After graduating from seminary, I all of a sudden have time to read non-required reading. I started with No Compromise by Melody Green, the wife of the late Keith Green. Keith was one of the most passionate, sincere, poetic, and Spirit-inspired Christian musicians of the past century.
I devoured this book during my free time at camp in Florida last week. I could not put the book down, partly because his life story is so captivating and partly because the book is written in such a readable storytelling format. Melody co-wrote the book with a guy named David Hazard, who I guess is an experienced editor/author.
Keith Green is probably best known for some of the songs he put out, such as “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful” and “The Easter Song.” He tragically died in a plane crash with two of his young children in 1982. He was only 28 years old.
The book chronicles the life of Keith from the cradle to the grave. He grew up as a child music prodigy, coming close to making it big in the secular music world. When it was evident that his “big break” was not coming, he slid into the hippie-drug movement of the 70’s. His spiritual search led him through every type of Eastern religion, cult, and new age philosophy. He found nothing except psychedelic drug experiences.
Then he came across the words and teachings of Jesus Christ (not organized Christianity, to which he was antagonistic). Over time, the life of Jesus and the message of full forgiveness through the love and sacrifice of Jesus appealed to him as the true way of life. That began a journey of struggling to follow Jesus and make music. He took the non-traditional route of musicians by refusing to charge for concerts or albums. He also took the non-traditional route of Christians by taking people into his home – hitchhikers, pregnant teens, and others who were “down-and-out” with no place to go. As his ministry grew, he and his wife had taken in some 70 people into their “commune” (they had to keep buying and renting more houses in their suburban neighborhood in order to keep providing space for all these people).
His concerts and music were very “in your face.” His talent was good enough to let him rub shoulders with people like Bob Dylan. Fame was at his doorstep. But his heart was to bring the message of God’s love to the world. He would challenge Christians with lyrics such as “How can you be so dead, when you’ve been so well fed? Jesus rose from the dead and you can’t even get out of bed!”
It was a warm Texas evening when Keith went on a joy ride in a plane with some friends. He took two of his children with him, leaving his pregnant wife and an infant child behind. Keith’s plane went down shortly after taking off, killing all 12 people on board. His death was a loss to the world. But Melody shares in the book that after Keith died, the Lord put a verse on her heart: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, then it produces many seeds.” Keith’s life and legacy spoke to the urgency of God’s good news to the world – that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. And salvation is God’s desire for every human on this earth – so those in the fold need to go out and tell the world about God’s love for them. He wanted to please God, help the needy, and be Christ to the world. Though he wasn’t perfect (he didn’t claim to be), God used him in mighty ways.
The book itself is a mixture of narrative, song lyrics, and journal entries from Keith’s personal journal. Many characters show up in the story, but Melody keeps the reader on track when plotting through his life story. In many ways, the book is about Melody and her own personal spiritual struggles and journey. She lost a husband and two children, so the telling of this story is just as much hers as it is Keith’s. She ends the book with an epilogue that updates the reader on how things are going in her life currently (the edition I read updated the reader up to 1987). I believe there is an edition out for the year 2000 or 2001. She may have another update in that one.
Please read this book. Brace yourself for quite a ride. You will not want to live life the same after reading this book. One of my favorite parts is when Melody shares about Keith’s “ahah” moment when reading the sermons of Charles Finney. He had a midnight encounter with the Holy Spirit while reading these sermons. He was so excited that he ran through his commune at 5 or 6 in the morning to wake everybody up and tell them about the wonderful love of God and the powerful move of the Holy Spirit that he experienced. That began a commune-wide revival that included prayer, sharing, communal confessions, worship and teaching. Hey, sounds like the church in Acts 2 if you ask me.
I wish there were more pictures in the book. I also wish Melody would have shared the “song story” (which she tells many) of “Song for Josiah.” But that is my personal preference since I love that song (it is written to his son shortly after Josiah was born). There’s more I could ramble about, but as they would say in Reading Rainbow back in the 80’s, “why don’t you see for yourself…”
By the way, I looked around on google and youtube and there are some great videos of Keith Green. Here are the best ones I could find:
Here is the official website for Last Days Ministries, the ministry started by Keith and Melody:
The book can be found and purchased for less than $11 at Amazon.com by clicking here