Pastor Darian

Author's details

Name: Pastor Darian
Date registered: June 5, 2012

Latest posts

  1. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Phoebe: Telling the Truth — September 19, 2014
  2. Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Ross and Rachel: Waiting At the Gate — September 11, 2014
  3. Pastor Darian's Musings: Insight From Isaac: And His "Click" Memories — September 4, 2014
  4. Pastor Darian's Musings: Dad Theology: The Church At Waffle House — August 28, 2014
  5. Pastor Darian's Musings: Bicycle Theology: The Farewell — August 21, 2014

Most commented posts

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

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Sep 19 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Phoebe: Telling the Truth

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This is the second of a four-part series inspired by the TV show, Friends. While every character has their perks, the one who has taught me the most is Phoebe. Here is just one gospel lesson from her.

In the world of Friends, all you need are a guitar and an idea to become a musician. You don't really need to know how to play that guitar. And the songs you write don't have to make sense. If Phoebe Buffay can land a regular gig at a New York coffeehouse, you believe that all of us can, too.

Phoebe is the free-spirited massage therapist who keeps  patrons of Central Perk "entertained" with unconventional songs about smelly cats. In an episode that aired after the Super Bowl in 1996, Phoebe has a big break. A local librarian asks her to sing for a children's reading hour.

Phoebe composes some songs on kid-friendly topics: grandparents, making good choices, and barnyard animals. The music is catchy and simple, but the lyrics are more complex. The following song about a cow is a perfect example.

In Phoebe's world, songs about grandparents include aging and death. Songs about animals include what happens when they disappear from the farm. Songs about good choices include thoughts on dating and adult relationships.

The parents are not happy, and Phoebe finds herself back to the one gig at Central Perk. The forward-thinking and handsome librarian loves what Phoebe tries to do. He tells her that the kids love her because she tells them the truth. Of course, in the world of TV, he also kisses Phoebe and takes her on a date.

At the end of the episode, Phoebe steps up to a microphone when a little boy runs into the coffee shop. He yells, "Excuse me! Is this where the lady who tells the truth sings?" Phoebe waves and says, "Yes, that's me." The little boy runs back outside, whistles, and says, "She's in here! Come on!" All the kids from the library then run into Central Perk to listen to someone brave enough to tell them the truth in song.

Educating children is one of life's greatest challenges. We love their innocence, yet we don't want them to be naive. We want to protect them, yet we know that they sometimes have to learn life lessons the hard way.

I write to you, children,
Because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
Because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young people,
Because you are strong
And the word of God abides in you,
And you have overcome the evil one.

(I John 2:14, New Revised Standard Version)

The apostle, John, recognizes the different maturity levels of his readers. Some are more like children, some are more like parents, and some are more like young adults in the faith. He wants to teach all of them through this letter, but such instruction is a challenge. How much should he "water down," and how much should he say forthrightly?

In the Church, I think we're often guilty of watering down truth to the point of flooding. Like Phoebe's young listeners, we want to know more about the cow and the chicken than just what the song, "Old McDonald Had a Farm," taught. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut of reading the same Bible stories and talking about the same topics that we overlook deeper truths of God's Word.

If we listen closely to children, and if we truly pay attention to their questions, we may be able to gauge how much to say and when. There are no simple answers or timelines that work for everyone. Children often lead us in what to teach them and when--when we listen, when we pay attention.

Phoebe and the handsome librarian paid closer attention to the curiosity of her young fans than their parents. As a result, the children trusted her to tell them the truth in song. May our homes and churches be havens where children know they will both hear Truth and feel protected at the same time. May all of us as children of the Heavenly Father nurture a spirit of curiosity that keeps us learning and growing together in the Truth of his Word.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

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Sep 11 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Ross and Rachel: Waiting At the Gate

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Dearly Beloved Readers: This is the first in a series of “gospel” reflections on the TV show, Friends. Even if you didn’t care for the show or have never seen it, I hope that you read along to seek the gospel in all kinds of media & art.

When I was a teenager, I would join thousands of other Americans at Central Perk every Thursday evening to learn from Ross, Monica, Rachel, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe.

Twenty years after its premiere, and ten years after the series finale, the TV show, Friends, is one of those beloved worlds that many of us still enjoy visiting. I don’t remember if the friends ever went to church, but the Church could certainly learn a lot from them about community.

They laughed together and taught each other to laugh at their mistakes.

They got mad at each other.

They moved away from each other.

They reconciled with each other.

Friends reminded us that all relationships are complicated.

No matter how vehemently they disagreed with each other, they always returned to that one, rusty orange couch at Central Perk to recapture the unity of their community. They lived in a TV world where a waitress and an unemployed actor could amazingly afford expensive apartments in New York City. No matter how fictitious the circumstances, their community was real.

One of the best-known storylines was the relationship of Ross and Rachel. He liked her. She was oblivious. She liked him. He was oblivious. They finally start dating. They’re in love with each other. They break up. They’re still in love with each other. Repeat for multiple seasons.

One of my favorite scenes in that relationship is in the final episode of season 1. While Ross is on his way to China, Chandler accidentally tells Rachel that Ross is in love with her. After a lot of pacing, thinking, coffee drinking, and talking, Rachel heads to the airport to welcome Ross home. She pushes her way to the gate, and the show ends with her standing at the gate, holding a bouquet of flowers, and waiting for him.

That episode aired in 1995. In September of 2001, the way we greet one another at airports changed. After September 11, 2001, Rachel was no longer able to stand at the arrival gate to welcome Ross home. She had to join all of us on the outside of the security gates. We learned to live with new boundaries. We made changes for everyone’s safety.

Boundaries don’t cause us to love one another less. Rachel’s eagerness to see Ross would not have waned if she had to wait a few more minutes to see him. Boundaries are in place to protect us. Boundaries work for everyone’s well being.

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:14-15, New Revised Standard Version)

Jesus was so present, so available, and so compassionate towards people that we overlook how wisely he set boundaries. In this story from John’s gospel, he knows that being made king was not the best plan for redeeming God’s people, so he pulled back. He protected himself, and he protected us. He didn’t love us less when he went “outside the gates” to pray. His love only increased.

Let us not be afraid of boundaries in our relationships. Instead, let us make health-full decisions in how we relate to one another. Let us learn from the example of Christ Jesus how to be the “friends” he called us to be.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

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Sep 04 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Insight From Isaac: And His "Click" Memories

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Insight From Isaac: And His “Click” Memories

Two years ago, I met a white lab named after a hurricane. Thankfully he did not act like a hurricane, so I adopted him. He adopted me. Now I write about him, and you are kind enough to read about him.  

Isaac and I frequently walk at a nearby college campus. Since school has been back in session, Isaac seems to believe that he, too, is a college student. He desperately tries to assert his independence. We walk in the neighborhoods, and he’s the ideal pet. We step onto the college campus, and he puts his nose to the ground and fights for the lead. Last week, I noticed that my hands and wrists were sore from his pulling on the leash.

That’s when I pulled out the old “clicker,” and we went back to “obedience school.”

Isaac’s training used a clicking noise to let him know when he’d done something correctly. We hadn’t used it in over a year, and I wondered if it would be of any help.

The passage of time did not matter. The first time Isaac heard that clicking noise, he became the opposite of a hurricane. He cooperated. He was willing to follow. Amazingly, he was happy. I used it throughout the walk, and the memory of that clicking noise produced a docile, obedient pup. Not only did he remember what the click represented. He felt secure in its memory.

11 But I will remember the Lord’s deeds;
Yes, I will remember your wondrous acts from times long past.
12 I will meditate on all your works;
I will ponder your deeds.
13 God, your way is holiness!
Who is as great a god as you, God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
You have demonstrated your strength among all peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people;
Redeemed the children of Jacob and Joseph.
(Psalm 77:11-15, Common English Bible)

All of us, whether canine or human, are guilty of forgetfulness. We interact with so many people and have so many memories that it’s impossible to remember every detail of our lives. We’re human. We forget.

Yet the psalmist echoes a word throughout Scripture: Remember. Remember what God has done for you.

As Isaac found comfort in the memory of the “click,” God fills our days with opportunities for reassurance. Are we too busy to pay attention to what God brings forward from our memory?

When you stop at a red light, do you remember the time you ran a red light and almost had an accident? Take comfort in the memory that God was, and is, with you.

When you sit down for a meal, do you remember the sacrifices of your parents and grandparents who survived the Great Depression with barely any food to eat?  Take comfort in the memory that God did, and does, provide.

When you recite The Apostle’s Creed in Sunday morning worship, do you remember that those words would not be reality without the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ?  Take comfort in the memory of what Christ has given, and still gives, to us each day.

Trying to live in the past can be detrimental and filled with regret. The past itself is not bad. The past can be one of our greatest teachers when God’s hand is in our memories.

Would you pause with me today to hear God’s “clicks?”

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

This is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, Over the Rhine. The chorus is simple: “I’m looking forward to looking back on this day.” Enjoy, friends.

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Aug 28 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Dad Theology: The Church At Waffle House

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This week's blog post was written by my dad, Bill Duckworth. He is an expert on all things Waffle House. He also knows a bit about churches. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“I don’t want to go to church today. Let’s go to Waffle House.”

My wife, Brenda, smiled widely and replied, “Yeah!”

It was an unusual decision for us to forsake Christian fellowship on the designated day for corporate worship. After all, attending church is as routine for us as turning on our air conditioner this time of year. The concept of honoring God by consuming diner food while listening to Hank Williams belt out "I Saw the Light" via a digital jukebox just didn’t seem appropriate for Sunday morning. However, it was revealing.

The Waffle House parking lot was full. The lots of the six churches we passed driving there were not. Waffle House had a line of people waiting for seats. As for those churches, use your imagination. Waffle House was full of hungry energetic people: some drinking coffee in the waiting area, children dancing to Hank’s salvation song, and servers shouting out “Hello! Welcome to Waffle House.” As for the excitement at those six houses of worship, even my imagination can’t go there.

But the real eye openers were the servers and food. The staff transferred customer orders verbally to the master grill operator. (Yes – Waffle House has a hierarchy)

Bacon Crisp (burn it hard)
Double Cheeseburger - Hold the Garden (no lettuce or tomato)
Triple Up (egg yolks staring one in the face like a 3-eyed monster)
My personal favorite-- Hashbrowns Steamed (potatoes cooked in ice over a hot grill).

This place was all about loud music, hungry people, hot food, and anticipation over the sun rising for a new day. As for the activities going on at those six churches… Hmmmm.

I have a real concern for the local churches. As he walked the earth, I see Jesus was similar to Waffle House. He was available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Like a magnet he attracted all kinds of unsavory characters. His food preparation caused people to hunger and follow him throughout the land. As a master grill operator of God’s Word, He provided a place where the common met the holy. Lives were served forgiveness, mercy and redemption. Tainted dishes laced with condemnation, guilt, or shame were not allowed in his house. He made it clear – “I am the Bread of Life” and our local bodies are called to bring his word of life to the hungry and broken hearted. So where do we start? Scratch that. Where do I start?

I must reexamine my place of hierarchy as a processor of God’s Word and ask, “Am I preparing the Word properly? Do I present it with beauty? Will it be an encouraging blessing or a damaging wound to the heart of a searching soul?” As a Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church for the past 10 years, I’m sure my messages presented a mixture of it all rather than providing a filtered purity of Christianity. But thankfully on this day I skipped church and found Jesus working outside its walls without my help.

As I finished my meal, full of cholesterol and saturated fat, I felt good reflecting upon Brother Hank’s third verse:

I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the lord I saw the light.

All of a sudden, a server shouted out, “Recall!”

In Waffle House language, which I speak fluently, that means, “I misspoke the customer’s request. let’s start over.”

She then said calmly, “Porterhouse, Well Done.”

May we all be willing to recognize the wrong orders of our lives, shout our recall to God, and do it righteously the next time. Then we will hear our master grill operator’s response, “Well Done my child, Well Done.”

An Apprentice at God’s House,

Bill Duckworth

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Aug 21 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: Bicycle Theology: The Farewell

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In June of 2009 I took a risk: I rode a bicycle for the first time since the era of braces & bangs (a.k.a. junior high).

At first I was wobbly and had to re-learn the gears. With careful patience, I was soon cruising up and down hills along the Mississippi River. By the time I climbed off of the borrowed bicycle, I was making plans to purchase my own two wheels.

Later that year, I found a mountain bike that was affordable and versatile. A bike ride left me with the same feeling as a yoga class. Because I had to focus on what was right in front of me, I could easily forget what had weighed on my mind. Worries seemed to blow away with the wind against my back. I would return home with ideas for “Bicycle Theology”—musings that I wrote for this blog about encountering God in the pedaling.

Along came the year 2012. I moved from Natchez’s gravel roads to the delta’s flat soil. The bicycle made the trek north, too, but something had changed. The mountain bike was no longer comfortable. I thought about trading it in for a road bike. I thought about getting different tires. I tried to ride early each morning, but I dreaded the exercise that I once anticipated.

The truth was: I no longer wanted to ride the bike.

I wanted to walk on two feet at a neighborhood trail instead of riding two wheels around town. I put the bicycle in the storage room and laced up my sneakers.

Then my dog, Isaac, appeared. I had to learn to walk him, and he had to learn to walk me. I told myself that one day I would train him to run alongside the bike. But the more I walked with Isaac, the more clearly I could hear God speak. The wind of the Spirit that had whispered to me on the bicycle was now speaking to me at the pace of a puppy.

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19a, New Revised Standard Version)

Change is difficult because it includes an ending and a beginning. As Isaiah wrote, clinging to the old prevents us from embracing the new. God is constantly presenting us with changes so that we can be more honest with ourselves. How often do we avoid risk-taking in favor of what’s comfortable, familiar, and easy?

We tend to think of change as sudden and drastic. Sometimes, change is much more gradual. God gently eases us into the new in areas as simple as our hobbies. Perhaps in these simple changes God wishes to teach us great truths.

I’m grateful that I took the risk of that bicycle ride five years ago. I’m also grateful that this summer I took another risk and said “farewell” to the bicycle that had brought me much joy and “theology.” My old bike has a new owner. What "old" part of your life might God want to use for someone else's new beginning?

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

P.S. Before I bought my bicycle, I borrowed one from the friend of a friend who had a baby. The bike had an baby seat on the back, and another friend dared me to ride around Natchez with a doll in the baby seat. So, I did.

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Aug 14 2014

Pastor Darian's Musings: The Gospel According to Sean Maguire: "It’s Not Your Fault"

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It's a blessing to make people laugh.

Healthy laughter is a balm for mind, body, and spirit. When I speak of healthy laughter, I’m not talking about the nervous, jilted, hesitant laughter of politeness we manage when a minister tells a terribly unfunny joke. (Yes, I’m guilty.) Healthy laughter is the sound of a delight-filled response. Healthy laughter is an expression of more than happiness. It’s a manifestation of joy we may not have known existed in our souls.

Last week, I received a number of emails, texts, and calls from folks who read the blog post, “How Not to Get a Date With An Unmarried Female Pastor.” Every single one had the same, bottom-line message:

“I laughed.”

I appreciate any and all feedback to this blog, but a resounding message of laughter blessed me in a way that’s hard to describe. Creating something that brings joy to the surface is humbling and special.

On Monday, the entertainment world tragically lost an artist whose career blossomed out of his ability to elicit laughter. Robin Williams’ name is the headline of the evening news, the most-searched on websites, and the topic of many conversations. Questions accompany any death, but they multiply in the wake of a suicide—especially in the suicide of someone who seemed to “specialize” in laughter.

A question that tugs at many souls is one of blame—whose fault was this tragedy? The question of fault not only arises in suicide but also in the illnesses of depression and addiction, with which Williams struggled. It is human nature to wonder whom or what we can blame for the unexplainable.

Could I have prevented this? Is there something I could have done?

If only I had called her more often…

Did Mom and Dad divorce because of something I did?

This diagnosis is all because I haven’t been eating right….

Blame leads to guilt. Guilt leads to regrets. Regrets plant us in the past to the point that we can’t move forward. We don’t know the darkness that Robin Williams, or any victim of suicide, experiences. All we know is that it’s a tragedy when the laughter is swallowed in darkness. Sometimes the easiest persons to blame for the consequences of darkness are ourselves.

In his Oscar-winning role for Good Will Hunting, Williams played a counselor and professor named Sean Maguire who tries to help the title character, played by Matt Damon.  Sean spends hours sitting with, and sometimes listening to, this young, brilliant, troubled young man. Their friendship does not happen immediately. Trust has to build over the course of the film. When Will finally opens up about his troubled childhood, we begin to see that Will has blamed himself for his father’s alcoholism for years. We realize that Will thinks his abandonment as a child was his own fault.

Sean holds up Will’s file, filled with papers about his life, and says , “This is not your fault.”

Will shrugs and smugly says, “I know.”

Sean leans toward him. “It’s not your fault.”

Will nods. “I know.”

Sean’s voice grows quieter as he moves towards Will. “It’s not your fault.”

Will, restless, repeats, “I know.”

Sean gets closer. “It’s not your fault.”

Will moves away from him. “I know!”

Sean moves closer and closer to Will, saying, “It’s not your fault.” Will curses, then begins to cry. Sean reaches out his arms, and Will eventually reaches for him, too. They embrace. Will sobs. If we listen closely, we still hear Sean’s gentle mantra: “It’s not your fault.”

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17, New King James Version)

Yes, we are all sinners. Yes, we all make mistakes. Yes, we need to look within our hearts to see how we need to change and whom we need to forgive. There’s always room for improvement in all of our lives. But why do we fill the rooms of our souls with unnecessary self-condemnation when Christ is walking towards us with salvation?

As Sean walked towards Will, Christ walks toward us. He asks us to let go of the blame and guilt and regrets we’ve nurtured for too long. When there is a void where the laughter once resounded, let us reach for the arms that are already reaching for us.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

Here is the clip from Good Will Hunting, which contains language that gave it an R-rating.

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