From Phil: It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of music in most teenagers' lives. I was one of those guys who was always listening to something, at astounding volumes. And often that something was from Larry Norman. Larry released more than 60 albums. My favorite was "In Another Land." According to Assist News, Norman was for several years "a permanent fixture on Hollywood Boulevard - where, despite being a star with Capitol Records, he would spend his days and nights sharing one-on-one with the lost youth of Hollywood, about the love of Jesus Christ." Larry passed away back on February 24, 2008 at the age of 60, in Salem. Oregon, after battling heart problems for several years. His final words to his fans were these: Goodbye, farewell, we'll meet again.. Somewhere beyond the sky. I pray that you will stay with God. Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.

 

Some years ago I wrote the following story. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Larry Norman, my mother, and me

 

My wife and I are beginning to reach that uncomfortable stage of life when our children have decided that our music is not necessarily cool. Whereas they once found Frank Sinatra’s voice to be soothing, they wince now whenever I give old Franky's records a spin, as if someone were drawing fingernails across a blackboard. They prefer other music. For instance, I brought home a friend’s album of blues music, which was composed by highly depressed people from Oregon who have not seen the sun in weeks. The words went something like this:

 

          My family they done left me

          My dog and cat left too

          There’s a gallstone in my kidneys

          And my income tax is due.

 

          The children loved it. They couldn’t get enough of it. “Play it again, Dad!” they say, their heads swaying from side to side, “Play it again!”

          When I was a teen, there was nothing more important than music. Music came ahead of eating, sleeping, and sometimes hockey. Stephen Rendall and I would purchase the latest contemporary Christian albums, rush them home, tape them, then insert them into our car tape decks. How we prided ourselves on those tape decks. Who cared about the car? I drove a 1970 rust-colored Ford Maverick with an engine that would not have powered my mother’s sewing machine, let alone allow one to receive a speeding ticket. I didn’t care at all. You see, I had 100-watt speakers in the back window and the wisdom to know that no mere machinery could move you like music.

          One day Stephen pulled up in his 1970 maroon Montego. Pin stripes. White walls. Genuine imitation sheepskin seatcovers.

          “Climb in,” he said, a grin connecting his ears.

          I climbed in.

          “Roll up your window.”

          I rolled it up.

          Then, as we pulled away, he calmly inserted a Larry Norman tape, adjusted his sunglasses, and set the volume to 10.

          Moments later our ears were pasted to the headrests with:

 

          I was lost and blind then a Friend of mine                                      

                        came and took me by the hand.

                   And He led me to His kingdom                              

                             that was in another land.

                   Now my life has changed it’s rearranged,                              

                             when I think of my past I feel so strange.

                   Wowie zowie well He saved my soul,                              

                             He’s the rock that doesn’t roll.

 

          “STEVE,” I yelled.

          “WHAT?”

          “THAT’S GREAT! ABSOLUTELY GREAT!”

          He turned the volume way down to 5. “You’re gonna be late for what?”

          “No, I said that’s GREAT. Turn it up.”

          Now you must understand that I was reared in a conservative community where such practices were frowned upon. Where Larry Norman was often confused with Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. This so-called Christian music was shallow, we were told, and, at best, would cause us to lose our hearing. “You play that junk around the house,” my trumpet teacher told me, “and you will kill your mother’s plants.”

          “Ha, impossible,” I responded, before disguising my Imperials albums in George Beverly Shea jackets.

          “Listen to this,” I said to Dave Adkins one afternoon, as we huddled near my brother Tim’s stereo, hoping he wouldn’t show up and murder us for touching his stuff. Nervously, I dropped the needle on the latest from the Imperials:

 

          All we need is a little more time

                    to get it together.

                   There’s a whole lot of people

                             been tryin’ to get it together,

                   Like you and me—ooh ooh—that’s all we need               

                             to be free, is a little more time to get it together.”

 

          “Wow,” said Dave, “I didn’t know George Beverly Shea sounded like that. He’s hot!”

          “And deep,” said I. “Wow.”

            It was during those interesting days that I began playing music to another friend. My mother. Almost every night I would invite her into my room and attempt to cross her eyes with the latest from Chuck Girard, Phil Keaggy, The 2nd Chapter of Acts—even Petra. For some reason she always found time to pull up a chair and listen. I’m sure she rarely enjoyed my choices (just how much can a 55-year-old glean from “Lend an ear to a love song. Ooh ooh a love song. Let it take you, let it start”?), but she always cared enough to listen. And she encouraged me when she heard something praiseworthy.

          Sometimes my wife and I celebrate Nostalgia Night. After the kids are in bed, we pull out old record albums (are there any other kind?) and listen to songs that bring the memories flooding back. Memories of simpler times. Memories of hot cars and trumpet teachers. And of a mother who cared more for me than her plants. A mother who loved me enough to enter my world.

          Tonight, as I reminisce, I realize again how much greater is the influence of one who cares. One who takes time. For, you see, she who yells loudest is not always heard the best. While many of my friends heard only, “Turn it down, turn it off, or throw it out!” I was privileged to have a mother with the wisdom to say, “If he’s going to listen, I’d like to know what he’s listening to.”

          Sometimes I miss those days. The talks after the music died down. Perhaps Mom does, too. Although she probably doesn’t miss the music that much. At least not as much as I miss my hearing.

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