Monday, April 18, 2011

Cloud of Witnesses

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

Those who make up this biblical cloud of witnesses—Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Rahab—are impressive figures, but most of the time, to me at least, they seem distant and untouchable. Almost not real. And because of that, they’re not quite the examples they’re meant to be.

But I have my own cloud of witnesses. I’ll bet you do too. Here are a few of the people who inhabit mine:

C.S. Lewis. Novelist, scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature, and Christian apologist (1898–1963). How many people can trace their conversion, at least in part, to a C.S. Lewis book or essay? Millions, I’m sure, including millions of children who learned to love the lion Aslan before they knew who Jesus was.
Thérèse of Lisieux. French Carmelite nun (1873–1897). Although Thérèse wanted to remain unknown, she also aspired to greatness—in God’s sight. Being “small” in her own eyes, her path to greatness was her “little way” of small (but costly) sacrifices. Her autobiography Story of a Soul, as it was later titled, written at the request of the prioress of Lisieux and published a year after her death, is one of the most moving and thought-provoking works in Christian literature.

Rich Mullins. Songwriter, singer, musician, and author (1955–1997). In the 1970s Rich Mullins was a youth pastor and music director at his Kentucky church. In the early 1980s he moved to Nashville and started a successful career in Christian music. And in the late 1980s he gave it all up. He went back to school, got a degree in music education, and moved to New Mexico to teach music to kids on the Navajo reservation. Rich probably earned millions of dollars in his lifetime, but he insisted on being paid each year no more than what the average salary in the U.S. was. He gave the rest to charity.

Keith Green. Songwriter, singer, and musician (1953–1982). Keith Green is the first contemporary Christian music artist I remember hearing, though I have to admit I’m not that fond of his music now. (It’s, well, very 1970s CCM.) It’s his life that interests me. Before he became a Christian, he delved into Eastern mysticism and drugs, fighting Jesus all the way. After he became a Christian, he opened his house to homeless kids and prostitutes. When he was released from his last record contract in 1979, he never again charged money for his albums or concerts. People gave only what they could, and the profits went to Keith’s Last Days Ministries. When I read articles and books about Keith, the same word keeps popping up: “radical.”

Corrie ten Boom. Dutch Holocaust survivor and author (1892–1983). Ten Boom was arrested, along with her entire family, for helping to hide Jews and resistance fighters from the Nazis. She was imprisoned at Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her father and sister died in the camps. Corrie survived and went on to write her memoir, The Hiding Place, among other works. After forty years, The Hiding Place is still in print.

What about you? Who is in your cloud of witnesses?



Lynn Coulter said...

This is great, Karin. Thinking about who's in my cloud, now!

Cynthia Bruner said...

Thought provoking! C.S. Lewis, certainly...I was one of those kids who loved Aslan first! By the way, this scripture is what I chose to use on a gift for my is both a challenge and a blessing to "know" these people!

Karin Kaufman said...

Lynn, I'm glad you enjoyed it. It boggles the mind sometimes--all those Christians who went before us, who never knew us, are alive to us in ways they would never have guessed and can be such an encouragement.

Karin Kaufman said...

Cynthia, I agree--"both a challenge and a blessing." I think most of the time we feel we don't measure up. But when you read what these people wrote when they were alive, you realize they felt the same way.

Holly said...

George McDonald and Andrew Murray -- two faithful men whose words and lives challenge me. And Corrie ten Boom, whose example still inspires me. The thought that they might be watching -- let's just say it makes me want to try harder ;)

Karin Kaufman said...

Holly, I love George McDonald. I don't know much about Andrew Murray, but now I want to read up on him. I do think about them watching--or at least sensing that their words are being read or their music is being played to encourage other Christians. And of course one day we're actually going to meet them!

Deborah Bateman said...

As we look back at all the Christians who have gone before us and paved a way for us that we might be able to become Christians and share the good news with others, I can only hope that one day we in some small way will help to lead others to the same Christ they led us to.

Karin Kaufman said...

Deborah, in one of Beth Moore's Bible studies she asks her students to insert their own names in the "By faith..." list in Hebrews 11 ("By faith Abel....By faith, Cain...," etc.). It was eye-opening to consider myself at the present-day end of that long line of faithful--and then to consider those who will come after me.

NancyK@A Softer Voice said...

Good Morning, Karen
I enjoyed your thoughts on Clouds of Witnesses. Some of the wonderful pastors and teachers who have had a profound impact on my life come to mind.

I found your blog through Christian Authors & Bloggers on FB and would love to exchange blog addresses.
My blog is

God Bless

Karin Kaufman said...

Hi, Nancy. Thanks so much for your comments on my blog post. I've added your blog's name, and your name, to my links on the right (links are in alphabetical order). Thanks again!

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