Up in Canada Larry Norman


When I was up in Canada, I didn’t have much money
My shoes had holes and my toes were cold,
My nose was kinda runny. (it wasn’t funny)
I met a longhair on the street,
He said, “Look, you look like you’d like to eat.”
I said, “A glass of Coke and a hotdog’s fine,”
He said, “Well, how ’bout some bread and a glass of wine?”

 Larry Norman “Up in Canada – 1973”

This might not be one of Larry Norman’s most well known, or even better written songs, but I think it is one of his most powerful and still listen to it regularly.

The slightly comical rhyming of the verse contrasts with the ‘it wasn’t funny’ of being in need.  If there has been a time in your life that you have known about  ‘holey shoes’ or searching for change to buy bread you will understand the pain that being in need brings.

I love this song.  I love that when I listen to it I hear echos of two life changing truths.

Jesus knows

Look, you look like you’d like to eat‘  Jesus knows the need.  My experience is that when we are in need we feel invisible.  We feel like no one can see our plight.  We desperately want to be helped, for our plight to be noticed.  At the same time we are embarrassed, we are ashamed that we need help.  Growing up in post puritan Northern Ireland the greatest cultural failure is to be bankrupt, to not be able to provide for yourself or your family.  A culture that focuses on the sin of the prodigal rather than the provision of the father.

In the midst of this cultural condemnation there is still a God who sees and reaches out.  There is still a church, inspired by God that understands that we have all got it wrong.  Some might have made wise financial decisions and feel self satisfaction that this global financial mess is not their fault, others have dug a hole so deep that invisibility has become current reality ahead of the inevitable shameful exposure.  Neither have the ability to meet the bill their lives have run up.

Jesus knows the need.

Jesus’ provision is always complete and eternal, never superficial and temporary

I said, “A glass of Coke and a hotdog’s fine,”
He said, “Well, how ’bout some bread and a glass of wine?

We must eat but tomorrow we will be hungry again.  We need oxygen to live but no amount of oxygen will stop us dying.  Jesus knows the need, and it is a real need.  Our needs are not insignificant and Jesus does not take our needs lightly.  He is the one who  provided wine at a wedding, who had compassion on the infirm.

Jesus provides our needs, holding all things together that we might live in this world, Jesus helps, yes he helps.   As well as providing help,  He is the answer for our deepest need.  The need for rightness with him, the need for forgiveness and restoration (don’t pretend things aren’t broken, you are, we are, I am).

The words of this song echo the fact that in meeting our physical needs with provision, Jesus also meets our need of Him.  It is his body broken that provided wholeness, blood spilled that achieved forgiveness and restoration for us.

I will leave you with a tweet from my friend Chilly and ‘Up in Canada’ by Larry Norman, be patient the song starts after a few seconds.




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