs stood up.

If someone had asked me fifteen years ago what a "healing service" was, this would have been my description. Dramatic, physical reversals occurred before our eyes. Blaring from microphones were testimonies of vanished pain. Ministers like Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, and Benny Hinn became household names because of the miracles happening in their services. They also became well-known for investigations into the "validity" of these signs and wonders.

The concerns are understandable. Were these healing tales simply tall tales used as marketing schemes? As the body of Christ, we must hold each other accountable. It is heartbreaking when a brother or sister "uses" faith for selfish gain. Repentance, confession, forgiveness, and restoration are necessary responses by the Church. But we on the other side of the television screen only hear half of the story so often. We hear either the good or the bad, and in the case of televangelists, what we usually hear is the bad.

Some of us, in our disillusionment, may have responded to these scandals by writing off healing as a 21st century reality.

We might say that the miracles Jesus did in the gospels don't occur now.

We could say that all of those "healings" we saw on TV were contrived.

Friends, when we start claiming what is (and is not) the work of the Holy Spirit in absolute terms, we are stepping into precarious territory.

The Holy Spirit works in the glamorous, jam-packed arenas as well as the simple, country-church altars. The Holy Spirit works in spite of greedy leaders, critical onlookers, and the messes that all of us are. The Holy Spirit works through the messiness of us all whether on or off the television.

And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is healing.

Today, if someone were to ask me what a healing service is, I would share a story from this blog. Recently revised and published by Fidelia's Sisters, a publication of The Young Clergy Women Project, Grace For the Moment tells the story of a pastor who was leading worship one Sunday morning with a broken heart. Through the whispered love of a congregation, her healing began in song and liturgy.

This past Sunday, the same pastor administered the anointing of oil at a quarterly Service of Healing. The same altar that had absorbed her tears, my tears, held the heartache of saints who knelt for a healing touch and a holy meal.

Why do churches so often avoid services of healing and reconciliation?

Why are they not a more central part of our gathered life?

Why do we avoid God's miraculous power in fear or skepticism?

It's time to reclaim healing as a priority in our communities of faith.

Looking back, perhaps my perception of a "healing service" really hasn't changed that much. We fell into God's embrace as we knelt together. We rose from the rail as others have stood from wheelchairs over the years. Falling down. Getting up. By a power not our own.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

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Mar 14 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Insight From Isaac (and Jenn): Sacrifice, Cheeseburgers, and a "Complete" Joy

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"Are you ready to go?"

My college roommate, Jenn, stood in the doorway on one leg, the other bent in a quadricep stretch. Her hair was in a ponytail, her sneakers were on her feet, and her mind already seemed to be on the pavement. Though I was also dressed for exercise, I couldn't say I was "ready" to run the 3-mile perimeter of Vanderbilt's campus.

"Can't we just walk?" I sat on the edge of the bed, not stretching. "It would be easier for us to talk if we walk."

Jenn planted both feet on the ground and said, "We live together. We talk all the time. It's time to run!"

I remembered why Jenn was the future law student, and I was the theologian-in-training.

"I have an idea," Jenn said. "We can go out for cheeseburgers after the run. That'll be your reward. But you've got to run the whole loop."

I lept to my feet and started running in place, as if that would "warm me up." Jenn knew me well. Back then, the promise of a burger and fries would motivate me to exercise, study, or clean the apartment.

So began my tumultuous, off-and-on-again relationship with running. I made it through that first run with frequent yelling of "Cheeseburger!" from Coach Jenn when I'd ask for a break. While I didn't particularly like running for exercise, I felt like it was good for me. But my friend loved to run, and I enjoyed spending that time with her.

After Jenn and I graduated, the motivation to run waned. Jenn's relationship with the road blossomed into running a half-marathon. Or was it a full marathon? Running and I would get together for a while, then break up again. I even reached the point of running a 5K without the need to hear "cheeseburger!" at every mile marker. As soon as the 5K was over, I decided to dump running and return to my beloved, fast-paced walking for exercise.

Until I decided to adopt a dog.

Last fall, I started running occasionally to prepare for the energy of a labrador retriever. When Isaac found me, he was ready to run more than the "loop" at Vanderbilt. Unlike Jenn, he did not promise me a reward other than his happiness. Even though I still don't enjoy running, I enjoy how much he enjoys running. I enjoy what we share. I enjoy watching his four legs become two in a sprint. I enjoy the way that he will walk with me after I run with him. I had to learn to sacrifice my "favorite" form of exercise in order to experience our shared joy.

What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete. (1 John 1:3-4)

Joy does not come from getting our first choice all the time. If joy is dependent on getting our own way, we need to rethink our understanding of joy. The writer of 1 John reminds us that the joy of our salvation is "incomplete" when not shared. Sometimes sharing in joy requires us to sacrifice of self.

In the past decade, as I've moved from college to graduate school to full-time employment, I often hear people, especially in my age range, express the opposite of joy in their personal and professional lives. Some of this dissatisfaction stems from individual circumstances: a lack of self-care, unexpected losses, changes in relationships, etc. But we also shun joy sometimes because we're too centered on self. We can't find that "perfect" job that allows us to do exactly what we want for 40 hours, maximum, each week. Our relationships never seem "good enough" because we don't get our way as often as we'd like. I've been there. You probably have, too. We're imperfect, we live in an imperfect world, but we all have ideas of what a "perfect" life could be. We go after that pie-in-the-sky, and we're disappointed when it doesn't happen. We'd rather walk than run.

Joy for today can be "complete" for each of us, but we might have to run instead of walk. Joy increases in us as we share in what brings our "Jenns" and "Isaacs" joy. Let us go into the future filled with Christ's love, finding joy in life's everyday realities.

In the wise words of my college roommate, "Are you ready to run?"

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

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Mar 06 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Social Media Theology: Life Without the "Likes" (So Far)

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With the Academy Awards last weekend came memories of past acceptance speeches. Roberto Begnini climbed over chairs and people to get to the stage, where he declared joyfully, "I already used up all of my English!" Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s exuberant speech still makes me think that he missed his calling as a preacher (I still shout "hallelujah!" when I see clips of it). Tom Hanks, in his win for "Philadelphia," paid tribute to the many who lost their battle with AIDS. Alfred Hitchcock just said "thank you."

No good montage of past speeches would be complete without Sally Field, clutching her Oscar and declaring, "You like me!" How many spoofs, jokes, and laughs have followed her genuine expression of gratitude.

I think one of the reasons we play and replay Field's speech at Oscar time is that we identify with it. We like to be "liked." We like to receive tangible evidence that people think highly of us and our work, whether it's an Oscar or just a "thank you" note. We like to receive approval and affirmation.

But what happens when we are more concerned with people liking us than we are with pleasing God?

What happens when we make decisions based on others' approval and not on what we believe to be best?

What happens when our need to be "liked" displaces our need to be true to ourselves?

We lose a bit of our authenticity.

We lose a bit of our genuineness.

We no longer enjoy that people approve of us. Instead, we need people to "really like" us.

Our sense of wholeness becomes dependent on some else's "thumbs up" to our work.

When I left Facebook last month and got a head-start on my Lenten "fast," I knew that the number of hits on this blog would decrease. With 500 "friends," I could count on people clicking on the link and sharing it. I wondered how I (and the blog) would fare without the "likes" of Facebook.

The truth is: I feel like I've been set free.

When I sit down to write without the distractions of social media in front of me, without a record of which posts received the most "likes," I can hear more clearly the gentle voice of the Spirit. I find myself personally seeking out other writers and readers to look at what I'm working on, both on & off the blog. The time once given to the "likes" of social media is now free for other activities. I have to be much more intentional about keeping in touch with people. I am discovering changes in priorities.

Two years ago, I blogged weekly about my Lenten discipline. Last year, I chose to keep the discipline & its insights only in my journal. This year, I will do a little of both. My hope for each of you is that you grow closer to the One who longs to draw closer to you over these 40 days. There are numerous books, periodicals, and resources available on the topic, especially from Upper Room Ministries. Please seek these out if needed. And as you seek Him.... may you find Him who waits patiently for us all to give him the time He's so graciously given to us.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

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