Tag Archive: religion


The GUSTO! program at King of Glory Lutheran Church (KoG) will be visiting the Museum of Biblical Arts on Tuesday, May 22nd, at 10 a.m. The program is usually held  on Monday, but the museum is closed on Monday. I visited the museum for a Religion Communicators Council  (RCC)  meeting last year. My comments will be after the following description.

The Museum of Biblical Art, rebuilt after a devastating fire in 2005, is a cultural crossroads using art to promote tolerance and understanding of the humanities and Western culture. The museum today is larger than the original, featuring over 30,000 square feet of expanded art galleries and exhibits. It is located at 7500 Park Lane in Dallas, just west of NorthPark Center.

The museum hosts a broad array of painting and sculpture by premier artists, from Botticelli to John Singer Sargent to Andy Warhol. Its main attraction is a 40-foot wide mural of the Resurrection by internationally known artist Ron DiCianni. There is also an extensive collection of lithographs by Marc Chagall. Other galleries feature Biblical archaeology, Jewish and Israeli art, religious architecture, and African American, Hispanic and contemporary art.

The museum recently acquired a life-size replica of Michelangelo’s “Pietá,” cast in bronze and authorized by the Vatican. It came directly from the Michelangelo Museum in Florence. Another outstanding exhibit is the “Tapestry of the Centuries” mural by Vladimir Gorsky. This monumental painting illustrates the people and events that shaped world history, from the birth of Jesus through 1999 A.D.

The museum is truly fascinating, particularly the exhibits of art from other religions. The  King James Bible exhibit has been extended until June. The exhibit consists of original Bibles from the private collection of Dr. Charles Ryrie. Last year was the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. I’m looking forward to having time after the tour to properly explore it. The tour does not allow sufficient time to effectively see everything. I was unable to stay after the RCC meeting.

The bus is most likely full at this point, but you can meet at the museum at 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday. Sharon Chapman will collect the $9 admission from each person and pay for the entire group. The tour will conclude with lunch on your own at Northpark Center if you would like. If you plan to meet the group there, e-mail gusto@kingofglory.com or call Sharon Chapman at 214-458-3271. If you do not get a chance to take the tour with the group, be sure to visit the museum on your own when you get the chance. You will not be disappointed.

Peace be with you.

September Meeting

The Future of Journalism will be the subject of the October  meeting of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Chapter of the Religion Communicators Council (RCC), an interfaith organization. The presentation will be a panel discussion with panelists including Sam Hodges, managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter, David Sedeño, editor of the Texas Catholic / El Católico de Texas, and Jeff Weiss, long-time reporter and religion writer for the Dallas Morning News. Also invited is Jake Batsell, assistant professor for digital journalism at SMU. Providing additional input (although a schedule conflict precludes his attendance) is Ken Camp, managing editor of The Baptist Standard.

Questions to be considered include:

Will journalism will survive the digital age? If so, what will it look like or in what form?

How will journalism be paid for? Is it possible to make a profit or will it be a non-profit or subsidized “public good”?

Will the news be good? Why?

The meeting will be held at Christ United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch on Thursday, Oct. 27 from 12 – 1:30 p.m. The $15 fee will include lunch. Please email or call Deb Christian, RCC Secretary, at dchristian@umr.org, 214.630.6495 x147 by Monday, Oct. 24 to make reservations. Bring your own thoughts and answers to these timely, pertinent questions.

I will be the host for the meeting. The discussions are always lively and informative with timely, relevant topics. This particular topic is of major concern to communicators, journalists, and writers as we look forward to the future with technological advances, social media, blogs, news feeds, etc.

Peace be with you.

Grief and the Presence of God is a Bible study using the book of Job with observations from C.S. Lewis and my own experiences. Originally written for use in a Sunday school, I recently revised it. The study is in three parts, with study questions in the back for each lesson.

Lesson one, Grief and It’s Symptoms, delves into the symptoms and resulting effects of the grieving process. The Book of Job certainly has a lot to say about grief and it’s effects. As I mention in the study, Job is probably the only person in the history of the world – with the exception of Jesus (and he knew what his mission was) – who can truthfully tell someone that they do not know how he feels.

Lesson two, Meanwhile, Where is God?, discusses what is arguably the most destructive symptom of grief – when you think God is not around when you need him. When one is grieving, being told that the departed loved one is in God’s hands is little comfort when one considers that they were in God’s hands even as they were on the road to death. It is even more disconcerting if the death was slow and painful.

Lesson three, Alone into the Alone, is concerned with Lewis’ Cosmic Sadist theory and what I consider to be the myth of closure. Whether you agree or disagree with Lewis’ theory or my own theory of closure, you will come to your own conclusion and perhaps progress further in your spiritual journey. After which you will hopefully be better equipped to face times of grief in the future.

Grief and the Presence of God is available in the bookstore at www.danroark.com.

Peace be with you.

The Communications Conference 2011, presented by UMR Communications, parent company of the United Methodist Reporter, was held at the Presbyterian Ministry Center in Irving on Thursday, February 24th, and Friday, the 25th. The event was previously called the Editor’s Conference – for editors of faith-based publications. Realizing that communicators often wear many hats, the UMR staff changed the title to the Communicators Conference.

The conference opened on Thursday with a luncheon followed by a keynote address by Rev. Tim McLemore, associate director in the Office of Public Affairs at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, that set the tone for the conference. The conference was attended by communicators from the United Methodist Church and other denominations in various areas of the country. Workshops provided tips on organization, communication plans, branding, media choices, photos and Photoshop, volunteer optimization, financing for communications, writing skills, and online tips, tools, and tricks.

Tim McLemore

Presenters from the staff of UMR included Liz Applegate, New Media Associate, Erika Dorsey, Design and Production Manager, Cherrie Graham, Advertising Manager, and Mary Jacobs, Staff Writer. Other presenters included John Greenberger, COO for ReTransform (former CFO of UMR), Samantha Naeyaert, founder of Muddle Management (an organizing and efficiency company), Patrick Steil, owner of ChurchBuzz, and Patrick Shownes, Communications Coordinator for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Steil also gave the closing keynote address, giving attendees online tools they could put into action upon their return home.

As one of the communicators in attendance, representing Christ United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch and the Communications Committee, I can say that the conference was an enjoyable time of fellowship with fellow communicators. The conference is one of the few times some of us get to meet in person. The conference was also a chance share the problems we face as communicators. I’m already looking forward to next year.

See Mallory McCall’s article on the event in the UM Reporter. More pictures below.

Peace be with you.

Sam Hodges and Deb Christian

Liz Applegate

Tim McLemore

The King of Glory Lutheran Church’s Dr. Debbie Jacob Life Enrichment Series presents Living a Real Life in a Real World with Dr. Walter Brueggemann on Sunday and Monday, March 6-7. Dr. Brueggemann will preach at all three worship services on Sunday morning. A program on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. and a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Monday will round out the event.

A Rest from the Rat Race will be the topic on Sunday evening. Brueggemann will discuss the answer to questions such as: Does our acquisitive culture keep us too anxious to rest? What alternatives do we have to our frantic lives? How can Sabbath keeping help us withdraw from the rat race and refresh our souls? The suggested donation is $5, but due to limited seating, registration is required.

The topic for the luncheon on Monday is Giving In Without Giving Up. Is U.S culture hostile to our living the Gospel? Can faith survive in our militant and materialistic environment? How can we learn to respond intentionally? Registration is $20 and includes luncheon.

Dr. Brueggemann is professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, where he taught from 1986 until his retirement in 2003. A respected author and one of the world’s leading theologians, Dr. Brueggemann bridges the Old Testament and contemporary Christian worlds with imagination, scholarship, and a passion for justice and redemption. He is a contributing editor for “Sojourners” and “Christian Century,” he has received honorary degrees and awards from numerous institutions, and is a past president of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Before her death in 2005, Debbie Jacob and her husband, Will, created a program to fund speakers in adult education on topics such as sociology, economics, art, music, and theology. Dr. Brueggemann’s visit is the second in the series. King Of Glory began as a mission church more than 50 years ago and moved to its current site in 1968 so that it might be more visible within the community. King of Glory is a “place where people can grow together in faith and make a difference in the world for Christ.” Its mission is to be and to make growing disciples.

See the King of Glory website for registration, directions, and other information.

Peace be with you.

Before the spectacle we refer to as the Super Bowl (with its own display of vanity) – before the freezing temperatures, the ice, and the snow – Cowboys Stadium (speaking of vanity and excess) was the site of another vanity focused event. The Great Plate auction at Cowboys Stadium a couple of weeks ago was more than a little over the top. They are called vanity plates after all, but the term originally applied to simply having your name – or some form thereof – on your license plates, announcing to the world that the car belongs to you. In many cases, the car was a rather expensive one, adding to the sense of sheer vanity.

Thirty-three speciality (read “vanity”) license plates were up for grabs at the auction. A woman bought T BIG TEX for her husband and DIAMOND for herself for a total of $4,500. She reportedly said that it was “for a good cause.” Not quite true – the majority of proceeds from the auction goes toward the general revenue fund. The rest of the proceeds is to go to charities, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and MyPlates – the company designing and marketing the plates.

Not surprisingly, sports teams brought a few of the largest bids. DRAGONS (Southlake Dragons) went for $7,750. Which is quite a sum to show off around town for a high school team. Rangers sold for $10,000, GO HORNS for $10,500, and COWBOYS for $11,500. The largest bid was for FERRARI, which brought in $15,000.

Granted, the “winners” are allowed to keep the plates for 25 years and can sell them for a profit at any time. But who can imagine spending enough for them to make a profit? Unfortunately, I think there are some people who could. People to whom vanity is priceless.

Qohelet would have been appalled. In all of his searching, with times of serious excess, I believe this example would take the proverbial cake. What Qohelet did he did with the goal of knowledge and wisdom in mind. True, it was excess, but it was practical excess – to coin a term. Qohelet considered efforts to improve oneself and serve a purpose in this lifetime, vanity (or meaningless, or vapor). He did give into pleasure, but only to find out if it led to knowledge or wisdom on some level. To actually give into vanity for its own sake would have given Qohelet a heart attack. It would have made Jesus, himself, pass out.

People are free to spend their money on whatever they choose. But – and you saw that coming, did you not? – would not giving $15,000 to a charity be more beneficial to the recipients than what is left over after everyone gets their piece of the auction price. Of course, they would not have the supposed popularity (or notoriety, as it were) of driving around with a $15,000 license plate (which is hard to even say or write). And how much will their insurance payments increase to include damage or loss of the plate?

If I was them, I would install the plates in such a way as to seriously discourage theft. On the other hand, if they were me, they would never have bid on the plates in the first place. I have enough problem curbing my own impulses towards vanity without announcing to the world that I am insecure enough to pay $15,000 for license plates so that I will be noticed.

Peace be with you.

[The picture and information were taken from a WFAA.com article by Chris Hawes]

Who’s Your Neighbor

“Who’s Your Neighbor” was the topic of the January meeting of the Religion Communicators CouncilDallas-Ft. Worth Chapter – held at University Park UMC. I am a member of RCC as a representative of Christ UMC, Farmers Branch, and the Communications Committee. Giving the presentation was Anne Marie Weiss-Armush, president of the DFW International Community Alliance.

The DFW International Community Alliance is a network of over 1600 internationally-focused organizations in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex that embodies the cultural and economic vibrancy of the global community. Their mission is to “build mutual understanding and respect by linking diverse international cultural communities.” The organization not only aligns the diverse groups with one another and the society as a whole, but the members of the groups with themselves. Yahoo groups were formed, such as an African group, to promote community among those living in different areas of the metroplex.

A newsletter is sent out by email each week listing the cultural activities of the many varied ethnic groups. As a new subscriber, I look forward to receiving notice of events in our community and the surrounding area. The subject was quite timely, considering our pastor, Dr. Vic Casad’s recent sermon on the demographics of our community and congregation. While Weiss-Armush praised churches who are reaching out with ESL classes – of which Christ Church is one – there are more opportunities for advancing communication among various ethnic groups with the goal of unifying the community with open exchange of cultural influences.

The Christ Church congregation is a diverse group of individuals and families, as are other faith communities. However, there are other people(s) in our community who are seeking faith, or simply help, on some level, but are unsure where to turn for guidance and assistance. We see them every day at the store, the library, the rec center, and other places.

As part of our mission to share the love of Christ, we need to reach out to other faiths and cultures to move toward a unified community – understanding, appreciating, and celebrating our differences. Sometimes we reject what we do not understand instead of realizing that the ways in which we are actually different are relatively insignificant. As part of our mission as stewards of God’s earth, we must work alongside – and in community with – our multi-faceted neighbors. Which, as the alliance illustrates, is true of any and all faith communities whose end result of mission is to help and serve others.

Do I see opportunities in our community to share the word and be of physical and spiritual assistance? All the time. Do I have opportunities to ask questions and listen to someone about their faith community and how we are alike? Again, all the time. Do I avail myself of every opportunity to be a witness to the love of Christ? Unfortunately, no. But I am praying about it and working on it. How about you?

Peace be with you.

Cyndy and I decided to bake a few gifts this year. Among other things, she wanted to bake mini fruitcakes using her mother’s recipe. I looked for candied fruit in the neighborhood grocery store. I asked for the candied fruit for fruitcakes and was told they did not have it. The last time I looked for candied fruit – albeit several years ago – it was in every grocery store. I persisted in my search by asking other employees, only to discover that they did, in fact, not have the candied fruit.

I tried again the next day at a different grocery store when I was picking up Christmas stocking items. The looks I received from the clerks in the bakery – who should have had some idea – led me to believe that the employees had little clue as to what a fruitcake really is. After checking where they suggested proved fruitless – pun intended – I went to the baking aisle since that was a logical guess. The candied fruit was there under the cake decorations, but not in the variety or at the price I remembered.

Which is due to the fact that fruitcakes are not the quick gift choices they once were and are certainly not as prevalent. In recent years I have gone through the holiday season without hearing the word “fruitcake.” In earlier years I would not have seen the holiday season pass by without receiving a fruitcake. Fruitcakes kept one from having to hone in on a personally relevant gift.

At one time, a fruitcake was what you gave someone when you did not know what to give them, or when giving one gift to a family. I remember the colorful tin containers that unmistakably held a fruitcake wrapped in plastic. I never understood why I never saw anyone actually eat a fruitcake. It was rare that I even saw anyone break the seal on the plastic. But when someone went to the trouble of baking their own fruitcake, the recipient was more inclined to open and eat at least part of it.

When we had the White Elephant gift exchange with my father’s family on Christmas, there was usually a fruitcake involved that someone had received for Christmas. It was not uncommon for a fruitcake to be passed around three or four times before the new year began. And then, quite possibly, the fruitcake would make the rounds again the next Christmas. With the same bow affixed to the top of the can. Often, the same was true of other White Elephant gifts.

These days -fortunately – the only people who go to the trouble of baking fruitcakes are those who have a tried and true recipe – such as Cyndy’s mom’s recipe. They can still be ordered, but few people I know buy fruitcakes. It doesn’t help that the shelf life of candied fruits after being opened, baked, and then taken out of the plastic is about twenty-seven minutes.

Be that as it may, giving someone a gift received from someone else goes against the grain of the Christmas spirit. Regardless of the gift, it was given with a good spirit. It cannot be re-given with the same true spirit. There is only one gift that can be given repeatedly in the same spirit with which it was originally given – the love of Christ. No matter how many times the love of Christ is given and shown, it is still fresh, new, and untainted. A gift you can give to anyone and everyone. A gift that can be joyously re-given and joyfully received. So this Christmas, spread the love of Christ – the true spirit of Christmas.

Peace be with you.

My family moved to Wichita Falls just before I started fourth grade. After we settled in, I became friends with the three boys that lived next door. The oldest of the three boys was a few years older than I, the second oldest was a year or two older, and Jeffrey, the youngest, was a year or two younger than I was. Jeffrey’s is the only name I can remember and I am not one hundred percent sure that was his name.

Be that as it may, Jeffrey and I became friends. Particularly when friends my own age were out of town or unavailable. We had several notable adventures, but one in particular comes to mind that involved matchbooks. Matchbooks were still commonplace items, more so than lighters. Disposable lighters were not yet readily available.

The two of us were in the alley behind our houses. The alley was dirt, full of ruts most of the time from the garbage truck and city vehicles. But grass grew in the four or five feet between the alley and the backyard fences. It was late fall without a lot of rain and the grass by the alley was dry, brittle, and brown in spots . And we were bored.

We thought we would experiment with the matches and fire. Holding the matchbook with the striking strip on the bottom, we held the head of a match on the strip with our index finger. Then we would light the match while flipping it toward the ground. If the grass caught fire, we would let it burn, watching the circle of fire grow for a bit, then stomp it out with our foot.

As one would imagine, we kept letting the fire get a little bigger each time. After all, it would not be a challenge otherwise. As fate would have it, and you would guess, one of the fires got out of hand. When we stomped on the fire, ashes jumped, starting another little fire that soon became part of the larger one. It was not too terribly long before we began to panic.

The faster and harder we stomped, the faster the fire spread. When the fire was about three feet across, Jeffrey took off his jacket – which as I remember was brand-new – and began trying to put the fire out with it. At first, he only succeeded in spreading the fire more. I seem to remember coughing and screaming a lot. But he could not hear me, because he was screaming and coughing, too.

We finally put the fire out. Leaving a five foot circle of burned and smoldering grass as a monument to our stupidity. That and the rather large hole of burned fabric on the inside of Jeffrey’s new jacket. He asked me to take it home so he could tell his parents he loaned it to me and buy him some time to confess.

He did not get that chance. The jacket smelled distinctly of smoke and my parents asked me why I had it. I told them he had forgotten it and I would give it back to him. I went out in the backyard and threw the jacket over the fence to Jeffrey, who was in his backyard. His parents had asked him where the jacket was and told him to go get it. Following the rendering of his punishment, his parents talked to my parents. I did not escape unpunished. It was impossible to explain the five foot circle of burnt grass without telling the truth – which was ridiculous enough.

“Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Follow the inclination of your heart and the desire of your eyes, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 11:9

Qohelet’s God was a vengeful God. Making a list and checking it twice, as it were. But, with the New Testament and the life of Christ, we know God as forgiving and as a God of grace. While I certainly received my comeuppance for my part in the temporary fascination with fire – giving me a lasting respect for its power – I do not think that any further punishment is forthcoming. It is not a layer in the pile of bad or stupid things I have done in my life for which I will be punished for its totality.

Free will is offset somewhat by our conscience. We may still decide to sin, but we will feel remorseful about it. Each time I have recalled our venture into stupidity, I have received sharp pangs of regret brought on by my conscience. The recurring memories along with regret and feelings of stupidity are sufficient punishment, thank you very much. I do not think I need a final hammer coming down at the end of my life to punish me further for my collective sins.

God may indeed bring us into judgement, but it will be with grace and a forgiving hand of redemption. All will be taken into account, not just our sins. Which is a wonderful thing because no one is without sin. It is easy to understand David singing praises to the Lord. We should sing our praises and thank God with our prayers for his grace, forgiveness, and redemption. Because, in my case, if I was to be held accountable for my sins, the grass fire would be the least of my worries.

Peace be with you.

Have you ever bought a bag of potato chips – or other munchie (although, oddly enough, it is always potato chips with me) – and open it to find nothing but air? As if some ticked off employee who is having a bad day fiendishly plotted – complete with crooked grin and sneer – to put a hitch in my day. I always took it as a personal affront because usually it was the only cash I had at the time and I was away from the store when I opened it and would not have been able to prove it was actually empty.

The fact that it contained no salt could simply mean that I wiped it clean. Although why anyone would do that, I could not tell you. Suffice it to say, the empty bag pops up at the most inopportune time. We had one of the large variety boxes of chips. The empty bag is never discovered right away. That would be rather convenient and that is not allowed.

The empty bag, of course, was the last bag of one of our sons’ favorite chip. Which, also quite naturally, he had been saving for just that particular occasion. If you have been one of the chosen few who have never received an empty bag of chips, you can liken it to the time in college when you were settling back one evening. You get a cup of coffee or your favorite beverage, find a book you actually want to read, then go to the cabinet and your roommate has eaten your last Ding Dong (insert favorite dessert treat). Going to the store to get a replacement, while within the realm of possibility, just would not be the same thing. The moment is ruined.

As to the empty bag of chips, there is no real person to blame. I used to imagine the assembly line worker who fills the bag with chips turning to another worker. With a fiendish look on his face, he says, “I’m going to fix somebody,” as he passes the empty bag down the line. Ostensibly getting back at who knows who about who knows what. He feels bad so making someone else feel bad apparently evens things out.

It is harder to get upset at a machine having a sudden glitch and not pushing the chips into the bag which would be sealed by another machine that did not know the difference. And if you are one of the lucky people who have never bought an empty bag of chips, your time may still come. I have happened upon several myself, and each member of my family has had it happen to them at least once. I would think we have reached our quota.

“I said in my heart with regard to human beings that God is testing them to show that they are but animals.” Ecclesiastes 3:18

Am I suggesting that empty chip packages or roommates eating the last dessert treat are tests from God? Certainly not. God has considerably more important matters to attend to than a glitch in the machinery at the chip factory, the act of a disgruntled employee, or a hungry roommate. God created the world and set it in motion. Humans are the unpredictable factor in the equation – thanks to free will.

With all of our gadgets and internet connections, giving us the illusion of being in control of our lives, we still need to be reminded that we are not in control. To think that we are is surely a vanity and chasing after wind.

Peace be with you.

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