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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

June, 2001

There’s a story about the late “Mama Cass” Elliot, of the 1960’s musical group The Mamas and the Papas. Cass wanted to join the group and went with them to the Virgin Islands. The others wouldn’t let her join because she couldn’t sing high enough to harmonize with Michelle Phillips, the group’s then-current female member, in John Phillips’ vocal arrangements. One day, Cass was walking past a construction site. Workmen dropped a length of pipe, which struck her on the head, knocking her unconscious. After she regained consciousness, she could sing about “two or three musical notes” (which would be about three to five semitones) higher than she could before the accident. For those of you who are not musical, let me point out that this is a near-miracle. Three semitones represent an increase in frequency of about nineteen percent. Imagine running a mile in six minutes one day, and then the next, suddenly running it in five! Naturally, I’m not going to recommend head trauma to our choir members as a way to improve their range, but this is a truly remarkable event if it’s true.

Then there’s the old joke about a farmer who hit his mule in the head with a board. When a passerby saw it, he asked the farmer, “Why did hit you that poor mule?” The farmer replied, “Oh, I’m just getting his attention.”

The Bible also has numerous stories of people who were “hit in the head” or “struck down.” The best known is probably the story of David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17). David chose one of the “five smooth stones” he had gathered from the stream, placed the stone in his sling, let fly, “. . . and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.” (1 Sam. 17:49b NIV). David, the servant of God, hit Goliath the Philistine in the head and got the attention of the entire Philistine army. “When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.” (1 Sam. 17:51b NIV). The Philistines thought they could prevail against the people of God, but they found out they were wrong.

Another instance is the story of Saul, who became Paul. He was known for persecuting Christians throughout the ancient world. One day, he was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus when “. . . suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” (Acts 9:3b-4 NIV). God hit Saul in the head and got his attention. Then Saul asked, “‘Who are you, Lord?’” (Acts 9:5a NIV). The reply was, “‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’” (Acts 9:6a NIV). Saul was blind for the next three days and didn’t eat or drink anything (Acts 9:9). God sent a man named Ananias to restore Saul’s sight; when Saul could see again he was baptized as a Christian, and began eating again (Acts 9:10-19). The Christians in Damascus didn’t trust Saul, especially Ananias. But God told Ananias, “‘This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.’” (Acts 9:15b NIV). Afterward, Saul began preaching in the local synagogues “. . . that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20b NIV). But the people who heard him couldn’t believe the change that had occurred in him. They asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’” (Acts 9:21b NIV).

Saul had been struck down from above, and when he woke up he was transformed. Like the Philistines, Saul thought he could stand against the people of God, but he too was wrong. Afterward, he recognized the need in others for the kind of change he himself had experienced. Saul (as Paul) wrote to the Christians in Rome, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2a NIV). When we are “struck from above,” we are changed—“transformed,” to use Paul's word. We will be able to achieve things that were previously impossible. And as changed persons, we can change the world around us.

“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
“‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’” (Acts 9:3-6 NIV.)

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Copyright © 2001 by David Phelps