Worship on East 8th St.

If you live in Lawrence, KS, and have found yourself on Massachusetts St., around 7 ‘o clock p.m., chances are you’ve heard the bebop jazz musical stylings of Glen Simpson. If you have not done so, I would encourage you to get out and see if his music and presence doesn’t bring you to deep thought as it did for me.

The first time I heard him playing, I was on my way to meet friends. His alto sax was wailing from East 8th–“Ba laa, da da,” “Ba laa, da da.” It was A Love SupremeJohn Coltrane. I was instantly enchanted and rendered nostalgic, thinking about the last time I heard a street performer ripping out Coltrane–my first visit to the Met last summer in NYC.

I approached Glen and we immediately took to one another talking about Jazz music, his life story and the vibrant Kansas City jazz scene, mentioning names like Charlie Parker, Joe Hendersen and of course Coltrane. It was a fine time, however, the moment wasn’t fully realized until Glen told me it’s been worship that has prompted him to play through the years, in spite of his not amassing any fame, fortune or money.

It’s through this music I worship and give thanks to the creator of the Universe [God,]” he said.

“Heh,” I said. It was about all I had.

He went on to tell me in his opinion playing the music with as much fervor as he does  can only come from a true place of passion and being deeply moved by the divine and Holy spirit.

Any passerby can testify to his laying it all on the line when he plays as most find it hard not to leave him a tip.

“Yea,” I said. “Right on.” 

For me, perhaps it was the timing. I was fresh off hearing a sermon about all things being sacred and each opportunity we have to do something–work, a performance, a piece of art–it should be done in excellence, because the Lord is excellent and He created us in His image. Gen 1:26. 

I was immediately reminded of Col 3:23-34 and the moment materialized into a call to action, a challenge to live a life of complete worship, one that it is not just on display singing songs during a Sunday service. Rather, I felt implored to seek the face of the Almighty and find understanding on how each of my interests, gifts, and abilities might be maximized and offered up as a fragrant aroma before Him.

As Glen and I sat and visited a little longer, I was inspired by scripture being realized before my eyes. He told me more about his life story and I just sat there, nodding my head, saying, “Yea, man, right on.”

I once heard it said, “If a street performer makes you stop, then you owe him a dollar.” In my life, I have always done my best to live that out. But, in Glen’s case I’m glad to have stopped for a moment and embraced a lesson in authentic worship.

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