Tag Archives: death

Selah, Larry Norman

25 Feb

In 1999, I went to Creation East with my good friend, Jim.  Despite the dirt, the heat, the sweat, and the camping, I was focused on one thing (besides volunteering) and that was seeing the founder of Christian rock, Larry Norman, in concert.  My dad is a huge Larry Norman fan, so growing up I was regaled with his music.  In fact, my dad took my mom to a Larry Norman concert on one of their first dates.

As fate would have it, the booth I worked was right next to Larry Norman’s merchandise. When I wasn’t telling kids about the dangers of abortion, I was chatting with Larry Norman’s road manager about how much I loved Larry Norman.  I even showed the poor guy a paper I had written on the history of Christian rock for a college class during the previous semester.  Because he thought I was cute (or was sick of me talking about Larry Norman), the road manager arranged for me to meet Larry Norman right before the throngs in the autograph line had a chance at him.

I remember standing there and watching Larry walk in–I was quivering with excitement and anxiety.  I was meeting my hero.  I was called over to Larry, and he autographed a picture for me (for my dad).  He asked about me a bit and told me about his Compassion children.  I seriously think he would have whipped out his wallet and showed me their pictures if he wasn’t told to wrap it up.  I met Larry face-to-face and he was much different than I expect.  On stage he was larger than life, an activitist, the voice of a generation now stuck in the middle class, but one-on-one, he was gentle yet passionate.

A year and a half later I found out that Larry Norman was playing at a church in the area, so my dad and I decided to go see him.  The church was way out in the boonies, but we sat in the front pew.  It was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen–Larry talked, played piano, played guitar, and cracked jokes.  After the concert, my dad yelled, “Larry!” and he came right over.  My dad was verbally slobbering all over Larry (like I did when I met Derek Webb.  I was too scared to talk to Larry Norman when I first met him), but I calmly introduced myself and thanked Larry for all he did to further music.  He talked to us for about 10 minutes about the history of Christian rock and was fascinated that a 20 year-old girl knew so much about music or even cared.  He called me a “revolutionary for my generation”.

A little over year later, my friend, Jen, and I drove a couple hours to attend another Larry Norman concert.  I was headachey and tired, but made it through the concert alright.  It wasn’t as good as the first one–probably because I was getting sick.  One week later I was in the hospital with a serious medical condition, and two weeks after that I nearly died from a blood clot in my brain.  I was 21, had seen Larry Norman perform live three times, and almost died.

After the concert, I ran into Larry in the hallway as I was leaving (OK, so it was kind of on purpose) and he remember me as “the revolutionary writer for my generation”.  I was surprised, but gave him a hug.  I’m not sure that Larry was an especially huggy person, but I hugged him anyway to show my deep appreciation for his work.  That was the last time I ever saw Larry Norman live.

In order to get my B.A. I had to complete a senior thesis project.  My journalism project consisted of a series of articles exploring the Christian music industry–one article focus on the pioneers of Christian rock and their thoughts on the current state of the Christian music industry.  I interviewed Glenn Kaiser, Phil Keaggy (who is by far the best guitarist I have ever seen), and a few others.  I needed Larry’s input as well.  I called his office incessantly–every day–and left a message.  A couple of times someone answered the phone and told me that Larry rarely does interviews, but might be in to talking to a college girl.  I didn’t hear from Larry, and turned my project in, got an A, and graduated from college.

A few weeks after graduation, the phone rang.  “Hello?” I said.

“Hi, is this Amy?” the male voice asked.

“Yes,”I said uncertainly, ready to hang up on the telemarketer.

“Amy, this is Larry Norman,” he said.  I just about swallowed my tongue.  Larry Norman was calling me!  He told me that he was on the way to his cardiologist, but wanted to make sure that he returned my call.  I told him that my project was finished yet if I wanted to add his opinion into the article because I felt it was incomplete.  He said he would call me back to schedule a date; however, things were a bit sketchy for him because he’s been feeling ill lately.  Heart problems, he said.  I wondered if he remembered who I was and then he asked if I was the “revolutionary writer”.  I smiled and said yes.

I told him I would pray for him, and I did.  He never called back, but that was OK with me.  I had my time with Larry Norman, who had called me a “revolutionary writer”.  It’s not a story I’ve shared with anyone–ever.  Maybe I was afraid it wasn’t true and I was letting Larry down, or maybe I couldn’t fathom my talent being in the same class as Larry Norman’s.

Today when I learned of Larry Norman’s death, tears welled up in my eyes and I let them fall.  According to Larry Norman’s website, this was his last message to the world:

I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God’s hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.

My brother Charles is right, I won’t be here much longer. I can’t do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone. In the past you have generously supported me with prayer and finance and we will probably still need financial help.

My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside. But still it will be costly because of funeral arrangement, transportation to the gravesite, entombment, coordination, legal papers etc. However money is not really what I need, I want to say I love you.

I’d like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be a funeral posted here on the website, in case some of you want to attend. We are not sure of the date when I will die. Goodbye, farewell, we will meet again. Goodbye, farewell, we’ll meet again. Somewhere beyond the sky.

I pray that you will stay with God. Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.
Larry”

Selah, Larry, you are home.

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Christian Rock Pioneer Larry Norman Dies at Home

25 Feb

The family of Larry Norman announced today on LarryNorman.com that the singer passed away on Sunday morning after a lengthy battle with heart problems. Surrounded by friends in his last days, the pioneer of Christian rock died peacefully with his wife and brother by his side.

Norman was originally in a secular group called People, which released a hit song called “I Love You”. After hearing artists like Elvis “stealing” the music of the black church choirs, Norman decided to “steal” it back. Upon This Rock debuted in 1969, which is believed to be the first Christian rock album ever released. Norman went on to realize many more albums, but more than that, he started that Christian rock revolution which was embraced by the Jesus movement of the 60’s and 70’s.

Two of his best-known songs “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” and “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” have been covered by many artists. Norman was known for his story-telling, on-stage banter, revolutionary lyrics, and skill on both piano and guitar. Inspiring many young musicians and challenging the church’s traditional ideas of music, Larry Norman managed to change the world–on guitar string at a time.

Read my personal thoughts and stories about Larry Norman here.

Print copy of article.


Heath Ledger, You’ll Be Sorely Missed

23 Jan

1979-2008

When I first saw Heath Ledger in The Patriot, I realized that Australia’s greatest national treasure was now in the United States. Playing alongside screen legend Mel Gibson, Ledger held his own as Gibson’s patriotic son fighting against the British for American independence. Then there was A Knight’s Tale. I didn’t really care for that movie, but Ledger looked stunningly masculine in his armor. He was brilliant co-starring with Orlando Bloom in the unappreciated Ned Kelly, in which Ledger played the title character.

I couldn’t get into Monster’s Ball and Brokeback Mountain was two hours of my life I won’t get back. I don’t know why people were so up in arms about the flick; it was boring. In fact, I would never have watched it if there wasn’t such controversy surround “the gay cowboy movie.” Like a friend, I was excited to see Ledger as the Joker in the forthcoming Batman movie, The Dark Knight. I always had a soft spot for the Joker (especially after Jack Nicholson portrayed him so fabulously in the first Batman movie).

The news broke earlier today about Heath Ledger’s death (story). According to current reports, Ledger was found facedown, naked in front his bed with a variety of pills in bottles around his room. Overdose? Suicide? Accidental? No one knows, but it seems that foul play has been ruled out. Naturally, it’s another celebrity story that’s going to be splashed all over the news for the weeks to come.

I’ll miss Heath Ledger and the movies he could’ve made. I mourn for his little girl who will never really know her Daddy. And I mourn for his loved ones who will have to hear every excruciating detail of his death repeated thousands of times a day in the media.

On a personal note: Heath Ledger was only one year older than me.  Whenever someone close to my age dies, it makes me shudder.  As I came into adulthood, so did Ledger.  We sort of “grew up” together.  So, even though I didn’t know the guy, I mourn someone from my generation.

Sharon, the Oklahoma Rose

10 Jan


On April 13, 2004 the official state flower of Oklahoma became the “Oklahoma rose”. Since Sharon was an avid gardener, it is only appropriate that this blog entry be titled after one of Oklahoma’s most beautiful roses, Sharon Hart.

UPDATE 1/10/07 @ 2 PM EST: Jen’s mother, Sharon Hart, was ushered into the arms of Jesus this (Thursday) morning. She has run the race, and her journey is finished.

I interrupt my usual commentary for something highly important. I am asking you all to pray for my friend, Jen Hart, who is getting ready to travel a couple of hours to her parents’ house. It’s a trek that Jen has made fairly often over the past few years to visit her parents, especially her mother, Sharon, who has been battling cancer for the past decade. After countless surgeries, hospitalizations, and procedures, Sharon’s battered body is slowing down.

Today a hospice nurse informed the family that Sharon’s death is imminent, and the family should be brought in to say their final goodbyes. Naturally, Jen has had the important conversations with her mother and knows that she will be ushered into Jesus’ arms when she passes from this life to the next. Yet this only eases the burden; it doesn’t take away the heartache.

Please pray for Jen and her family during this difficult time. I asked Jen’s permission before posting this on my blog, as it is a deeply personal matter, and she said it would be OK. Feel free to leave prayers or encouragements for Jen and her family.

Jen told me that her favorite thing about her mother is her hospitality. Her mother’s love of people and life spilled over into contagious laughter as she planned parties and get-togethers. Sharon is a deeply committed wife and mother, who is an encouragement to her children, especially Jen. Pray that Sharon’s life will be a beacon of hope for all who know her.

I will keep you updated on this post, so check back.

Harry Potter and the Big If

2 Jan

According to an interview with the Daily MailHarry Potter series author J.K. Rowling says she might write another book in the series.  This book, however, would not focus on Harry Potter as the main character.   The article quotes her as saying, “”If – and it’s a big if – I ever write an eighth book, I doubt that Harry would be the central character. I feel I’ve already told his story.”  Yeah, that sure sounds like a promising hint.

Rowling is now working on an adult novel and a “political fairy tale” as well as doing interviews that mess with the minds of Harry Potter fans everywhere.  The least she could do is bring Fred Weasley back from the dead.  That is, if you believe he’s dead, which I don’t.  I’m just saying.

But I digress–as a writer I understand finishing a project and moving on.  However, if it’s a really enjoyable project and one that could be potentially profitable, why not spend some more time exploring your characters?  Plus, didn’t she promise that she would put together an encyclopedia of the wizarding world?

Sometimes Christmas Is Sad

24 Dec

There’s a song that joyously states, “It’s the hap-happiest time of the year!”  Bright ribbons, shiny lights, smiles and everyone shouting, “Merry Christmas!”–it seems like the entire world’s on Prozac.  It’s Christmas–glitzy, shiny, sparkly, happy, wonderful, friends, fellowship, family, presents, love, and so much more.  Christmas comes with high expectations, many of which us normal folks can only hope to aspire.  I know I’ve been to many glamorous Christmas parties; they all just happened to be on Lifetime movies.

Not only can Christmas not measure up to what it’s supposed to be, it rarely comes close.  And, for many, Christmas is an exceedingly lonely time of year.  These are the people who wander the streets Christmas Eve looking at light-up store windows at gifts they will never receive.  A single woman goes to the local greenhouse hoping that someone will send her a lovely pointsettia plant, yet the flowers never arrive.  An elderly man visits his wife’s final resting place, sets down a holly wreath, and remembers the taste of her oatmeal raisin cookies.  A teenager lives through his first Christmas after mom and dad’s divorce while a foster child is placed in a “respite home” while the rest of her foster family goes out of town to visit relatives.  They can’t be bothered to take her along as she is just a burden on the family.  Their stories are countless and at any given time, their stories could be yours or mine.  Or maybe they already are.

Christmas can be sad for a variety of reasons, here are a few that come to mind:

1.  Christmas is hard in our culture when your finances are limited.  Seriously, when your friends are getting super snazzy cameras and Nintendo Wii’s, it’s hard to be satisfied with less.  Harder still is to not be able to get your loved ones the gifts you really wish they could have.  People say it doesn’t matter what you give/get, but I’ve only ever heard that said by people who are by no means hurting when it comes to gift giving.  But it’s really annoying to hear about the fancy gifts people get from or give to others.  The worst part is when they buy the gifts for themselves and then brag about those gifts.

2.  Christmas without a loved one is difficult.  After someone dies or leaves the fellowship of your life for other reasons, every holiday and event afterwards is sad.  You remember how that person made everything so special or how your grandma made great cookies or that time when you ate shrimp.  It seemed so menial at the time, but now you would do anything to get that moment back.  There’s just a big ache in your heart when you see the empty place at the dinner table.

3.  Christmas alone is difficult.  We’d all like to think that no one is alone on Christmas, but many people are.  Heck, even those of us who are surrounded by family feel utterly alone.   I know of one woman who’s spent year after year shacked up by herself watching A Christmas Story non-stop on TNT.  That’s heart-breaking.

4. People let us down at Christmas.  People we’d like to show up at our door or call or send a card often don’t.  Or they meager gestures are done out of obligation, not sincerity.  It’s really hard when parents or siblings or relatives or close friends let us down, which they do once in a while.  But when they don’t even show up…that hurts.

5. Christmas is just depressing for some people.  Less daylight makes some people more depressed.  Because of bad childhoods, terrible memories, or whatever reason, some people just get depressed at the mention of Christmas.  The worst part is these people feel like they should be happy; they’re just not.

6. Christmas reminds us that we are not home yet.  All the things I’ve mentioned so far involve the false notions our culture has given us when it comes to Christmas.  Yet something in us says, “We’re not home yet.”  Even holidays that celebrate Jesus are still empty, because we are still separated from the One who gives us life.  Until we are safely enfolded into God’s arms, it will always be empty.  We will always be incomplete.

Perhaps one of these sad souls will wander into your church’s Christmas Eve service tonight or is even the head deacon or the pastor’s wife.  Ask God to give you a sensitive heart to reach out to the child (even adult child) who lost his or her parent this year, a kid dealing with his or her parents’ divorce, a spouse missing his or her other half, a single person wishing for another half, and the lonely isolated individuals who have no particular place to go.  Be daring–if someone has no place to go, open up your home.  Sarah and I have done it in the past and we have been blessed by the food and fellowship.

Take a chance and maybe Christmas won’t be so sad for someone else and maybe you’ll find yourself a bit cheerier, too.

In an effort to release a raw emotion into the universe, I have a message I need to get out. It’s a personal reason why Christmas makes me a bit sad this year.  It’s here for everyone to read, because maybe someone feels the same way I do.  Sometimes it helps to know that someone else feels or has felt the same way.  Feel free to post why Christmas makes you sad (you can even post anonymously).  Maybe we can all feel a little better in our solidarity. 

Here’s my message: Christmas reminds me how much I miss you and how you aren’t the person I wish you were, how you aren’t the person you used to be, and how you reject being the person that God called you to be.  I need you to be that person because I need that person in my life.  I miss the you that you used to be or the you that you could be if you would yield yourself to God.  If I didn’t love you, it wouldn’t hurt so much. It hurts so much at Christmas because you made it so special.  I miss that.

An Ode to the Leader of the Band

17 Dec

Yesterday singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, 56, died from prostate cancer on Sunday. Some of your are probably scratching your heads thinking, who is this guy? (He was popular in the 70s & 80s with a nice folksy voice in the veins of James Taylor.) Still others will be shocked by this statement–I am a Dan Fogelberg fan. Yeah, I’m also a Barry Fanilow, got a problem with that? I’ve a lover of music in its many forms.

Famous for songs like “Leader of the Band”, “Longer”, and “Another Auld Lang Syne”, Fogelberg’s simple melodies and thoughtful lyrics followed in the vein of folk singers. One day I found Dan Fogelberg’s tape among those in my dad’s music collection. I thought the guy on the album cover looked dorky, but I listened anyway. I was captured by the music of Dan Fogelberg.

When I heard “Auld Lang Syne”, it was the first time I heard a gloomy Christmas song, and I loved it. Why? Because sometimes Christmas is gloomy and we need songs for it. “Leader of the Band” is a simple tribute to Fogelberg’s dad. These days I can barely hear a song about a father and not burst into tears. I remember riding in the car with my dad singing this song together–it’s a bittersweet memory.

Dan Fogelberg was truly the leader of an era, a musician of love music, and his songs will be sure to be sung at cheesy wedding receptions for years to come. But I’ll always remember him as the leader of the band.

“Leader of the Band” by Dan Fogelberg

An only child alone and wild
A cabinet maker’s son
His hands were meant for different work

And his heart was known to none

He left his home and went his lone
And solitary way
And he gave to me a gift I know
I never can repay

A quiet man of music
Denied a simpler fate
He tried to be a soldier once
But his music wouldn’t wait

He earned his love through discipline
A thundering, velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls
Took me years to understand

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul

My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy
To the leader of the band

My brothers’ lives were different
For they heard another call
One went to Chicago
And the other to St Paul

And I’m in Colorado
When I’m not in some hotel
Living out this life I’ve chose
And come to know so well

I thank you for the music
And your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom
When it came my time to go

I thank you for the kindness
And the times when you got tough
And, pap, I don’t think
I said, “I love you” near enough

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul

My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy
To the leader of the band

I am the living legacy
To the leader of the band.

Holiday Shopping Turns Deadly

5 Dec

Photo from AOL News

Nine people are dead; five more are wounded, two critically.   Those aren’t the numbers we went to hear this holiday season–we’d much prefer to count down the days until Christmas, measure cups of varying ingredients to bake Christmas goodies, or see how many presents are ours under the tree.  Yet the merry atmosphere of holiday goodness was shattered by rounds of bullets coming from a gunmen who opened fire in a crowded mall a little less than three weeks before Christmas.

Commerce came to a halt at Westroads Mall in Omaha as the yet to be identified gunman started shooting at shoppers from the third floor balcony of Von Maur.  The gunman was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the same area (Full story here).

What is up with these clearly mentally deranged individuals killing off random people before killing themselves?  That’s what really gets me about these shooting incidents–they’re so senseless, but then the shoot goes and offs himself.  It seems rather ludicrous.  If someone wants to commit suicide, why must they destroy the lives of other innocents at the same time?  If they want to make their death a big news event, why don’t they jump off the Empire State Building?  When someone dies, usually people suffer.

But when someone chooses to rip life from others, we all suffer.  I just pray to God there aren’t any copy cat shooters out there who are feeling depressed about the holidays that decide to do the same thing.  And I pray for the families that are in shock tonight, perhaps staring at the presents they already bought for the deceased.  I pray for the families sitting in the hospitals by their loved ones, praying that their husband or sister or son or grandmother will pull through.  I also think of the family of the shooter, who perhaps needs the most grace of all.

And I think of the many tears that will fall this holiday season, as so many laugh and celebrate.  Yet this is what baby Jesus had to come, to save us from our madness.

Shame

31 Oct

 flowersingrassbw.jpg

Shame

Distorts how I see myself and how others see me

It’s like seeing myself in a shattered mirror

In shards of glass dispersed randomly

Throughout the room in a thousand little pieces

Shame

It’s tripping over something you know is always there

You fall down, down, down, and can’t make it stop

Once you’re down, getting up seems impossible

Just lie here and wait for others to walk over me

Shame

Tells me I deserve to be trampled

To be used and have others look at me in ridicule

Robs me of who I could be

Defines me by lies I choose to believe

Shame

Lurid nudity in the garden of peace

Hiding from the very One who knows it all

Yet afraid that He will see my lewdness

I cannot see the shame in His eyes

Shame

Keeps me from the throes of grace

Is a prison cell in which I have the key

Yet I am a hostage to my own thoughts

A free being who trades the truth for the lies

A free verse poem I wrote about shame and its distorted belief patterns.  I chose to write it from a first-person perspective to enhance its effectiveness as a tool to convey our personal struggles as humans with shame.  I chose this photo out of my photography collection because flowers lying discarded in the grass are a bit depressing, especially in the black and white medium.   This is my first attempt to bring one of my poems (yes, I do write poems sometimes–not just silly songs) together with one of my photographs,  so please be gentle with your comments.

A Difficult Day

16 Dec

Today has been a sad and difficult day for me. Last night my grandfather took a nasty spill and has fractured his hip. In order to put him back together, he needs a hip replacement. Unfortunately because of his age and weak heart, surgery would kill him. It’s hard not knowing what’s coming next… It’s hard knowing my grandmother won’t be around this Christmas for the first time….and it’s hard wondering if my grandpa will be….

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