Thursday, February 28, 2008

Larry Norman Good Bye Friend, See You Later

Over the years I have been blessed to be unique in ministry. I believe I am someone that seems to be understood and accepted by those often called the Lost, the Last, and the Least by those in religious circles, or even sometimes within their own communities. I have been blessed to call those often neglected by the church friends, and they likewise. While some may have no understanding of this, I consider it among the greatest honors of my life. I have had people ask me from all walks of life, “How did I get to be the way I was?” “Why do I seem so different from other Christians?” Those questions and others of that type remind me that I am reaching out to, hopefully showing love and compassion to people who don’t always receive it from the religious community. While people have talked about my hair, or other aspects of my life, I hope it is obvious; here I am talking about Jesus just the same.

I have heard people say, “Mike marches to the beat of a different drummer, I wonder where he gets his thoughts. I hope that all of my thoughts, actions, and beliefs come from Scripture, but sometimes we study, learn from people who helps mold us. There was a time in my life where the single most important things of life were missing; among those was an understanding of love, and a future with hope. While Christ, a youth pastor named Tommy and my wife showed me what it was to love, there was another who gave me an measure of hope that would grow, but they also provided much of the theological understanding that I would put into practice for likely the duration of my life, not just in vocation, but ministry, but not just ministry, but in day to day, moment to moment aspects of life. I looked many places for answers but was always challenged with the question, “Why don’t you look into Jesus, he’s got the answer.”

There is no doubt, Larry Norman was a man who moved me and motivated me in ministry. He planted a seed of hope through his music that would grow like a mustard seed, to the place that I would dedicate my life of not just talking about being like Jesus, but I would actually try to become as much like Jesus as is humanly possible. I wouldn’t just preach the words, but hopefully live a life that showed love and compassion to all segments of society, including the homeless, the prostitute, the drug addict, the abuser, the abused, the Atheists, the Wiccan, the Christian, the Homosexual and the list goes on and on. It is an approach that has cost me finance, lack of respect and then some from the religious community, but I know that before me, it also cost Larry Norman as he lived a life and wrote music that inspired and encouraged this type of walk with God. While I have had physical threats, I knew that Larry had death threats. Maybe one day, I will make such a change that people are threatened. Threatened with the real love, and the real salvation provided by Christ. I want to sing that Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation just as Larry sang, I want to sing it with my life.

I had the honor to meet and talk to Larry several times over the years. I was always blessed, Larry, before he ever knew it, was the one God used to provide a homeless kid from Tennessee with something called HOPE! I had the chance to share that with Larry a number of years later while we were doing a concert at Cornerstone in Chicago when I worked with the Rob Cassels Band, aka Rob Castles. Larry was there that year and we got to spend some time together. This was special as we had spent some time backstage a number of years earlier in Knoxville Tennessee which is still to this day, thousands of concerts later, the best concert I ever attended. I think the first time I saw Larry I was a little star struck, after all I was a new Christian who had just become familiar with his music and was actually homeless at the time, living in a YMCA homeless shelter. It was almost as if Larry was an unidentified flying object. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I was impacted and moved, I knew and learned about Jesus, that even if there was life on other planets, I was sure that he must know, he would have even gone there once already and have died to save their souls.

Larry Norman was special; he attacked the gates of Hell with full force. He didn’t sit back, waiting on the church to come on board; he was in the front lines of battle, challenging the church to come along with him. Some years later, many came on board; there are a few of us who were there on the forefront in those battles with him, maybe not side by side, but in spirit and in our own communities. I will admit, I wept like a baby as I read the news of his death this week. It is ironic though, on the morning of his death, I had the honor of presenting to about 4,500 people in Kansas City at Municipal Auditorium. It was a wrestling tournament to a largely unchurched audience. For some strange reason, one I don’t know, I felt compelled to share the message of John 3:16 with an audience I normally don’t share that message. I normally share a message titled, Wrestling with God, but for some reason wanted to do a more straightforward message about faith and the person of Jesus Christ. I spoke to the tournament director, a Christian, who told me to pray about it. I had, and was drawn to the John 3:16 message. I knew I was ready, but I had known for many years that when it came to sharing the message of Christ, I wish those who call themselves followers of Christ could say without doubt, without hesitation, I wish we’d all been ready.

For some reason, I will always remember, that on the day God took Larry home, I did something I normally don’t do. I think that was the Holy Spirit doing something in my heart that would give me the ability to reflect on the work Larry did in life, and then be challenged to keep on in my work. I don’t know? I do know I grieve, and I do know that with the life Larry led he motivated me and moved me, not just a few times, but many times over the years. I knew, I could be a righteous rocker, even a holy roller, I could be most anything, but without love I ain’t nothing.

If you don’t know who Larry Norman was, you should, especially if involved in music, the arts, or anything of that nature. There is no doubt that he had an impact on society. Time Magazine called him the most proficient song writer of the 20th Century, there was a reason groups like U2 honored him, Bob Dylan learned from him, and others have been moved by him. I was honored that I could call Larry friend. He, his dad and I spoke over the phone over the years. I had the honor to spend one on one time with him a few times over the years, although longer ago than I would have liked. There is good reason I grieve, because I will greatly miss the man Larry Norman. I will see him again though; after all I as well am only visiting this planet.

Below follows various videos of Larry, or tributes to his music by other artists. If the video appears, click on it, if it don't, click on the link:

Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music

Song for a Small Circle of Friends

Why Don't You Look Into Jesus

I Wish We'd All Been Ready

Sweet Sweet Song of Salvation

The Outlaw


Sitting in My Kitchen

Larry Norman & Michael Roe

The Great American Novel

Six Sixty Six

I Hope To See You In Heaven

Goodbye Farewell

I Am A Servant

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