The last two evenings I’ve spent time with two different groups of co-workers. Each collective conversation centered on things that transition relationships from acquaintance or colleague to lasting, personal friendships.
Thursday evening a car load of us were on our way to Little Rock. We had a respectful and intriguing exchange about religion, faith, and the history of different Christian denominations. A couple of us knew who Rich Mullins was. As we began singing his choruses, everybody else was, “That’s THAT guy?” We’d already talked about his vow of poverty and such.
I said Thursday night, and I’ll say it again — Rich Mullins saved my life. Songs like these washed over my aching pride and my broken heart.
But I remember what Susan said
How love is found in the things we’ve given up
More than in the things that we have kept
And ain’t it funny what people say
And ain’t it funny what people write
And ain’t it funny how it hits you so hard
In the middle of the night
And I remember what Susan said
It took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are
When you love you walk on the water
Just don’t stumble on the waves
We all want to go there somethin’ awful
But to stand there it takes some grace
‘Cause oh, we are not as strong
As we think we are
No, we are not as strong
As we think we are
Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There’ll be a drop of grace
If we can reach
Beyond the wisdom of this age
Into the foolishness of God
That foolishness will save
Those who believe
Although their foolish hearts may break
They will find peace
And I’ll meet you in that place
Where mercy leads
And one more song — Hold Me Jesus
Well, sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small
So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace
And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart
Last night, some of us were talking about Wikipedia and what a fascinating concept Wikis are. In refreshing my memory about Rich Mullins, Wikipedia shot up to the top of my Google search. Yes, I use the Google. So here’s Wiki’s pretty thorough account of the life and legacy of Rich Mullins, a singer/songwriter who used his musical and lyrical talents to pay his bills, and considered his ministry to be about helping others and immersing himself in the reality of how Jesus would serve if He were here today.
In addition to his music, Rich Mullins is remembered for his sincere devotion to the Christian faith. An example of this can be seen in the liner notes of any of his albums. He always referenced each song with a scripture verse that apparently was its inspiration. Mullins often called St. Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) his hero. He modeled his life after St. Francis by showing great compassion towards the poor and adhering to a vow of poverty. In 1997, he composed a musical about the life of St. Francis set in the Old West called Canticle of the Plains.
Mullins was seen as an enigma to the Christian music industry. Often barefoot, unshaven, and badly in need of a haircut, Mullins did not look like the average American Gospel music writer. He was very much at home among the non-Christians, and unafraid to name his own sin and inadequacies in public. This baffled some in the American Christian culture where he seemed an odd member. His lifestyle was unquestionably marked by devotion and discipline, yet his simultaneous refusal to subscribe to contemporary Christian “niceties” made him a bit of an uncomfortable presence in the Christian music culture. Although he achieved a significant amount of success on Christian radio, he never received a Dove Award until after his death.
Unlike most artists in Contemporary Christian music, Mullins did not consider his music his primary ministry, but rather a means to pay his bills. Instead, his ministry was the way he treated his neighbors, family, enemies, and those outside the church. Taking a vow of poverty, he accepted a small church salary and spent the last years of his life on a Navajo reservation teaching music to children.