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Tag Archive: Jesus


Katie Buck and Dan Roark

First of all, it was for about five minutes. And, obviously, I wasn’t really Jesus.

I received an email on Saturday from Tina Thompson-Broussard, the Choir Director at Christ UMC, Farmers Branch, saying that she had asked the staff who they thought would play Jesus, and Pam Capener mentioned me. Tina asked if I would be Jesus during a song in the early service on Sunday – no speaking, just acting. The early service begins at 8:50 a.m. so I was to be there at 8:20.

Katie Buck and Dan Roark

I didn’t have a show on Saturday, but we were to turn the clocks forward. It was doable – needless to say, I don’t usually go to the early service. Besides, how many times do you get the chance to be an Irish Jesus? After a few hours deliberation, I replied in the affirmative.

All I knew was that I was to be Jesus. The sermon series is on Jesus Christ Superstar, so as an old hippie, I knew that what I usually wear would probably work. I did have a pair of sandals, just in case. I thought about having my tie-dyed shirt at the ready, but it is the early service and it might not go over.

Katie Buck and Dan Roark

I was getting ready for my role Saturday night. I knew she was looking for the Jesus Christ Superstar Jesus. But I kept falling back into the Eric Clapton Jesus in the Who musical, Tommy, when he walks down the aisle of the church in a white robe playing a Les Paul. But I didn’t have a white robe. I’m just more comfortable with a guitar.

I walked into the church at 8:15, coffee in hand. The choir was practicing in the choir room, so I just hung out in the hallway reading the bulletin board over and over and drinking coffee. After about 4 minutes, Katie Buck walked in and smiled at me

Katie Buck and Dan Roark

like she expected to see me. I commented that it was really early, and she agreed. Katie and her older sister, Lillian, were in youth with our boys. Her father, Charles, led the confirmation class that all the kids went through. So I didn’t think anything about it.

Then Tina walked in the door, put something in the choir room, and took Katie and I to the sanctuary. Then I learned what the plan was. The sermon was entitled “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” We were to do our little “skit” during the Anthem -Kyrie – Schubert Mass in G Major by Franz Schubert. (I know, it surprised me, too – and I was Jesus.)

As the music began, I was to walk up the middle aisle of the sanctuary to the chancel. Where I was to step up on the riser, turn, and stand there “looking Jesus-y.” Then, after so many measures, Katie came up. I turned as she was coming up and faced her when she got there. We looked each other in the eye, then Katie “the fallen woman” (I know – I felt better, too when I learned that) would bow before me, look up, and then back down. I patted her on the shoulder, and helped her up. We looked each other in the eye. Then she looked down again, I reached out and raised her chin, and we looked at each other, Katie looking relieved, and me looking Jesus-y.

Katie Buck and Dan Roark

We practiced it once and Tina asked if we wanted to go through it again. We said we were good. Katie had actually brought a sheet fashioned into a tunic. As you see, I wore my shirt with the fish on it, untucked, and jeans. Before the service began, I went to Charles and Rebecca Buck with Katie.

“I’ve gotta be honest with you,” I was telling them, “I don’t think even Jesus would get up this early. I see him strolling down to the synagogue about noon.”

So I went and sat with Cyndy toward the back, and Katie sat on the front row. The service began. After the scripture reading, the anthem began. I walked up the aisle, turned and looked Jesus-y, Katie came up and we did our thing, and returned to our seats.

After the service, people thought we did well, and it all worked – Katie has done some acting – hence the tunic. While Katie and I were looking at each other, we actually had a conversation with our eyes. And then, just like that, I was plain old Dan again. Which is a good thing. Being Jesus ain’t easy!

Peace be with you.

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Merry Christmas from Jesus

He walked through the streets in darkness,
Homeless but not alone,
A man on a mission of reverence
beyond the mundane chore of survival,
in a spirit of grace and mercy.

He stopped at Johnson’s Laundry
With it’s Closed for Christmas sign,
He knelt on the sidewalk outside the door,
Quietly saying the Lord’s Prayer,
the only prayer he knew.

Thanking “Papa” Johnson
For the clothes left unclaimed,
He left a small package – a crude, homemade cross
With a card on which was scrawled,
“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

Next was Garcia’s Grocery
For the leftovers not yet spoiled
He knelt and prayed –
Another crude cross,
And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

Ten blocks later, Miller’s Hardware,
For his sturdy, cardboard box dwelling,
and timber for his bed,
A kneel, a prayer, a larger crude cross,
And the card, “Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

Too far from home, the mission closed,
He found a bench in the park,
after a passerby bought coffee
and he walked – recalling forgotten memories –
without knowing what they meant.

Early the next morning on Christmas Day,
he fought the wind and rain,
through the cold streets to the mission,
where Christmas dinner was served, the soul sustained,
and life again had purpose.

The rain stopped, the wind died down,
as he trekked on home,
home – an alley behind the church
white and made of stone,
with a view of the cross on the wall.

He turned into the alley
and stopped in his tracks.
Where his cardboard box had stood,
was a sturdy lumber shack,
with a roof, a window, and a door.

He opened the door to a sturdy wooden cot,
An orange crate table, his few possessions inside,
with something new on top.
A suit of clothes hung on a hook,
with the laundry marker still on it.

He closed the door because he could,
he’d forgotten what it felt like.
Walking to the table he turned on the lamp,
it had been years since he had his own light,
but then his breath went away.

Also on the table sat a Bible, brand new,
inscribed with a name he hadn’t used in years,
next to a picture of a family he’d forgotten he had.
He stood staring at them, his mind racing,
memories bombarding his thoughts.

He sat on the cot and picked up the Bible,
after staring at the picture a while.
He ran his fingers over the only thing he owned
that wasn’t worn by wear or weather,
with emotions he couldn’t control.

Through tears, with shaking hands,
he opened the Bible and read
“Merry Christmas, from Jesus.”

Peace be with you.

DSC07035[Re-posted from last year at this time. This year’s observations will be in a following post.]

It began years ago with the recipe on the Chex cereal boxes. Then everyone’s grandmother added their particular additional ingredients. It took on different identities: nibbles, trash, Texas trash, and others. Cyndy’s mom’s recipe is for Texas Nibbles. Our daughter, Jennifer, fixed several different varieties: no nuts, hot, not hot, really hot – you get the idea.

But the point is that – in any variety – the mix is addicting. It is the one thing left over that you don’t have to do anything for but grab a handful. No cutting a pie, no getting a plate dirty, no digging in the refrigerator. Just grab a handful. And it’s salty.

We give containers of mix to the family for Christmas. We also usually receive a container from Jennifer. Naturally, this year was no different. But some things have changed. We still go to my parents on Christmas. But we don’t have a big meal anymore. Mom is not able to cook and serve the meal any longer. Cyndy and I take the Thanksgiving dinner to them – just dropping off food for them and visiting a short while.

On Christmas day Mom and Dad buy snack trays and deli sandwiches. Cyndy, Conner, Cameron, J.D. and myself – often in more than one car – meet Jennifer, her husband, Chris, and their daughter, Kelley, at the grandparents house. This year, Chris’ daughter, Katherine, was able to join us. Rather than have the meal (usually brunch), we go straight to the gift exchange.

Then we all get our stockings from the grandparents, snack a while, and visit. Visiting is the most important part. It is the part that does not and should not change. The people may change slightly from year to year due to life’s circumstances. But the family fellowship does not change.

Our family is one that gets what they need throughout the year. We give gifts to each other all year. Christmas is not about the gifts. It is about celebrating Christ’s birth. And it is also about family – in all it’s facets.

But the one constant between Christmas and New Year’s in our family is the presence of Texas Nibbles. The mix goes quickly around Christmas and then slows down to a steady rate of consumption. The salty after the sweet. Just grab a little and go kind of thing.

I don’t know what Cyndy and I will be watching tonight while waiting on midnight. But I can tell you what we won’t be watching – the countdowns to midnight. I can, however, tell you one thing for certain. We will be eating Texas Nibbles from the bag I have stashed.

Happy New Year! Peace be with you!

Caroling 4A week ago yesterday, I accompanied the children, and my granddaughter Kelley, as they went to the youth and adult Sunday school classes and sang Christmas carols at Christ United Methodist Church. After gathering, and coloring with crayons, the children left the gym and headed upstairs. We gathered in the hall of the youth wing above the gym. The children sang a couple of Christmas carols as the youth and leaders came out of their classrooms to listen and join along.

Then the children went to each adult Sunday school class. After entering each class they sang  one  carol and Caroling 1then filed out singing a second song. Many of the adults sang along. The glow on their faces at times rivaled that on the children’s faces. When the children had visited all of the Sunday schools, they headed for the gym. In the gym, the children sat at tables, colored pictures, and talked as the leaders served Jesus’ birthday cake to each table. They also had water or juice to drink.

As the Sunday school time came to a close and parents began picking up the children, one thing was clear. With seeing St. Nick the morning before, and putting on the Christmas Cafe musical the evening before, going caroling, and celebrating Jesus’ birthday, the children definitely had a good head start on the spirit of Christmas. Their eyes displayed the tired joy of celebration (albeit with sugar rush). And the best part of it? Christmas is yet to come!

Peace be with you.    Birthday party for Jesus

Texas Nibbles It began years ago with the recipe on the Chex cereal boxes. Then everyone’s grandmother added their particular additional ingredients. It took on different identities: nibbles, trash, Texas trash, and others. Cyndy’s mom’s recipe is for Texas Nibbles. Our daughter, Jennifer, fixed several different varieties: no nuts, hot, not hot, really hot – you get the idea.

But the point is that – in any variety – the mix is addicting. It is the one thing left over that you don’t have to do anything for but grab a handful. No cutting a pie, no getting a plate dirty, no digging in the refrigerator. Just grab a handful. And it’s salty.

We give containers of mix to the family for Christmas. We also usually receive a container from Jennifer. Naturally, this year was no different. But some things have changed. We still go to my parents on Christmas. But we don’t have a big meal anymore. Mom is not able to cook and serve the meal any longer. Cyndy and I take the Thanksgiving dinner to them – just dropping off food for them and visiting a short while.

On Christmas day Mom and Dad buy snack trays and deli sandwiches. Cyndy, Conner, Cameron, J.D. and myself – often in more than one car – meet Jennifer, her husband, Chris, and their daughter, Kelley, at the grandparents house. This year, Chris’ daughter, Katherine, was able to join us. Rather than have the meal (usually brunch), we go straight to the gift exchange.

Then we all get our stockings from the grandparents, snack a while, and visit. Visiting is the most important part. It is the part that does not and should not change. The people may change slightly from year to year due to life’s circumstances. But the family fellowship does not change.

Our family is one that gets what they need throughout the year. We give gifts to each other all year. Christmas is not about the gifts. It is about celebrating Christ’s birth. And it is also about family – in all it’s facets.

But the one constant between Christmas and New Year’s in our family is the presence of Texas Nibbles. The mix goes quickly around Christmas and then slows down to a steady rate of consumption. The salty after the sweet. Just grab a little and go kind of thing.

I don’t know what Cyndy and I will be watching tonight while waiting on midnight. But I can tell you what we won’t be watching – the countdowns to midnight. I can, however, tell you one thing for certain. We will be eating Texas Nibbles from the bag I have stashed.

Happy New Year! Peace be with you!

Rashad and Kaleigh Okay, maybe not babes exactly, but children nonetheless. The girl, Kaleigh, is my friend’s daughter. The boy, Rashad, is Kaleigh’s nephew. I took the picture when Cyndy and I were watching Kaleigh and Rashad for Randy and Kelly. Rashad is now about five or six. Randy came by today and had Rashad with him. He just dropped by to pick up Disc Golf brochures, so he ran in without Rashad.

When he was leaving, Randy asked me to come out to the car so Rashad would know who I was. Randy had asked him on the way over if he remembered me, and Rashad wasn’t exactly sure. He’s been over quite a few times since the picture was taken, by the way. When we reached the car, Randy knocked on the window and Rashad popped his head up and saw me. He squealed, then jumped in the back seat and kept squealing at me and grinning.

“Now he remembers who you are,” Randy said, laughing.

I said goodbye and went back in the house. Not long after the phone rang. I assume Randy was going Dennis to Valwood to Josey, because of the number of churches within the two blocks of Valwood. Either way, I answered the phone.

“You should hear Rashad,” Randy said. “The things that kids say. Rashad would say, wow, look at that cross. Look at that church. There sure are a lot of churches.”

“Look at that church!”

“Do you like church and churches?” Randy asked.

“Yes.”

“What do you like most about church?”

“There’s a lot of Jesus stuff in church. And Jesus is my Lord!”

That is when the true spirit of Christmas shines through.

Peace be with you.

JD Pitching 1 I was in Fort Worth this past weekend with J.D. at TCU for a baseball camp. We were driving from one field to another and were driving down W. Berry from TCU. Coming down the hill, I spotted a man and a woman waving from a concrete platform that turned out to be the entrance to a church. They were not waving “come here” like parking attendants, but they were using a modified princess wave. Unfortunately, their signage was not sufficient for me to see the name quickly as I drove by. And time did not permit stopping to take a picture.

As I told J.D. later, if we hadn’t been on a schedule, I would have stopped and attended their service. But while I couldn’t stop, it was a bright spot in the morning. It was over 100 degrees for most of the weekend and J.D. had already played two games (albeit short games). In the picture, J.D. is the pitcher. It was a showcase camp before coaches and recruiters from numerous colleges and some major league teams. It was a high intensity weekend, which made the smiles and the waves all the more important.

When I saw them and realized it was a church, I said to J.D., “so simple, but effective. How cool is that?” I happen to be on the communications committee of our church. It was certainly a Jesus moment in which life is briefly in the background and God’s light shines like a beacon in the wilderness. One of those moments that reminds us that life may be tough at times, but something better awaits us.

Peace be with you.

The bird in the window was about half the size of this bird.

We had a small visitor at our old house. She spent most of the day outside each of our sons’ rooms going in rotation to all three windows. Cyndy and I thought at first it was a Finch, but Cyndy decided it was a female cardinal. I have large hands and could probably hold the bird in a loose fist without any part of the bird showing. I do not know much about birds, but I do know that this particular bird had the common sense of a tree trunk.

She began to visit in the early afternoon after lunchtime. Which is one of my main reflecting and writing times so the intrusion was quite unwelcome, at least at first. I mistakenly took the sound to be our dog, Misty, scratching at the window trying to get out at a squirrel. But the tapping was more melodic and deliberate and did not result in the harder thump that our medium-sized dog would make as she hit the wall.

The first sudden tap made me jump, expecting to hear glass hit the wood floor at any moment. Less than three minutes later, another tap. Sometimes it would stop for as long as five minutes, leading me to believe it had ceased. But sure enough, as soon as I started working again – another tap. I realized Misty was laying on the floor in front of the my desk so she could not be making the sound. Then I heard a deeper, heavier noise follow the tap, as if someone had thrown a rubber ball at the window.

I went down the hall quietly and stood in the doorway of Conner’s room at the front corner of the house. The bird was standing in the middle of the window sill of the window facing the side of the house. She would look at the window, look around the side yard, then back at the window. Then, suddenly, she would tap the window hard with her beak – as if she had forgotten it was there, or just to be sure she had not been wrong the first five times. It was also entirely possible that she had tapped her beak so hard she had rattled her brains.

Then, in between periods of tapping, so suddenly it made me jump, she backed up a step and flung her little four inch, 20 ounce body against the window as hard as she could. Only appearing to be dazed for a few seconds, she flew around in a small circle and landed back on the window. She looked at the window for a few minutes, looked around a bit, and the whole cycle began again. I stood transfixed, thinking surely she would not do it again. But sure enough, after a series of taps, she backed up and body-slammed the window.

I leaned against the doorframe and watched for a while. Either the bird was so daft that neither thought nor pain registered in her small brain or she was so stubbornly persistent that constant failure was not enough for her to give up her task, whatever it was. Regardless, her task was a painful and fruitless one. Stubborn persistence can sometimes be beneficial, but more often than not it is simply detrimental.

While I thought the bird’s actions were ridiculously naive and mistaken, they reminded me of our stubborn persistence in not listening to what the Lord is telling us. Rather than having faith and trusting in God, we insist on looking for an easier way. Which actually turns out to be more difficult in the long run.

We have a chance to fly free, as it were, and explore all that the Lord’s world has to offer. Yet we insist on constantly tapping on the glass representing the things that we think we want or should have, but would never give us the fulfillment we long for. In our stubborn persistence we “body-slam” the glass, throwing our entire body into the refusal to accept what is before us. But,  as if that is not enough, we turn right around and start the whole process over again.

Like the Israelites of the Old Testament, we keep giving in to our temptation to slip back into sinful ways. We begin to find excuses to not read the Bible, pray or attend church or volunteer regularly. When life is going okay, we’re too busy for God. Then, when tragedy strikes, we wonder where God is – when, in fact, he has been there all along.

After God saves the day, yet again, and life returns to normal, we begin the insistent tapping all over again. We need to have faith in God, trust in his mercy, accept the grace he freely offers, and strive to live the way we were taught to live by Jesus. What is on the other side of the glass is ultimately unimportant.

Peace be with you.

I washed dishes two or three times the other day – I lost count. Which, with a family of five – three of whom are teenagers – is not unusual. I have a love-hate relationship with the task of washing dishes. I do not enjoy the task, per se, but it gives me a chance to think. Not surprisingly, no one seems to bother me when I am at the sink. I wash them by hand and use the dishwasher as a draining board.

Be that as it may, a thought occurred to me while I was washing dishes for what I hoped was the last time. I realized I was washing the same dishes for the third time. The same plates, the same glasses, and the same silverware. Over and over. Time after time. Day after day. So on and so on.

Looking back on my life, there have been quite a few things I thought I might be  remembered for doing. I have also thought about what my purpose in life might be. Yet I never actually considered washing the same dishes day after day for years on end to be my toil in life. True, it is not anywhere close to the only thing I do or have ever done in my life. But do I really want to put it on my resume?

Qohelet would say it does not matter. It is all vanity and a chasing after wind anyway. “This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot.” (Eccl. 5:18 NRSV)

So should I try to find enjoyment in washing the dishes? Derive some pleasure from washing wasted condiments from plates and dried milk from bowls? Receive brief satisfaction from having clean dishes – albeit temporarily?

While it made for interesting thoughts during my dishwashing toil, my consternation at continually washing dishes was causing me to miss the point. The New International Version (NIV) says “satisfaction” in place of enjoyment. The New Living Translation (NLT) says “accept their lot in life.” Which I think might be closer to the point Qohelet was making. ;

In verses 13-15, Qohelet laments the fate of those who hoard wealth and find that they still – through circumstances during life and the finality, and pennilessness, of death, end up with nothing. “All their hard work produces nothing – nothing they can take with them.” In verse 19, he states that “whenever God gives people wealth and riches and enables them to enjoy it, to accept their place in the world and to find pleasure in their hard work – all this is God’s gift.” Concluding the chapter in verse 20, “people shouldn’t brood too much over the days of their lives because God gives an answer in their hearts’ joy.” (CEB)

The answer lies, not in my receiving some weird satisfaction from such mundane tasks such as washing dishes, but in enjoying the life that God gave me. Whether pleasure or toil, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to experience either one. Which is a theme Qohelet returned to more than once.

Earlier in Ecclesiastes, in 3 10-11, Qohelet says that “God has made everything fitting in its time, but has also placed eternity in their hearts, without enabling them to discover what God has done from beginning to end.” He ends the book of Ecclesiastes with “So this is the end of the matter; all has been heard. Worship God and keep God’s commandments because this is what  everyone must do. God will definitely bring every deed to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or bad.”

The fact that I am tired of having to wash the dishes – or any other task which I am required to undertake – is inconsequential. Having faith in God, attempting to live Christ-like to the best of  my ability, and enjoying the life I have been blessed with, both good and bad, is what is important. God will take care of the rest.

Peace be with you.

The full title of Rubel Shelly’s book published by Leafwood Publishers (ACU Press) is “I Knew Jesus Before He Was A Christian…and I Liked Him Better Then.” When I was asked to review the book, I was intrigued by the title. As I began to read, it became apparent that the title was not merely cute to boost sales, but was entirely appropriate for the material. Our small group was deciding what book to study next and I suggested this one. Rather than read through it before the group studied it, I waited to review the book in order to include it’s effectiveness for a small group study.

The conclusion is that I Knew Jesus… works well for small groups. Precisely because it compares the original churches to churches now and the Jesus of the Bible to the Jesus nonbelievers perceive to be preached in churches today. The subject is – and should be – on the minds of all church and small group members.

Shelly begins by asserting that we can be both pro-Jesus and pro-church simultaneously. But not as long as a perception exists of disconnect between the two. Changing the perception necessarily requires elimination of the disconnect. The author quotes Stephen King when he wrote, “And while I believe in God, I have no use for organized religion..”

That is what many Christians have heard, unfortunately, far too often. Then there is the oft-quoted “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” In chapter four, Shelly tells the story of author Anne Rice. Rice renounced the Catholic religion at age eighteen. After a series of tragedies, including  the near loss of her life, she renewed her commitment to the Catholic faith. Rice wrote a book about the experience, dedicated herself to “glorifying God,” and launched a series of Christ the Lord books.

On July 28, 2010, Anne Rice posted a statement on her Facebook page that she was giving up Christianity and doing it “in the name of Christ.” She said that she remained committed to Christ as always, but not to being ‘Christian’ or part of Christianity. Rice followed the next day with “my conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I don’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following his followers.”

Which is precisely the point Shelly is making. The Jesus of the Bible – and by extension, of the original churches – is not the Jesus the people of the world see proclaimed by many of today’s churches. We should strive to be more like the Jesus of the Bible than the Jesus we portray through the filter of our organizational structure and polity. Rubel Shelly, in I Knew Jesus…, looks at different aspects of the disconnect and barriers between Jesus and the church. The author challenges and encourages the reader to work toward solutions in their own lives and churches, with questions found in the discussion guide.

Too many people have decided they are done with the church. They do not want to have anything to do with the church. “But you just might get attention with this radical, engaging, challenging, life-transforming, healing, rescuing person named Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, I think it is the only hope we have for communicating with a postmodern world. The best argument is…a living demonstration of kindness and acceptance, grace made incarnate, or love emptying itself for the sake of others.”

In I Knew Jesus Before He was a Christian, Shelly uses real-life and biblical examples to illustrate that while church membership may be declining, there are still souls searching for the life-affirming love of Christ. For a church to be a model of the first Christian churches and the life Christ displayed, they must first exhibit Jesus in the community and participate in ministering to those in need.

Peace be with you.

[I received this book free from Leafwood Publishers for a review. I was not required to write a favorable review.]

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