Sunday, August 26, 2007

Masks (edited)

This is an edited version of a post I wrote.
You may know me as “Curious Servant.” It is a name I chose for myself when I first started blogging. I was afraid of letting those in the wide world of the World Wide Web know my true identity.

As if there is such a thing.

The name on my birth certificate, driver’s license, and sundry other documents is William David Greenleaf. When I was little I was “Bill." That lasted until my mid 20s when I shed that appellation for Will, thinking it was a better, stronger, more positive name.

To my students I am Mr. Greenleaf, a name that sums up my identity as a teacher, someone who does not exist outside of the school building (a fallacy which frequently brings shocked recognition at the grocery store or the library).

These names conceal more than they reveal. They provide me superficial identities for various situations. None of them are the true me.

A closer version of who I am comes out when I am with close friends, sharing hidden truths. My Moon Howlin’ buddies gather about once a month to sit around a camp fire and talk about anything that comes to mind, from family to faith, jokes to jobs, music to musings, fears to foolishness. We haven’t gotten together this summer. We need to do that. I need to do that.

There is the identity I have with my wife. It is a truer part of who I am, but still somewhat of a mask, an identity of being sure when I’m not, a touch of bravado, a touch of arrogance, a touch of the petulant child. Still, there is little that I can hide from her that she does not know after living for more than a quarter of a century with me.

I think people fall into roles they play for certain people. A common interest, a common joke, and the interactions tend to repeat. There are people I speak to about science, people I speak to about faith. There are those I talk politics with and others environmentalism.

Perhaps that is one reason I like to write these posts. Here I can say what I want, though... even here I tend to group everything around certain themes, certain ideas.

But I can tend to my own masks. I can be aware when I am putting on a facade. I can wear the superficial mask of the pleasant teacher when it is needed, and I can set it aside when I am with those I trust.

I can work to remove the masks I wear when I look at myself, telling myself I am who I am not, restoring a bruised ego with self-prescribed empty platitudes. (I have heard it said that there are few things as fragile as the male ego).

So who am I? I suppose I am Curious Servant, the blogger who puts a good face on his struggles and seeks to turn a clever phrase with parallelism and alliteration. I’m Will, the friend of my friends, the husband of Brenda, the father of Jeremiah and Isaac, and of Willy who lives with my King and Master. I suppose a part of me is still Bill, the boy who pretended to be a pirate and a spaceship captain and rode through magical fantasies springing from a childhood mind. I’m also the man who is self-centered and proud of things that are not of my making, or even of my possession, for all I have is merely lent to me (including my marriage).

So what do I do with the masks? They are useful things, politically useful in keeping a job, in being civil and civilized. But I should be careful of which ones I wear, and when I wear them.

Most importantly, I can remember to toss all the masks into a heap when I am praying to my King and try to see my life, my physical body, my mind, my eternal soul, the way He sees them and live up up to the great love He offers me, despite what I strap to this human visage.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I've been doing a lot of praying lately.

A sweet lady in England has been interested in how I use Sharpies to pray and create an image that goes with the prayer, so I am posting this series of pictures to show the process.

All of the pictures can be enlarged in you click on them.

I am doing an angel on this one. I am seeking things from the Lord, mostly strength, wisdom, and protection, and the idea of an angel rushing to my aid seems to personfy exactly what I am seeking.

I have had a couple of experiences with angels. You can read about them in this post.

I like how the praying hands I did before are facing the coming angel.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Lord's Prayer

This is a Prayer that has taken a year to paint. I will paint over it soon and start a new one.

You can enlarge any picture by clicking on it.


...Our Father, our Maker, who loves us greater than we can love our own children...

...Who lives above and beyond us... beyond the limits of what we can see, even with our mightiest tools, beyond the sky, beyond the stars, beyond the galaxies, beyond the edges of space and time...

...holy, holy, holy Lord...a name I speak with trembling reverence; I will not utter it casually...

...nor any of the names that set You aside from all other gods...

...may Thy Kingdom draw near...

...where we live, that w may live as You have asked...

...and do as You have commanded...

...on Earth, this place of struggle and weakness...

...and thank You for sending Your Spirit, The Comforter, to guide us, whisper to us, that we may have light in this world where the Prince of Darkness walks in the shadows...

...and may it be here as it is where You dwell, where You rule all, where no one seeks to disobey, to be self-centered, where a single day in is preferable to a thousand in this realm of darkness creeps, but as it is in Your courts where beings of might and majesty and ageless beauty humble themselves before a throne made of pure glory...

...a place beyond our imagining, beyond the walls of this universe, a place of glory we are unequipped to behold while we live as mortals...

Feed us today Lord, and help us to not worry about tomorrow, just provide for us this day as You have always done...

...and help us to remember, as You feed us, that all we do should be in rembrance of what You have done, are doing, and will do...

We repent, we plea, we plead, please, do not hold deal with us as we justly deserve, but have mercy, grant us Your grace, forgive us for putting ourselves first before You, our maker...


And teach us to forgive, may we forgive those who hurt us, those who betray us, those who slight us, those who scheme against us, just as often as You take our selfish sins upon Yourself and forgive our self-centeredness...

...and take your crook, Great Shepherd, and hook it about our stubborn necks, pull us from the edges of high places and lead us to peaceful pastures where we can be at rest with You...

...and deliver us from ourselves, protect us from what we should not know, what we should not choose, protect us from drawing near to temptation, and guide us back when we fail...

and keep the forces of darkness away...

...for You have the power to crush the serpent, to drive away the Prince of Darkness, he who calls himself the bearer of light... the great deceiver.

Holy, holy, holy Lord.
May all the world see You and know that You are the source of all that is good, all that is right, all that is beautiful and just and fair and glorious...

Forever and ever and ever and ever...


Our Prayer Room

As many of you know, I have a place where I can go and praye. It is there that I often sing, read, kneel, and write. I sometimes draw and paint.

It is a place for the people of our church to go any time, day or night. The Lord's Prayer I just showed you is there. It took me a year to do, and now that it is done, I am ready to paint over it and begin again.

Here is a quick tour of what the room looks like. Soon we will repaint the entire room so we can begin fresh.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Over The Rainbow (reprint)

I wrote this post a while back... and I thought I'd post it again... just thinking it over once more... I was walking before dawn this morning, and the song "Keep it Loose, Keep it Tight" by Amos Lee was playing in my head. I quoted a part of that song in this post. You can hear the song by clicking the title above.

But sometimes,
We forget what we got,

Who we are.
Oh who are are not.
I think we gotta chance,
To make it right.

Keep it loose, Keep it tight.
Keep it tight.
-Amos Lee

I have forgotten what I’ve got, who I am. I cannot be everything to everyone.

When I was a kid, about once a year, The Wizard of Oz would appear on our television set. It was a special event; so rare it almost seemed a holiday.

At the time I thought it was just a story about a fantastic adventure to a wonderful place. As a young adult I became aware of enough history to see the allegory about moving off the gold standard, but back then it was simply a wonderful story, a fantasy.

My English major education shows me more important aspects of the story.

It’s a story of someone wanting more from life. Someone tired of the ordinary, the dreary life of work. A place where the whole world seems to be cast in sepia tones.

Dorothy thinks there must be a place where things are different. A place where things are beautiful. Perhaps beyond that occasional arch in the Kansas sky, the rainbow:

When all the world is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around

Heaven opens a magic lane

When all the clouds darken up the skyway

There's a rainbow highway to be found

Leading from your window pane

To a place behind the sun

Just a step beyond the rain

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high

There's a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue

And the dreams that you dare to dream

Really do come true
--“Over The Rainbow"
(as sung by Judy Garland

Brenda feels like that. She is frustrated, and angry, and tired.

I understand. I am tired too.

Raising these boys has been a tremendous amount of work. And now, as we sprint (or stagger) toward the finish line, the time when they should be ready to go out into the world, it seems they are not at all ready.

Brenda fears we will never be done with the job.

Our parents didn’t work so hard at it. Neither of us were really raised. We were grown. We were provided with food and shelter. Nothing more. No guidance, no training, no practice runs at the skills we would need. As first borns our place was to take up the slack in raising our siblings.

There was no leisurely move into the world when we turned 18, it wasn’t in the cards. Brenda went to business school before the month after high school let out (she met me soon after). I was told to be moved out by my 18th birthday (even though I wouldn’t graduate high school for another two months).

Today her frustration is tangible. Some days are better than others. A roller coaster for both of us. (She is in a good mood tonight, sweet, generous.) But underneath everything is the tension about how much further we will have to go in raising these two boys. I suspect that when the job is nearly done, she will go seeking that path over the rainbow. She will be within an arm’s length of graduating college and will take the freedom that education offers to flee this burden. She wants desperately to run away from her life.

I'm in love with a girl,
Who's in love with the world,

Though I can't help but follow.

Though I know some day,

She is bound to go away,

And stay over the rainbow.

Gotta learn how to let her go.

Over the rainbow.

--Amos Lee

I don’t know what to tell her anymore. I have tried, and I have failed. I am a very imperfect person. I try to ease her struggles, to honestly see my shortcomings and grow into someone that provides all she needs. But I cannot conjure up that brilliant world beyond the rainbow.

Sometimes we forget who we got,
Who they are.
Oh, who they are not.
There is so much more in love,
Than black and white.
Keep it loose child,
Gotta keep it tight.
Keep it loose child,
Keep it tight.
--Amos Lee

I have failed her in making my work too great a priority, in focusing too sharply on things outside our home. I seek to bear as much of the burden of our home that I can, but I cannot change her heart.

Her disappointments I cannot heal. I cannot change the fact she cannot bear children. I cannot change the fact we were misled regarding Jeremiah’s abilities. I cannot change the fact our first child died. I cannot change the fact we must diligently watch Jeremiah to ensure he does not play with fire. I cannot take away her guilt and shame over the burning of our church. I cannot stop the constant references to the rebuilding of the church. I cannot take away her anger at God, argue theology with someone who does not accept the premise God is good.

I want to keep her close, love her forever. Perhaps that is how it will turn out, but I have doubts.

When someone sees life in sepia tones, and a sparkling rainbow appears in the mind, a portal to a wonderful place, a place without worry or cares, it is very tempting. I understand.

That portal isn’t really there. It is an illusion. There isn’t any way to get over it, or under it or through it. There isn’t an end to it. The pot of gold isn’t there. It is in one’s heart... or it isn’t.

Oh, Brenda... a rainbow is a circle. Much of it may be invisible, but it is still a circle. The center of that circle is ourselves... or the shadow of ourselves. If you look closely at the exact center of every rainbow you will ever see, you will find that it is framed exactly on your shadow’s head. You are the center of it... it is your viewpoint which carries the rainbow and as long as you have a body it will always be so.

But if you turn around, put your back to that fanciful imaginary portal, you will find you are looking at the sun, the true source of the power of the beauty which is framed around you. The rainbow is the earthly halo bestowed upon your shadow.

And just as the sun places this metaphoric crown over our heads, the Son places a spiritual crown on each of us.

I can’t prove it. I can’t point it out. But I know it is there. He does love us, and He is good.

I am a scientific man in many ways, and I understand how people can view a rainbow as simply the refraction of light through glistening raindrops or virga or mist. But I can also understand how people can marvel at such things and wonder at the miracle it holds. Not of its existence, but of the wonder that we can see it as beautiful. a dog can see a rainbow. Perhaps not all the spectrum we see, but enough to see it is there. But a dog never feels a rising passion within his breast, the emotion we call awe.

Logic can not prove the existence of God. Just as logic cannot explain our sense of beauty. Those are discernments of the heart, not the mind.

Ah, honey... I love you. I don’t know where this will all end. But if you can’t see the invisible blessings which streams earthward I am incapable of pointing them out to you. You must see them with your own eyes, with your own heart.

You wonder how God can let so many hurtful things happen in the world, happen to you. I cannot answer such questions.

But I know that wherever you may go, the rainbow will always be outside of your reach.

I’m tired. I am having trouble keeping this smile in place. I will always love you. I won’t try to force you into a mold, into anywhere you do not wish to go. This means that if you want to chase after rainbows, that will be your own journey.

Dorothy chased her rainbow... and found that everything she wanted was always where she began.

Curious Art

Here are some pictures of some art. I have more which I will post soon.

I have recently deleted a post which had these pics (oops!), so I thought I would replace them.

You can get a larger view by clicking on the pictures.

Praying Hands

Suffering Lord


Lion and Lamb (Peace on Earth)