Monday, February 25, 2008

Farewell, Old Friend

Yesterday I lost a friend, a spiritual guide and mentor, a remarkable man who I never had the opportunity to meet.

I was fifteen years old, struggling to find a faith of my own, and feeling like church in general had no real connection with the rest of my life. A friend of mine, Clark, invited me to a concert. He had some free tickets. I wasn't much of a concert goer, but I had nothing else to do so I went. That was the night I first encountered the words and music of Larry Norman.

Life changed for me that night. I heard a voice of passionate faith, words that faced the harsh and controversial realities of life with unflinching courage, and music that captured and set free a new generation of believers. Every contemporary Christian recording artist owes a debt of thanks to this remarkable songwriter - rebel, prophet, and pioneer.

This article highlights Larry Norman's unique contribution and how far contemporary Christian music has strayed from its roots: "So Long Ago When CCM Wasn't Awful"

Some of my favorite Larry Norman lines from various songs:

"No more LSD for me, I met the man from Galilee.
He saved my soul and made me whole and heaven is my home.
Sing a song that sets you free. Sing a song of Calvary.
I'm so happy, yes I am. I've been washed in the blood of the Lamb."

"God, I love you, and I just bought your book. I took it home and had a real long look.
I know this may not sound nice, but my favorite part is where you died . . . for me."


"You gotta live your life the best you can, though you sometimes do your worst.
And learn to laugh when you fail, it's not the end of the world,
Your life's a play you can't rehearse."


"When I was a young man, temptation was all around
And when the darkness finds you, it slips up behind you
Tries to knock you to the ground.
But I just kept on going. I was so inspired.
'Cause Jesus, He set my soul on fire."

"You are far across the ocean in a war that's not your own.
And while you're winning theirs you're gonna lose the one at home.
Do you really think the only way to bring about the peace
Is to sacrifice your children and kill all our enemies?"

"So I've been praying for the starving poor,
And I keep pointing toward the open door,
And I keep dreaming of a distant shore
Where men are free."

"I've been rebuked for the things I've said,
For the songs I've written and the life I've led.
They say they don't understand me, well I'm not surprised
Because you can't see nothing when you close your eyes."

"He's good for the body and great for the soul. He's the rock that doesn't roll."

"One way, one way to Heaven.
Hold your head up high.
Follow, free and forgiven,
Children of the sky."

In a message posted on his Web site, written the day before his death, Larry Norman said he knew death was imminent.

"I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God's hand reaching down to pick me up," he wrote, adding that he planned to be buried in a "simple pine box with some flowers inside."

Some where down the road I will meet my friend Larry in another land, and I will thank him for singing into my soul. I am a stranger made stronger by his life and music. I am looking forward to getting better acquainted. Maybe I'll even sing along with Larry.

One final thought. As I ponder that coming day, I can't help but wonder - will there be any "strangers" looking for me?

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