Brilliant Beards #9

Wow!  It’s been way too long since I’ve done one of my “brilliant beards” posts.

Well, since I’ve been reading books by Anthony Bloom and Timothy Ware I’ve been reminded that our Orthodox brothers really know what they’re doing with the whole beard thing.

Brilliant Beards #9: Orthodox Priests, Monks, etc.

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

During my sabbatical one of the books that I really wanted to read was Anthony Bloom’s classic, “Beginning to Pray.”  Bloom writes in a beautifully accessible and irenic tone yet with the wonderful simplicity, profundity, and mystery one expects when reading almost anything coming from an Eastern Orthodox author.  Without a doubt, this book will be one that I will reread on a regular basis.

Plus, check out that beard!

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Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware:

OK, so obviously I’m not Orthodox.  I’m a Baptist pastor who grew up Anabaptist (and still have some pretty strong Anabaptist leanings).  But one pet peeve of mine is when people make unfair caricatures of other belief systems, be it other religions or just other denominations.  So, if I want to better understand Pentecostal Christianity, for example,  I’m not going to learn about it by reading a Catholic author’s take on it; I’ll find a well respected Pentecostal author and get his take.  If I’m going to understand Catholicism I’ll read stuff by Catholics rather than someone with an obvious Protestant bias, etc.

With that serving as a basic explanation, a while ago I picked up The Orthodox Way by Timothy Ware.  For those looking for a relatively easy to read explanation of contemporary Orthodox beliefs, this is probably the best book to check out.  I’ve only been reading through it slowly and occasionally, but I’ve found it fascinating, stimulating, intruiging, and challenging.  I think it was he who I read somewhere was described as “the Orthodox C.S. Lewis.”  From what I’ve read this seems like a fair statement.

And, again with the beard!KallistosWareKalWare

And, well, this is just a picture of some random Russian Orthodox Priest that I thought was awesome!Barnaul-priest_1806987i

So, while I’m in no ‘danger’ of converting to Orthodox Christianity, you gotta admit that these guys have brilliant beards!


Call of the Wild

I had hoped that during this sabbatical I might be able to spend more time in the woods than I actually did.  But, as many of you know, the weather around here has been pretty bad the past few weeks, so I only managed to get out this past weekend and even then we had to put up with at least two hours of solid rain.

Regardless, it was a great time to hang out with my brother in God’s amazing creation.  For me, there’s nothing quite so cathartic as being out in nature, so it was a good way to head into my last week of sabbatical.  Yes, it rained.  Yes, the bugs were bad… really bad.  Yes, it was totally worth it!

Here’s the spot we chose to make our camp.

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Here’s what it looked like once we set things up.  Since we were hiking in (not too far; a 3km hike from the road to our spot) we kept things fairly minimal with just a tarp and our bivies.

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Once the sun came out it was amazing!


Here was our kitchen set-up.  It was a real pain to find ‘dry’ wood for the fire but we managed!  At least the smoke kept the bugs away.

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The tools of the trade (Gransfors Bruks small forest axe; Condor Hudson Bay knife).

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The beard shines brighter in the woods!


The bearded Braun brothers in the bush!


The Final Week

Well, here we are, the final week of sabbatical!  Here is the progress we’ve made, my beard and I:

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Moustaches and Man-Eaters

If ever you should find yourself in a situation where you need to hunt down some sort of man-eating beast, I highly recommend beginning said task by growing a moustache.  Observe:

John Henry Patterson

Perhaps the most well-known of our moustached men is Patterson who killed the infamous Man-Eaters of Tsavo.  I’m in the process of re-reading his tales and am thoroughly enjoying it.  But, honestly, the only reason he is so well known is because he was portrayed by Val Kilmer in  the Hollywood version of  his story in The Ghost and the Darkness (it’s on NetFlix; it’s worth checking out… remembering, of course, that this is a movie about man-eating lions).


Jim Corbett:

My favourite moustachioed hunter of man-eaters is Jim Corbett.  Unlike the good Mr. Patterson above who killed the Tsavo lions out of dire necessity and, otherwise, was more of a typically colonial trophy hunter, Jim Corbett was a true conservationist-hunter.  In fact, after retiring from the hunting-man-eaters business he dedicated his life to conservation, awareness, and photography.  In India there is still a national park named after him.  He is reported to have killed no fewer than 33 man-eating jungle cats (tigers/leopards).  I have read several of his books and highly recommend them!

Kenneth Anderson:

Honestly, I don’t know much about Anderson.  His confirmed tally is 15 man-eating jungle cats and, like Corbett, apparently became quite the activist for conservationism.  All I really know is that this is a pretty darned cool picture of him!

So, let that be a lesson to you all, if you are going to have even a ghost of a chance against vicious, man-eating animals, do yourself a favour and  start with a moustache!

Man of Steel?

So, I went to see the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, this past weekend.  This is my deeply analytical, profound review.

The parts of the movie where Clark Kent looks like this are awesome:


The parts where he looks like this, significantly less awesome:


I mean, let’s be honest here.  Ridiculously square jaw-line aside, when it comes right down to it, if you were to put your life into the hands of one man who would it be?

This man…


… or this man?



This is also why Wolverine is awesome and Cyclops is a baby-faced pansy.

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That is all.

Saying Good-bye

In a couple of weeks we say good-bye. Good-bye to beard-ness. Good-bye to moustache curls. Good-bye to sabbatical. I think we’ll be ready…for one good-bye or another.

Poetry for the Pipe-Smoking Bearded Gospel Man

Here is a fun little poem by Bearded Gospel Man, Joe Cassada:

A beard’s (to most) a silly thing –
Just facial hair allowed to cling
Upon its bearer’s face too long.
“’Tis best,” say they, “to shave. C’mon!”

With bearded men this hallowed truth
Is known quite well; they swear: “Forsooth!
My beard is not some whiskered shame!
‘Tis crown, and rank, and lion’s mane!”

And, would you ask the buck to lop
His antler’s off with chopping block?
Why then the pleas for faces nude,
And not my manliness exude?

Did Erikson with bald face sail?
Or Shakespeare take up ink and quill
And write with smooth and beardless grace?
Did Plato teach with shaven face?

Did soft-cheeked Leonidas fight
With beardless Spartan manly might?
Or Peter, Paul, and Jesus preach
With hairless, girly, rosy cheeks?

I hope you’ve seen o’er time and age
That warrior, preacher, and wise sage
Each one their manliness allowed
To show with beard grown long and proud.

Thus I shall keep my face unshorn –
With locks my cheeks and chin adorn.
For bearded face is how God made
This man. So bearded I shall stay.

Joe Cassada


And I had no idea that J.S. Bach, one of the greatest Christian musicians in all of history (he was a devout Lutheran), not only smoked a pipe, but also wrote a poem or two.  As fun as this poem is, I’m glad he stuck to music!

Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco Smoker

Whene’re I take my pipe and stuff it
And smoke to pass the time away,
My thoughts as I sit there and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe.

Like me, this pipe so fragrant burning
Is made of naught but earth and clay;
To earth I too shall be returning.
It falls and, ere I’d think to say,
It breaks in two before my eyes;
In store for me a like fate lies.

No stain the pipe’s hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death’s call I must harken
My body too, all pale will grow
To black beneath the sod ’twill turn.
Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,

Behold then, instantaniously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
Till naught but ash is left to see.
Man’s frame likewise away will burn
And unto dust his body turn.

How oft it happens when one’s smoking:
The stopper’s missing from the shelf,
And one goes with one’s finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell,
How hot must be the pains of Hell.

Thus o’er my pipe, in contemplation
Of such things, I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, on sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.

Johann Sebastian Bach

You are to be The Presence

metropolitananthonybloom“This day is blessed by God, it is God’s own and now let us go into it.  You walk in this day as God’s own messenger; whomever you meet, you meet in God’s own way.  You are there to be the presence of the Lord God, the presence of Christ, the presence of the Spirit, the presence of the Gospel — this is your function of this particular day.  God has never said that when you walk into a situation in His own Name, He will be crucified and you will be the risen one.  You must be prepared to walk into situations, one after the other, in God’s name, to walk as the Son of God has done: in humiliation and humility, in truth and ready to be persecuted…”

Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray