I write a great deal about attitudes, and this is that… but not entirely.
Something that others might dismiss as mere coicidence happened to me (again) the other morning during my coffee and personal devotional time.
If you knew where I came from back in the day, and knew what I’m yet capable of (or knew yourself perhaps) you’d understand I read a handful of devos daily, think, pray through them and give Thanks.
So one of the two I mention isn’t a very common devo book, rather, it is “Celtic Prayers” (Robert van de Weyer). Richly illustrated with a lot of amazing art from that sphere of work it contains a great many beautiful pieces of writ. I do not read it every day but have enjoyed it immensely since my longtime friend Jon Trott gifted me with it.
The other is a 12 Step and very scripture-packed book done by a Lutheran pastor which I do read daily and rarely miss, “God Grant” (Paul F. Keller).
The writings are far removed from one another geographically, much in scope and in some cases by many, many hundreds of years. And yet…
From “A Million Miracles”, line number one, a Celtic Christian prayed “O Son of God, perform a miracle for me: change my heart.”
I moved on to the other and as the pastor riffed on Jesus’s “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” he finished the short devotional with this:
“God grant that I may be yoked to Christ.” And ended with “Being yoked to Christ is much easier on us that being yoked to a bottle.”
Recovering from ANY addiction (and the list is about as long as the journey of one’s life is) will humble one who is already feeling worthless, useless and confused except when loaded, high, yielding to demons and personal whims, discarding anyone who seems “in the way” of the fix, whatever that “fix” may be.
As I read these that morning I ended thinking-
we have the drug and it ends up having us
Conversely and in the most positive sense- in a real relationship with the Risen Jesus Christ, we have Him and He ends up having us. Or vice-versa likely more the reality.
This is my deepest desire. It is my life-long LIFE QUEST.
Everything else ends, will end because we ultimately have no real power to stop the end of our earth-life. And far too much of whatever “it” may be we don’t wish to let go of, the addictive stuff, destructive elements we’ve convinced ourselves we cannot live without or are so controlled by -letting go seems impossible. That. Is. Not. True.
“With God ALL things are possible.” In Christ. And with the help of those who’ve been there, done that.
Today I share in the most basic form, my recent takeaway from an Ev. Covenant Church course, I’m taking on Criminal Justice. The first three are from this study and what follows is my overview. Please note I’m not merely quoting from the coursework but have reached the very same conclusions over decades of study, chaplain’s work and relationships with at-risk, incarcerated and released individuals as well as networking with fruitful organizations who do such work daily.
Via the ECC’s Love Mercy Do Justice:
Truly GOOD Interrupters for Rehabilitation and Re-entry re. Incarcerated individuals: ➢ Education ➢ Basic needs met ➢ Church ➢ Community ➢ Family/Friends
“We must come in with humility and a deep level of care.” -Ben Vasquez, Director of Social Enterprise Love Mercy Do Justice (Dept. of The Ev. Covenant Church) Chicago, IL
“We need to be salt and light. We need to -be there-.” Rev. Matthew Watts
My (Glenn Kaiser) overview of key issues:
Today I heard a Police Dept.Senior Commander from St. Paul comment on the need of fellow officers to think of themselves as Peace Officers rather than Law Enforcement Officers. Within the churches there are those who seek law over peace. I’m convinced the peace of Jesus goes far deeper than law -and such grace always costs -us-. The law of God is just and good, loving. Are we?
We have created laws and systems of incarceration. 95 percent of school children are suspended not for violent behavior but dress codes and other such non-criminal issues. Single parents are more likely to live in poverty, people of color moreso. If there is no father present by nearly every rubric families and individuals end up poorer, more at risk, more likely to eventuate into actual criminal behavior. The laws and systems themselves are often not restorative but rather penal, punative, seeking to merely keep juveniles alive until they are 18 and “of age”. Those who commit more serious crimes move deeper into juvenile lock up and many continue on in their anger, despair and learned survival tactics regardless how personally or societally destructive. The result is increased jail and then prison time. Recidivism rates are high, for learned and habitual behaviors are regularly not easy to break. Adding substance abuse and addiction as forms of “self medication” feed the cycle. Further, when individual Christians and local churches merely “circle the wagons” due to fear, ignorance, racism or “country-club” attitudes there is little change within and streaming from the church to make any real difference in the lives of these angry, despairing people behind bars. I suggest we Christians must repent, listen, learn and reach out to “the least of these” (see Jesus’ words in Matthew 25) who are or have been in prison as though it were Jesus Himself- as we have done or not done to them, we therefore also treat Him.
A dear pastor friend Danny Martinez reminded us of something today- simple as it is yet profound: we welcome those who are different than we are, whose customs seem unusual, who are “foreigners”. My mind immediately ran to this:
We have been foreigners to God due to our sins. Not all people unlike us are sinning in all areas of difference between us.
What I do believe is many professing Christians are horrible missionaries and/or evangelists and at times unwilling to build bridges and because of Jesus’ cross, serve, working to bridge gaps with a heart of welcome toward people unlike us.
The fact is WE are often unwilling to be “the foreigner”. WE don’t want to be unaccepted, rejected, treated as “lessers”, as perhaps “the least of these” (see Jesus’ comments in Matthew 25) and I do believe this is a core reason we are either unaware of, not taught about or simply avoid as weak, a liberal social justice thing which we may repel against: loving our “foreign” neighbor as ourselves. Control issues are often a deep part of our reluctance also.
I freely admit and confess I’ve often tried to avoid the pain I mention here, and lament the opportunities God has given me to build bridges choosing control and safety over maturing in His love and a better, direct reflection of Jesus to those “not like me”. Does our attitude reflect faith, hope, love in God? In truth it sometimes does not. I have repented re. this issue often through the years -as was/is surely God’s will.
May we build bridges rather than walls, faith over fear, grace over demanding others be -like us- all the time, for our sins are no more righteous than anyone else’s.
I have often felt surrounded by brilliant writers and other artisans, myself except for the occasional lyric, song, performance and on occasion, public speaking, just adequate and often not.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for when I hit the proverbial “bell”, a measure of quality, but in truth I so often cringe at foot-in-mouth statements in my quest to communicate something I think important to a person, group or the world (say, via the Web) that… well… this:
I actually think I -somewhat- recognize great writing, but in poetry and prose I’m not at all sure. I mean that as a fan. Like most Americans I was taught English in U.S. schools, did the work and actually tried to grasp good writing, read more prose and poetry than most know I do, but it’s like comparing myself to Hendrix or Phil Keaggy. My honest self-assessment is I’m often utilitarian as a guitarist.
Please DO NOT write and tell me how much what I offer means to you -I’m already loaded up most weeks with people who say such things, and although I appreciate that “this treasure is in earthen vessels”, plenty of mud here. So why? Why communicate so very much (and I surely do that!)?
I am determined to “leave it ALL on the field.” And no, nobody knows but God and myself how many songs, lyrics, blog posts (or partially finished), photos, a very little poetry and a bit more prose sits on my computer hard drives or email backups THAT YOU’LL NEVER SEE because I don’t truly think them worth sharing in public.
Yet -as Peter said re. his eventual demise, he wanted to be sure that which would build people up, encourage folks, be a blessing at least to some of them spiritually would be available after the Lord called Him home. That’s it for me, nothing more nor less.
Truth: I am happy, truly happy with a fresh little online book/booklet I’ve been working on for a couple years. Here is the link and as always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn
Urban, Suburban, Country man City, rural Lady -whoever Ma’am Out on the Jerico road (2x)
They jumped you baby Took what you had An ordinary day Turned badder then bad Out on the Jerico road (2x)
Priest, Levite, walked on by Samaritan dude got a tear in his eye Out on the Jerico road (2x)
Two kept going, only one stopped Helping the beaten one left there to rot Out on the Jerico road (2x)
I been the Priest, the Levite too Samaritan- left for dead blue Out on the Jerico road (2x)
Optional ain’t it- which one we’ll be Love an’compassion is costly indeed Out on the Jerico road Out on -name any road
Most of us know the story Jesus responded with when a dude wanting to (note) “justify himself”… asked Him about loving his neighbor. “So who is my neighbor”?
Jesus might have used a different human example as a metaphor in our time and place. He could have replied “A certain Republican” or “Democrat” or “Black”, “Asian”, “Indigenous”, “Rural”, “Urban”, “Suburban” person -and any of them could have been the hero.
Jews hated Samaritans and they had their reasons to not “love their neighbor” as themselves. Jesus blew down that wall and in part that added to the pile of issues that got him hated by those in power finally leading to His own crucifixion.
From an Evangelical Covenant Church study I’m partaking in re. the Luke 10.25-37 text:
“To love God means to show mercy to those in need. This is true even when your neighbor treats you as strength, and we love our neighbor as ourselves. It requires both, not either/or. This passage illustrates that our neighbors are not determined by geographic proximity, ethnicity, race, social statues, or country of origin; our neighbors include everyone made in the image of God.” lSource: The Kingdom Mosaic Life Together Series, ECC]
So what human being born on the earth was not created in God’s image? Selfishness and personal cost do not justify us.
Love, on the other hand, reflects the heart, soul, strength and mind of God.
My friend Joe Filisko is in my opinion –still– far too unknown to music and especially harp lovers and students -although he’s massively known, influential and accredited by harmonica masters world-wide.
As I may embarrass him even in this next quite abbreviated paragraph, I’ll list just a few core bits of information about Joe and then go straight into interviewing him adding only a few online educational and yep, fun links at the end.
Joe Filisko is “a harmonica player’s harmonica player”, regularly cited as the most expert on post war (WWII) harp aces and their nuances in detail. He’s taken many trips to his birthplace (Germany) and elsewhere in deep study of his favored instrument. I often tell folks Joe has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about the “metal sandwich”. He and roots-music singer/songwriter/guitar-and-dobro partner Eric Noden have toured a large part of the world bringing music to often packed-houses. He has developed his own harmonica tuning system and more… the man is a harp genius, a humble and generous man and beyond all else he loves to teach harmonica steeped in history while citing blues technique -and does it with clarity, not easily accomplished with an instrument one cannot “see” as per say, a guitar.
GK- Joe, thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
JF- Definitely all my pleasure. I’m delighted when anyone is interested in my extremely eclectic interests, especially when that someone is as cool and passionate as YOU!
GK- I know when at home you’re a bit of a gourmet soup cook- where did that come from?
JF – Just outta necessity of wanting some of my favorite foods that are not available under lockdown. This kinda cooking is quite new to me but I sure have been having loads of fun recently.
GK- Can you recall when you first really noticed the harmonica, how old were you, who and what took your notice about the instrument?
JF- I always had some harmonicas around me but not much early exposure to music being played on it. I did hear it in the rock music I was listening to in high school, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I was listening to it in blues and becoming mesmerized by the magical sound of it. Even to this day I think that it is a VERY special instrument in blues and am amazed at how well it paints a clear picture of the mournful anguish of blues. Listening to the older styles really amazed me to how complicated some of the styles could be. Players like DeFord Bailey could have as may as 3 different things happening simultaneously. Being extremely visual, trying to imagine how these sounds were being made also contributed to my fascination.
GK- Who were your first one or two players who motivated you to get serious about technique?
JF – The very first two records that I purchased were by Big and Little Walter. Initially I was not able to comprehend all the layers and levels in their playing I was also initially in the first few years, quite influenced by the local players Howard Levy, Corky Siegel and Madcat Ruth.
GK- Why did and does pre-war blues specifically hold your interest as a fan and/or performer?
JF- Much bigger and more complex sound, and more levels to the playing. Most contemporary players are clean single note players with mainly only one layer. The Chicago Blues style is the biggest exception to this. I need them chords!
GK- Do you favor one or two particular keys (actual pitch of the harp/s) and if so why?
JF- The harp that I carry with me will tend to be a “G” harp. I really like ALL the keys and like them for different reasons. The lowest keys can be so fantastic for getting an accordion or fiddle flavored like accompaniment. The highest keys are the way to go if you are playing purely acoustically with a resonator guitar. 🙂
GK- We’ve recorded and also played some live shows together and it seems to me you mostly favor cross harp style -and I’ve rarely if ever noticed you using a chromatic harp. Thoughts?
JF- Not too much Chromatic harp for me. I like going portable! If I was going to pursue jazz or classical I would be using the chromatic. Most of what I play is 1st or 2nd position on the diatonic but have recorded songs in all of the 7 modal harp positions. I think that it would usually be fair to say that I favor the harp position that gives me the best chordal options.
GK- You do some specific breathing exercises prior to playing, are quite fluent regarding breath control and I wonder where you learned about that aspect of playing?
JF- Vocals requires the ability to control the flow of the air on the exhale only. It could be fair to say that solid harmonica playing requires control of both the exhale and the inhale. A BIG issue folks run into is “holding” onto too much air. The simple way of understanding 2nd position is playing in the same key of the inhaling dominant 7 chord. All them deep and dark bluesy sounds on the low end of the harp are obtained all by inhaling. Developing the skill of pushing and squeezing air out of your lungs before playing is generally not an intuitive skill players learn quickly but is really important to developing a heavy blues sound. It is much more intuitive to take a deep exhale breath before singing but you can imagine how much trouble a singer would have if they EXHALED immediately before singing. This is one of the fundamentals blues harp players struggle with, not releasing the air before playing.
GK- Besides consideration of the particular song, musician/s or band: do you have a personal, general preference for acoustic or electrified, amp-mic’ed harp playing and if so, why?
JF – Not really, as long as the music is good, has a worthwhile message, grooves, and is not too loud. There are cool advantages for both acoustic and electric.
GK- In your teaching and gig experience, what two or three newbie mistakes commonly pop up when folks begin trying to learn to play blues harp?
JF – Good one! The above mention of breathing is an essential fundamental. I refer to it as Active Blues Breathing. You have to learn to breathe differently if you really want to play. Another big one is not embracing the embouchure of Tongue Blocking. T-Blocking allows for the biggest and most sound out of the harmonica. With your tongue touching and covering holes, you can instantly, with a slight adjustment, go from a clean single note, to an octave split, to a chord or get the percussive crunching vamping/slapping sound. This is all undetectable to the eye. Players can be dismissive and conclude it’s difficult because they can’t actually see what’s happening. Sticking your tongue out is VERY easy. If you can stick it out and move it from one corner of your mouth to the other you will be mimicking advanced T-Blocking. Puckering up your lips to a single hole is the equivalent to a piano player using only one finger and the other clenched into a fist. The 3rd thing would be getting forceful with the bending technique which takes time and is not learned correctly by playing harder or more forcefully. I’m of the belief that skillful musical bending is an advanced technique and takes time and work to develop.
GK- There are a number of various vibrato techniques – is there one you personally favor and why? –
JF – Nope. I’ve used them all but prefer to use discretion with the vibrato. The throat tremolo is usually much more versatile. This is what you typically will hear from the Walters, Sonny Terry, Sonny Boy 1 and DeFord Bailey.
GK- Lastly, we’ve noticed you walking in or near the woods near your home playing for a few deer in the local herd. Are they eclectic in their appreciation of your harpin’ or do they have particular preferences as to songs or blues styling?
JF- Crazy how bold many of the deer here are. Growing up in this area we NEVER seen them and now they are everywhere. Lately I have been experimenting with inhale circular breathing and trying to mimic the didgeridoo and see how they respond to that. Keep in mind that I generally only post the ones that hang around and not the ones of them running for the hills! LOL
GK- Many thanks my friend, cyberhugs to you and Michelle 🙂 -Glenn.
JF – Many thanks to you for the love and shout out. My world is better with you in it. Cyberhugs back! Joe Filisko
You can find a lot of Joe Filisko video and music clips including lessons, performance as well as Joe and Eric Noden’s offerings via YouTube.Com
Mountaintop, Pits. If we don’t navigate it, we might call it quits. Hmmmm, lyricist am us… so note the the rhyme from the title through that first little bit there… 🙂
Early on in my faith I heard a number of sage preachers, teachers and such mention that “things grow in the valley” not on the tops of mountains. The idea is we get stretched by our difficult experiences, it ain’t unlimited ice cream and cake up in the sweet and un-challenging got-wonderful with few or no struggles moments in life mountaintop experiences.
They were correct. I’ve surely learned more though admittedly often unwillingly- in those tough patches of life than elbow-out-the-window-in-the-breeze times.
Now I must also admit in my younger days I thought -note, “thought“- I was better at shifting from one to the other than I really was. Decades later you might have a better sense of who you were and now are.
The deal for me and plenty others is remembering how you got where you are and therefore you can find your way back, or out, or certainly forward. My own experience is faith in, conversations with and noticing God’s arms wrapped around me, the whispers of the Spirit leading me this way and that and recognizing the immediate grace of Jesus when in either place.
It’s good to shake yourself, ask for and use eyes to see and ears to hear that your entire life isn’t ALL deep, dark valleys. Truth. Which of course many blow off as fantasy.
It has been a long, long time since I believed, had any sense of faith that I was doing life alone, all by myself, zero God and zero help (or as Paul put it “Without hope and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2.12b).
I truly do not take that grace for granted as I’ve done zippo to earn it. He IS my Source, Deepest Well. Notice the progression in Paul’s “faith, hope, love”.
Paying attention, asking, seeking, knocking, reaching out of myself because I can’t make it -“it” being whatever it might be in any given moment -without Him.
Call me stupid, crazy, purely imaginative or deluded, you weren’t there when I was freaking completely out in bad trips, paranoia, deep despair or hating myself and distancing myself from every other human as much as possible. You didn’t answer my prayer the night He did and of course you couldn’t. Nobody but Jesus could or did.
Here I am 50 years later and truly nothing even close to the trainwreck I was when I first called on His Name.
Life has not been anything close to a simple joyride but neither is it for anyone reading this regardless of your faith, lack of it or back and forth along a spectrum.
And yet I still find no fault in Jesus. None.
He is no less present in mountaintop joys as in the low-downs, valley of the shadow of death. No. Less. Present.
Of course one must “stay tuned” in relationship or we sure enough can find ourselves drifting…
"The website of the American Music Therapy Association lists 57 pages of research articles chronicling the successful use of music to help treat a host of different illnesses, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and chronic pain.
Music therapy consists of experiences such as improvising, re-creating, composing and listening to music. Music listening is used for clients who need to be activated or soothed physically or emotionally. Composing music is used for clients who need to learn decision making and commitments. Playing instruments can help physically disabled clients to develop motor coordination. Re-creative experience is useful for clients to learn adaptive behavior and to master different role behaviors. Improvisation is needed for a client who needs to develop creativity, freedom of expression, and interpersonal skills. Therapist has to choose accordingly.
There are five elements which are considered as curative factors in group therapy. These are universality, cohesiveness, catharsis, existential awareness, and instillation of hope. Universality is the key appeal of the blues. To the audience that the individual is not alone in suffering is the message given.
They are about acceptance of adversity. Their ability of providing a frame work for accepting their condition makes the blues comforting. Blues has provided a form for people to easily express their sadness and that is why it is often used in music therapy when treating people to cope with personal loss or depression. It helps people come to terms with their grief and/or sadness."
[NOTE: I'm pretty thorough in my web searches but cannot for the life of me find the above quote to credit and cite the author and webspace!!! ARGGGH. If a reader happens to find it please write me via my blog here and I'll cite immediately!! -Glenn Kaiser]
This is a web search response to the topic: https://tinyurl.com/4b3hzrbz
And more specifically regarding blues music, just a few more:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music#Music_therapy (on this link drop down to Music Therapy section and see what you'll find including the attached photo and commentary)
(1 of 2) https://news.wbfo.org/post/music-art-blues-society-bring-music-therapy-horizon-health
(2 of 2) https://blues-e-news.com/nursn-blues-music-fest-benefits-music-therapy-program/
Bluesman Walter Trout (a story in himself you may want to look into) has a brilliant, perceptive wife who has written a book. Here is but one snippet from an interview Dr. Marie Trout gave about her book, quoting from: https://www.americanbluesscene.com/dr-marie-trout-new-book-blues-hurts-good/
"In chapter 19 you explore the “Healing Potential of Blues.” In the section, ‘Situation-Specific Healing’ you write, “Of course, blues is first and foremost music, not medicine. But blues music does contain elements that are restorative, soothing, and healing under certain circumstances.”
I found it interesting that the blues boomers (as I called them) often found it difficult to state ‘What is happiness? Where are we looking for contentment, safety, and relief? White baby boomers, particularly men, are, by the way, the fastest growing segment of users of opioid analgesics. So, pain numbing is in high demand. That’s not just knee or back pain. There’s something else going on, and that emotional pain we experience is often diffuse and difficult to describe.
As I talked with fans and laid their stories over each other, it was clear that there was a lot of need to express this “thing” that was down in there and that blues did that for many blues fans. While it is comfortable short-term to numb (and that is certainly often the cultural solution we are given) when emotions are expressed in blues music, it is such a relief to be able to let go of some of that, and feel that it’s OK to feel it. Others feel it too. We are not alone in feeling broken, lost, or conversely have a need to let go, listen to loud music, have fun and let ‘er rip!
One of the most moving things for me doing this work was to unpack the therapeutic effect of this music, and how it helps us find peace with what we otherwise might have a hard time finding words to even express. For me, it felt like sacred work to be allowed into this universe that felt like not a lot of people were let into. People were really talking with their guard down. That was such an honor."
There is of course a lifetime of historical and other studies related to the matter, but here I hope to spark deeper thought, study and consideration of the healing properties of blues. I'll also mention that without Black Americans and the colonial, racist and brutal even to the point of fatal experience they suffered such music which is arguably the forerunner to most later American musics... would have never happened.
God's gift of song comes in many styles -but let us consider like the laments laced through the Book of Psalms as well as oppressive/oppressed leaders such as Saul, there is a therapeutic and cathartic music available to us.
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn
I was thinking of three “Sundays”- when Jesus post-crucifixion walked out of His grave, another metaphorically being that as long as there is a world with designated weeks/days, Sunday will come again whether we notice, are around to see the next one or not due to being physically dead and no longer on planet earth. The last “Sunday” in my mind is the one each of us will rise to see Jesus’ face as we stand before His throne.
Plenty of folks of course think all but the second one I mentioned as myths, human constructs unproved, scare tactics of authoritarian states or nation-states, back in time city-states with tyrants deploying such nonsense to control the unlearned, poor, illiterate masses to the ruler’s own personal benefit and ends. Re. human kings and lords, these things have so often been reality, sick, stark and a shame to the Church, abhorrent to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And then there is that little tyrant inside all of us where we flip between acknowledging by our own practical desire for ultimate control or conversely, deny such residue even exists within us.
The final two lines of that verse:
“Like those gamblin’ for a garment Place your bet”
We see in Matthew’s Gospel with regard to the soldiers- “And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.” (Mt. 27.35) Note that fulfillment of prophesy from Psalm 22.18- “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
I believe those of us who may never gamble in any typical form gamble continuously.
We “roll dice” that our thinking is best, correct, right, at least for us. Many talk of “going to a better place” in death and that of loved ones. We may regularly stand (as long as we have that ability) on scientific ground (mind you- often excellent ground from my best understanding, knowledge and sources) in more or less terms of “Nobody knows for sure except that our physical life-source ends and our physical bodies die.” -so, “full stop”.
Straight up: “Place your bet.” Each of us bets on our best, most true, real or at least personally satisfactory “life” while we’re still “in the body”. All of us. We’re all gamblers both here and regarding any sense of hereafter, “Ain’t nothing but cold ground” or “In His presence, heaven” or far worse… We’re all betting on something.
GAMBLING: “Alternative Title: betting Gambling, the betting or staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident or have an unexpected result by reason of the bettor’s miscalculation.” Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/gambling
Imho, solid definition although I’d say in everyday life the reality is that many of us are rather more unconscious.
On Good Friday it’s also important to remember that Sunday’s Comin’. Know what else? None of us can stop it.