We Really Did It!
One January day a few months ago, I said to my friend and fellow YWAM worker Chris, “I’ve been thinking… What if we hosted an outreach team from the Bearded Gospel Men community?” “Let’s do it!” said Chris (who immediately began to let his beard grow). We had a specific week we’d need to slot it into, and it would be short notice to pull a team together, but we figured if we even got just a few guys out, it would be worth it.
So I put out the call (and kept harping on you guys!), and two friends came out to join us: Jacob Johnson from Portland (aka Beard Central) and Josh Seehorn from Athens, Georgia. We spent a week together serving people from the low-income and street community here in Modesto, and in a word, it was awesome. There are so many stories to tell from this time, and over the next couple of weeks you’ll hear some of them. For now, suffice to say that it was extremely cool to see new relationships form between our volunteers, us, and the people we serve.
Although we called it the ‘Beards In Action’ week, we wanted to let this week be focused not just on the actions of serving, but on making those actions opportunities to engage people in relationship, to get to know their stories and who they are. It’s a very good thing to serve people, but real change comes to both parties when we get to know one another. And that’s what has been great to see this past week.
It was cool to see Josh, who just completed running and hiking across the entire country, engage people wherever he went. He loves meeting folks and beginning conversations, and his openness and friendliness with people was great to see. It was also a true blessing to see Jacob’s warmth and gentleness with each person he met and in each situation in which he served. Both of these Bearded Gospel Men are awesome guys, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them.
I also want to give some thanks to someone who was not able to join us, but who was present nonetheless. Doug at CanYouHandlebar (www.canyouhandlebar.com) graciously sent us the gift of several of his excellent products, along with a whole bunch of his Wisdom and Initiative Beard Oils to give to bearded friends we met along the way. It was so cool to be able to tell a friend who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to have the luxury of something like beard oil about my friend back in Michigan who wanted to send along his greetings and a gift. I think in particular of our new friend “Grizzly”, who is currently homeless. When I gave him some oil, he got the biggest smile on his face and said, “Wow, man. You really made my day!” So thanks for that, Doug!
We were able to partner with several ministries throughout the week, and you should go check them out. Advancing Vibrant Communities (www.vibrantcommunities.org), The Vine House (www.lovemodesto.com/less-fortunate/vine-house-ministries), and Love Modesto (www.lovemodesto.com) are all doing truly inspiring things in our city, and it was a pleasure to work alongside each one of them. I’d encourage you to find out what may be happening in your own city, and see if there are some opportunities to serve.
And of course, I couldn’t talk about the Bearded Gospel Men ‘Beards In Action’ week without mentioning the Third Annual Northern California Beard and Mustache Competition! This was a fun night (even if it did go a bit long, with too few chairs!) of celebrating all things beardy, and meeting some really interesting people. Josh and I both entered the competition, and although our beards are big, there were beards even more impressive than ours! But we had a good time with each other and the people we met, and that’s really what it’s all about.
So what began as a little idea to get a couple guys together from the BGM community turned out, in the end, to be even better than I could have hoped. Which of course means you should stay tuned and be ready for the Second Annual Bearded Gospel Men ‘Beards In Action’ week next year!
The BGM ‘Beards In Action’ Week continues!
Today we helped an awesome local agency called Advancing Vibrant Communities (www.vibrantcommunities.org) connect furniture donations with people who needed them. This is a great organization that specializes in connecting volunteers and donors with felt needs all over the city.
(not pictured: amazing burrito lunch at the taco truck!)
An Important Announcement
It is with a heavy heart that I, The Proprietor, must announce that as of this morning, I have shaved my beard.
I simply couldn’t stand the comments and ridicule any longer. “Duck Dynasty!” “Terrorist!” “Are you Amish??” It just became too much.
With my freshly shaven face, I now embark on a new adventure, and will be starting a website called “Smooth-Faced Christian Fellas”. It will be dedicated to everything safe, sensible, and generally nice. We will wear beige khaki pants.
Thanks everybody. It’s been fun.
There is very little one can say about Saint Patrick that has not already been said, but it simply wouldn’t be right to let this special day go by without mentioning something about this unique and compelling figure of Christianity. For a brief and interesting biography of Patrick, I recommend this article by writer Jonathan Rogers: http://www.rabbitroom.com/2013/03/on-the-greatness-of-saint-patrick/
What I can talk about is what Patrick represents to me personally, and why I find him so fascinating. Patrick’s was a life lived in absolute love and service to Christ and to the people around him.
He was sent to be a missionary in a culture that was defined by its paganism. He was not afraid of the world in which he found himself, however, and instead looked for signs of life, of the movement of the Holy Spirit, within it. He celebrated what was good and true, and with great love and care (and sound doctrine), introduced people to the source of that goodness and truth: Jesus Christ.
He had a profound awareness of the spiritual realities around him, of God’s immense and unseen workings in the world. He had a sense of Christ’s breath in the breeze, of God’s immediacy in his created world, and of Christ’s presence in the people he was called to serve. He looked with overwhelming love upon the people whom God had made, a people that most of the world (including Christians) had written off as beyond hope or redemption. This was what motivated him to return as a missionary to the very people who had enslaved him. He knew that he need not fear any person, spiritual force, or even the culture of paganism in which he found himself, because Christ’s love was all around him. With Christ’s own love, he loved people.
When I am tempted to despair of Christ’s presence in my life, of his Holy Spirit being at work in the world around me, I need only to remember the incredible prayer of St. Patrick. Here I am reminded of his ever-present help, and his ever-present love. May we carry that same love and confidence into the world in which we find ourselves.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation
BEARD OF SHAME: JAN THOZOMAS
As you know, we here at Bearded Gospel Men work towards the promotion of all kinds of facial hair, because every man looks better with a beard. But once in a while, a man comes along whose attempts at facial hair styles are so abominable, he is shown to be the exception that proves the rule. Once in a while, a man comes along whose beard styles are so absolutely atrocious, that he needs an intervention, a cease-and-desist order from the Bearded Community.
Today, that man is Jan Thozomas.
Sorry. I mean, John Travolta.
Yes, the man who so infamously mangled singer Idina Menzel’s name into “Adele Dazeem” has shown time and time again that, much like his ability to introduce people with exotic names, he has an uncanny ability to mangle the very idea of a beard. (You can, by the way, find your “Travolotafied” name here: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/low_concept/2014/03/john_travolta_called_idina_menzel_adele_dazeem_what_s_your_travolta_name.html)
It all started with his villainous turn in the forgettable film, “Swordfish”. Here he sported a truly heinous chin strip that was apparently meant to make him appear more “villainous”. It succeeded in making him look ridiculous.
Next came the atrocious Fu Manchu and sideburns style of “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3”, as he again attempted to look like a tough guy. It seemed that, lacking acting chops, he thought it would be enough to just GROW chops. (Ok, those weren’t chops at all, but I really needed to work in that pun.)
After this came the slightly less horrible, but ultimately not-right moustache and goatee of “From Paris With Love”. At this point, it had become apparent that the star had begun to have cosmetic surgery, and his jet-black Just For Men facial hair, accented by some truly odd looking eyebrow dye, looked downright weird.
All of this could have been forgiven, or at the very least forgotten, had it not been for his facial hair coup d’état in “Killing Season”. Once again, Travolta is playing a villain, and this can only mean one thing: some godawful facial hair. He had exhausted the chin strip, the moustache-and-goatee and the Fu-Manchu, so there was only one thing left to do: The Donegal. Once a proud look for both fishermen and the Amish, this regal facial hair style was now desecrated by Travolta’s unfortunately-dyed whiskers. If that was not enough, the cyanide-laced cherry on top was Travolta’s attempt at a Serbian accent! You read that right. John Travolta, the man who couldn’t pronounce “Idira Menzel”, doing a Serbian accent. Heaven help us all.
In all of this, I haven’t even mentioned the two most terrible words of all, and the facial hair, dreadlocks, and glam-rock boots that accompanied them: Battlefield Earth!
And so, it is with much sorrow that we here at Bearded Gospel Men must intervene.
Mr. Travolta, you have been served. This is your official cease-and-desist order from the Bearded Community. For your crimes against Beard-dom, we have enrolled you in the Dollar Shave Club, and hope to see your bare, shaven face on screen from now on. At any point in the future, when you refrain from Botox, cosmetic surgery, wigs, hair dyes, beard dyes, and/or villainous film roles that require you in any way to pretend to be a badass, we will be happy to review your case. Until such time…
We officially revoke your License to Beard.
(On the watch list: Nicolas Cage)
Meet Jonathan Thomas and his beard. Together, they make music. Thomas is a musician (guitar, bass, drums, harmonica, banjo and mandolin, among others) and worship leader who also writes and records music. He is also a writer and photographer, and his work and music (influenced by artists such as Johnny Cash, John Mark McMillan and M Ward), can be found here: www.ramblersreflectionsblog.blogspot.com. Jonathan is a student who is aiming to get his masters in Addiction Counseling at Grand Canyon University, with the long term goal of getting a masters in philosophical theology.
‘I love reading books written by dead guys, in which I found so much wisdom that is often ignored. I think its time for Christians to no longer be satisfied with believing “just ‘cause” but to set the bar (once again) in the intellectual realm.’
Each week, we host a little Bible study at a donut shop on South Ninth Street here in Modesto, California, for the community of people who live in the residential motels in this area. The woman in this picture is a friend of ours who lives at one of the motels. She suffers from profound mental illness, and she is rarely still or at peace. Today, quite unexpectedly, she walked into our Bible study, sat down, and quietly listened. At the end, our dear friend ‘Big Ron’ (aka the ‘Prayer Ninja’ I featured here a couple weeks ago) asked if he could pray with her. She quietly said, “Yes!” That’s when I snapped this photo.
She and Ron are two of the best reasons I can think of to come and be part of the BGM ‘Beards In Action’ outreach week here in Modesto, California. Folks like this will truly change your life. If you’d like more information about the trip (March 30-April 6) visit our blog or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love for you to be part of the team, and we’d love for you to meet our friends!
Beards In Action: Someone Has To Be Awesome.
I love my Dad. Sadly, however, he’s beardless. I have seen a picture of him in the 70s where he’s sporting goatee, but that’s the most facial hair I’ve ever seen on him. Pray for him, my bearded brethren. With this information in mind, is it okay if I tell a little story about him? Yes? Okay then.
My Dad’s a trucker, and has often found himself in places where he was able to take some small action, and be in the right place at the right time for someone. The other day, he told me about just such a time.
Dad was at a truck stop, and noticed a dirty, disheveled woman sitting in a booth in the restaurant area. She was slumped over and sleeping, and it saddened him to see her there. Obviously she was homeless, and apparently may have had some mental health and/or addiction issues going on. But really, what could he do for her? Not much, he supposed, and he almost walked on by.
But then he had another thought. He had met some of the people I count as friends here in Modesto, and seen how simple it can be to be a friend to someone in such a situation. Maybe he could at least buy her some food.
He didn’t want to wake her, so he asked the waitress if he could leave a few dollars for her to get something when she woke up.
“Oh, that’s so nice of you! But my shift is ending, so I couldn’t leave the money for the next girl,” said the waitress. “But I know this lady. I’ll get her up.”
The waitress walked over to the woman’s booth and put a hand on her shoulder.
The woman awoke.
“Betty? This man wants to buy you something to eat. Do you want something?”
Instantly the woman, Betty, perked up.
“Really? Oh that would be wonderful! Thank-you so much, sir!”
Betty ordered something to eat. Then my Dad had another thought. As a truck driver who frequented this particular truck stop chain, he had tokens available for use of the trucker’s showers. And Betty could really use a shower.
“I don’t know how to say this, but, uhm, if you wanted to make use of the showers, you can use my shower token,” he said.
Betty’s eye brightened. She was not offended in the least that someone noticed she needed a shower.
“Really? Oh yes, I’d love that!”
At this point, you should know that my Dad has a big heart, but he’s got quite an aversion to being dirty. He just can’t stand being in a situation where he has to be around anything “smelly”. Thankfully, however, he’s thrown himself into at least two different short-term outreach situations where he’s had to get out of his comfort zone and into a less-than-sanitary situation. I have photo evidence of about a dozen filth-covered street kids in Thailand hanging off of him like spider monkeys. It’s the happiest picture of him I’ve ever seen.
Betty was, well, pretty smelly.
She stood up and threw her arms around my father. “Thank-you so much!” she said.
Dad gulped away a slight gag reflex as he got a good whiff of Betty. “Oh, no problem!” chuckled Dad. He remembered those street kids, and he hugged her right back.
A while later, Betty walked back into the cafe. Unfortunately, she did not have a change of clothes, but she looked like a new person anyway. (“I kicked myself later,” my Dad admitted. “They had shirts and stuff for sale in the truck stop. I could’ve got her something.”)
Betty gave my Dad another great big hug, with tears in her eyes. “Thank-you so much,” she said. She smelled much better this time.
I tell you this story for two reasons, for two different truths that were at play in this little story. The first truth is that God can use us exactly where we are, everywhere we go. You don’t have to be on a missions trip to be used by God.
The second truth is that God also likes to take us to places we’ve never gone. My Dad absolutely loved each of the missions trips he’s been part of. He loved them so much that he wishes he could do something like that full time. But for now, he’s still a trucker, and God seems happy to use my Dad right where he is.
Paradoxically, to be a blessing right where he is, Dad drew upon the things he learned when he’d went away on an outreach trip. God took my Dad out of his comfort zone so that he could be more effective in the place where he’s most comfortable.
Perhaps we tend to swing from one of these two truths to the other. An opportunity comes along to serve in some kind of outreach experience, and we quickly dismiss it because it’s just not “realistic” and “God can use me right where I am.” On the other hand, maybe we look at what people in “full time ministry” are doing and think we could never do something like that. “It takes a special kind of person to do that!” we say, and fail to see the glorious opportunities in front of us every day to bless someone who desperately needs a little love.
So with all that in mind, what are you doing from March 30 to April 6?
You may have heard that we are organizing a ‘Beards In Action’ outreach trip here in Modesto, California. This could be the ‘out-of-my-comfort-zone’ experience you need. The trip is very affordable, and is guaranteed to both challenge and inspire you with ways you can be a blessing back home. We have plenty of room for last-minute additions to this little team, so if that piques your interest, please drop me a line.
But if you’re not able to join us for the trip, what are you doing from March 30 to April 6?
We would like to extend this ‘Beards In Action’ experience to everyone. Maybe there’s someone right there where you live who needs the encouragement that only you can give. So do a little brainstorming with some friends. Is there something you can do that would be a blessing? If we all share our ideas, we’re sure to find something great. Obviously we can be doing these things any time, but it’ll be fun to post and share some of these stories during that particular week as part of the ‘Beards In Action’ experience.
Maybe this is an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, to go somewhere you’ve never gone and experience something new. Or maybe you have an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary right where you are. Either way, remember to be where you are with a purpose. Someone you haven’t met may need you in their life. If you’re breathing, you are being called to be in the right place at the right time for someone. Don’t miss your chance to take action. After all, someone has to be awesome. It might as well be you.