Stewardship And Creativity

If you know much about me, you may know I have a heart for keeping old stuff out of landfills.I’m not what most would consider a fully over-the-top environmentally conscious person, but I care a great deal about what I would term biblical stewardship on all levels- including the earth on which we and our grandkids and future generations will live.Not to mention, I’m often quite cheap. I purposely live a bit simpler life than the average American with a view to as much money coming in going into direct ministry to others.I don’t dumpster dive, but I love freebies, garage, yard and junk sales, resale shops and in fact the best computer I’ve ever owned so far I happened to find next to a dumpster on a dry day in the summer. It eventually died, but I got a good year and a half of service out of it… using a sweet version of the Linux operating system (also free) which I’m addicted to and have been for many years… and am using to write this blog now.I’m quite a fan of “found object” musical instruments, and have for some years now hung out lurking at http://www.cigarboxnation.com  as well as built several cigar box guitars.These come in many varieties and at present I’m building one that’s a variation on a couple I’ve seen at that cool site… but not the really hip, modern, “eye-candy” sort… for me the fun is using something that looks a little on the grubby side… but both plays and sounds good, at least to me, for what I want to do with it.Which brings me to an even more important point:At times people may feel useless and basically fit for nothing but a dumpster- but God never sees any of us that way. He sees the potential, not merely what currently -is- but what (we) can be.When someone is tossing an old computer, be it pda, laptop or desktop out… sometimes even an old monitor, guitar, bass, speakers, whatever… I often see potential in it.I’ve known many full-on sinners who have repented, sought hard after Jesus and changed. In fact the Holy Spirit worked such change in them via redemption that now they are actively used by Him as an example of His love and redemption.This is the continual work of God in our lives! No dumpster for your life or mine!Look around, you’ll be amazed- IF you pay attention and are willing to spend the time and work needed- you’ll be blown away by the creative, cool stuff you can make.The Make Magazine site, Mother Earth News online, Instructables, Backwoodsman and many other online sites are loaded with ideas for recycling and re-using stuff. The creativity and fun as well as stewardship rings my bell.In fact this past Christmas I found various stuff I can use while obtaining  other stuff in order to make gifts for Wendi. Old wood became new shelves for her books and storage, and a footstool. Instead of buying a new computer I found a friend willing to sell one just collecting dust. Saved a lot of money and put something to good use while upgrading her from what she had.Sometimes zero money, a bit of time and effort, a few hand tools, sandpaper, glue or epoxy, a few drywall screws later and she smiles 🙂 I like that!We both love Craigslist online, here in Chicago there are loads of free items as well as good cheap stuff when we need this or that. Our dvd player recently gave up the ghost… found one locally via Craigslist for 15 bucks, works perfectly and my grandson is watching a movie on it as I type!So in me and perhaps you (?) are various parts geek, creativity, stewardship of the elements and yes, the pleasure of seeing if I can make something truly useful out of junk.I -was- junk once. Corrosive junk. And that cleaning process, that fixing of various broken and semi-messed up parts is still an ongoing work of the Spirit in my life. But God is faithful.The Lord Who speaks of stewardship to His people is the BEST at stewarding US. IF we will trust and in love, obey Him, it’s amazing what He can do with us in the everyday, even in what we may consider mundane tasks.Some of the coolest music costs next to nothing in terms of making instruments that work. Some of the best Web and editing work can be done on what most people would simply toss into a landfill. And speaking of LInux (if one is willing to accept the learning curve as with anything else) operating systems, even free (and virus-free) computing.The same principle applies to people whom many of us (myself included at times…) would rather just ignore, forget about or toss.There IS a time to finally separate ourselves from stuff that seems truly un-redeemable. But I think we are typically too ready to throw money we don’t have (or would be better off spending in other ways) into new stuff that has all too short of a useful life.I also think we are often too ready to separate from broken people, deeming them less valuable than God does.Over two day’s time I found enough stuff to build 3 cigar box guitars (a 2 stringer, another one with a bass string and 2 guitar strings and a third with 1 bass and 3 guitar strings on it).I wonder what I’ll find tomorrow?Jesus is all about leaving the 99 to seek and save the 1 that was lost.Some things to think about.Grace- and thanks for stopping by. -Glenn

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“Christian Music” and Good News

A good bro. recently wrote me a personal email which I tried to answer with a very clear and hopefully, understandable reply.The same questions come up from time to time, so I thought it might be good to share my response here.He Writes (H.W): It seems that a lot of today’s “Christian” music is widely accepted by many non-believers.GK: Depends on what you mean by “accepted”. Amazing Grace and a few other songs have long been sung -even by unbelievers in front of unbelievers… plenty of folks are deeply touched but don’t repent, believe and follow Jesus in response. Excellent song, powerful lyrics, even when sung by followers of Jesus plenty of folks walk away unchanged. Sad truth. Sometimes symbolism and dual-meanings (nothing fully wrong about using, I use them all the time in my own lyric writing) may seem to dilute the gospel message- and of course you and I at times (or all the time?) may not appreciate subtlety… but I’m pretty sure God is more gracious than we are with such things.Consider God reveals Himself via nature but John 3.16 isn’t literally written in the stars as we look up on any given night.Oh, I do recall writing an article that ended up in an earlier blog (somewhere in the glennkaiser.blogspot.com blogs) about Christian music clarifying that I really don’t believe there is anything about any music (set apart from lyrics, I mean just the music itself) that makes a sound or song “Christian”. So we are talking about lyrics that may bring a distinctly Christian view… or not.HW: Am I missing something? Paul wrote that the Gospel is foolishness to those who don’t believe. I would think that if the music was carrying the message of the Gospel then it would be offensive to the world (unless the Holy Spirit was drawing an individual).GK: Again, depends on what you, I, others and especially the Lord means, how He defines “the Good News” in detail. Most believers would agree it’s about the birth, death, resurrection of Jesus, that our sins can be forgiven and eternal life granted via faith and resultant following the risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But how much of this should/must we insert in every, most or at least some song lyrics? This is perhaps the deeper question and I’m not sure there is a one-size-fits-all answer.Apostle Paul is certainly correct when he tells us the good news IS an offense to those who are lost and at core, live in darkness. In at least some cases they live in it largely by choice. It’s always a challenge when you can’t pretend to be God any longer…But the punchline is that I think what you mean to say is that a lot of supposedly Christian music does not contain clear messages about Jesus’ sacrificial death, resurrection and offer of eternal life, forgiveness of sins, little about repentance and so forth. If I am correct, I’d say you are correct in thinking that when one considers each and every song lyric that is somehow considered “Christian” or performed by a band containing those who profess to be Christ-followers, there truly isn’t a clear (for example, Rom. 10.9&10) good news being offered. You’d be right in that sense.Going further- and this comes from an evangelist (me…) John 3.16 is only found once in the Book. There are Old Testament Psalms that actually do not offer what we’d consider good news… rather bad news in fact. But they are honest and real to life, even the life of a believer. The largest category of lyrics in Psalms (the hymnal of Israel) are laments. Pain, struggle, temptation. This is not to say there is zero good news in many and most of them, rather if one takes the Bible as the measure, God’s Word itself gives us other truths that wouldn’t strictly fit in my and your concept of “the good news of Jesus”.Apostle Paul is certainly correct (the entire Word of God, the Bible is absolutely true) re. the gospel being an offense, but it is equally true that genuine love (such as Jesus commands in Mt. 25 for “the least of these”, etc.) and lyrics, lifestyles and individual’s witness of the Lord Jesus present in the Christian’s life are -all- a witness, and a witness that sometimes offends while other times is welcomed. Agape love is different than the love of humankind without God. Sometimes a witness sourced in the love of Jesus is quite welcomed though it isn’t as direct as you and I may be wishing for.As a person is ready to open up and face their own lack, sin and need, even that offensive Truth is light to them. I’m saying there are a number of ways to proclaim the Good News of Jesus that may or may not include an in-your-face direct witness via words.Also, not all have the gift of evangelism. And, not all will write/sing/preach the gospel in as direct, “evangelical” style as you and I may like or be accustomed to. Again, I would argue neither does every verse or chapter in the Bible! And yet myself and a load of scholars would argue there is Good News in every book in God’s Word. At times subtle, but present.A bit off the subject, but there is also of course need and room for Christian edification in speaking and writing, the need for songs and entire worship services or concerts where the teaching of solid Bible doctrine and practical Christian living for Christians is the focus and exactly what the Spirit is leading for those people in that time and place. So in essence, an evangelical witness of the core of what we call the gospel is not always going to surface in such messages, song lyrics and such.I’m not saying I don’t wish more people would share the clear gospel of Christ in a more direct way, including via their lyrics, and I do it quite a bit. The Good News is something we believe, speak, write, sing and live out in our treatment of others. Sometimes the genuine love of Jesus draws people. Sometimes it repels them due to their own sin and desire to -be- God. Sad reality.HW: I just found your site and haven’t had time to go through allof the articles, so maybe you’ve addressed this.GK: Lots of articles in my older glennkaiser.blogspot.com account, lots of years so yes, I have written on this in some of those blogs.HW: I think back to Larry Norman who was quite blunt in his lyrics.GK- In many cases he indeed was, sometimes not, but I hear you. Most of my acoustic blues and the majority of my and also GKB electric blues and blues/rock are rather direct.HW: He not only offended the unsaved, but quite a few Christians as well.GK: Ha, well I have that covered I think :)HW: If you are able, I would enjoy a response.Your brother in ChristGK: And here you are! Glad to dialogue bro.!-Glenn

Booking, Promo, Songwriting, Etc. Tips

Fellow Music Artists,Over at glennkaiser.com are years of blogs/articles/interviews that speak to the spiritual side, sharing Bible verses and so forth, of music ministry. If you search, you’ll find a lot from me on all that. But the following is straight, practical excerpts from emails I’ve sent to various people.What follows here is my response to a Christian blues artist friend of mine. He asked me how to get things going for getting gigs.Another friend asked about that as well as for input on promotion, songwriting and lyrics as well as recording. You’ll find my response to him here as well.I made several additions and changes to my initial replies just to round out some of the input I think important.As you read through this, just adjust the music style and web search issues to your own music and ministry elements.My Bro.,The drill is pretty simple and you already know most of it I expect. The more you play, get your music, lyrics and basic promo info. online on various sites, the more you and individual churches, bike clubs, coffeehouses and festivals, etc. publicize the shows or services you do, the more cds you give away or sell at gigs, the more you link up with christianblues.net, all the Christian coffeehouses and churches and festivals doing concerts where your style may fit the more both promoters and concert-goers will respond to you and it’s likely more opportunities will present themselves.Setting up your own free sites on Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, Shoutlife, Reverb Nation, Pure Volume and etc., and the more you are able to offer quality bios, Mp3 downloads, live pics and downloadable press kit stuff, post your itinerary, blog your thoughts, the more people will catch not only your music but your heart. Some of those who relate will likely invite you to do gigs.To begin discovering venues, Google Christian church concerts, coffeehouses, festivals, bike clubs and rallies, web-based-blues music shows and anything else that may relate to your style and travel area. Perhaps begin within a 100 mile radius of where you live, then fan out from there via Google to like, 250 miles and so forth. A LOAD of info. is available online.You can also go to every Christian blues player or band you know of, check out their online shows section or even Google (as in, Glenn Kaiser show, or Glenn Kaiser Band concert or Larry Howard live, that sort of thing, grab the contact info. that’s often stored online for several years and you’ll have a lot of email addys, websites and phone numbers to call.Don’t forget stuff like the Christian Activities Calendar (online… I don’t know if they still do print or not).What Christian or secular artists or bands most relate to your sound and approach? Web search for mentions of shows in your touring area (don’t forget their own websites for itinerary info. and contacts) and you’ll have a bunch of venues that just may be open for you to open for others, or consider if they have open mic nights, or might book you for a weeknight realizing you’re not a headline act they know about. Lots of possibilities.Be open to block parties, playing in lots, and if you do acoustic music, even a park without places to plug in can work! Busking (Chicago and other cities have laws and offer a license to do music outdoors in the street and parks) may be an option. There are zillions of coffeehouses out there… and on and on it goes.Formulate your own email list from past gigs and perhaps send out an email to those who seemed to connect with you best, asking them if there are other possible places to minister via your blues music, and if so, to email or phone you the contact info..Pray and see what the Lord does re. folks contacting you in response to you contacting them via the above means.Finally, never forget that if God moves, cool, if He does not, also cool! In other words, if the opportunity happens great and if the door slams shut, equally great! You only want to do shows/services when and where the Lord leads.Don’t pound on doors, simply walk, pray, don’t fret if you don’t get a zillion opportunities- make the best and do your best for Him and the audience/congregation if and when you are able to share with them. Leave the rest up to God.And of course, don’t neglect your own daily devos and walk with the Lord, your family or local church family for the sake of “ministry” or you and others will pay for it in the worst way…–And here’s the gist of how I replied to the second bro. asking for input, after I had shared much of what I just re-printed above here:As they hear and relate to you some will surely contact you for possible gigs and so on. Who knows who might hear or talk you up to someone who might offer you a recording deal. But THAT is when you must pray and be very careful about the fine print, etc.. A solid, experienced music person is good to have alongside you, a seasoned lawyer who you can trust is even a good thing at such times.Offers don’t have to be accepted, they are merely offers. Sometimes musicians so badly want to get out and do it they just sign -and later wish they’d seen the truck that ran them over!The beautiful thing is there are so many ways to record (great computer programs, a person or two at church or other person with a home studio on their Mac, decent mics, someone who has recorded your type of music before and is willing to help you put songs down, tweak and so on.Just a bit more on songwriting: are your lyrics trite? Why would anyone really appreciate what you have to say the WAY you’re saying it? Why or how might they relate or not… to your lyrics?Lyric crafting is an art by itself (apart from the music) and being wise, thoughtful, careful and having others look over your lyrics before you are personally married (!) to them is really important. Not to mention spell checking ’em!What really draws YOU to lyrics others have written? I mean aside from the music of songs that have deeply moved you… are they true, do they have spiritual, as well as truly human integrity?What IS good lyricism? For me Bob Dylan, Bruce Cockburn come to mind. Imagery, passion, double meanings, colorful words. Even in use of simple words and terms, in great blues songs all of that shows up.Once you have a catalog of songs that you (and others) really believe the world needs to hear, IF you wish, there are ways to either sell or of course allow free downloads of your songs online on one or more of your websites.If I were you in this day and time I would be very, very slow to sign a deal with anyone. Follow Jesus, write strong, memorable songs that are true to Him and who you are… “authenticity 101”. Be faithful right where He has you now.IF and AS offers come for shows, pray and do as God seems to direct. Nothing more or less. Your own and various websites, and either burning your own cds for sale at shows (or gifts for free, whatever) and of course live shows are pretty much the best way to go as I see it. You do not need BIG, so as He seems to lead, just take it one step at a time.Being part of a truly solid church with godly folks whocan help pray and help you consider calendar scheduling, all that can keep you sane as well as fruitful.One more thing about songwriting- it can be very hard to get people to go over your lyrics and give honest input. And your ego will take a beating (been there, done that!) but IF the Lord works it out for you to link with a few solid lyricists who you and others respect, and they are able to offer your critiques on your lyrics… and ditto for the actual music and production (recording) stuff… all of that can really be helpful. It can also be overwhelming, but it’s all part of the learning process and part of discovering excellence.I never played as well as when I played soccer with REALLY excellent players. Scottie Pippen was never as good as when he played with Michael Jordan. Brett Favre could likely make even ME look good… same deal with sound techs, studio engineers, producers, other musicians in a band, songwriters, etc., etc..O.K., all for now!Man, I get so many asking about all this stuff… it may be time for me to just put it up on my blog site!Blessings, may the Lord guide you,-Glenn

Electrified Harmonica Tone

A friend emailed me a series of questions about getting great amplified harmonica tone. There’s a whole lot of good stuff online about this, but here is essentially, how I answered himAs for electrified harmonica, there are several issues re. sound, all of which I won’t addres here. Here are the main issues as I see (hear!) ’em. Certainly “a start”:Small tube amp, ala Fender Champ or Princeton- or a no-name but like, 15-20 watts, could have an 8 or 10 or even 12 inch speaker. I prefer 12 for fuller sound (low end).Some mics (that you blow harp into) are better than others but any you can plug directly into said amp will work.A good harp (my pref. are Hohner Special 20s or Lee Oskar).Crank the amp just before bad feedback… set the tone mostly or all the way to low end (heavy on bass and lot of midrange, light or no treble). Best as you’re able, fully cup hands around harp and where it meets the mic. Enclosing the space much as you can.All of this leans towards a rather “honk” and overdriven tone and sound. How the amp then gets mic’ed and the tone set by the engineer and via p.a. is important but it isn’t the core deal.Lastly, IF you aren’t yet getting what you like from all this and have tried various amps, mics, harps and techniques, you can try a touch of Ibanez Tube Screamer or other overdrive, compression or distortion pedal like that. It’s a last resort and can get quite artificial-sounding but might work if all else doesn’t bring you the sound you’re looking for.You plug harp mic into pedal, pedal into harp amp. It’s a “cheat” that sometimes works. Hope this helps answer your questions. -Glenn

Music, Music, Music

A good bro. with an .edu email address just wrote me an encouraging note about music we’ve done and so forth. Very kind words.He also asked about another bro. who had taken a “no contemporary music” stance re. his Christian walk, and asked me what I thought about the individual’s writings whom the other bro. had been influenced by (there are more writers than the one he mentioned but I’m not going to name names as it’s largely irrelevant). Here is my response to him via email today, Christmas Day in fact 🙂 Blessings All!”Thanks so much (name withheld) for your kind words here.My most basic reply to the speaker/writer you mention and the sort of views that he voices is that if one truly reads the whole of Scripture, focuses on the 380 verses in context (exegesis, not eisegesis) that speak directly to the issue of music (340 OT, 40 NT) you will find little support or rejection for any specific, particular style of music.Lyrics are a different matter, one’s own character and lifestyle are a different matter- and these are both HUGE and spoken about all over The Bible. But if the issue is music, as in anything else for the Christian disciple- one must go to The Word of God for a solid foundation re. any given music style being spoken of as sinful or holy. The text is fully silent on this particular point, and it is THE point people seem to often focus on and pontificate about in such speaking and writing.Sadly, though the Word is often quoted in these discussions, it is rarely if ever quoted in context regarding music itself, and that is -the- issue!I truly doubt those who have led people to saving faith in Jesus Christ will have to apologize in heaven regardless of the music style they may have played in the process of either evangelism, worship or discipleship.As a seasoned old saint once said, “It’s incredible how much light the Scriptures shed on the commentaries!”Ps. 101.1Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year of service to Jesus,-Glenn”