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Wilbur brought this First Word to the meeting in January, 2005.

Wilbur's Beard

A few thoughts about my beard.

My official story is this: Last July, Lorie and I took some of her family to the beach for a couple of days. I failed to pack my razor so I didn't shave. Back home on Thursday morning, I started to shave and then thought, "I am going to Mexico the day after tomorrow, why shave?" So I didn't. Not shaving in Mexico was a real convenience since we were camping and had no running water. After 8 days in Mexico, I returned home with 12 days worth of beard, and, lo and behold, no objection to it. So, what you now see here is 138 days growth of beard.

There have been a few phases in this beard growing. The first was the fuzzy face phase. This phase ended when I realized that if I combed my face, it made a difference in the way I looked.

Now I am in the "You need to trim that beard" phase. A week or two ago I got a haircut and the barber from the next chair made a comment that I needed to get my beard trimmed. Half the people who live in my house have made the same comment.

I started this beard to reduce my morning routine. The idea that I am going to have to learn beard trimming, and perhaps buy some new equipment to do it, has given me a few thoughts about my beard.

If it is going to be a lot of work, should I keep it?

Last week I did a very informal count here and about 1/3 or so of the men in the meeting have beards, and all of them, except mine are trimmed, and no two here seemed to be the same. There must be a hundred way to trim a beard.

So, if I am going to get into beard trimming, what kind of trim do I want to do?

In general terms, do I want to make a plan for my face? When I talked about my beard as a First Word topic, one response was that I was leave half the congregation out of the loop. But the general question is just as valid for women as men: Do you have a plan for your face?

Any way you wear your face is going to make some kind of personal statement. If you shave your beard or put on your makeup with extreme care and in some striking pattern, you make one statement; if you just let you face hang out with whatever happens to grow on it, you are making another statement. On the whole we are comfortable somewhere between the two extremes.

Should your plan be to make your face stand out, or blend in? For me I have to ask, Do I want to trim for some deliberate kind of effect? I am told that what I am wearing is a Mennonite style. Do I want to look like a Mennonite? Would I rather look like a Quaker? What does a Quaker look like?

On the wall at home is a photograph of my great grandfather Wood, a Quaker minister. He is wearing a mustache and beard and they are impeccably trimmed and groomed. His face does not radiate simplicity or humility or a commitment to peace. The picture is from about 1890, he appears to be around forty, and he was very much in the style of the day, he was blending in.

If I turn to the Bible, there is not much guidance there about beards. Among the 12 times mentioned in the Bible only Lev 19:27 deals with beard trimming. "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard." This is in the midst of a list of instructions dealing with such subjects as witchcraft, tattoos, and selling your daughters. The general message in the Old Testament is that for a man to have his beard shaved off is somehow shameful.

So, for myself this leaves me with a series of choices: Should I keep my beard, and learn to take care of it; or should I shave it off? If I keep it, what kind of trimming should I do to it? What do I want it to look like? I am still looking for clarity.

I have one suggestion about improving the appearance your face. It applies to everyone and really works. The best way to improve your face is to put a smile on it.