Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Wind on My Face

Blessed is the man whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

For He wounds, but He also binds up;
He injures, but His hands also heal.

From six calamities He will rescue you;
in seven no harm will befall you.

Job 5:17-19

I’m a blessed man.

Oh I moan now and then, but life is like that, filled with discomforts, filled with challenges.

But the rewards are mighty.

Thank you O Lord!

The last few days have been wonderful. Jeremiah is still a little sick (he is recovering from bronchitis, but the bloody noses have nearly ended).

I feel buoyed since my last post. Brenda and I cuddle, and pray, and are kind to each other. Not a cross word, not a moment of ir
ritation. (...He injures, but His hands also heal...)

A perfect start for what comes next. I am so excited.

Tuesday Lent begins.

Lent is supposed to be a time for spiritual reflection, a time for folks to reflect on the life of Jesus and mimic His forty days of reflection. It begins the first instant of Ash Wednesday.

That’s why New Orleans kicks up its collective heels at this time each year. “Carnival” Latin for “farewell to meat,” is a time for feasting because soon they are to fast and consider our Lord’s suffering. Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is a bacchanalian frenzy which ends with the serious business of Lent. It's like planning on going on a harsh diet and eating a half gallon of ice cream the night before.

I am sure that Mardi Gras is somewhat of an embarrassment for many Catholics, though I think most folks recognize that it has little do with faith anymore. But it has its origins in the idea of the restraint of the coming season. I want to approach this
lenten season with a heart closer to the purpose... I want to follow my Lord out into the wilderness... I want to think about what He did for me... I want to draw closer to Him... now.

I start it on Tuesday. I’m not Catholic so I can make up my own rules. Tuesday I set aside to prepare my heart for the season.

I haven’t the history and cultural inertia behind me to push me into this season. But I have passion.

Some folks make New Year’s resolutions. Not me. I don’t make resolutions at all. I make changes. And this is the season I look at my faith and challenge myself.

Serious business. I look inside my heart, I find that spot where my Lord dwells, and I ask Him to tell me what to do.

Two years ago it was cigarettes. Last year it was prayerful artistic expressions.

Last year prayer became something important. What I learned during the last lenten season prepared me for what the year would bring. (...For He wounds, but He also
binds up...)

This year...

Well, I’ll talk about his year’s changes some other time.

I begin each Lenten season by watching The Passion of the Christ.

Not easy to watch. Frankly, it makes me weep. (And I come from a family where men don’t cry, no matter what...) I don’t like the pain it brings my heart, but I cherish the sacrifice it shows. I feel that if He could do that for me, the least I can do is to peek at what happened.

That is how I start this season. I arrange to let whoever in my church wishes to view it come. There will also be a communion, so we can reflect on the last supper.

I get my heart right. I start Lent.

I teach a Sunday School class, and one of the little old ladies was asking about the purpose of Lent. She couldn’t understand why people give up certain things for this season and then go back to them... like meat, or chocolates.

I told her I believed it was to give their spiritual life focus. That in giving something up the desire becomes a reminder.

I’m giving up something a little odd this year.

I’m giving up my beard.

My beard was thin when I turned 18, the day my dad told me to move out (months before high school ended). Out I went. I moved into the neighbor’s basement, $50 a month.

It was a typical beard for a youth. Thin, sparse. A little pretentious, a tentative claim on manhood, a timid statement of nonconformity, counterpoint to my father’s clean, stern jaw line.

Over the years the beard has thickened. It lengthened and shortened in response to changing lifestyles and jobs. It was long and wooly when I was roamed western highways and mountain trails. Trimmed short as a cook. Bushy in college, short as a graphic artist. Wild when I was living off a garden and animals I raised, and trimmed neatly as a teacher. But for over thirty years it has kept my chin warm.

Now it is full, neatly trimmed, and has quite a bit of grey in it. And for the next month and a half it will be gone. Every morning I will shave, and while doing so, I will pray.

And every time I step outside I will be a little surprised at the sensation of the breeze on my naked chin, and I’ll say a little prayer.

It will be a reminder of the season, help me to focus.

And what is the point? Why struggle with my faith, especially when things are going well (relatively)?

Because that is why I am here. To experience life.

I have lain in the wilderness, waiting for death... I have held my dead child, laid him in a grave, carved his marker... I have seen my children dance for joy, and bathed in the warmth of my wife’s smile (what joy!). I’ve walked the John Muir Trail, and I’ve had a gun pointed in my face. I’ve gone blind, had amnesia, and seen evil spirits
dancing in the dark. I've been kidnapped and had a tent shredded around me in a sandstorm.

Experiences. Change. Growth.

But I am still standing. Heck, I’m dancing! And that doesn’t seem rational... for life is hard:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished...
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes...

And all of it... all of it is making me into something my Lord can better use, something He is pleased with.

That is enough.

I want to be an example for my children, to show them that a man can be committed to his marriage, to his faith. (My father is getting his fifth divorce.)

I want to help my wife, be a leader of my home. Support her efforts in school, help around the house, take the lead in our spiritual life.

I want the challenges, the growth.

I know there is still a shadow prowling the edges of my life. And I have a righteous anger at him, and I know he isn’t done with trying to hurt us.

But today... Oh today... I am dancing in my heart.

Because the creator of the universe loves me.

That joy I feel when I see Brenda smile is small compared to the joy I feel when I sense Him smile.

I have faltered, I have stumbled, and I have fallen. But a hand has lifted me up every time, and its bleeding wound has been pressed to my skin and I cannot forget that love of His.

So... the beard comes off. I want to feel the wind blow and be attuned to what He would have me feel.

(Feels weird)


jel said...

nice to meet ya CS,
so glad you and your wife are smiling again, God is sooooooo good,
happy to hear tha your son is doing better,
very cool post,
have a great day! :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful words and I can see great passion behind them. You have a very intresting site; one in which I know I will revisit often.

Thank you, too, for your kind comments on my blog and my Camelot story. Beautiful movie, with passion and story that are timeless...


Bruce said...

Well said, curious, well said. I'm looking at Lent in a whole new light, and I'm excited about what God will show me.

Thanks. And may the peace of God be on you during this season.

Seeker said...

A unique way to be attuned to our unique God.

MMM said...

Is that you? Nice to finally meet you. ;)

I didn't realize that Tuesday was Lent; I've never been part of a church where Lent was practiced. But Tuesday is the end of a job I have had for eight years, and which I am stepping away from for the relative freedom of subcontracting, working for myself alone. I am giving up the bonds of being supervised, so to speak, and have been given the chance to redefine my service to the world. I don't have a beard to shave off, but I have an office to clean, and I thank God for that process. I'll be praying for yours. And if the Spirit drives you into the Desert, stop on by the Desert of the Real.

Takc care. And take heart. And takee what you need. ;)

jel said...

Thanks CS, for the comments on my blog, :)
have great day!

Pirate said...

Good luck my friend in Jesus. I have always avoided the sacrifices even when i was a young catholic. As i near the 50 I have discussed sacrifices within myself and have focused on one area that I have deprived myself of since i first experienced artificial stimulus at 14. Can i put aside tabbacco and pot until Easter? Pray for me bud for i will need it greatly.

论点空间 said...

Hallo,I can speak only Chinese and German.

jollybeggar said...

yeah, i love (is that the right word?) the passion of the Christ...

everytime i view it, i am someone else, and find myself relating to the characters differently.

when it came out, i was interning at the church and had just come out of a season of family tragedy inwhich my wife lost two brothers and a sister-in-law over the course of three months. i had also been attacked publically by a number of people i had been mentoring for, in some cases, a decade. i was, as a result, really emotionally volatile- prone to depression, rage and indignation without notice. then i saw the film and the words 'no servant is greater than his master' penetrated my heart. how can you watch what Jesus underwent for us and remain angry at the bad treatment you've received from others or (in typical job-like fashion) God?

the second time i viewed it, i was sharing the experience with a friend of mine who had no religious experience at all. after whispering all movie who this person is and why this guy is mad and so on, we went out for beers and spoke of the scandalous grace of God for hours. my friend is one of those people who, because he spends his life looking to be victimized, is always feeling taken for granted. he is also an incredible freedom fighter, ready to go at any moment on someone else's behalf. he was incredibly angry with the pharisees and the teachers of the law, while all i could see was myself in them.

the third time i viewed the film, it was with my sons last easter. i have, over the years, forced them to watch Jesus' story as done by franco zeffirelli numerous times. however, this one was different- they asked to see the passion of the Christ with me. viewing it with my sons, 10 and 13 at the time, all i could think of was how hard it would be for me to give either of them up for someone as shallow in his appreciation, expressed and otherwise, as i am.

Jesus' story draws a line in the sand for me every time. bit by bit different aspects of my whole rebellious self change dirty rags for glory by accepting the troubling death of my Lord as the only way out.


Jim said...

Hi C.S. Thanks for mentioning you read mine today. We were at my daughter's place, staying with our GC#4 while those two were working.
I probably won't give up anything for lent, Mrs. Jim might. Our denomination (Southern Baptist)doesn't make a big deal out of Fat Tuesday.
Mrs. Jim's father died when she was seven, but he was Catholic from the South Louisiana region.
All those people are heavy into Mardi Gras. But a lot do Vodo too, it is all too much for me.
I'm glad you are givng the Lord more time for Lent. We will try to do that too.
On my list is a blog, not written yet, about by beard. It isn't decicated to God, but Mrs. Jim was at birth, like Solomon. That is another blog too.
We do honor Lent in thought and devotion to Jesus' coming, dying, and overcoming death for us, but we won't be giving up anything symbolic.

curious servant said...

Lent is a new observance for me. There isn't anything official for it in our church... but I think the idea of mimicing the Ord's 40 days of prayer is worthy and I like the idea of picking a theme for it. The sacrifice of something is just to help me focus.

I'm sure that Catholics have a very different view of it. But this is my journey and it's what I'm up to today.

I shaved tonight (pic posted) so I wouldn't have to tackle it in the morning before work. In the morning I will start my morning prayer walks along the river.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

who in the wide world of sports is the weird looking guy in the picture at the bottom of his blog! pt

curious servant said...

Now you know why I need the beard!

jel said...

Hey CS, BOTH PIC, are nice looking,

praying that you have a blessing of a walk this morning! :)

have a great day!

4evergapeach said...

CS, very inspiring post. You may not be Catholic but you do have the spirit of Lent. I think the symbolism behind shaving your beard is truly an act of faith. I’m a procrastinator in the worst way and have not yet chosen a Lenten sacrifice. I will open my heart today and pray an inspiration comes to me. Also, we should all be celebrating Lent out of Passion and not a cultural obligation.

I do have to redirect you on one point though. Fat Tuesday is not a free ticket to sin. Catholics have never used this day to sin knowing that they will be forgiven. Yes, it is a day of indulgence of food (Packzi for Polish Catholics) but not a day to ‘squeeze’ in that one little sin knowing we will be forgiven. There are many different cultural originations and roots of celebration for the day(s) leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, but none of them ask us to burden our Lord with our sins. I do realize that the celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans can be misleading, and I believe many celebrating it have lost the true meaning of what they are celebrating, but this is in no way representative of what the Catholic faith believes about this time of the year.

I don’t mean to be over harsh, but your post led me to believe that you had a misunderstanding of this and I just wanted to clarify.

May you have a blessed Lenten season!

curious servant said...

I apologigize for implying that the excesses of Mardis Gras reperesent Catholics. I know it does not.

New Orleans' Mardis is simply about a party. It attracts people from all over simply for the booze and the nudity and the general revelry.

I don't want to sound overly prudish and I know the need for folks to blow off steam an this grand party provides that, mostly to non-believers.

I didn't want to get into an analysis of Church history, and the distinctions between faith and culture. I was just mentioning that event in the light of my own desire to become closer to my Lord and that for me I wish to start Lent early because I am excited about my spiritual journey.

I'm sort of saying (to myself) "No, I'm not going to indulge a little (not even a teeny bit of extra) because I know I am going to go without meals and do other disciplines... In fact, I am going to ensure I enter this season with the right focus by giving myself an extra 24 hours of preparation for the season so I may do it better."

I am sorry I did not make this clear in my post.

I think there may be a growing dissent to our culture's carnality. The building of an all Catholic town in Florida for example.

I am also pleased at how courteous and inspiring so many blogs have become. I'm not Catholic, but I am feeling warmer and closer to my Catholic friends and acquantainces all the time.

Hopeful signs.

4evergapeach said...

Thank you for the clarification. And it wasn't so much the excess of Mardi Gras that you implied it was just the remark about "I start it on Tuesday. I’m not Catholic so I can make up my own rules." Then immediately followed by "I‘m not going to party because I know I’ll be forgiven; I won't be intentionally laying more sins on my Lord’s shoulders." That is what I was trying to seperate. It sounded like you were saying that is what Catholics do.

I do understand now, that was not your intention.

Peace & blessings to you CS

curious servant said...

Ah... I can see how you thought that. What a clumsy thing for me to say. I'll see if I can fix that.

Thank you.

curious servant said...

Please reread the passage now. I am sorry for how I worded my thoughts before.

I can see that I wrote it completely from a narrow view of my own and did not consider how it may make others feel. It was poorly written.

What I had written sounded pompous, arrogant, flippant. I was trying to inject a slight touch of humor, and those who know me well know that I have a often clumsy sense of humor.

David said...

Oh my gosh you did do it - wow. What a change in appearance on the outside as the inside continues to grow......

4evergapeach said...

You are a dear person CS. You really didn't need to re-write it. Your clarification was fine. I apologize on my part if I was too critisizing. I didn't mean to be. I will certainly try to look for that bit of clumsy humor in future posts. For there IS a time to laugh! God bless you CS!

Cinder said...

Hi CS,

Thx for stopping by this week...I'm so glad to hear that Jeremiah is doing better and that you and Brenda are doing well!!

Everytime I come here, I leave enlightened and uplifted...thanks so much!

I like your tradition of watching "The Passion of Christ" to begin the season of Lent...I find this to be such a powerful portrayal of Christ's love and grace. When it was coming out, I was surprised and honored to be able to go view it, before it came into theatres...this was to allow me to be able to help promote the movie to our church and to be able to adequately answer questions from parents about the movie.

The second time, I went with my hubby and his brother and was interesting to see differences between the preview vs. the actual was also a great time of discussion with my brother-in-law and his wife afterwards, as even though they no longer are going to church, they were excited to go see the movie and we were able to discuss things in a very different light.

God Bless!!

Coco said...

Wow, what a change!!
That's what Lent is all about- a personal change...
a change towards God.

Blessings to you and your family.

G~ said... much that changes your appearance! You don't look that same at one at church will recognize you! ;)

I admire your dedication and look forward to 'watching' you as you go through this season that I don't understand either.

God bless you hugely, CS!

Alexa said...

I was thinking about what I could do for Lent myself -- great idea! Wonder if my husband will let me use his razor? ;-)

Lillee said...

Wow! Looks great. I would have loved to have sat in one of your classes today! Were your students surprised?

curious servant said...


Julana said...

Thank you for sharing your plans for Lent. Over the past couple of years, I've started to want to observe it--not in a legalistic way, but it seems to me that an extended time of meditating on something deepens your understanding of, and respect for, it.
You look different than I imagined. I was thinking of a sort of aging hippie, John the Baptist sort. :-)

curious servant said...

Given my druthers I probably would... but as a teacher...

Me said...

I was wondering what you looked like! Very handsome with and without the beard. At least you have a chin. My father has had a beard for over 40 years. He shaved it off once and my sister and I fell in the floor laughing (we were only little kids at the time). He had the tiniest little chin. He grew that beard right back and to this day has never shaved it again. BTW: You have inspired me to try and quit smoking again.

Ragna said...

I like "seeing" your face. Amazing that it's been 30 years of "covering".
Leaving today on my trip, so see you later on in March.
Many blessings to you and your family..I love you all.
Your friend Ragna

curious servant said...

I think that knowing that I was avoiding cigarettes as a way to keep in mind Jesus' sacrifice made it easier to avoid them.

Then it seemed wrong to start again.

~m2~ said...

...I'm not Catholic, but I am feeling warmer and closer to my Catholic friends and acquantainces all the time.

Hopeful signs.

yay :)

(you are quite the handsome servant, btw, and this is coming from someone who would have begged you not to shave!)

onionboy said...

There's probably a verse in there somewhere; A time for beards and a time for wind in yer face? ;-)

There's nothing like staying young and that's what your doing, on the inside. God be with you. ::thrive!

Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read » » »