Larry Norman, My Mother, and Me

Music was highly important to me when I was a teen. I ranked it slightly ahead of eating and some days even ahead of girls. Steve Rendall and I would purchase the latest contemporary Christian albums, tape them (yep!), then insert them in our car tape decks. My car cost $100. That tape deck cost $300. It was so cool. Who cared about the car? We would gladly trade in all 6 cylinders on 100-watt speakers.


I remember the day Steve pulled up in his 1970 Montego. “Climb in,” he said, a grin connecting his ears. I lowered my expensive thrift store sunglasses and climbed in. “Roll up your window,” he said. I rolled it up. Then he calmly inserted a Larry Norman tape and set the volume at about 150 decibels. Moments later our ears were flapping behind our heads, it was so loud. “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. “THAT’S GREAT!”He turned the volume way down to 500. “You’re gonna be late for what?” “No, I said that’s GREAT. Turn the volume back 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 Alice Cooper. We were told that this so-called Christian music was shallow and that it would cause us to lose our hearing. “Impossible,” we said, before hiding our Love Song records in George Beverley Shea record jackets.And yet, for some reason, my mother wanted to listen to my music. She’d pull up a chair and sit down. I played songs from singers like Chuck Girard, Phil Keaggy, even Petra. Somehow she cared enough to listen. And she encouraged me when she heard something she liked. Which was twice.


You know, the influence of someone who cares is immeasurable. Many parents of that era said, “Turn it down or throw it out!” But she who yells the loudest isn’t always heard the best. I’m thankful for a mom whose attitude was, “If he’s gonna listen, I’d like to know what he’s listening to.” I asked her years later about the talks we had after the music died down. She said she was always looking for ways to teach me about God, and she would take whatever I gave her as a launching pad. The girl was sneaky. Sometimes I miss those days. Mom told me once that she missed them too. Although she probably didn’t miss the music nearly as much as I miss my hearing.


Question of the Day: What are you doing to connect with your children or grandchildren?

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Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway, the host of Laugh Again, is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life.

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