Friday, February 29, 2008

Farewell, Larry

Many critics acknowledge Larry Norman to be the progenitor of Christian rock music. All I know is that I absolutely loved his music, but more importantly I loved that he didn’t fear what people thought of him and just told it like it was. That made him a precious commodity in an age when people shied away from flat-out truth. Larry also reached out to the people the contemporary church didn’t care about, drug addicts, street people, prostitutes, and on and on. That realness made him one of the few Christian artists to draw crowds in Europe. He also was an incredible performer along with being laugh-out-loud funny.
Here's a piece I ran across that accurately describes and nicely honors Larry, the outlaw....

The Outlaw
by John Fischer

Some say he was an outlaw, that he roamed across the land, With a band of unschooled ruffians and a few old fishermen, No one knew just where he came from, or exactly what he'd done, But they said it must be something bad that kept him on the run. Some say he was the Son of God, a man above all men-- That he came to be a servant and to set us free from sin, And that's who I believe he is, cause that's what I believe; And I think we should get ready, cause it's time for us to leave. - Larry Norman

Well, maybe not time for all of us, but most certainly time for Larry to leave. He's already gone, in fact. He left this earth last Sunday morning at 2:45 a.m., and the world has lost a prophet. There are undoubtedly those who would challenge me on that last statement, but I will not recant. Sure he had enemies among his friends, and he created much of that. He was an enigma -- an iconoclast. He could be so far off you wondered if he was only visiting this planet, but he could be so on the mark that you could only credit the truth and light of the Holy Spirit for it. Indeed, the first verse of his song "Outlaw," quoted above, could have as easily been written about him. No one knew where he came from, but many wished he would go back to wherever that was. He was an outlaw to everything established, and for that he embodied the renegade nature of Christ's first coming. When you think of it, a guy with shoulder-length blond hair who sang about "sipping whiskey from a paper cup," "gonorrhea on Valentines Day and you're still looking for the perfect lay," and "shooting junk till you;re half insane," is probably not going to go over very well with the 11 o'clock Sunday morning worship crowd, especially 35 years ago. But then again, he wasn't speaking to those folks anyway. And to his credit, he never adjusted, like the rest of us did, to the Christian culture that grew out of the movement he helped found. He never compromised for a living. He stayed an outlaw until his death. For these, and other reasons, I have always likened Larry to John the Baptist -- a non-conformist living in the desert wearing funny clothes, eating weird foods and hearing voices no one else heard. After having the dubious distinction of being the one to baptize Jesus and prepare the way of the Lord, John lost his head for sticking his neck into King Herod's private life. Larry stuck his neck out lots of places where people didn't think it belonged. It's a wonder he hadn't lost his head sooner. In a time of spiritual revolution, Larry Norman carried the torch. He was and will remain through his enigmatic music, a voice crying in the wilderness. I celebrate Larry's final one-way trip to heaven, and if I know him well enough, I would guess he would want us all to make sure we were ready to leave ourselves.
One way, one way to Heaven, hold up high your hand. Follow, free and forgiven, Children of the Lamb.

Heaven's really rockin' now, I bet!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Time to re-think tolerance

I ran across this commentary about tolerance and I thought it very worthwhile to share….

“....The word tolerance just doesn’t seem appropriate. No one wants to be “tolerated.” I know I sure don’t. People want and deserve something better. Tolerating your neighbors is quite different from “loving your neighbors.”

Tolerance doesn’t quite seem to be an actual virtue. There’s something begrudging about it, something condescending, forbearing; there is a sense of having to endure a person or a situation that is otherwise personally unacceptable. “I really shouldn’t put up with this, so I’ll just have to tolerate it!”

Tolerance implies conditionality. There is a huge difference between tolerating and accepting. There’s embracing, affirming, celebrating, honoring or simply loving something or someone. People…might do well to consider all the things, beliefs, actions or people they simply “tolerate,” and then figure out how to love them unconditionally.” (Tribune Clergy Corner 2/23/08 by Rev. John Herman – Tempe, AZ)

Good words to ponder and put into action....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Enslaved by the clock

We live in an age of distraction and entertainment. We exist in an era when people are increasingly torn in myriad directions, their days measured in a succession of frantic activities that drain away one successive hour after the next. Some people would say that those two are incompatible, but if we're the kind of people who are assaulted all day by a parade of activity, it's easy to understand how an hour of mindless television or a couple chapters of some potboiler novel becomes all we can manage before we trudge off to bed. Every year sees our average work week increase. Every year sees our commutes get longer. And so it goes, day after day after day….Into the blender of daily living comes the Church. And what does the American Church ask for? Even more of our time. Volunteer for this ministry, lead that group, homeschool your kids, date your spouse, have a meaningful devotional life, on and on and on....(please know I'm not saying any of this is bad in and of itself by any means. We just can't effectively do it all.) Yet nothing gives. We're just having more tossed onto the pile of "To-Do's" that we already fail to manage. Is it any wonder that we feel isolated from each other, disconnected from life, and enslaved by the clock?

Technology promised us more time for leisure, but instead strapped us to computers, cell phones, Black berries and other gadgets that constantly remind us of the time and the fact that we don’t have enough of it. We’ve become enslaved by the clock, an overload from which we can’t escape – unless, of course, we actually decide to.

Sadly, the idealistic model held out to most Evangelical Christians is based upon 18th century ideals of home and family. Ministry after ministry wants to take us back to those golden days when America was first founded, when everything was noble, pure, and good.
The problem is that the entire world changed. Every aspect of 18th century life was annihilated by the Industrial Revolution and social Darwinism. The result is that today's Church is demoralizing people by asking us to live like Founding Fathers without addressing the radically altered nature of work and family life that has become our 21st century regimen.

Unless we begin developing a Christian mindset that rethinks how we work, play, and live together, nothing will improve on the time front and we will only grow progressively more frenzied and stressed.

Let's get talking more how we can fight the forces that seek to entrap our time. Let's break out of the box(es) we've allowed ourselves to be put in so we can better serve each other and the lost around us.