A Bittersweet Day

larry-norman-lyricsToday is February 24, 2014. It is the sixth heavenly birthday of one of my favorite songwriters, Larry Norman.  

When I was in seventh grade, one of my teachers (Mrs. Speers) gave me a mixup tape with a whole bunch of Christian rock on it.  The tape had Resurrection Band, Keith Green, Benny Hester and Larry Norman on it.  I remember listening to the Larry Norman songs over and over.  I have never stopped listening.

Larry was a gifted lyricist who was able to present the gospel so that anyone could reach it.  He never talked over people.  He didn’t put the gospel on a high shelf so that only those with a holy ladder could get to it.  No, he presented it to us all in an easy to understand, but poignant style.

Larry had to battle with the critics in the mainstream, non-Christian music market.  He was signed to major mainstream record labels in the early days, but they eventually didn’t want to promote his message of Christ.

Sadly, the other set of critics he faced were his fellow believers in the organized church.  They didn’t like the fact that he played rock and roll and mentioned gonorrhea in his songs.  He just thought that if you don’t tell kids about it…  they might get it…  But Larry persevered without the general support of the corporate church.  I love his quote about the song Sweet Song of Salvation, “This is a song they used to sing in church..  till they found out I wrote it.”  Larry brought the gospel to the streets.  He brought it to the dirty people. He brought it to me.  My life has been enriched with the love of Christ, in part, because of the simple message that Larry sang about.

He has a legacy that I’m sure he wouldn’t be too interested in.  He is the grandfather of Christian rock.  It arguable that we may never see the explosion of Christian rock music were it not for Larry Norman paving the way and taking the lumps from the church.  In one of his most popular songs, Larry reasoned Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?  Why indeed?

Larry Norman - Totally Unplugged - ALive And KickingSure, I grew into many other styles of music and became a huge fan of Christian rock legends like Daniel Amos and Stryper.  But I never outgrew Larry’s music.  As he got older and his health began to decline, he found a voice in acoustic live shows.  I have a bunch of those CDs.  I may even listen to them more than his historic albums like Only Visiting This Planet or In Another Land.  I love his storytelling and the sense of humor that he voiced on those later recordings.  His music and message are timeless.

The older I get, the more I realize that we, the church, have over complicated the message of Christ.  We’ve become Pharisees in so many ways. We’ve lost sight of Jesus’ message of love, mercy and grace.  We receive salvation freely and then immediately put rules and expectations into place and lose our focus on love.  Our motivation becomes following the rules instead of really loving one another.  I love the lyrics to Larry’s tune, If God Is My Father – “If God is my father and you are my brother… then why can’t we bother to reach out and love one another…”  We are quick to point out each other’s sins.  Especially when they sin differently than we do.  But rarely to we walk in love when our brother is stumbling.  There are rules to obey.  It’s no wonder a dying world looks at us and doesn’t want what we have.

One of my favorite Larry songs is Righteous Rocker were he says:

You can be a righteous rocker or a holy roller
You can be most anything.
You can be a child of the slum or a skid row bum,
You can be an earthly king.
Without love, you ain’t nothing,
You ain’t nothing without love.

Today I’m going to be listening to Larry’s music and thinking about the celebration in heaven for his heavenly birthday.  Like all of us, he was only visiting this planet.  And even though he’s moved on to glory, I’m still not over it.  I miss you Larry!

If you happen on this blog entry and you are one of my faithful readers who is not familiar with the music of Larry Norman, I highly recommend that you hop on iTunes or Amazon or even his webpage to buy a few of his records.

I leave you with this link to a bunch of interviews with Larry Norman in case you’d like to learn more about this man.