Me and Don Francisco

UnknownLast week Megan Dunham wrote about Amy Grant, who has a new remixed album out. I used to listen to Amy, to Wes King, to Steven Curtis Chapman, to Petra, to Audio Adrenaline, Michael Card, John Michael Talbot, and Songs from the Loft. Yeah, I grew up in youth group.

But before that, I had my secret stash of Don Francisco. This comes out of my dad’s record collection. He had classical music, 60s and 70s folk rock, some weird stuff like Tubular Bells and then this bit of Christian stuff. Like The Imperials.

Don Francisco told bible stories. He always put himself right in the center of the story and gave you the narrative as if he were one of the participants. He had a talky, folk style as he wandered through the story getting to the big climatic point. Check out I Gotta Tell Somebody, a song about when Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter from Luke 8.

I downloaded a few of these when iTunes first came out and enjoyed the trip down memory lane, and it was fun to watch my little kids act out these songs as a story they could follow along with.

Several years ago, my friend Dustin Salter died. He was riding his bike with his boys near his house and when he fell, he smacked his head on the pavement – and he never woke up. Dustin was the RUF campus minister at TCU at the time, and it was a tragedy. We all handled that. I wasn’t Dustin’s closest friend, but wanted to get down to see him and had a trip planned in the Spring. He took a turn for the worse and stopped taking visitors. He died while I was on a Spring Break trip with my family so I didn’t get to attend the funeral either.

One day after that I was driving to Dallas and Don Franciso’s He’s Alive came on my iPod. It’s  probably his best-known song, and I’ll admit that I’d been skipping it for awhile. Wayyyyy too cheesy. I needed something sadder, more melancholy, more introspective, more nuanced. But on this trip, I left it on.

Pretty soon I was singing along, and then I was sobbing uncontrollably. I had to pull over. I couldn’t get it together. I was sad for everything, and yet also hopeful too. I was thinking about my life as a kid, and my parents, and my youth group and these songs, and Dustin and RUF and death and life and his family and mine and all that was going on – and I really needed Jesus to be alive. I needed him to show himself as alive in reality and that that was something I could experience in time and space. I needed hope. Life. A future. He’s alive.

They probably don’t make them like Don Francisco any more. It’s not good for my soul to only listen to doubt and sadness. Sometimes I need the earnest belief of someone who has been there and seen for himself and now must tell others without pulling back in any sense.

Headshot 2 Nicole Hager