Ain’t No Grave…

that can hold my body down!

True about Him- for He is RISEN… RISEN Indeed!

Same goes for all who follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

There ain’t no grave- can hold my body down (2x)
When I hear that trumpet sound, I’m gonna rise right out of the ground
Ain’t no grave- can hold my body down

Well, look way down the river, what do you think I see?
I see a band of angels, and they’re coming after me
Ain’t no grave- can hold my body down (2x)

Well, look down yonder, Gabriel put your feet on the land and sea
But Gabriel don’t you blow your trumpet, ’til you hear it from me
There ain’t no grave- can hold my body down (2x)

Well meet me Jesus meet me, meet me in the middle of the air
And if these wings don’t fail me, I will meet you anywhere
There ain’t no grave- can hold my body down (2x)

Well meet me mother and father, meet me down the river road
And mama you know that I’ll be there, when I check in my load
Ain’t no grave- can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave- can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave- can hold my body down


Good Friday- Return for Investment?

I’ve been thinking about this concept for a long, long time. Does it not seem sound stewardship of whatever material, time, effort and energy to… well… to invest most in those areas of labor, talent and even relationships that bring you the greatest return?

At first thought and with a hard view to personal benefit, yes.

So we reach Good Friday- good for us but how good for Jesus? How good for God the Father?

Some people believe He didn’t really die for all, rather only for some. I can understand the logic in that thinking.

Only One was “tempted in all points, yet without sin”, “He who knew no sin BECAME sin for us”, “died once for all”… and on the cross He prayed: “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they’re doing”.

We can reason that He knows all, knew all along that some would follow Him while others never would. So there is that sense He was prepared for zero, even negative return. Some would be discipled and disciple others in perdition, down the road to eternal separation… He knew it all along, how very cold, crass and harsh is this God Who is supposed to be Love itself?

The Bible further tells us “Whosoever WILL, let them come”. Would we prefer the rape of ALL -WILL- COME, enjoy the pawn-like manipulation?

Ahhh but like so many “good” business persons we think about return for investment. He only truly died for those who would go His way. The rest, He created for brutal play.

Dear reader, this is not the God I know, love and serve. This is not the Christian I believe Jesus sacrificed all that I might become. From my years of walking with Him and studying His Word I do not conclude His mind toward us is “Unless I get the return from you I think reasonable, I refuse to invest in you. No love, no friendship, no kindness, no sacrifice without ample, yes, ample return”.

Such self-centered, arrogant, ungracious ideas of spending exclusively, only or mostly IF and WHEN I get the return out of you, or the work, or whatever that I desire or think I deserve… is this truly the example Jesus set for us?

Consider this: He gave everything for us. EVERYthing. All. He took it all upon Himself.

He forgave them before they even had a clue.

Grace. UNMERITED favor. So… “return for investment” or no investment ‘eh? I think not.

When one looks at both sides of church history one can readily see wonderful, loving, kind, sacrificial people as well as political hacks, power-hungry dolts, pharisee-type warriors ready to kill anyone considered “the enemy”, persecutions, racism, “manifest destiny” rubbish where people who professed Christian faith exploited entire tribes and races for personal gain and profit “in the name of Christ and king or queen”, that is, for their country. For benefit. Return for investment.

The widow, the orphan, the disabled, the poor, the mentally ill, the “not-like-US” foreigner… what return would one expect to gain from such people?

“As you’ve done it to the least of these my brethren, you’ve done it to me”.

The deeper question is how is it that God invests the BEST of Himself in you and I when we return so much selfishness and lovelessness toward others and ultimately back at Him?

Apparently Jesus invests because that’s what Love does. He leaves the 99 to search after the one who is lost. His idea of math is so unlike ours!

Good Friday was a horrible, hugely sober, deeply chilling day of total and complete investment.


Washington Show, Etc.

Well, first the “Etc.”- I posted this in Facebook today:

“I may not and do not always agree with humanly created law, but consider the fact that God’s Own -prohibition- against sin (what HE calls sin in the Book) doesn’t always work in me, in my fellow Christians and among those who do not follow Jesus. How can we, via law, expect it to “fix” those who don’t know Him in a daily, personal way? With His love for those around you, live what you believe and face the consequences -as we all shall regardless. When the church repents where it must, perhaps others will join us and do likewise.”

For those who consider our nation a pristine, Christian nation, all I can say is you are likely in need of more Bible-study time alongside a serious study of both U.S. and world history. I love this place and those in it, but I’m increasingly aware the rich and powerful have always called the shots and therefore do not expect Christ-followers (who have themselves often been the rich and powerful in our history…) to enjoy many of our laws or their consequences. Nothing new about this!!

The show in Washington state (Leavenworth) was a real treat. The crew at Young Life are gems and working with Tuck Foster and Mossrites a blast! Good chats before and afterwards, met new friends and hung out a bit with a number of old friends I’d not seen for some time. Just a real cool weekend.

Wendi is feeling a bit better but thanks for prayers for her arthritis, it’s tough for her to sleep some nights. Thanks for the huge bit of advice over the years, trust us, she’s done and doing all but in the end hip replacements are likely the ticket.

A number of shows are nearly confirmed and we’ll update soon as we can, including a number of summer shows and an August tour around the annual York, PA Cigarbox Guitar Festival which I’ll be at doing a solo set. There are some dates open for myself with Shane Speal and One String Willie as well so anyone who’s interested in a show including coffeehouse, pub or house concert, please contact me (see the booking link below, it comes directly to me).

So in that Leavenworth, Washington has done their town up as a Bavarian wonderland (and it’s quite authentic indeed) I just had to add a friend from YL, Jordan who was doing Amazing Grace (no kidding…!) on an alpenhorn. Quite a trip!20130323_101001

Thanks for stopping by 🙂 -Glenn

What a Different World

wpid-20130318_215328.jpgIt could be if…

Brought music and message of encouragement to nearly 90 men at Cook Co. Jail last night. Heard story after story of addiction, loss, d.u.i. convictions, loss, family, job, so much pain, loss, waste of relationships, time and life.

My songs and words were meant to both challenge but also comfort with a view to their individual choices. God changed my life and can change theirs.

So driving home I took the pic you see from downtown Chicago. The car radio news had just reported a d.u.i. head-on collision that killed two young men on Lakeshore Drive (Chicago), the very road I was on.

Exactly what I had tried to get through to the men was what this sad soul had apparently missed- one of the key reasons I finally surrendered to Jesus:

Bringing pain to others by my choices was killing me as well as hurting if not wrecking them.

I knew in this life I would, as anyone does, cause pain at times- but nowhere near like I had prior to my full-on dope, booze, sex and music-worship days.

Nobody is entirely “safe” but driving drunk, stoned or just ignoring how our actions affect others is something other than mercy.

How different can the world be? It starts with me.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

GK Interviews Shane Speal: Originator of the Cigar Box Guitar Revolution

Many who know me (or about me) have heard how I’ve fallen in love with cigarbox and found-object guitars and basses. I’ve built, played and sold quite a few. But the one formerly known as “The King of the Cigarbox Guitar” as it turns out, has been a mentor to me in all this.

I’ve been a life-long student (reading, watching, listening) of the blues on all levels. Part of my quest for deeper blues integrity came about some eight years ago when I began building these little guitars (slide only… so far). I found and lurked for perhaps a year on a website Shane built from scratch called CigarBoxNation.Com.

One day I posted and Shane himself replied, causing me to fall off my chair. I had no idea he’d known me from Adam. The rest is an unfolding history.

So let me introduce Shane Speal. The interview starts now 🙂
(Formerly known as “King of the Cigarbox Guitar”)

GK: Shane, how in the world did you discover these little guitars in the first place?

Shane: Actually, it was a natural progression that led me to the instrument.  I discovered the blues during my first year of college.  It was Hendrix and Led Zep at first, but then I started asking the question, “who came before them?”  That sent me to Muddy Waters and Hound Dog Taylor and all those cats from the 1940s-60’s.  Of course, I asked “who came before them” again and it sent me to the Delta blues guys.  By then, I had put down my electric guitar and was playing a beat-up old Stella acoustic with absurdly high action and a spark plug socket for a slide.

But then…I asked the question “what was before the Delta blues”…and I had a tough time finding anything.  I was looking for something more gritty and primal than Blind Willie Johnson, Ishmon Bracey and Son House.  (This was before the days of the internet.)  In the books and magazine interviews I read, I discovered stories of these blues legends making cigar box guitars when they couldn’t afford real guitars.  “THAT’S THE SOUND I’M LOOKING FOR!” I told myself and built my first in 1993.

GK: How did you get into building ’em? Any earlier history of luthier’s work?

Shane: I had found an article about Carl Perkins’ cigar box guitar that described it as a stick thru a box.  I had a cardboard Swisher Sweets box that I just finished smoking and decided that it was perfect to try.  I used a huge plank of old oak from the barn on my dad’s farm as the neck and put three strings on it to be fancy.  (Perkins guitar only had two strings.)  I used old guitar tuners and the tailpiece was made from the bottom of a Hershey’s cocoa can.

The guitar was crude, but I could BURN on that sucker!  It was the right instrument for my hands.   It was exactly what I was looking for: a crude, primal sound that was “one step deeper than the Delta blues.”

GK: Have you also built amps? I know about your stompboards but please elaborate on your own builds and what interests you and why.

Shane: No amps.  I’m a total hack builder.  It took me 16 years to get the courage to fire up a soldering iron!

Although I perform with some really incredible instruments made by the best builders out there, the guitars I create are still just the stick-thru-the-box style that originally got me started 20 years ago.  It’s the most basic of guitars (no frets, no real bells and whistles) and it’s a ticket to a simpler time…simpler music.   I don’t build guitars, I build time machines!  LOL!

It’s all about downshifting in life…slowing down. Playing an instrument that is half -broken to begin with.  Playing something imperfect that buzzes where it shouldn’t and creaks when you hold it.

GK: Do you focus on slide or “straight” playing cbg’s… and do you tend to favor 3 stringers, 6 stringers or what?

Shane: I carry 6-8 cigar box guitars per live show.  Some are slide, some are fretted and played traditionally.  All of them are in various open tunings.  There are different guitars for different songs.  Some are work horses, like my 3-string slider or my 5 string Daddy Mojo fretted.  Others may only have a song or two in them.   An unexpected feature of having so many instruments is the banter I can do in between songs, describing the guitars, their builders and other cool stories.  It really pulls the audience in.

GK: At one point you mentioned my band sort of helped you through seminary or Bible College or something. Care to elaborate? I don’t need the strokes, just wondering what that was about?

Shane: I survived one year of Fundamentalist Bible College!  LOL!  I learned so much then, but I kept getting in trouble for sneaking rock and roll cassettes into my dorm room.

Although I was a REZ fan since I bought “Hostage” in junior high school, your biggest influence on my came after I left college and started building cigar box guitars.  At the time, I was burned out with Christian rock.  I was getting into blues and wanted music that expressed the earthiness of everyday life…the struggle of this world.  That’s when I found your Kaiser/Mansfield albums and it hit me like a nuclear bomb.  Here was music that was deep, bluesy and still had a message.  You also taught me about Blind Willie Johnson, of which I will be forever in your debt.  (Side note:  One of the first things I’m going to do in Heaven is request a cigar box guitar and ask where Willie is…)

I was building cigar box guitars and doing coffeehouse gigs in the late 90’s.  I still have my old set lists and about half of the material came from the Kaiser/Mansfield cassettes.

When I heard that you were now playing cigar box guitars, I nearly fainted!

GK: Any concerns (maybe pitfalls or ??) regarding the movement you’ve done so much to spawn?

Shane: Concerns?  Folks who never thought they could play anything are now performing in front of others.  The common man has been given the freedom to make any instrument they can dream up.  The humble cigar box guitar, an instrument of the American peasant has been rediscovered by many.  We brought it back from being a myth or just a forgotten piece of history.  People are singing and playing.  I’m sure this makes God smile.

There will always be the up-tight folks who try to make rules for the instruments or the art of music.  They’ll tell us that a cigar box guitar must be a certain way (or even that music must be played a certain way).  I’ve dealt with these fools for many years now and I just ignore them.  There are no rules.  Just play.  Just sing.

The cigar box guitar movement started as an online phenomenon.  I started the first chat room for the instrument back in 2003 and it grew like wildfire.  I eventually created as the hub of the entire scene and it exploded as well.  A couple years ago, I transferred ownership of to someone else because I was doing more work as a web administrator than I was playing music.  For me, the music is the most important thing.

So now that I’m no longer running the big website, I don’t consider myself the leader or main engine of this movement.  Maybe that was a mistake…I don’t know.  I’m a natural snake oil salesman and would spend a lot of time getting the people energized and excited for these instruments.  It seems to have calmed down lately.  The online stuff has become more “builder centric” and less about the music.  For me, the guitar has always been a means to discover the music.

GK: Other that what you’ve already mentioned, what are some of the positives you’ve experienced from building and playing cigarbox (and the like) instruments?

Shane: I have an army of friends from around the world that are just like me… We’re the house band for the Island of Misfit Toys!  LOL!  They’ve held me up, supported me, loved me.  I’m blessed beyond measure.

The biggest positive about playing a cigar box guitar is simply this:  When I play a normal guitar, I tend to sound like a cliche’ or a poor version of Jimi Hendrix.  When I play a cigar box guitar, I sound like Shane Speal.

GK: You know I’m a pastor as well as your friend. How can I and others best pray for you and yours?

Shane: Y’know…there is something I could use prayer for:  Many years ago, God called me back into doing music  He was relentless and wouldn’t let me quit.  I’ve seen many “fingerprints of God” thru the years to get me where I am now.  Now that I’ve struggled thru so much and am eaking out a living by playing and building, I don’t want to get complacent or waste my time.  I’m here for a reason…I really want to do His will and run the race to the very end.

The other thing is for my family to find a good church.  It’s been many years now.

GK: Shameless plug-time Shane. What websites should I point people to interested in learning more about these guitars, the revolution and your shows?

Shane: My music is at

My handmade guitars are at

Everything you need to build your own is posted free online at

GK: MANY thanks for all your kindness and interaction with me personally bro.! Looking forward to more shows together 🙂

Shane: Sharing the stage with you is a total Bucket List check every time!  I love you, Glenn.  I gotta get to Chicago one of these days so we can bring the boogie.

Thanks Glenn!


I have long held Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a personal hero, a human conduit of conviction motivating action in my own life.

If the reader is unaware, this German pastor and theologian is famous for a few things, most notably standing up for a biblical response to the tyranny of Hitler and the Nazis during World War II.

He struggled with the Christian church’s reluctance to face up to it’s calling to love yet stand firm with regard to Christ’s teachings in what was perhaps the modern world’s most horrid moment. Alas, racism and Antisemitism are still very much issues within as outside of the churches of our day.

He also struggled with his own pacifist inclinations, finally working undercover and joining the German resistance to the extent of becoming part of one of the (failed) plots to assassinate Hitler. For this he was arrested, placed in a concentration camp and ultimately hanged just two weeks before the allies liberated that very camp.

Testimony after testimony from those who were interred with him -believers, agnostics and atheists alike- had nothing but good to say of his Christian character and life.

We live in a time here in the U.S. when so many Christ followers (or at least, those professing to be) lean rather hard to the right politically.  I must say the sin of the bulk of German Protestants in those dark days was that they also took such a position -Bonhoeffer did not. Reading the historical record it’s obvious that fear, fear and fear was a key issue he personally had to face and yet did so quite differently than most all the believers in Germany during the Holocaust.

Here is, in my view, the most telling paragraph of Victoria Barnett’s wonderful essay on Bonhoeffer which I have linked below:

“Bonhoeffer’s focus remained more theological and political. The church debates about the Aryan paragraph had convinced him that the old traditions were bankrupt. Instead, Bonhoeffer called for the practice of “religionless Christianity” in “a world come of age” — a world in which the old certainties and values had been replaced by cynicism and ideology. He tried to determine what kind of Christian faith was viable in this new world — not in order to “extricate himself heroically from the affair,” but to arrive at a new understanding of faith, to pass on to future generations.”

For those concerned about future generations I would encourage consideration of this good man’s life and response in a time of historic and real, neither imagined nor magnified conflict:

The Martyrs Project

At it’s greatest depth, this is what love looks like…

Some time ago I was invited to play guitar on a compilation of prayers set to music that is truly extraordinary. In my view, “Romero” alone is worth buying the entire project for! Please read on:

Most who know me have long ago realized I can be quite intense, sometimes -too- much so. Then there are times I lament over the lack of depth among those professing to be Christians who apparently do not begin to grasp the pain of loving one’s neighbor… and loving Jesus to the point of death. Loving others to such an extreme is of course, about as intense a love as one could have for another (I read a verse that says that… somewhere :).

As a new believer Foxes Book of Martyrs (  brought an intensity far beyond my own into my world. It’s a book I sometimes say few Christians want to remember much less read these days. Love for Christ, for one’s neighbor and the Word of God has been the end (physically speaking) of many a saint, both known and unknown to the greater Church much less surrounding world.

The Martyrs Project at core is a collection of prayers of ancient and modern martyrs set to music.

From the website: “The album, however, is more than fantastic music. It is packaged with a wealth of information in liner notes, biographies and resource materials. It is a call to know the past and transform the present; to find purpose in life from the question asked of us all:


A wide array of talented musicians took part.

Quoting again from the website: “THE PROJECT IS: MICHAEL GLEN BELL & DUANE W.H. ARNOLD with:

Please have a look, read, listen and purchase.

GK Offering Cigarbox/Found Object Guitar & Bass Workshops

Been thinkin’ about offering cigarbox guitar workshops as one of several things I can bring to a town. I don’t care if it’s a library, state fair, coffeehouse, church or where ever. Why?

Every time I bring one of these instruments out- even to play one lone song in a venue and among a people least likely to “get it” they come up immediately after the set, fully excited and asking about it. In doing more and more shows that include 4 or more of my little homebrew boxes it never fails to amaze me how many people want to try them out for themselves.

Teaching CBG building at school
Teaching CBG building at school

I’ve gotten so much positive response to the workshops I’ve done (festivals, schools, where and among whomever) in that people of all ages begin to realize:

– They can build these little guitars in about 90 minutes from next to nothing in both material and cost

– They can learn the basics of guitar playing with very zero finger pain because slide guitars don’t require pressing the strings down on the neck inbetween frets as typical guitars do

– They begin to wrap their minds around the concept of playing a song on these little things (I focus on 1, 2 or 3 string slide guitar and 1 or 2 string fretless basses only)

– It’s just plain FUN, even if you’re an accomplished player

– Plenty of folks are freaked by 6 strings… not so with 3, 2 or even 1

– There are several mature points to guitar playing and music in general that are super easy to both teach as well as comprehend via a forgiving (short scale, fewer strings, easier accomplished via slide guitar) instrument such as these

– One can easily move into building a strumstick, banjo, dulcimer, simple violin and more via the experience of building one of these little gits

– There are several very artistic things one can do to decorate/embellish a box, tin or even can -all of which make cool guitar bodies, and the neck itself (shortened broomhandle or 1×2 inch hunk of wood

– I’ve learned to explain all this in simple English and when one sees those I’ve built with little effort and a very few tools they end up pretty hyped about doing it themselves

– You don’t need a ton of money to make this sort of thing happen

– There is a real sense of personal value, and by this I mean the value of the person themselves) as well as a grassroots music therapy thing going on via the process

Oh, one can add pickups and play ’em via an amp or p.a. system too… have a look-see:

So the point is that I may begin offering workshops along with or without a concert or speaking, etc., in more and more places.

I’m also happy to discuss what it might take to do this via a secure webinar if not in person. Lovin’ technological possibilities 🙂

You can hit the “Booking” link here at to reach me if you want to discuss a possible workshop/clinic in your area.

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

SWEET Weekend Shows, Update

Some of the kindest folks (promoters & crowd, both) in Hoopeston and Bloomington, Illinois this past weekend. I can’t tell you how much Wendi and I enjoyed our time in both spots!

Working on linking with more Chicago-area cigarbox guitar peeps. I may soon offer a slew of workshops. More on that as my schedule begins to make more sense… many shows and tour work pending…

Right now enjoying sleeping in our own bed for a bit 🙂 Well, not RIGHT NOW but glad to be home for a bit.

Writing more songs… inspiration hits when it hits so the joy of technology via my Android phone with lyric-writing, singing ideas into the recorder and saving/posting to myself are all great helps.

Been enjoying reading some stuff from this site on independent music issues a close friend passed on to me. Some good, deep thinking (though not in agreement with all of it of course) on how to navigate various waters re. music, marketing and so on:

So glad snow is coming… farmers and all who benefit from their hard work- are in need of snow and rain for the Midwest drought to be eased… crops don’t just “happen”.

So now on to other work, family, laundry 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn