Sometimes I Think of Abraham

Earlier this fall I spent time in southern Utah, a place that, among other spectacular sights, often has a clear view of the night sky. Surrounded by a cathedral of stone, attempting to remember constellations and their stories, I couldn’t help but hear the echo of familiar words: “Sometimes I think of Abraham / How one star he saw had been lit for me.” And I trusted, though it felt like hoping against hope, that these words were indeed true—that I was part of a larger story.

I don’t remember when I first encountered Rich Mullins, the man who penned these words. Some friends become such constant companions that life without them seems a strange thing to consider. Some of his more famous songs I certainly sang in church as a kid, and their lyrics and melodies feel older than memory. Today, Rich is one of my spiritual heroes—his music, words, and prophetic life have shaped my sense of the Christian faith inestimably.

In many ways, Rich’s music and life have been an anchor for my own journey of trusting in Jesus. In every season, while more and more people choose to stop walking in the Way, saints like Rich keep calling out: “Stay the course. Follow the ancient paths.”

Rich sings,

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that, no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

The road to righteousness is steep, lonely, narrow, and rarely fashionable. Yet Rich and his music remind me that it is also beautiful, good, and true. That a life committed to following after the God of Jesus Christ is not the easiest, but the best. Not at all lucrative, but absolutely beautiful. Not popular, but true. Rich helps me see that there are many faithful companions on the journey, saints who shine like stars in the heavens, who have walked in obedience and faithfulness.

The lives of these saints—Abraham, David, Mary, Francis, Romero, Elliot, Nouwen, Mullins, and so many others—spur me on in this journey of faith. Because these are not merely distant characters or dead musicians, but because they are brothers and sisters in faith, whose stories we inherit, whose faith strengthens our own.

Nearly any time I see the night sky I hear, “Sometimes I think of Abraham….”, and I marvel at the fact that one of these stars—the same stars Abraham saw—has been lit for me. We are children of the promise, and God is faithful to his word. The old, old story is true.

Rich Mullins has helped me to keep to the old roads of faith. I thank God for my old friend Rich.

I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You’ll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

St. Peter: Called and Born Anew

I used to own a boat
But then one day this man
Showed up and asked
If he might use the boat
As his pulpit and there wasn’t time
For me to say no
And before long he was teaching
Me how to fish and that
Was the last time I saw that boat

I think that some people
Would say that this was my “call”
That the day I began to follow
Was the beginning of a new life
And it was indeed the beginning
Of choosing much that I
Never would have chosen
Had my boat remained mine

I used to own my life
But then one day this man
Showed up and asked
If he might take my life
Up into his own and there wasn’t time
For me to say no
And before long he was sprinkling
Me with something like blood and that
Was the last time I was my own

I think that some people
Would say that this was my “new birth”
That the day I began to change
Was the beginning of a new family
And it was indeed the beginning
Of places and people that I
Never would have chosen
Had my life remained mine

So I say that you are “born anew”
And “called” because you have
Not only died and left your nets
And come out of darkness
But you have been called into light
And born anew into something
Called eternal life

Upon This Rock

1 Peter 3:15

Beloved, there is a hope
That I think might live
Beyond today, because
I can see it living
In you. So,

Beloved,
I want to ask if you
Can give an account,
Because I can still feel the warmth
Of the courtyard fire
And I remember,

Beloved, that hope is not
My only legacy.
So please tell me
Again about your faith,
Because I had seen him,
Known him, loved him,
Lived as one knowing
What it is to be

Beloved. Yet when
The Lord took on abuse
While doing what was good,
I feared that if
I identified with his flesh
And blood I might
Take on the same.

Beloved, you know
The truth, that it is his
Wounded flesh that we take on
As those covered
By his blood, and I know
That this is good,
But I can still feel denial’s sting,
So please,

Beloved, tell me again
About this hope
That is living in you.

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“This World Will Be Troy”

“I have been thinking about existence lately. In fact, I have been so full of admiration for existence that I have hardly been able to enjoy it properly . . . . I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is a human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try.”

― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (p. 56-7)