BANJO, Guitar and a LOT More

Some folks care a lot about history, the origins of stuff, some don’t. Throughout my life, early on to now when I really want to know about anything I study it. I mean, if it’s really important to me I want to understand who imagined and created it, where that happened initially and what happened beyond regarding the people, the key issue at hand and at least some of the details.

Dig deeply into music history and particularly that of the guitar and like instruments eventually if not near the start of it you’ll find the African continent the key source. Of course we find it core to also add China and also Middle East (re. the Israelite and other nations) source material. Certainly as a follower of Jesus, for me and many The Bible’s recorded commentary on musical instruments looms very large -especially as one considers HOW we got where we are.

Country music and especially bluegrass, “mountain” and “old time” music styles have long been “home’ to the banjo. There are so many obvious and easily-gotten sources for this most already know and believe this, so many who place the banjo right up there near popularity with the ukulele as stringed instrument of choice have perhaps not considered that the first instrument comes via Caribbean, South American and United States slavery via Africa and the second via Pacific Islands people… both happen to be people of color, non-white.

What typically rises in most minds when a banjo is thought of is white, perhaps poor white Appalachian folk playing the instrument, not the white parodying blackface minstrels who were in effect appropriating Black slaves’ and later, emancipated people’s instruments and song crafting styles to entertain and make a buck.

As a white blues guy threaded through my youth I won’t spin off in this post the concern of Black bluesmen and women some years ago who discussed white folks in the music industry essentially taking gig possibilities away from them simply because they could -due to racism and lack of respect of Black musicians. This was something I thought long and hard about in moving back into my own roots and beginning to play blues shows, touring and recording blues music. Much of what I did had no relation to taking money and food from such amazing Black musician’s livelihood but to be blunt, but for a lot of church, biker and street gigs and the like, IF I’d been in a situation where I would have been guilty in such I would have gotten another job. That’s how deep all this goes for me.

Ok- I often study word origins/meanings (etymology) and have been an amateur ethnomusicologist for most of my life, seeking out books, encyclopedia tomes and later via internet the many and I mean MANY sources, often historical, well-researched and cross-referenced points of the beginnings of the guitar, dulcimer and indeed, banjo.

As I’ve given a great many seminars on all this as well as lacing elements of it via my cigarbox and found-object guitar building workshops you might have guessed some of this, but if not…

Here I ask you to consider some amazing -and I believe extremely credible sources on the banjo- and give credit where credit is due, another continent, nations, tribes, and the dues they paid. Three excellent sources worth your time if interested in these things.

Enjoy, read, listen/watch video clips, learn, grow! And as always, thanks for stopping by 🙂 -Glenn


Event and Work Update -FEB 24, 2021

SHOP-KEEPING: One thing I may or may not do is place some of my key posts- (“some” I say!) into easier-to-find catagories via directories. I always figured if someone really wanted to know what I thought or now think about anything they/you could just use the Search, punch in a key word  and find it. Whew, I’ve many other things to do so no promises on this.

ONLINE WORSHIP CONCERT: In process- when done Grrr Records will post my filmed solo worship set and we’ll publicize it.

CIGARBOX AND FOUND-OBJECT BLUES SET: I plan on doing another solo blues gig online only using cigarbox and found-object guitars, harmonicas and vocals. We’ll let you know about that when finished and ready for viewing.

AUDIO BOOK: I’m about to read aloud my first audio book in studio (won’t be in print at this point) telling the story of my first 9 months walking with Jesus. Title: “Now What?” It was a roller-coaster ride but thank God, not all alone. Again, we’ll post info. on that when uploaded and ready for listening.

MUSICIAN’S GATHERINGS VIA ZOOM: The first one went well, so glad to link with some good folks around the world considering worship, and they wanted to continue that so the second Musician’s Gathering on Zoom happens this weekend with essentially the same attendees a a couple new ones. The third Gathering will focus on BLUES and I’ll publicize and let everyone know how to reach me in order to join for the hour as we get date, time and such set. These gatherings are for musicians.

So- a lot’s going on 🙂

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn


My longtime close friend Jon Trott recently put up an interesting thread on evangelism, a lot of folks responded and there is a sense that change is not only the trend of the day but needed in terms of –how– we share Jesus and His Good News to a growing group of “nones” in terms of faith in Him and moreso re. connection with anything like “church”. Why?

In one sense the Bible answers this question and always has, like, for over 2,000 years plus. The extremes are in we as people, DNA, extroverts or introverts, fearful or bold, insecure or confident, gifted by the Spirit with evangelism or perhaps other gifts of the Spirit and not that one. ALL of these speak to the issue, but there’s more.

Certainly voters and politicians looking to be part of some sort of “party of God” and indeed often populated with professing Christians open some minds and close others.

The HOW of sharing Jesus and His Gospel is not monolithic due to all this so I’ll finish this very short post by contrasting two extremes right out of God’s Word in order to illustrate my thinking on the matter. I happen to be a nearly life-long evangelist and pastor for what that may or not be worth to the reader.

“God COMMANDS all people everywhere to repent and believe the good news.” -Peter in Acts 17.30

“Go out to the highways and byways and COMPEL them to come in that my house may be filled.” -Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, 14.23
That Greek word “compel” is defined several ways, but those that are in-your-face commanding are likely not Jesus’ meaning here re. the context of INVITATION to a dinner, not a harsh command to “Show up or die hungry!”

The difference between INVITING and COMMANDING is often not sourced from/in/by God the Holy Spirit but rather our own personal feelings, sense of gifts and calling and in fact our personal moods and perhaps church teaching on methods, the “how” we verbally and otherwise share Him and His message.

The Bible in a great many more texts calls for both -and I won’t quote them all here, but let’s face the reality that so much depends on who we are in relationship with -or at least one-off talking with and also includes listening to people, dialogue (as per Jesus so often in the Gospels) as opposed to monologue and “make the sale”, “close the deal”, “land the fish”.

Straight up- would you rather I demand/command you attend something I’m offering… or rather that I invite you?

A methodological “one size fits ALL… all the time or it’s not kosher, true God-led evangelism!” is not only a flawed concept in terms of Jesus’ own evangelistic approach but it means many will never know Him via you and I if that’s how we share Him and His truth. We must mature, pray, study His Word and do some honest evaluation of why we hold so tightly to concepts that are more formed by personal comfort than His Word. We must consider the balance of “it says, it ALSO says”. Such maturity is an ongoing need in my life and that of the churches. Always has been.

God help us grow in grace and share in grace to sound more like You Lord Jesus!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Brake to Not Break!

Many of you who read my posts know I’m a musician, chaplain and pastor. On the pastoral and chaplain serves a fair number of people I interact with have serious needs. I learned long ago only Jesus saves eternally, not Glenn!!! I can also tell you that without quiet, safe and even fun spaces I would likely break.

Anyone who answers a call to work with hurting, broken people has to suss through not only whatever baggage we may have (and we all have some, past and present, likely future prior to passing on) plus that of others. It can be -and for many caregivers, family members, clergy, etc., it is overwhelming.

I know intellectually at times I must say “No” or “I’m sorry, I can’t help you on that issue” when I truly wish I could. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to do so even when one must.

There have been quite a few times I’ve gotten communications from folks who are drunk, high, mentally challenged or any combination of them. Some are talking truth, some fabrications, some a mix.

Prior to my faith and even after in those first nine months it might have been me calling someone else. Of course that helps me to seek to offer at least a measure of grace. Though I don’t have all the answers at times I can give what I truly believe to be positive input. When I can or cannot, over the years I and those I work with via our local and denominational church as well as many, many others, I can point people to others who –can– give them the aid they seem to need.

As always, your mileage may vary. Also of course it’s about individual free will. Some are at times for any number of reasons unwilling to take a forward step for help and/or change and/or healing and/or fresh relationships because they’ve been burned or at least are convinced they have been -or both.

In any case, I’ve written plenty about taking breaks outdoors, in quiet spaces. I do some 6 daily devotionals most days from a wide range of authors. I’ve listened to/read/studied a wide range of Black and People of Color voices. They not only aid me in service but of course affect how I as a white dude think about minority folks, many whom I interact with in chaplaincy work.

So what’s up with me today besides all this?

Family errands, Covid vaccines (got mine, took Wendi for her vax today), a fresh and weird idea for building a simple but unusual (even for me) cigar box guitar. Brakes so as to not break come in many forms.

Two amazing books (Valentine’s gifts from my sweet Wendi) came which I asked for and I’m learning -being graced by them!

So you see, we all need to find both grace-giving service as well as grace-promoting brakes in our day so as not to… you know.

I don’t know what yours are but do consider and apply. It’s what helps us not only maintain but sustain on this journey.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Guitar Amplifiers 101-Plus…

I don’t often discuss guitars and amps online but today I think I’ll focus on guitar amplifiers because someone out there may need to think deeper about the subject. That is, guitar players who are serious about learning, sound and both playing live as well as recording options.

First I should mention I’d read a long post online re. Mesa Boogie amps and the long list of responders to the original question discussed various MB models, circuitry, various tubes and tube configurations and etc.. All cool. They’re excellent amps and have a large fan base with years of quality builds – BUT… as much as I appreciate them I don’t use ’em and don’t plan to. If you’re a Boogie lover don’t hate me yet, read on.

The TONE YOU LOVE or wish you had is first in your head and heart or it ain’t. It may take some time, even years, a shorter or longer stack of various amps and assorted other elements beyond the amp itself for you to FIND and settle in (if ever…) on THE.SOUND.

See, everything from the bazillion different electric guitars (and that’s an article and variations galore all it’s own) and whether it’s a combo amp (amp and speaker/s in the same cabinet) or a head (brain as it’s sometimes called) and bottom (cab), with one, two or four speakers, then a wide assortment of speakers from different companies and speaker sizes be they 10 inch, 12 inch, 15 inch?? ALL of these things influence what you’ll hear out of ANY amp.

I was in a convo with a friend the other day chatting on how the room/outdoor patio/where-ever and how the particular timbre and/or low, mid and high end of the audio spectrum in EACH PARTICULAR SPACE also affects not only what you’ll hear from your amp and all I’ve mentioned so far, but also what (if there is one) the audience and/or recording studio engineer is hearing from your guitar/amp combination… and did I mention stomp (affects) boxes yet? No, I didn’t! See… this is in part why I’ve always had issues trusting how any guitar and amp sounds in a guitar shop. Unless I can take THAT git/amp combination out to several live shows/rooms/outdoor gigs as well as recording studio that I often record in, I’m guessing at very least about the nuances of tone I’m hearing in the store.

Now- add the sound tech (live) or the studio tech, both who place a mic in front of the guitar amp. One mic (or even two or three in a studio/recording situation), the specific mic (a lot of variables) and exact spot in front of a speaker (or behind it in an open-back cabinet) including distance between the mic and the speaker… all of these things affect tone and this is before you go into control room and hear what all the e.q. on the guitar channel (or two channels sometimes) plus studio compression and other affects all do to get a desirable tone. Most all this is equally true about live sound production but that one mic is typical in that scenario.

So when people talk about truly technically EXCELLENT amps, guitars and etc., I get that and don’t disagree raw technical talk re. the actual quality of the parts, circuitry, cabinetry and building processes, things like point-to-point hand wiring and much more all figure in when we consider a technically great amplifier. Granted!

Unless you’re not happy with the sound YOU’RE getting relative to YOUR application.

I’ve heard amazingly gifted guitarists play on trash gits and amps and they for the most part still sound great and I mean even largely if not always in terms of tone. Because it starts with the head, heart and ears. It’s partly in their hands. It’s very much about what they do to dial in the tone they want to hear.

If you’re head isn’t spinning yet, hang on.

What STYLE of guitar playing do you mostly work in? Or hybrid style/s?

I used Marshall 100 watt heads (JCM 800 mostly) plugged into one 4×12 Marshall cab with Celestion speakers in REZ Band for many years. I won’t list the many OTHER amps I used prior to those, but there were about 8 different amps, and on rare occasion I used two different amps at once live. Same with speakers and combinations, brands of speakers and cabinets, number of cabs. I also used countless different brands, models and hybrids of electric guitars.

In my later years I’ve used a premium amp (3 different models actually) depending on application from a brilliant builder who now only makes custom order guitars and basses named Shannon Coberly. With Glenn Kaiser Band I nearly always use a 40 watt Trimmed & Burnin’ tube amp with a T&B dual 12 cab loaded with Weber speakers. the other two are lower and lower-still wattage, both combo amps w. one Weber speaker in each. I LOVE ’em.

Overseas I’ve flown the 40 watt head and as it’s dual voltage I can use whatever cabinet and speaker combo in any country and it has consistently sounded AMAZING. Rare, but true.

When not flying that amp if at all possible I ask for and usually am able to use Vox AC30 or Orange amps. It has been very rare the Vox’s have given me trouble and as of yet I’ve loved every Orange amp I’ve used live regardless of model. Doing electric blues or blues/rock I am good to go with something between 30 and 50 watts, beyond that is simply overkill.

One more time: the TONE is inside us.

So there you go if interested. If not I totally understand, HA!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

The Overflow

So this morning we got a call from the company who is set to deliver our new mattress today. My sweet wife found a great deal -and it was time to get up from my studies and coffee, dress for the cold and meet the delivery person out front of the house. He said he’d be arriving in about 10 minutes though the original plan was at least a couple hours later.

I got out of my comfy clothes, put on the Nanook of the North gear and down Wendi and I went.

He phoned again- it turned out he has several deliveries all over Chicagoland today and confused our place on “Wilson Avenue” with “Willow Creek” -which are a good 45 minutes and a bit over 30 miles apart.

Certainly there are differences, sometimes stark- between Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox interpretations and understandings of The Bible’s comments. We don’t always “meet” with one another on all matters and sometimes “get it wrong” or are convinced “the others” do. Are there not -many- such issues all through the Protestant churches -whether independent, members of the many associations, denominations?

So here I am, seated in my office chair and finishing the devotional I was halfway through prior to the “must change clothes, change schedule, I wish the timing was better…” only to find out someone had made a mistake. Like… I NEVER MAKE MISTAKES OR GET CONFUSED??! 🙂

In this particular devotion among other things, I was focusing on Paul’s Letter to the Colossians verse 7 of chapter 2. For context, vs. 6 and 7:

“6 Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”

My attitude is -not- always one of grattitude. It’s an issue I must confess and repent of often, that’s the truth.

In verse seven Catholics, Anglicans and others will readily recognize a word from what Protestants call communion/the Lord’s supper/the Lord’s Table which the former include in Mass:

“eucharistia”- an English form of the Greek word often translated either “thanksgiving, thankfulness, gratitude” or the like.

The KJV translates in the following manner: thanksgiving (9x), giving of thanks (3x), thanks (2x), thankfulness (1x). eucharistĂ­a, yoo-khar-is-tee’-ah; from another word which means gratitude; actively, grateful language (to God, as an act of worship):—thankfulness, (giving of) thanks(-giving).

The word “overflowing” or “abounding” and the like turns an interesting phrase in a kind of upside-down manner as I think of the context.

“Rooted and Grounded” (note, deeply or firmly) relates to depth, a level of stability but of course such by gaining nurture from ground nutrients, water and also water and sun, etc., from ABOVE to the extent the plant or tree, fruit or vegetable, flower, etc., is SO rooted and grounded that it bears fruit. Hmmm. The fruit of patience for example. Self-control maybe. Peace. There are nine of ’em listen in Galatians chapter 5.

Obviously it’s about the very Person of Jesus, relational, a growing (yes!) Relationship with Him, not mere informational, educational, mental acquiescence but active participation in relationship to the nourishment God and the Holy Spirit through the people of God, circumstances and such bring our way.

Like… patience and movement when we don’t want to be “bothered” and someone makes a mistake.

How often have I been or now -am- that person to God, to someone else?!

What sort of overflow comes out of Glenn in such moments?

So you see, morning devotions and mattress deliveries are all part of my growth.

Perhaps you can relate :)?

Oh, Wendi just came in to tell me that particular mattress just got sold to someone else out there- but he will have the same model ready to deliver to us four days from now.

I’m trying to decide if I should change my clothes and get more coffee.

As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Status Choke

In an exchange w. a good friend online this morning he raised concern for the local church on the core matter of discipleship. This was in part, my reply, with quite a few lines added here for clarity and explanation:

“I can’t tell you all the true stories of speaking somewhere in REZ Band days and since where a board meeting got called and the promoter/host and even pastor got chewed out. Biz as usual and don’t rock the boat.”

Honestly, there were words used that went far beyond the music, delivery or mere cultural differences.

“I may write a blog on this particular issue- often folks attend and require a Sun. service and more for their kids, make sure they’re hearing the message of biblical, Christian discipleship every Sunday in both main church and youth church messages, Sunday School, etc., and when time comes and the kid turns 18, graduates high school and whether leaving home or not then decides God has called them to a mission field somewhere even partly unlike the nice area they grew up in parents freak.”

Discipleship for 18 yrs. and overnight dump it, hit college or uni. and ultimately “Get a REAL job in the REAL world” kid!” I truly, honestly am not meaning to say “Come to Chicago and work with US” nor preaching any particular mission field. If anyone could have recruited, I mean beat the bushes and continuously brought a stiff word that leaned on people to join us it would have been me in terms of sheer public profile over decades of ministry, shows, messages. On occasion I’ve said “Come visit” but only know of two people I directly said “You need to come and consider moving in!” It just so happens they did and are both here serving and have for many years.

No, when I say what I’ve said here it’s about the ridiculousness of loving the preaching of the biblical truths of Jesus right out of the Gospels and when the kid decides to live it out the parents/grandparents “faith” goes out the window. Status quo and safety first and pretty much always. The cross is in the rear-view mirror because that’s where we want it. Don’t mess with the status quo.

My/our lyrics, live shows, even worship songs, writings, much of my own deepest convictions, sense of actual need in the local and larger Church and what I have tried to live out by example often boil down to two things. They come straight out of a myriad of Bible texts and especially Jesus’ words in John chapter 15- love and discipleship. How sadly common it is to divorce the one from the other and somehow think it’s the normal and faithful Christian life?!

Two verses from John, but here not his Gospel, rather from two of his letters to the Church:

“Little children, let’s not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3.18

“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you are to walk in it.” 2 John 6

Having eyes to see and ears to hear the spiritual and deep practical needs of the world, discerning a call to reflect our Lord and Savior via loving service to meet such needs is a risk “status quo” Christianity doesn’t take. It costs the kingdom of self which resists the Holy Spirit and in the end is more about our survival and comfort than that of others.

God have mercy and may He have it through us!

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn


My fellow followers of Jesus, aren’t you glad He did more than consider doing something about us and our sin issues and, oh… eternal life?!

As per “the church”- It’s the Book of Acts, not mere thought, consideration, theory, prayer, Book of Committee Meetings, possibilities, options, true?

Of COURSE these things are part of the details, even essential ingredients of (we hope) eventually obeying our Lord in love -note, in love, not merely raw duty or obligation- and yet we ARE obligated by Jesus to LIVE love, actually apply His teachings re. loving -even our enemies.

How is it so many of us judge others, those we don’t like or trust, often people we have zero to do with, no real relationship with as lazy, shiftless, ignorant “bums” -when we manifest… what? Perhaps “the gift of apathy” toward them?! What sort of fruit is planted and nurtured through neglect, via chasms of distance?

Now hear me: I both appreciate and practice silence (yes, even me:)), biblical meditation, contemplation, prayer, Bible study, daily devotions and seek to live out my own personal (not everyone has the same… got that!) calling with regard to the spiritual gifts others and I have recognized as given me by the Lord. Study the gifts of the Holy Spirit and EVERY ONE of them are for SERVICE, serving the Lord by serving others.

Simply because I am deeply motivated, convicted to serve and do as I do it surely doesn’t hold ALL people much less ALL Christians have to do EXACTly as I. Got that! Truly, understood!

Just this morning I again considered “There is a time for silence and a time for speaking” (Ecclesiasties) and A.W. Tozer’s many comments on our personal, interior relationship to Jesus including “Cultivate simplicity”. Yes! Agreed! We each and all in seeking to grow in our life and walk with Him need to create space, silence, times of solitude and learn to discard the stuff, actual stuff as well as distractions that, well… distract our attention from Him and those in need around us or just over in the next street or town. Are we? Am I?

What are we truly doing with and for those Jesus calls “the least of these”? I submit to you that those of us who wish to honor the Lord must do more than sit in quiet with God, sun streaming in our window, hot tea on the end table, Bible open and praising God for the beautiful snow outside while homeless people live in those freezing elements, poor folks try to stay warm in shacks and slumlord-neglected housing and we do nothing but in some cases criticize the politics of those who do.

At what point do we apply the mass of Jesus’ Own -commands- to serve as opposed to focusing merely on “live a quiet life” (also biblical)? Is Tozer correct in stating that “It takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian”?

Whether or not we practice the church season of Lent, taking honest inventory of our life is part of growing in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. We do not grow as He intends when we do not share that grace, in particular with those most in need of it.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Performance, Acceptance

Performance isn’t worship. Either can be done with too much focus on ourselves, either can be done from motives to bless, encourage, honor God -as well as blessing, encouraging and honoring our neighbor. Let that sink in for a moment.

When Jesus commands us “Love your neighbor as yourself” there must be at core a true, genuine loving of yourself, acceptance of yourself. Mind you, I do not mean accepting your sinful nature and acting out in ways that dishonor God and ignore people. Yet it does seem those most insecure, most un-accepting of others are often themselves starved for acceptance. In essence, their deep lack of believing, experiencing they are loved and accepted by God short-circuits their ability to love Him and others.

I’ve been once again slowly reading through the Book of Psalms. Pondering 147 for the past two days, verse 11 especially, how interesting that as I opened my ECC Home Altar devotional this a.m. I read Aiesha Cox’s profound yet simple lines based on that very Psalm. “God is worthy of our praise beyond the things he does for us. God deserves our praise for simply who he is. He’s a loving God. He’s a faithful God. He’s a merciful God. When we shift our focus to his heart for us and not merely the work of his hands, praise is surely fitting.” (

I believe there is also something in these thoughts for us to consider as He re-creates us more in likeness to Himself and it’s this: HE is blessed when who WE are (becoming!) is loving, faithful, merciful, when we shift our focus to reflect HIS heart in us and not merely the work of our own hands… I suspect He smiles on us twice- the first time because He loves us, the next because we are receiving His heart and nature in blessing others as He does and desires us to do in this needy world!

I woke up this morning thinking about so many musicians and other artists -tormented and mega-depressed yet massively talented people with growing and often super-large public personas. They are envied, liked, others are jealous of them for their skills and accomplishments yet people are never aware of their struggles, blemishes, sins or personal demons. Our focus is not on them as people but as talented and those acquiring success.

Among Christians and others not of any faith, the gifted (spiritually, artistically or with or talents) are looked up to as role models, sometimes sparking an idea that we might one day be “that good”. Of course all humans are flawed and some much like an iceberg -we only see that which stands majestically above the waterline.

I won’t name names, but as a musician more than one of my musical heroes looked, sounded and in almost every area so impressed me I never really thought about their addictions, destructive lifestyles, discarding people around them at any whim or merely because they didn’t love them just as they did not truly love themselves. Many of them died at an early age though amazingly gifted. They had a powerful muse but did not have a life.

As an insecure kid, usually fat, a bed-wetter until I was (?) 13 years old, the 3rd of 3 kids in a home laced with tension, disintegration, my parent’s divorce, I had in my own view of only “one thing going for me”: I could sing. And eventually write songs, play guitar and perform. My identity and security blanket was -musician- and nothing else.

Performing was and is personally fulfilling, even nurturing to me but not in the same exact ways it was prior to my walking with Jesus. Night and day really. Perhaps I’ll unpack more of that in the future but for now:

Acceptance for any of us and I mean ANY of us is such a key matter, a deep need and desire! Knowing someone, at least one person truly accepts, maybe even loves us -though connected, not synonymous…- affects not only how we think of ourselves but how we treat others. “…as you love yourself.”

Performance, achievement in music, then losing weight, getting high, sex/girls all became my “ticket” to what I thought was true acceptance of me, Glenn the person not merely the musician.

The lights began to come on as I read Jesus’ statements, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? -Matthew 16.24-26

Near the end of these comments He added “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” -v. 27

Plenty of people get hung up on that last verse focusing on the produce of their labor, production output, the actions of their lives either earning them favor and eternal life with God or condemning them. Some argue it’s all about rewards for performance.

Jesus and New Testament writers continually speak of the GRACE (UN-earned favor) of God being the basis of HIS acceptance of us – NOT our works however good they are! Further, plenty scriptures focus on the heart, the motive, the intent as to WHY we do whatever it is we do.

Get this: though study, practice and skill (music or other art form, etc.) allows us to create better offerings it is never the gift, talent, offering itself God is looking at but rather our actual motives for the work, for the offering. I won’t here list the many Bible texts that accent this truth but there are a lot of them.

I know and have known sooooo many gifted artists in many modes of art-making who are deeply troubled and sometimes self-loathing people. Certainly biological, mental challenges and abuse affect many, that’s a given, but I’m talking about something else. Art offerings are often their monument to themselves more than about serving others or honoring God. When worship is focused on self it is not the worship of God “in spirit and in truth”. You see, even a worship leader (and I’m also one of those…) can be caught up self-primping as in a mirror rather than focused UP and OUT. How do I know this to be possible? HA… uhhh… well… 🙂

All this points back to our own truest needs and unless such needs are recognized and dealt with in healthy, healing and maturing-toward-growth and positive change ways we will likely live in at least elements of tragedy rather than recognizing our blessings and living to bless God and others.

“What have you been given that is not a gift?” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 4.7

Think a bit more about Paul’s admonition to “Examine yourselves to prove whether you are in the faith.” – 2 Corinthians 13.5

What does it mean to walk in the Spirit if not to walk in faith faithfully (as Paul unpacks in depth in his letter to the Galatian church)?

I don’t think at base it means mere performance. The devil performed as an orator actually quoting God’s Word -and was/is no less the devil!

I’m convinced Paul was getting at a faith in the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and acceptance of God to the extent we know our salvation is in Jesus and no other BUT Him. Of course this will bear fruit (of the Spirit and good works) as Jesus clearly taught in John chapter 15. I’m also convinced that our motives and deepest desires must be for Him and others, not working ourselves to death in order to be liked or accepted. No matter our offering some will never consider it good enough. Thank God He thinks differently about the whole issue.

If we can learn and trust God’s loving acceptance of us (not our every choice or sin… but US.) we are on the road of freedom and can begin to truly worship Him and feed His sheep rather than live in a constant “tail chase” round and round which is a sad and needless tragedy regardless of our apparent gifts and talents.

Last point- popularity doesn’t equal love. It never has and never will. I’ve experienced the disdain and the honor of a lot of people in my lifetime, but as Jesus said in quite negative terms, “How can you believe, when you receive/accept honor/glory from one another and you do not seek the honor/glory that is from the one and only God?” -John 5.44

I believe these are things worth considering.

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

Value and Worth

I admit from the onset there are lessons to learn in a market economy. Essentially one might learn something about relationships, personal discipline, hopefully how to do one or many things well enough via training and experience in order to obtain and hold a paying job. This is indeed part of a passage not only to stability (if economics, health, the market and boss allow) of a paycheck but also personal growth and lessons re. human maturity.

There are other lessons as well.

A capitalistic culture where your practical, actual value equals your production, what you can do for the boss/es and workplace patrons to both enrich the business and therefore for you to make enough to at very least scrape by with your basic needs for survival met is stuff of reality.

But let’s not skip by the fact that capitalism focuses on it’s bottom line: capital. Them that’s got it, got, them that don’t often lose and sometimes at a depth many folks are unwilling to admit.

Those with mental challenges, physical disabilities, the “wrong” whatever it is be it skin pigment, i.q. or equivalent, perhaps political affiliation often “need not apply”.

Some people are “self-starters” with enough imagination and creativity they can manage all this. It IS what it is as they say. Some make do by living  homeless, eating from garbage cans and in many places throughout the world picking through trash dumps or otherwise.

A very few “live off the grid” while indeed some end up in prostitution, drug and/or gun running or other nefarious and often deadly “occupations”. No matter, they pay tax of a different sort for sake of survival. It’s not life but they get by until they don’t anymore.

Value in the so-called real world is often not considered from God’s perspective but rather a human sort of “what the traffic will allow” judgment -and if you’re judged basically worthless (note that term – it’s incredibly important).

There are myriad reasons for crime and criminal acts in any society but you’re reading some of the practical and indeed, spiritual roots that grow fruit or weeds.

While the Bible states a long list of sins -and I do not mean what this or that individual Christian or church may refer to as sin but that of the clear context of Scripture itself, people are too easily dismissed as having little “value” and “worth” based on what they can produce for us.

If that alone was the measure by which eternal life? Salvation and Jesus’ atonement, God’s acceptance and love for us is offered and granted to “whosoever will” not whosoever earns it. Thank God Almighty the only Perfect Judge that His core nature is Love and grace!

Some will run to Bible texts that speak of production such as the oft-quoted Pauline comment “Let the one who will not work not eat” which in fact simply means “Church, God is not limited with food to distribute but you are so to have enough to GIVE to those in genuine need, don’t merely pass it all out to those who are not in true need.” We Christians at times deem X people as unworthy of basic needs for life in a sense of equality as license to not share “our hard-earned” whatever it is “WE’ve WORKED for this, that person’s a bum, mooch, UNworthy” so let them feel the pain of their emptiness “due to their own choices!”

All that sounds good until it’s you, those you love. It also flies in the face of the -whole- of the Scripture’s teaching on GRACE. It further eliminates the responsibility of those who have who so rarely share because “we don’t know if that person or family are just scamming jerks” or not. Ignorance is a great assist to being a judge versus compassion, care and the love of God. It also places us in a small circle where doing the very work of true people of faith in both Testaments again and again calls us to be God’s agents of reconciliation.

Nobody is truly helping the sinner to reconcile with God who thinks and lives in such a way that it’s always THEIR responsibility to “get right” but rarely if ever ours!

What believers refer to as the Imago Dei, that is the intrinsic value and worth of ALL PEOPLE REGARDLESS due to ALL being made in the very image of God Himself (just 27 verses into the Book of Genesis) -well, unless we and society “profits” from the person, so much for their “value”.

It’s interesting how in history some of the most brutally non-moral people inherited money and power, often corporations their great grandfather, grandfather and/or father passed on to them placing them “at the top of the food chain” often through zero effort or “earning” such… and we celebrate, sometimes elect them, are jealous of them or simply shrug and treat them with great respect -unearned.

They may well be enthroned as it were, in positions of power that affect the lives of many, but alas, this is the “human” race, illogical and inhumane as it often is.

Such kings and queens often rule as such and thus we place “value” on one and devalue others. Justice or just-us?

Statements such as Jesus “died once for all”, “Honor all people”, “love one another” do not make distinctions between who people are in terms of worldly, certainly not capitalistic judgments about “value”.

In that the same blood of Christ was shed for ALL WHO HAVE SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD we had better wake up Church!!

Human systems are like all human beings, flawed. They have their strengths and weaknesses. Jesus died and rose for people, not systems that will one day all pass away.

It seems to me we had better learn and grow in thinking and attitudes that reflect the grace and mercy of God versus mere human judgments about who is and is not “worth” them!

Apparently God alone is worthy of such core valuation – and God the Son- Jesus gave Himself on the cross, the just for the unjust.

May we reflect His nature in our dealings with those around us. In some cases their very life depends on it.

Oh- you may find something here that relates to these issues:

As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn