Omar Hamid Al-Rikabi was born in Houston, Texas to a Muslim father and a Christian mother, and was raised Christian in a suburban Dallas Methodist church. With a foot in two different cultures and religions, Omar grew to love teaching and telling stories.
Omar received his undergraduate degree in English with a minor in history from Texas A&M University, and his Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. He has worked as a grocery bagger, a waiter, a data-entry temp, a bookstore cashier, and a high school teacher. After twelve years in student and campus ministry, Omar currently serves as a Methodist pastor to a small church in North Texas.
When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his two daughters, Sadie and Norah, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends
I’m a storyteller.
I don’t have a choice. It’s in my name.
I’m the son of a Muslim father from Iraq and a Christian mother from Texas. My parents had an agreement: If my father could name me, my mom could raise me in the church.
Names in the Middle East are a big deal.
Since before the days of Abraham, one’s name has been more than a title. Your name is your nature… telling everyone where you’re from, who your family is, and who you are.
So my father named me Omar. In Arabic it means firstborn son. And that is who I am: The firstborn son of Hamid of the Rikab tribe.
And in the deal, my mother (unintentionally) took me to a conservative, hyper-evangelical church in the North Dallas suburbs. She left, but I stayed.
Over the next thirty years, these two worlds – of Iraq & Texas and Muslim & Christian – have personally, relationally, theologically, and even literally collided… and I’m still sorting through the rubble.
Turns out my name also has a Hebrew meaning: Talkative.
My maternal grandmother once said, “That Omar is just like his grandfather. He’ll talk your ear off and then whisper into the hole.”
My family and friends have always said I talk too much. I always have some story, observation or opinion to tell… and sometimes they’re meaningful.
In seminary, my mentor patiently listened to me talk too much in telling another long tale, then took a deep breath and said, “Omar… you’re what we call a storyteller.”
A seed was planted, and some of the fruit took the two natures of my name for this blog: Firstborn Stories.
On the surface, Firstborn Stories is a series of first-takes: Rough-draft observations and ideas rooted in the stories of faith, family and food from my history.
But the “experts” say to consider your audience when writing.
My ultimate audience is my daughters. I grew up knowing little of where I came from, who my family is, and who I am… and why. So this blog is really a long letter to them. I hope someday they will read this and better know where their father was coming from, and my prayer for them (and for you) is a life that will tell good stories… and tell them well.
© 2013-17 by Omar Al-Rikabi. All rights reserved.
I do my best to be accurate in everything about the events and information I share, and to speak well to what I see and believe.
But in the end I am a storyteller, not a professional journalist, historian, theologian or scholar.
In some cases, I have changed names or other details that could give people away.
If I endorse any book, product, service, etc., it is because I like or use it, not because they paid me. If someday they do, I’ll let you know up front.
Unless otherwise noted, the pictures I use here are either mine, my wife’s or a friend’s who gave me permission.
Please feel free to share anything your find here, but please don’t change it (unless you modify or alter a recipe). It would be great if you could link the stories or quotes you share. If you somehow make money from it, it would be great if you’d buy me lunch.
And of course, any views, comments or links I share here are my own. They are not necessarily the views of my employer, my denomination, my family… and sometimes even my wife.