GK Blues, Cigarbox Guitars, Jammin’ w. Bikers Sunday, May 5: Aurora, IL

Wendi and I will be with our friends at the 13th annual Motorcycle Sunday in Aurora, IL this coming Sunday.

I’ll jam some with a band or two before my solo which will be happening around 2pm. We’ll bring cds, cigarbox guitars and a bass or two, Wendi’s hand-knits and smiles.

Cool peeps, bikes, rock & blues bands, BBQ, prayer, what’s not to like?!!

http://www.motorcyclesundayaurora.com/

🙂 -Glenn

New Summer Music Festival in Champaign, IL :)

These are good folks. longtime Cstone Fest friends who realize replicating all of what was the annual Cornerstone Festival is likely not possible -but- they are continuing part of that tradition. Please have a click and read. Many musicians including Grrr Records Artists (including myself, my daughter Ami Moss & The Unfortunate and more) will be there. It’s on the 4th of July weekend.

Note: they will announce bands and solo artists, etc. time slots and more details as they are confirmed.

So… please read on and hope to see some of you there!

http://audiofeedfestival.com

-Glenn

Cracks in the Cement

20130421_112846Today it’s cold, but the rain has stopped here in Chicago.

Now- I love rain, but it’s been flooding and many of our metro as well as mid-western neighbors have been dealing with huge problems due to all that rising water.

The streams and rivers, ponds and lakes are overflowing. Many have had to leave their homes, some people’s cars are full of water and mud and several folks lost their lives or the lives of loved ones due to the flooding after so many days of rain.

At least here in Chicago on Sunday early afternoon the sun is shining, the wind is light and until later tonight we’re drying out.

I heard a radio talk show personality mention that exactly one year ago the state of Illinois was almost totally baked in full-on drought. One year later it’s the exact opposite!

But as my title suggests, I want to talk about life in the middle of all this.

Spiritually speaking many people (Americans for sure) are extremists. It’s largely in our dna to go hardcore one way or the other.

There are certainly spiritual fanatics who run from fireworks show to carnival until they finally -at least in some cases- just reach a point of extreme saturation. I say “saturation” not in terms of God the Holy Spirit truly enriching them but rather the surface stuff of humanity, a sort of “film” of spirituality that has little to do with genuine Bible truth, application, loving God and neighbor. It feels good until it wears off.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t “wear out” and so cannot “wear off”.

But what I want to focus on is walking out of our Sunday morning gathering and seeing the blooming flowers -behind the fence.

Nothing blooms -inside- hard, compacted cement. A stagnant, unchanging, no-life situation may “feel” safe and secure but in the end it’s death.

People naturally rebel against balances, scales, challenges and they can of course get into an attitude of “been-there-done-that” jadedness that prevents or at least quenches spiritual growth.

But we love to camp out where there is little challenge or stirring. Comfort (and not “The Comforter” Jesus tells us about) is often our aim. We aim to get it and keep it. And there we see a sort of concrete that can cement the water, sun, air and growth right out of us.

So as I looked at (and snapped this picture) of little flowers blooming I noticed they’re BEHIND the fence and somewhat surrounded by concrete.

People think freedom means doing whatever they like, whatever makes ME comfortable and feeling secure. But such “freedom” has nothing to do with maturity, growth, continuing education, pruning, watering, fertilizing and blooming.

Then I thought of many places I’ve been in various inner-cities (Chicago and elsewhere) where one can find all sorts of flowers (and yes, sometimes weeds) growing right out of the cracks of pavement.

One block from where we live there is a parking lot that has been unused for a couple of years and there are all sorts of plants, weeds and flowers continually sprouting up in the many cracks between the cement.

Such scenes remind me of life, of local congregations, of myself as well.

Note that weeds and not only beautiful flowers spring up in such places… but that’s another blog I may write another time.

Am I, are you… errrr… blooming? Do you feel “fenced in” even though you’re seeing spiritual growth in your life… sometimes at least in part due to feeling rather tightly enclosed?

Sometimes that’s the best place to be.

Something to consider 🙂

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

The End of Innocence

20130408_153631This doesn’t directly relate to the Boston Marathon bombings, but it has everything to do with working in ministry service with and to difficult, hurting people.

I am sure it happens to different ones of us in different ways, situations and times, but sooner or later we are faced with what we followers of Jesus call our sin. Our own sins, that of others, sins of humanity. In this day, plenty of other names are used of course.

“The end of innocence” comes with the realization that all humans fail.

For me it was while singing in a band in which I was the youngest member by about four years.

One night in a rock club (both underage and illegally drinking and drunk as I often was in these clubs, being in the band) I looked out in the crowd to see two of my high school teachers with blond babes on their arms. All three and likely five of us were in sin… these weren’t nice church ladies… and the guys were obviously looking for one-night-stands. The point hit home to me that every person of every age in every stage of life has the capacity to break whatever moral as well as civil laws humans -or even those God Himself comes up with (see The Bible for details).

Don’t get me wrong, I have tried to live a biblical, moral, civic and personally ethical life but as all on this planet have failed plenty. If law were the solution to personal and societal ills Jesus would not have had to come and die… for our sins -as the Bible indeed teaches.

At some point earlier than my conversion (nearly eighteen years old), I realized being shocked about human sinfulness was a bit like being amazed that we all breathe 🙂 At least this was the case for me. Innocence had long gone out the window.

I have told the above story before, and it was a sort of an enlightenment about adults being as self-centered and indeed sleazy as we kids were in our sexual acting out, vandalism, prank phone calls and petty theft in my neighborhood.

Yet among me and my friends there were a fair lot of incidents of porn, a couple of friends who with their siblings were into incest, checking out some of my own family’s tawdry novels and the like.

My mother had a married boyfriend who visited nearly every night for years.

I had a couple of friends who were gay or bi and wanted to know which of their friends might join them.

And then there was human history, and especially that of war which I studied a great deal.

People were always fighting over power, mineral wealth, trying to make more money or keep on top and to get as much loot, property, etc. as they could.

All of this plus being a child of divorce where both my brother and sister went through painful breakups and divorces all taught me early on what I already understood when I later read in the scriptures that Jesus didn’t entrust Himself to humans because He knew what was in their hearts.

Knowing, then facing my own capacity for sin and self with these and other lessons prepared me to work with and live alongside broken people here in Chicago.

Story after story dwarfed  mine, situation after situation, people coming to us for help, sharing every sort of mess. The same has been true in my many travels throughout the world.

I continue to get loads of mail and email whether from people who have some sort of Christian upbringing or none, all this taught me to expect just about anything from anyone -so being truly surprised at what people say, do or did, or hearing this or that story, much of which only God knows what is or isn’t truth and reality, well, there is truly nothing new under the sun!

I do believe due to the load of truth, fiction, gossip, slander, pain and individual sin issues anyone in ministry faces, a great many in ministry just quit. It can get overwhelming at times.

Anyone can accuse anyone of anything and there is little one can do about accusations. Trying to keep as far away from appearances of evil, genuine accountability, establishing and maintaining practical safeguards are hugely important.

Still, hurting people hurt others and for a zillion reasons anyone who works with people and especially with hurting folks is bound to face trouble as it’s merely part of -their- life so will in some way become part of yours.

Any parent with a conscience knows all we can do is raise our children up the best we know how at any given moment.

Over time the child will do as she or he chooses and eventually direct love and guidance may even be out of the question. Nobody can force anyone to live a moral, much less authentic Christian life.

When you mix in issues of substance abuse, abandonment, personal anger for actual or imagined wrongs, little or no involvement by parents, other realities of daily living never imagined plus a growing sense of personal rejection and even lack of caring by most around them… that individual has a load to carry that can grind them down.

So when people act out, I am just never surprised. I did my own acting out prior to walking with Jesus, and I never expected perfection among His people as I knew I would surely never be in this life!

“The greening of Glenn”, “the loss of innocence” or understanding of the depth of hurting, sinful people came so early and often in my life I conclude God was preparing me for future work among hurting people.

If reading this has gotten you depressed, I only want to say that I live in eternal faith, hope and love not of my own making… nor from any human source as such. If this were not the case I’d have simply lived my life as a self-focused singer, avoided leadership at all costs and kept as safely distant from people and their troubles as possible and simply died one day.

But if you have a genuine calling, it’s not up to you who you serve.

Certainly knowing along and along what a pain I can be helped and helps me keep perspective… you can put an exclamation mark on that!

Then there are those breakthroughs, those “they’ve gained light… he (or she) is truly making progress!!!” moments. Times when the person in question actually blooms like the flower God intended them to become -when they have the “AHAaaa!” thing happen and become more trusting and indeed more in character like their Savior.

THAT’S the deal.

Innocence born-again: repentance, restitution, forgiveness. Yes. It has happened to me and it’s a major joy to see it happen in others with the grace to play even the smallest part in the process!

Thanks for stopping by, -Glenn

Boston on a Sad Day

Boston, April 15, 2013

Just another day, one more tragic event and reason to recognize the depth of hatred, capacity for violence, destruction and cowardace among desperate, demonized and perhaps mentally ill people.

The sad truth is that I can think of a good handful of “reasons” people seek to inflict such pain on others… which never makes it right, moral, ethical nor an act of love.

It’s just too easy to figure ways to harm others and too many messed up folks to think such can ever be fully stopped.

It’s so much easier to destroy than create -so crazed, imbalanced people set their bombs off.

Jesus indeed said “yet a time  is coming when the one who kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (John 16.2)

As I write the authorities have not estabished evidence as to who is responsible for this attack on innocent civilians, but no surprise if the Lord’s words don’t figure in, if not now, again in the future.

I think responding in careful, measured ways as opposed to quick, knee-jerk counterattack always makes more sense.

Hard to love your enemies while bombing them to hell, don’t you think? This is one of the difficulties of being a loving follower of Jesus… these matters are not so clean and neat.

I will continue to pray and watch with prayer and interest as to how we respond, especially those of us called Christians.

Prayer time…
-Glenn

Illness, Inspiration Update

This past week has been a bit of a pain, literally.

Then again, for me it’s been a time of inspiration.

By “pain”, not in terms of truly serious illness, but I can only recall one other time when I coughed as hard as I have this week. It’s just a bad cold and perhaps a touch of asthma, but I’m so glad to be being on the mend now… whew!

Illness once again reminds me how amazing my wife Wendi is.

She has rarely complained but faces continual pain day in and day out.

Over many years she lived with all sorts of allergies and rather intense asthma. She also for some years dealt with diabetes, having to inject insulin three times each day. God healed her of that, but great issues with arthritis are fairly constant.

Rarely have I heard her complain of these matters and I can tell you if it had been me I would have been quite vocal about it all!

God gave and continues to give she and I grace as we age and as we face medical issues, which of course are the norm as people get older.

For the many years of travel, lack of sleep and overall wear-and-tear I’m amazed how well we’ve held up… and that too is all God’s grace.

Lately she’s suspected I have developed asthma, so I’ll be checking into that. So far it’s not an issue with singing which I still do a lot of, so again, grace… I’m so thankful for His grace!!

And once again I find myself in various music studies, laments in particular, and also writing a great many songs on all sorts of topics and I believe really inspired.

Wendi and many other people I serve with as well as a great many others are the human sources of that inspiration.

It’s amazing what one can accomplish when inspired as opposed to not being so. Then again, even illness inspires blues and lyrics that have a potential of depth in an otherwise often shallow stream of words.

I do suspect we think deeper thoughts when struggles are near.

Been enjoying Bonhoeffer quotes a great deal as well… what an incredible man he was!

“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”

―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Have a look here for some of his brilliant comments:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/29333.Dietrich_Bonhoeffer

So that’s my update for now 🙂

Thanks very much for stopping by, -Glenn

Expectations and Discouragement

Our longtime friend George Verwer, founder and for years executive director of Operation Mobilization has often spoken about discouragement before large and small groups of missions teams, churches and at festivals and other events put on by Christians.

After spending most of his life leading a huge missions organization he has like many of us, experienced both the power of faithful sacrifice and compassion as well as the depths of degradation and sin among human beings.
He speaks of discouragement often, especially to those in ministry because it’s easy to land there when working with so many broken people, uncertainties with regard to finances, occasions of illness or unexpected tragedies such as road accidents or such things as divorce all the way to petty splits over how things are done or who gets to do them… all of these can weigh on a person. All of these difficulties can affect a family or a group in the negative.

The thing I find throughout my own Bible reading is that Israel seems to have faced such things nearly continually. In fact, not only in terms of enemies and various natural disasters that affected crop harvests, etc., but due to their own rebellion against God we find them more in exile than out of it… please consider too that the pain of exile was brought about by the Lord Himself.

Yet what always shouts loudest is that He remained (and remainS) faithful to His people. Day in and out, regardless of the stock market, wars and rumors of war, health or other issues Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever”. Whether it was a matter of their sin or their enemies, God remains faithful and as deliverer.

Thank God, in a world of change and sometimes massive change and upheaval God is the One constant love, faithful friend, provider and sustainer.

It’s so easy to think human beings will source us. It’s so obvious no human can take God’s place in our lives, but we often look to them to meet our needs when we need to be looking to Someone else.

All this comes to mind today as a friend faces cancer, another suffers the loss of a loved one, another the loss of their mother, others burdened by illness in the face of many mission opportunities, others who are estranged from family members due to sin and unforgiveness.

Working with messed up people will of course mess you up if you allow them to somehow take the place of Christ in your life. He is perfect they are not nor can they be. He is consistently righteous, none of us humans are! He is truly “able to do more than we can ever ask or think” and is “a strong tower” and “a very present help in trouble” where of course, people just aren’t that dependable for the most part.

In fact you can depend on the fact that people will not (can not, really) always have your best interests in mind, while Jesus always does. Grace!

So rather than be discouraged and having one’s expectations dashed by hurting and often rather self-centered people, I learned long ago to pray and quietly bring people before the Lord via prayer.

I also do my best to pray and repent where I must and ask God for His grace and strength to do His will in a world and among people who, flawed as I myself, can only carry on by such grace and strength.

As I type, the same old clothes are spinning in the washing machines (I call them “re-runs” cuz I see ’em every week:)), it’s partly cloudy and partly sunny in Chicago (nothing new…) and though it’s Spring, it got a bit cold again today (don’t like the weather… it’ll change).

Then I consider the huge number of faithful servants of God all over the world whom I’ve met and recognize are still standing above all the foolishness, pettiness, sin and temptation and general rebellion against God… and I marvel that by His grace and power any one of us can be, become and continue in that number.

It’s still all about loving obedience, not perfection. It’s still about faith, hope and love. There’s just no life in anything else.

Jesus said “In the world you SHALL (my accent via caps…) have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world”.

Been coughing all week… but slowly healing. Thankful I can get the laundry done 🙂 Thankful for God’s continual faithfulness!

Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

To Love or Be Loved?

In my mind it’s clear: I need to listen better, talk less and not care so much whether folks agree or disagree with me, like or accept me or not.

Whether or not someone seems to fully love or hate you doesn’t make the world spin nor stop spinning. Whether or not we love them is the only thing in our power to control.

The problem heats up when we feel deeply hurt in our emotions, when the world indeed seems to fall on us due to someone being cold or even hostile to our way of thinking.

Sometimes we might go to the other extreme in our feelings, that is, we get bitterly angry and sort of day-dream how we’re winning an argument, laying our “four aces” on the table, perhaps flipping the table ON the dude (or dudette!) and just walking off with the victory… don’t we ;)!

Amazing, we humans.

We can be the most sublime, thoughtful, careful and deeply kind -or on the turn of a tale, the most brutal, coarse and nasty people on the planet.

This is where prayer and thought before speaking, hitting “send” in our email or Facebook or Twitter can make all the difference.

There truly IS a time to speak and another time where it’s best to remain completely silent.

“For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” 1 Peter 2.15

We need to do God’s will from a motive of love, not winning, not with regard to publicity campaigns, not to “prove ourselves” this way or that. Merely to love with God’s love. REALLY not always easy nor fun, but the core of our calling.

In the end life isn’t about winning or losing. In fact there is a sense in which it’s not even about being right or wrong, (“all have sinned and fallen short”) -rather it’s about loving and offering grace… which is something by very definition, cannot be earned. We are called to simply give it (grace= unmerited favor).

Love is patient, kind, well… you can read all about what love is and isn’t in 1 Corinthians 13.

What about false accusations? There is a time to respond and a time to simply pray for the person(s) and continue serving God and others in love. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12.18 That is, do what’s in your power, but you cannot make others think the way you do, so leave them to God. Fretting over things (and certainly warring about things) won’t change anyone’s heart.

Repent where you must. Leave the rest to the “one Who judges justly”. Walk on.

I suppose there is a little bit of the guy from North Korea in all of us… though we shrink at the thought! Rather, he needs to stand down. Just back up and back off. But oh how we want our way at times… I have seen people burn so many bridges they eventually have none left. The island is stark and the worst pain stares at them from their own mirror.

I deeply loved my Mom. Yet my mother grew so distrustful and bitter of others that over time, living in her own guilt and shame she eventually drove nearly everyone who ever loved her away. There is no life in that.

So what if you truly believe you’ve been righteous in all your ways? Welllll, not likely. I believe this to be true about you, me, everyone.

Then again, even the sinless One seemed to “lose” in this life. But like they say in the tv adverts… “But WAIT! There’s more!!” In this case, there truly is. There is a love that’s built on truth, but does not “demand it’s own way”.

Hmmmm. Being loved is a “maybe”. Our own ability to love others is always possible.

Thanks for considering and stopping by!

-Glenn

The Weekend and GK Thoughts on Suicide

Weekend show with Joe Filisko was brilliant, a blast on all levels many thanks for the kind response of a very warm audience in Green Bay as well as the always amazing Cup O Joy staff!

So late that night just prior to sleeping I checked my email where I found out via a friend that pastor Rick Warren’s mentally ill son had taken his life. The writer of the email asked for my thoughts.

And no… I’m not nor do I plan contemplating suicide… not now or ever.

Just prior to coming to saving faith in Jesus I did try to take my own life. In my case it was not mental illness, rather drugs, guilt for many sins and hearing voices due to acid and other things I’d taken. Apparently the attempt failed and God had other plans. I’m thankful to Him for that.

But- as many if not most reading this will know, mental illness is a dna/body-chemical issue, not merely a matter of will, choice and sin nature.

So you’ll find my thoughts on that in the following appx. 8 minute podcast at

http://www.gkaiser.podbean.com

At this point it’s the best free podcast site I can muster up and I expect to do a lot more podcasts over time…

Let’s pray for Rick, his wife, family and church family… these are such sad, tragic events and healthy grieving will be essential. Thanks for stopping by, -Glenn