323. for the late (far too early), great Rocky Green

I learned last night that a good friend of mine succumbed to brain cancer recently. I met him back in Hawaii and he played a huge role in the way that I’ve remade my understanding of the Gospel and what it is to be a Christian.

His name is Rocky Green.

In addition to being a great friend and Christian, he was also a brilliant guitarist and songwriter. And I don’t mean that in the “he played guitar every once in a while and was pretty good” kind of way. I mean he was a bad ass gee-tar slinger who, though he possessed chops for days, always played with restraint. He always put making great music ahead of showing off his licks.

Here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs of his (sorry, I don’t know the title).
Try clicking here to download a copy.

How can I show them what is good
How can I show them what is real
How can I teach them about love
How can I show them how I feel

I’ll write it in the sky at night
I’ll encode it in the sunset light
I’ll carve it in the canyon side
So they can find it
Hiding in plain sight

I’ll make creation resonate
From its head to its toes
I’ll write a powerful song
I’ll make it start off nice and slow

I’ll write it in the sky at night
I’ll encode it in the sunset light
I’ll carve it in the canyon side
So they can find it
Hiding in plain sight

All of the universe will show them
That I designed them to be free
I will create them man and woman
And in their hearts I’ll place eternity

And in their hearts I’ll place eternity

You know, it struck me just now as I was writing out those lyrics. I always knew the song was about God’s love for us but I just realized that it’s also very much about how Rocky saw God. He saw God as someone who loves us so much that he spares no expense in displaying it across the universe. Rocky didn’t just marvel at how much God loved him, he marveled at how much God loves us all.

And that last line, “and in their hearts I’ll place eternity.” Taken from Ecclesiastes 3:11, it really is a striking statement. And I never made the connection between our awareness of eternity and God putting it there as a way to know his love. But then again, perhaps it’s only with eternity in our hearts that we can ever know “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” (Ephesians 3:18).

Anyway, I’ll leave this post with a kind of reprint of a story that I wrote for him years ago.

It’s called The Secret Chord.

Once upon a time, there was a man who played guitar with all his heart and all that was within his soul. Word of his singular talent spread far and wide such that whenever he’d play a show, he’d draw a crowd the size of a small city. And they would listen, rapt in awe. Women would swoon and men would cry and call their mothers between sets to apologize for stealing quarters from their purses when they were young.

But one day while writing a new song he went in search of a chord that would not come. Interval upon interval, he tried them all but none would satisfy, none were right.

Tours were canceled. Fans went wondering and rumors sprung up like weeds. His critics said he was done, washed up, expired.

And then one morning upon waking, he found it – the secret chord. The one jazz artists strive to find night after smoky night in empty bars. The one composers try to find at the bottom of flasks of bourbon. The one rock stars try to find between lines of cocaine.

It was a chord like no other. Bird, Bach, and Hendrix would have, all of them, traded their left hand for those notes. But it was Rocky Green who fished it out of the collective unconscious.

He took this chord to California, back to his love who was waiting for him there. And though she could not fully understand the weight of his discovery, she knew – deep down inside, where wisdom is born – that the chord was her’s and that he had searched far and wide for the sound of it.

And she held him in her arms all night long as he played her song.

The end.

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