Thanksgiving 2019 and My Holiday “Blues” Reads

Blues? Many dear friends are struggling at this time and my prayers and concern go up and out daily for them. Regardless- and I mean that… there are always things to Thank God for. Sometimes if only focusing our mind on lessons being taught and learned via the hard times. Another sad but grace-sharing reality not lost on me is that blues music (Psalms: “Laments” mind you!!) is itself something I’m thankful about. Music of the soul, prayers sung, statements of truth whether all wish to face or hear it I’m still deeply grateful for. Further, some of the key historians were themselves activists in the best and even biblical sense. One of the two I’m about to mention was very much so.

I also admit I’m gratefully not one to have to deal with depression and am truly sorry for those who journey there in holidays -but this “blues” is about the music form I love, write and play.

Serious Reads

In blues music written and even recorded history Paul Oliver and Alan Lomax are unsurpassed giants. The former wrote a series of brilliantly researched books on the musicians and form/s while the latter’s Library of Congress (U.S.) field recordings include both songs and interviews with southern bluesmen and women throughout the Delta. His work extended even to prisoners and church congregations.

Oliver’s (1960) “Blues Fell This Morning” was one of my earliest forays into blues literature several decades ago. His interviews and writ is surely the cream of any white author’s understanding of the subject.

As an ethnomusicologist Lomax was also recording engineer, fan, writer, concert promoter and a musician himself. In the U.S. and eventually the U.K. via study and  recorded documentation of varied music styles including the American blues he is without parallel. He is often credited with the last century’s folk and blues music revival in both nations.

While neither bring to table the depth of amazing African-American writers Amiri Baraka (who as LeRoi Jones, authored “Blues People”) or James Baldwin, if you want to begin serious historical study of the blues, these are writers of incredible worth. There are so many more -but now to family, reading and giving Thanks to my Savior.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Righteous??!

Pharisees and teachers of the law?

In a sum total, those Jesus mentions here were experts in the Scripture but the whole point of loving God and neighbor was lost on them. Therefore, much like the devil -Jesus dealt with him as an actual entity regularly in the Gospels… these were what He called “blind guides”. Wow.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus in Matthew 5:17, 20

Their “righteousness”, like ours, ends up being mere “filthy rags”. “Christ IS our righteousness” and there is no other of such value when we stand before the Throne on that day but Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1.10)

God’s righteousness via Jesus wasn’t nor can it be established by civil law nor even scriptural law. Consider in light of say, Constantine’s time. Study his life and acts during his entire reign, how he ruled and for that matter his treatment of his own family for an eye-opener.

The concept of the State being more than servant of it’s people -ALL of it’s people- does not establish God’s righteousness. A genuine relationship to Jesus, His followers being walking “little Christs”, loving, gracious examples of HIS righteousness is what society needs to be truly reformed. Even in this bold, loving witness via our character we cannot -establish- righteousness in the sense that only Jesus IS fully righteous and only HE fully and perfectly is without sin.

In their desire to declare their own righteousness the Pharisees and teachers of the law of God rejected His! The gift was spurned when societal position and self-righteousness was their actual ground of defense. Self rather than either God or people around them -was their supreme focus.

God deliver us from us!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Unity? Where, When, How?

United -where and to what? Divided -how? Age, experience, faith, faithlessness, commitment or determination to no commitment to X, Y or Z, gender, family, nation, ethnicity, race, culture/subculture, even down to the most basic preference one way or the other, this is the reality of the human condition as I personally see it.

The concept of full and complete unity is in this sense, not only impossible but costs to the extent few if anyone either reaches it or has it -including any of us with God Himself.

Let me explain that last bit please.

Unless we are literally perfect/flawless/sinless/fully mistake-free we are not in the sense I am speaking here always and at every moment, re. decision, choice, attitude and behavior literally PERFECT as God Himself is. He is a distinct Person (The Trinity to be more theologically exact) and no matter how deeply our faith and relationship to Him, yes, even in Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior- I remain different to Him.

I WANT to agree with Him in all things but must confess there are always areas of difference, divide, even at times rebellion against all I am convinced He wants for me to be and do. Am I in unity with Him? Through my faith in Jesus and God’s love for me, yes… but this is not the unity many are discussing even as they quote scripture using the term or like terms.

If this is true in our relation to God, then how is it not between people? Perfect, total unity even among professing Christians isn’t what we actually have on this earth. If we will not be truly honest about this even then we are divided, no?

What husband and wife fully agree on all things right through many decades of marriage? What church or ministry partnership is in 100 percent unity on all matters at all times? What band or sports team or you-name-it in the core of their thoughts is always fully on the same page with every and all issues?

So how is it we expect such of one another in the United (!) States (or anywhere else)?

Look, I’m not saying everyone must always speak out on all matters nor that all must blindly agree with all others to express and maintain true, actual unity -though others seem to say that’s what unity is about.

The reality is much like a church I knew of some years ago that split into two camps (though I believe there were more…). Some referred to themselves as “liberals”, others “conservatives”. That local church no longer exists. But before you leap to conclusions on that, there were likely others who in some areas leaned strongly to either of both “sides” depending on the particular issue. We might consider them “independents”.

Then there were others there who probably didn’t come to strong conclusions on some of the more divisive (or unifying) matters as well. At least in various snapshots of time they would be “undecideds”. In any case, this is not only true in almost all local churches, denominations, house churches and other gatherings of professing Christians, it is the case in most any area of life including the political spectrum.

Am I saying “Forget about being in unity or seeking to build it!”?? NO. I am saying we must face practical, boots-on-ground reality that though we may or may not speak, write or communicate on various divisive issues doesn’t mean now or -ever- even in the past, we were truly and completely united in the first place. That’s a myth and as I see it, should not come as a surprise.

The deeper issue is being truly honest about how to love one another, forgive one another and yes, at times strongly disagree with one another without destroying the relationship, by taking the cheap and cross-less route of simply leaving one another to link only with those who are in full agreement with us. If God did that with us you and I (my Christian brothers and sisters) would never see His face again. Ponder that for a bit.

See, either love keeps coming back or even hate, perhaps even a conclusion like “If YOU knew what I KNOW…” and sharp, emotional disagreements move us to not only burn bridges but one another.

I have seen this all around the world in so many groups (Christian and otherwise) that these thoughts I now write are just common for me.

“Knowledge puffs up, love builds up”. Self-righteousness easily pretends deity while humility and grace nurtures and I reckon produces relationships of love, trust and unity even when at times and in any number of areas we are not -and surely in various areas have NEVER been- united.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” doesn’t mean there are no prophets or times to prophesy, in some moments with sharp, direct yet life-giving truths. The Bible is loaded with those and that. “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.”

“Seek peace and pursue it” indeed! Finally from Paul in Colossians chapter 3 And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity.”” Dear reader, sometimes you and I aren’t active re. the things he mentions prior (in context) and truly, the punchline here- ADD LOVE… without which full, mature, complete unity isn’t happening. Paul doesn’t say we live in this state, rather that we must attend to these things if there is any hope of reaching it.

The day-to-day issue we must consider is whether we are adding love and compassion to the local and larger stew, or if we simply add to the hunger and separation which in the end looks more like scorched earth than either love or holiness.

And this from an aging holiness preacher. “If we have not love” -we got zip my friends.

Things to consider along the path?

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Another Way?

Of course there is. My guesstimate is some 98 percent of the time there is more than one way to accomplish most things. One (boring or not an interest to many) might be an individual, non-profit or corporate approach to computing needs/desires.

All but my phone (Android) and Kindles (Android) which are tweaked Linux operating systems are Linux OS based. I’ve no more towers, only older and mostly “land-fill” laptops, one connected to a monitor because half the lappy screen is shot. I use mostly “Porsche” operating systems in “Trabant” machines 🙂

To keep it very simple I’ll just say my current favorite ‘nix distributions at this time are Peppermint Linux, antiX, Puppy, and Austrumi Linuxes. I’ve tried and used countless other ‘nix distros over many years but at this point, these are my go-to’s.

Some of my ol’ boat anchors are still 32 bit machines with a whopping 2 gigs of ram in ’em so those last 3 OS’s rock on them.

Now, the alternative systems I use aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and it never surprises me when “popular” is for a list of reasons, an individual, a group of peers or business choice. There are so very many reasons why people go for this, that or the other in their lives, lifestyle choices I’ve long stopped being shocked much less myself mocked, laughed at or for that matter firmly rejected over, right down to the very computers and systems I use. I truly just don’t care about major adulation or rejection. Oh I have feelings, suffer hurts, but these cannot be allowed to rule my life.

This of course gets tested off and on, but such is the real world on a vast planet with vast opinions, wants, demands and even survival issues for folks.

I can usually offer a list of reasons why I make alternative or on occasion, more common choices but even then I don’t expect any number of people will agree with me or be converted.

A wise wag (don’t recall who) said “No one was ever converted to Christ by arguing.” This made and makes complete sense to me. Years ago some of my Jesus freak friends and I would on occasion ask a person we were sharing the Good News of Jesus with “If I truly answered all your questions so that intellectually you were persuaded to follow Him -would you?” In my experience the answer was near 100 percent “No.”

Often the next question I put their way was “What will it take?” and their response “I don’t know.” Honest answers… and I always appreciated such.

One of a long list of reasons I follow Jesus is that He did and continues to change my life toward love, grace, forgiveness and balance. He also provides conviction of my sins which I can and do confess and repent of. He continues to be faithful in our daily relationship to bring sense, tolerance and yet boldness to speak and write as honestly as I can regardless of what it costs me or whether others agree or not. No fanboi/whomever is nor shall be sitting on the throne of God when I face Him on that day.

Now, plenty of people are as distant from my fave Person as they are my fave computer operating system, or as in Android, really don’t know nor care about the details and I understand that.

Meanwhile I’ll just say whether hip or idiotic to anybody, I’m deeply grateful, deeply blessed, and each and every “alternative” to me isn’t automatically fabulous -or- damnable.

As for God, eternal love in relationship with Him… that you must take up with Him, cuz some alternatives will indeed destroy no matter the temporal pleasure. Jesus said about Himself “I AM the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” There is exclusivity in some areas of reality.

Overall in this post, I’m not referring to any one issue here as there are a world full of them that relate to what I’m saying.

Things to consider perhaps -as I type this on an old discarded laptop running Peppermint Linux 🙂

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

OldLappyPeppermintLinux
Headed for the landfill? Nope!

Paint w. The Masters!

I noticed a thrown-out 20 inch paint mixing stick in our huge building material dumpster… took a knife to get most of the paint off, finished that process with a belt sander and flexed it a bit. Seems it will hold up and only slightly bow if you use the right gauge guitar string. Hey- don’t laugh, this size paint stirrer costs between 60 cents and 1.25 USD 🙂 The cost of necks these days!! Okay, you can laugh. The box was also a freebie given to me with a batch of ’em.

A few years ago a kind friend gave me a cardboard box of parts including a LOT of wound acoustic strings, all somewhere around (guessing) .024 or .032 size, and they seem to hold up well so I often use them for these little one-string slide guitars (known as diddley bows).

Then I had in my large bunch of boxes an old but sturdy cardboard Dutch Masters cigar box. Inspiration: a paint stir stick cigarbox guitar. She sounds truly amazing acoustically. Ya just never know until you build and try ’em!

My paint-stick git is just under 21 inches long tip-to-tip. She’s 1 3/4 in. thick. The box is 9 1/2 in. long x 5 7/8 in. wide.

The scale from bridge to eyebolt tuner (no typical nut needed) is just over 18 1/2 inches.

Currently it’s tuned to F. Lovin’ this little thing!

I’ll post a song this git inspired via my personal Facebook page later tonight. Sorry if you’re not already part of that, but sometime I’ll likely do a personal YouTube site where anyone can see/hear some of this sort of build of mine.

Well, the lyrics were written a while back but the music just popped out of this diddley bow the first time I played it.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Start At The Start

A mistake I’ve made plenty is one perhaps you’ve made in any number of areas when trying to pass on good information, even teaching someone something be it guitar or whatever. It’s this: your encouragement and patience or lack of those two can be THE pivotal difference whether they learn or not.

I’m not saying they have zero responsibility but one thing is near-certain- if you don’t inspire them they’ll drop you and perhaps “it”… or perhaps go search for another teacher who has the character to help them get what they need to learn.

Of course they must be willing, there has to be some amount of commitment but that’s a two-way street!

On occasion I have mentioned that I learned to play guitar from others. In fact the kid was a couple years younger than me. Pat had two or three cheap guitars and amps and had already progressed from the two-string “chords” he taught me about, but in that I’d been messing around trying to make sense out of all six strings, I not only watched him but listened and when he offered to show me things, I paid attention and learned.

The low E string “open” (not touched) and then the next largest string up from that (the A string) when (being right-handed) my left index finger (“pointer”) was  pressed down on that second string in-between the 2nd and 3rd frets (the actual note is a B), well that low E and B played on the A string when plucked together produced the most simple, basic, rudimentary “chord”. This was what I built on.

How many in my generation had music teachers in school who screamed, yelled and tossed chairs or certainly insults at students? Those adult-children teachers were at least half of the reason many quit music.

The only reason I took music classes the last three years in high school was because I guess I had patience for the instructor who seemed to like me. He likely cut me slack due to some level of natural ability so I didn’t have to do all the work, get straight A’s and such. For me it was a slacker choice of electives and nothing else offered much interested me so…

I learned very little in those three years and honestly got far more from playing in bands, watching, listening, studying a lot of musicians in those groups who clearly knew more than I did about guitar, bass, drums and such, so I learned way more from them in group rehearsals and playing shows together than I ever did in school. And it all related to what I wanted to do and ended up doing most of my life- be a musician.

These exact principles pertain to discipleship in the churches, small groups, where ever and however you may want to slice the bread -better still, help the dough rise! The character, love, patience and even ability to inspire another is super core to any measure of success in passing on quality instruction they can benefit from.

I wish I’d have known all this in my earliest years of pastoring… but in the past 30 or more it became obvious these were needs in my life without which it would be difficult if not futile to try to share what I had to benefit others.

Education is very, very helpful and however one attains it, even essential- but I must accent that experience which can only come with mindful effort over time truly brings knowledge home. That’s part of how knowledge becomes wisdom and how we learn to apply good and solid information in the practical sense.

A few decades or more ago I realized I didn’t need to have all the answers on ANY issue and that indeed, due to seeking and building relationships with a good many wise yet humble friends who were gifted and knowledgeable beyond me in any number of areas I would (and do!) send people to them when I thought they’d also be likely to be a better help to individuals or groups than I would.

In other words, recognize your weaknesses, flaws, grow in humility and the issue isn’t if YOU are the DUDE or DUDETTE… the point is to serve others best and sometimes that means directing people to someone other than yourself out of love and respect for both them and those of character and greater wisdom, different or more applicable gifting than you have.

Food for thought for the journey of “passing it on”!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Hard Words

Decades have passed as I realized very, very few wish to quote, preach or consider the following (admittedly, selected by me) verses attributed to Jesus Christ in the four Gospels. Now, “gospel” itself literally means “good news” and there is the dilemma, the bind, the pain factor, indeed the cross for those who -say- they either seek to or are following Jesus.

Reportedly all of the following but the last section of text are the words of Jesus:

Matthew 16.24 Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, they must deny self and take up their cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for My sake will find it. 26 What will it profit a person if they gain the whole world, yet forfeits their soul? Or what can a person give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will repay each one according to what they have done.
(Also Matthew 10.37-39; Mark 8.34-38; Luke 9.23-27)

Luke 14.25 Large crowds were now traveling with Jesus, and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple. 28 Which of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost to see if he has the resources to complete it? 29 Otherwise, if he lays the foundation and is unable to finish the work, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man could not finish what he started to build.’ 31 Or what king on his way to war with another king will not first sit down and consider whether he can engage with ten thousand men the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if he is unable, he will send a delegation while the other king is still far off, to ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, any one of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.
(Also Matthew 8.18-22; Luke 9.57-62; John 6.60-65)

Matthew 22.34 And when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they themselves gathered together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with a question: 36 “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” 37 Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Also Deuteronomy 6.1-19; Mark 12.28-34)

Lastly please consider from the apostle John:

1 John 4.20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

My takeaway from these four texts alone:

Would-be followers or those of us who imperfectly, stumblingly walk with Jesus and seek to apply His teachings must ultimately face the real and often very present pains of surrendering OUR will, OUR desires and even our sense of security. We surrender them to Him in faith, trust and to the best of our understanding, obedience. If we conclude God “is not enough”, or merely cherry-pick from what Jesus Himself reportedly said and meant in The Bible we find ourselves in denial of Him.

The Church in our quest to attract, hold and and be acceptable to current and potential members has often denied the fulcrum of Jesus’ Own outlay of what a disciple of His must face. We avoid quoting and wrestling with some of the more difficult and even “WHATTTTT??!! THIS can’t BE TRUE!” portions of The Bible and finally re-write or discard any sort of cannon of scripture largely based on our enlightened views of what He really meant and what He actually commands. Promises, no problem… commands, uuggghhh!

That word “HATE” is largely and I believe truly, soundly translated from biblical Greek and a massive amount of scholars have rightly interpreted what Jesus -means- in those passages is that we must love God supremely, even over family, etc., etc., or we are at core idolaters. It is a matter of loving by comparison -because there is no other Lord nor Savior but Jesus and if we are not first concerned with Him, His Word and will we often put our dearest family and friends ahead and even over Him. Our “first love” (to quote Revelations) must truly be Jesus. There is just no escaping this but for creating our own (at least) partial though false “scripture”.

The term “ALL” indeed means all. How often we love God like we pay taxes. Where are the loopholes, the work-arounds, how can we keep as much for ourselves (rightly or wrongly) as possible? God throughout The Bible gives us that option (“Choose this day whom you will serve”, “Whosoever will” and so on) but these and so many words of Christ Himself are strong, challenging, difficult statements that size us up in our supposed Christian faith and practice or not, of how He defines discipleship. Frankly, individual Christians as well as churches do not always agree with Him- and He loves us though He does not even slightly change -though we must and can by His grace and power as we trust and surrender to Him.

Then we come to John in his first letter to the Church.

Regardless of agreement or disagreement on any number of issues there is this major-league, bottom-line thing about loving God supremely and neighbor as “just like it”. Hmmm? Jesus states it plainly and people walk away. John states it straight in another fashion here. Toward people there is no room for hate -regardless of anything. Zero. No quarter to say you love God while literally hating (which does not mean loving-less…) people though you may severely disagree with them on any number of issues.

Either (as Hebrews plainly states) Jesus “died once for all” or He did not. Either God calls all people everywhere to repent (Book of Acts, etc.) or He doesn’t. Either we recognize that careful contextual interpretation of The Bible sometimes speaks to His Own people while at other times speaks to/about those not yet following Him… or we look for loopholes to simply “write our own text”, that is “our own fictional cannon”.

If one continues down that road it becomes ever so easy (Adam and Eve narrative anyone?) to “write our own script”, to usurp God’s Own revelation as one of any options. In a word, self. Self vs. Christ, self vs. God is as old as… humankind.

As honestly as I can ponder God, His Word and the world, ancient and at present, and the world to come, these issues are non-negotiable but how we do our best to avoid them!

True grace does not eliminate the crosses Jesus calls His people to carry -it enables us to carry ours for His sake and the sake of His good news as we walk with Him.

Things to consider along the path?

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn