Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Reminder from Rich

I've been looking for something that Rich Mullins said. I can't find it. But I found another thing or two that just remind me of some things that I needed to hear today.



I really believe that we are dust. I plan on living to be 80 and I figure I'm not even half way there. People say its not fair that people should die when they are 18. I go, wow, its unfair that we should be able to live until we are that old.

Christ said those who worship worship in spirit and in truth. He didn't say they worship with the hair on the back of their necks raised.

I am very hurt at the apathy in the church. I am very hurt over the determination of the government to destroy life. I do long for heaven. Someday God will destroy injustice. Someday there will be a judgment. Because we have a loving and a forgiving Father, maybe we will survive it... I enjoy the idea of a corporate identity. When I come into church I am no longer Rich Mullins, a music education student. I am no longer Rich Mullins a guy who grew up in Indiana. I am no longer Rich Mullins a guy who has a record contract. All of a sudden I am a member of the kingdom of God.

Those people who did the greatest things for God were the people who weren't trying to do anything at all. They were just simply being obedient.... I don't think you read the Bible to know truth. I think you read the Bible to find God.

In the gospel of Mark or in any of the four gospels, you go through the gospels and you say, what people are absolutely essential to this story? So Mary is essential to the story because Mary had to give birth to Jesus. And you could say, well someone else could have. But lets say that if she wouldn't have done it then the story wouldn't have happened. So, you have God who chose to become flesh, you have Mary who gave Him flesh, you have Jesus who was God in the flesh or who was the child of Mary and God, you have Pontius Pilate who had, in an artificial sense, the power to kill Christ, you have Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ and handed him over to the bad guys, you have whoever it was that nailed Him up to the cross. Out of those people that God used to accomplish His will in the gospel, only a couple of them were very nice people. Most of them were bad people. We all want to be useful to God. Well, its no big deal. God can use anybody. God used Nebuchadnezzar. God used Judas Iscariot. Its not a big deal to be used by God and the shocking thing in the book of Mark, and the reason why it is so shocking is because Mark is the briefest of all the gospels but he has these terrific little details and one of the little details is that it says, "and Jesus called to Him those that He wanted." And you realize that out of the twelve people that He wanted, only one was essential to His goal in coming to earth. The other eleven people were useless to Christ but they were wanted by Christ. And I kind of go, I would much rather have God want me than have God use me.

The end is that God made man. He created him in His own image. He created him out of dust. He breathed into him the breath of life. Man became a living soul. He gave man sexuality. He created them male and female. And he gave man work. And I am just doing my work. I am not trying to write great albums. I'm not trying to write great songs. I'm not trying to do any of that. What I'm trying to do is be faithful. If I were a plumber, most plumbers don't say, "Man I'm going to come up with the most original arrangement of pipes here." But when you flush your toilet, if things go the way they should go, you are very thankful that the plumber was doing their job.

But I think that part of our identity as human beings is that we have work, that we have things to do. And I am gifted as a musician. I am gifted as a writer and so I have to do that out of obedience. I am not gifted as a singer. I have a weird voice. I have a terrible speaking voice and when I sing its not as weird as when I talk so I should probably sing more and talk less. But, nevertheless, I don't like my voice even when I am singing and people say, "Why do you sing then?" and I go, "Because it is the most reiterated command in the whole Bible." And I figure there must be a reason why it says over and over and over, sing sing sing sing sing. I also kind of go, this is a lot easier than loving my enemies, so maybe I should start with the easy stuff and maybe by the time I am really old I will have been able to tie the more complicated knot.

The preaching of Brennan Manning - we practice silence in the truck a lot of times so we hardly ever have a tape on or anything like that. But we don't have any rules - you can do what you want. But Beaker put in a Brennan Manning tape and I really didn't want to hear it because I didn't know who he was and don't ordinarily like preaching. I went "Argh, great." Well, I think about five minutes into it I think I had to pull off the road because I was just bawling my eyes out. I thought, what I am experiencing here is that I have gone to church ever since I was wee little, probably from when I was a week old, and this is the first sermon in my memory that is the preaching of the Good News of the Gospel of Christ. He's not preaching about an issue. He's not preaching about a theological position. He's not preaching about anything except this is the Good News. And I thought, wow, this is what I am hungry to hear. This is what I am dying to hear.

The hardest part of being a Christian is surrendering and that is where the real struggle happens. Once we have overcome our own desire to be elevated, our own desire to be recognized, our own desire to be independent and all those things that we value very much because we are Americans and we are part of this American culture. Once we have overcome that struggle then God can use us as a part of His body to accomplish what the body of Christ was left here to accomplish.

My twenties were very very disturbed years because it was the time of the real battle between my will to submit my will and my will to assert my will. I wanted to love God and at the same time I resented God for being who He is because if He was God then I couldn't be. And I would flip-flop back and forth between saying thank you God that you are the Lord and that I am not because even I am a rotten steward I would be a terrible Lord. I would flip-flop between saying that and saying yeah but we are going to do this my way right now. So I do love you but I'm going to go my way and so blink for a long time. You know, by the time you've gone through that long enough after you have beaten your head up against that wall for a good decade, you come out of it and you have accomplished all of the damage that God wanted to save you from. All you can do at that point is go, "Wow! I am so sorry that when You told me to walk in faith, I refused to do it. And now I know why You gave the commands that You gave. Now I know why You say what You say. And I wish that I didn't have to know that in order to obey it."

Especially in a day when so much emphasis and so much pressure is put on us to esteem ourselves I kind of go, wow, I don't know how anyone can wake up with morning breath and pillow head and feel any self esteem. That is not the sort of thing I want to put my faith in. And in the church it is unbelievable to me that this whole foolishness about esteeming yourself has leaked into the church. I kind of go, "Christ didn't ask us to esteem ourselves." I think if Christ were asked, I think He would probably say, "Look buddy, you would be lucky if you could forget yourself. If you could lose yourself, you would be luckier than if you found yourself." It would be wonderful if you knew the names of the trees between your house and where you work, between your house and your church. If you knew that that was a tulip tree and you knew that that was a red bud. It would be great if you knew the names of the constellations. It would be great if you knew something about your neighbors. It would be a lucky thing for you if you forgot yourself, if you lost yourself. I remember when my brother and his fiancé were eating a meal with us and it was absolutely sickening because we were trying to eat here and they were staring at each other in the eyes and I'm going, "Golly, can you not wait until football." And then I realized, wow, what a terrific thing when you are so in love that you forget how obnoxious love looks to everybody else. How I wish we were all French. Although I really appreciate modesty and I detest public displays but nevertheless, what a wonderful thing when you are so caught up in a moment when you are so lost in an experience that you forget to straighten your tie or to comb your hair. Why esteem yourself? Forget yourself. You'll have a lot more fun.

The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart. It is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that benefits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice. It does not so much nibble at our shoe as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from bone to bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our smaller minded questions but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask, we encounter Him there. Paul says that the scriptures are God's breath and I kind of go, wow, so let's breathe this as deeply as possible. And this is what liturgy offers that all the razzmatazz of our modern worship can't touch. You don't go home from church going, "Oh I am just moved to tears." You go home from church going, "Wow, I just took Communion and you know what? If Augustine were alive today, he would have had it with me and maybe he is and maybe he did."

A lot of times we think something spiritual is happening and it is merely aesthetics. That is why it always bugs me at the end of a concert someone will say, "Wow the Spirit really worked" and I kind of go, "How would you even be able to know that? It was so noisy in here tonight. How would you know if the Spirit was working?" "Well, I was really moved." Well, that is an emotional thing. That's not a spiritual thing. A spiritual thing is folding your clothes at the end of the day. A spiritual thing is making your bed. A spiritual thing is taking cookies to your neighbor that's shut in or raking their front lawn because they are too old to do it. That's spirituality. Getting a warm, oozy feeling about God is an emotional thing. There is nothing wrong with it. I think there is nothing more practical than real spirituality. But nothing more fun than just a good heartfelt emotional experience of God because I think emotions are good. They are only dangerous when we come away from an experience where we were emotionally manipulated and we confuse that with being convicted. I think conviction - there is an emotion that accompanies that but it certainly goes deeper than just coming away going, "Oh isn't God neat?"

One song that is likely to be released is a song called Boy Like Me / Man Like You and we wrote that in Illinois. This guy came and was telling me that they had used Awesome God on this picket line and I was hoping it was like a rescue mission or something like that and he said no, we were picketing the movie The Last Temptation of Christ. And I said "Oh (and I'm not as dumb as I act sometimes - I played stupid) Why were you picketing that movie?" And he said, "Why haven't you heard? This is a terrible movie. It portrays Christ as being a man." I said, "Wow that's really weird because I thought that was the Good News was that God had become a man." And I realized that the movie probably failed. I didn't see it myself so I can't say. But I understand the movie failed to portray Christ as being divine as well as being a man. So, after that, Beaker and I started talking about the whole mystery of the incarnation, oooooohhhhh big heavy theological thinking. But what it all comes down to is, what would it be like to be God almighty and to inspire those phophets to write all those great books and Moses to write those books and then to have to become a little boy and endure Hebrew school and listen to some rabbi rattle on about something that you wrote before he was ever born? What would it be like to be Christ? I mean, did He ever play ball? Did they ever knock a window out of somebody's house and did He ever have to explain to His dad that He had to borrow $12.00? So, we just started talking about what a weird thing it would be to be God and then to become flesh and then we also went on and just talked about what a weird thing to be nothing and then to become flesh. That at one time we were nothing and then we got here. And wasn't it great and aren't you glad that you were born? And isn't life full of a lot of loneliness and misery and all those things but who wants to give it up? Nobody! It's a wonderful thing. Isn't it great to have legs?

I am a very very blessed person in terms of friends. What I look for in a friendship is someone who will beat you up. You get in a big fight with them and then the winner rides the other guy home on the bike. One of the things I appreciate about traveling with Beaker is that he just really doesn't cut me a lot of slack because I can be a real whiner and a real complainer. Ohhhh nooooo, you gotta..... He just goes, "Well don't then. If you don't want to do it don't but don't gripe about it . If you're going to do it be glad you get to do it." So its kind of cool because friendship is a very big deal to me.

Do you want to be married?
Someday. I would always be frustrated with all those relationships even when I was engaged. I had a ten year thing with this girl and I would often wonder why, even in those most intimate moments of our relationship, I would still feel really lonely. And it was just a few years ago that I finally realized that friendship is not a remedy for loneliness. Loneliness is a part of our experience and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things, and loneliness live together in the same experience.

The happy celibate, yeah. Well I think I am that now and you know a lot of people really don't get it but I kind of go, you know what? I'm not a real... I don't know. I have no interest in anybody else and she is married to someone else, so that's the way it goes, and I don't mind that. Right now I cannot imagine that life could be happier married than it is single, so I'm not in a panic about getting married. And I think, you know, maybe God wanted me to be celibate and the way that he accomplished that was to break my heart. So, that's the way it goes. When I wrote Doubly Good to You, we were getting married, and I had written that for our wedding. A friend of mine said, "Boy, that is a really cruel song." And I said, "Well, why?" and she said, "Because you are inferring that if God doesn't give you a love that is centered around someone that is true that he hasn't been doubly good to you." I'm like, "Well, exactly." But God doesn't have to be singly good to anybody. We all have got it better than we deserve so we should be thankful for what we have.

God is a good God. He will complete our lives. He will impute his holiness onto us. The wonderful thing about God is that I deeply feel that once we come into the covenant through Jesus, once we have come through the way with him, that God really sees Christ when he looks at us and the sin in our life really is buried with Christ. And when God looks on us he sees what Christ has imputed onto us. And the work of the Spirit is just to get us to catch up with what has already happened.

I think the big problem is that, as Christians, we forgot that our identity is wrapped up in Christ and for a long time we bought into the illusion that the will of the masses would be more generous and more benevolent than the will of one dictator. But democracy isn't necessarily bad politics, its just bad math. A thousand corrupt minds are just as evil as one corrupt mind.

I used to think that it was somehow stupid and even wicked to dream of Heaven and to long for Heaven. And now I see the kind of a horrible place earth really is. And I go hiking and I go, this could be so beautiful. I met the guy last night sweeping the stairs down there and I talked to this very gentle man, a very kind man, a very simple man and I thought, how could a world made up of people like this be such a horrible place. And then I pick up the paper and read about dishonesty and deceit and betrayal and all that and go, I do long for Heaven. Someday God will destroy injustice. Someday there will be a judgment and because we have a loving and a forgiving Father, maybe we'll survive it. If we don't, sometimes I think hell is better than what we deserve anyway.

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