Write me into your story


Note: This post from an older incarnation of my blog popped up today under Facebook’s “On This Day” feature. It’s hard to believe another nine years have passed since I wrote it in 2007. I hope you don’t mind a little trip through the archives as we remember the life of Rich Mullins.

Christianity isn’t about being self-sacrificing – it’s about being self-forgetting. Forget yourself once in a while, and open your eyes. Focus on this big, beautiful world God has made. If you walk to school, learn to identify every plant that you pass on the way. At night, learn to identify every constellation in the sky. Get to know birds by their feathers, flight patterns and songs. It’s a big world – and it reflects the character of God.

People who become self-centered lose contact with the outside world. They spend all their time and energy worrying about bad grades, or unfriendly friends, or mean parents. Forget about those things once in a while, and allow yourself to become involved in the lives of people who have equally bad situations. Open up and let other people matter to you.

When we take a bigger view of things, God will give us more grace and love for others. We’ll find ourselves responding to the needs and to the goodness; we’ll find ourselves angered by injustice to others.

And we’ll have a bigger appreciation of even small things, like the smell of a wet dog on a mucky day. Let go of yourself – and God will show you a whole new world.

(from Campus Life, June 1991)

More grace. More love. Fascination with the wonders of creation. Anger at injustice. Responsive to the needs of others. All are part of worship in the broadest sense. All are characteristic of the life of Rich Mullins, who died 10 years ago today in a car accident en route to a benefit show in Kansas.

Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins

I barely knew of Mullins while he was alive. His career was beginning as I was going into college and away from the church for a time. I remember, though, when I heard that he had died. I had been back into the church for a couple of years by then. I had been at the women’s fall retreat the Saturday the news came out. Leaving the retreat, I got in the car and turned on the radio in the middle of the DJ’s sentence. All I caught was something about remembering someone’s music and his ministry. I also caught the sense of sadness, palpable even over the radio. I couldn’t fathom who it could be so I stayed tuned to the radio until the DJ finally repeated the news.

Understandably, many youth have no idea who Mullins was even though they undoubtedly have heard his most recognizable song, Awesome God. Yet, he expressed insights into the Christian life that were ahead of his time. He was living a missional life, it seems, before it became a buzzword. There’s a story that in 1983, when he was nominated for his first Dove award as a songwriter, he took the place of one of the servers in the dessert line at a post-Dove party to give the server a break. He explained it like this in a biography at Christianity Today:

The Christian faith is not about mere intellectual assent to a set of doctrines, but about a daily walk with this person Jesus. It’s about living in awareness of Christ risen, resurrected, and living in my life. Even though doctrine is important, wisdom in the Bible has more to do with character and the art of living. Christianity is about living out the will of God, and living abundantly.

Maybe not so strangely enough, Mullins was going to be a youth pastor until he came to a crossroads at which the choice had to be made. In the end, the choice brought not just the youth, but the church as a whole closer to the Jesus he so loved as reflected in his music.

No project, however, most captured the desire to draw closer to Christ than his final project. Nine days before his death, Mullins took his band to an abandoned church and played for them what he called “ten songs about Jesus.” The session was recorded on an old cassette player from which came The Jesus Record, a double disc that includes both the original cassette-recorded demos and a studio set that brought together a variety of Christian artists to sing the songs Mullins said were “needed.”

From the first time I heard it, My Deliverer was my favorite track on the CD, probably because of the way it connected Christ to the captivity of the Israelites under the Egyptians and the way it reinforced the presence of confident faith even when doubts surface.

Joseph took his wife and child and they went to Africa
To escape the rage of a deadly king
There along the banks of the Nile Jesus listened to the song
That the captive children used to sing . . . they were singing
My Deliverer is coming, My Deliverer is standing by (repeat)

Through a dry and thirsty land
Water from the Kenyan heights pours itself out from Lake Sangra’s broken heart
There in the Sahara winds Jesus heard the whole world cry
For the healing that would flow from His own scars . . . the world was singing

My Deliverer is coming, My Deliverer is standing by (repeat)
He will never break his promise – He has written it upon the sky
My Deliverer is coming, My Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming, My Deliverer is standing by (repeat)
I will never doubt His promise – though I doubt my heart – I doubt my eyes
My Deliverer is coming, My Deliverer is standing by
My Deliverer is coming, My Deliverer is standing by (repeat)
He will never break His promise though the stars should break faith with the sky
My Deliverer is coming, My Deliverer is standing by

Tonight, the CD of the original demos has been playing in the background as I write. Tonight, it’s two lines of a song simply titled Jesus that offers a final worship thought and maybe even a prayer for all of us. It’s a prayer that was answered for Mullins and one that is still being played out in the lives of all of us.

Jesus – write me into Your story – whisper it to me
And let me know I am yours

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