Remembering Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins No one in music has impacted my life like Rich Mullins. Very few people that I’ve ever met have impacted me as much in any way and I never so much as spoke a word or shook his hand.

But his songs. His music. His life.

With others I have sung a chorus written by his friend Beaker (David Strasser), “Oh God, you are my God and I will ever praise you and 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,” with tears on my cheeks and a throat so constricted it would hardly utter a sound. More than once my vehicle has been filled with a Rich and Marty duet that surely was pleasing to no one but God and times too frequent to remember my eyes have brimmed salty with the thought of what we had and all we’ve lost.

I read that when he first moved to Nashville he lived in a tent in Pam Mark Hall’s backyard. When filming videos in Ireland he forgot to take a coat and ended up having to wear one belonging to Steve Taylor (it’s the coat in the video below). How he didn’t keep up with how much money he had or made; he lived on $24k a year and, when he wanted to give some away, had to call his accountant, find out if he had enough and have it sent. How he went back to school to get a music degree, then moved to a Native American reservation to live so he could teach kids. How at a musician’s banquet where he was a guest, the other guests were surprised to find him behind the table serving.

I was broken the day he died, unbelieving. The first time I saw him in concert was in support of the project below, a true worship service. If Philip Yancey is the conscience of evangelicalism, Mullins was surely the conscience of its music. I marveled at a little known Andrew Peterson song called “3 Days Before Autumn” that was uncanny in its ability to capture what so many of us felt when Rich Mullins died:

And I take comfort in knowing that this ain’t my home
and I know when I’m lonely that I ain’t alone
and I know that he’s singing at the foot of the throne;
but that don’t seem to matter down here.
‘Cause the winter came early this year.

I think A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band is the best musical project to have ever been released in the history of the medium. Pure poetry, amazing music, with profound explorations of simple themes. From “Hold Me Jesus” comes a lyric that never ceases to invade my soul:

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want
Than take what you give that I need.
And I beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down
Falling on my knees.

Mullins’ admiration of St. Francis of Assissi gave birth to many songs praising God for His creation, perhaps none so beautiful or so poignant as “The Color Green,” featured in the video below. In this deeply insightful song, he managed not to simply invoke Genesis 1 and Psalm 19 but to channel them.

Be praised for all your tenderness
by these works of your hands.
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless
and bring to life your land.
Look down upon this winter wheat
and be glad that you have made
blue for the sky and the color green
that fills these fields with praise!

Like Keith Green, Rich Mullins knew worship before the birth of the modern worship movement; I believe it is fair to say he midwifed it by his demonstration that the entirety of God’s creation was to bring Him praise. Sometimes I miss Rich more than others and this week I’ve missed him a lot. I love Rich Mullins and his music.

Anyone else have any Rich Mullins reflections or remembrances?

You can sample every song and download A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band through this widget.

Or you can purchase through iTunes at this button:Rich Mullins - A Liturgy, a Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

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  • Gaylin Gurta

    Marty, I still remember when you came into the singles group at Hebron that Sunday morning telling us he had died. I was in shock. He is my all time favorite music artist.

    • Marty Duren

      I think Rodney Atkinson told me after the early service; he’d heard it on the radio on the way to church.

  • Rich was, in my mind, the most gifted poet/songwriter of the last 60+ years. He captured things in simplicity, but with insight and power. Lived in relative obscurity and he seemed to like it that way, especially unknown to the larger “music industry”. One of their best walked and wrote among them and because of his faith, he was largely written off. His music and lyrics had the ability to transport you-to see, hear and smell what he was singing about and make you want to be there with him. I am so thankful that he used his gift to point people to Jesus.

    It was tragic to hear of his loss, but to this day, Rich is still being used of God. Others are inspired to take up his style of
    music-telling. Andrew Peterson seems to be one.

    What others are you aware of?

    • Marty Duren

      I had an opportunity to tell Andrew Peterson once that he was the heir apparent to Rich Mullins. He deflected the compliment, of course. I’m not sure he’s made it to that stature yet; I still feel that Carried Along has been his best project.

      With the emphasis of the last decade on praise and worship styles of music, I don’t know of a Mullins-type singer songwriter out there; I could be overlooking him/her. I do think that Rich would be very happy with the attention given to justice both in song and efforts like Blood/Water Mission from Jars of Clay.

      I do feel that the entire CCM scene has become so vanilla as to be completely stale. Our local stations play the same songs over and over and play multiple covers of songs that are barely five years old. I fear that Christians have once again found a way to kill worship with blandness.

      • Marty Duren

        *found a way to kill*

  • Bart Sims

    My life has been greatly impacted by the music of Rich Mullins. I never got to see him in person. I do miss him greatly.
    I have the same observations about the current state of CCM. I no longer listen to our local “Family Radio” station, it is flavorless to me.

    • Marty Duren

      I wonder if that is the same “Safe for the Whole Family” station about which my daughter asks, “Why do they take a good song and then play it 3 times an hour until you hate it?”

  • Roxie

    I was so fortunate to meet Rich Mullins back stage after a concert in Orange County (CA) and got his autograph too. He was amazing in concert and I am very blessed to have been a part of that. I really miss him, but thank God we still have his music.

  • Melissa

    Rich Mullins is someone I heard about thru my Agnostic/Atheist-like brother. My brother subscribes to the Penn&Teller view of the world…and pushes thru the view on his fb that any mere mention of God is annoying…but for some reason only God understands, Mullins transcended all that and touched him in the heart.

    Just when I am feeling down about being in my forties, single, a maiden-auntie, a woman whose career is going nowhere…and who makes barely enough to cover the expenses and is now fighting debt..I still look to examples like Rich Mullins who God uses to shine His light into my weary eyes. I can still give away money. I don’t need all the things I think I need. I don’t “deserve” to be “rich”, in fact, I already am, very rich. I have all I need right here, right now. I can watch impactful videos like the ones where Rich Mullins is tearing into evagenlism that shuts its self in an ivory safe haven and tower “away from gays and minorities” to quote him. He was my inspiration for going into prison ministry…something I loved but had to stop due to job etc. I have no words to express my heartfelt longing to be as full of God’s joy and light as Rich Mullins was…but the ironic thing is I think he would laugh out loud to hear me say that if he were still here with us on earth. Perhaps he is laughing now.

  • Lori Compton

    I heard Rich Mullins voice on the radio one day, listened to the words, it tugged at my heart, I wanted to know more about him, looked him up, was shocked to realize he had passed on.I had to know more and his life has really affected me and when I need a spiritual boost, I turn to Rich. Would love to have met him, hear him speak. He had so much to give and he gave all he had, the short period of time he was with us.I find him amazing, an extraordinary expression of God’s love. He will change lives on and on, thru his music, his legacy. I hope i have the chance to see him someday,when i pass on, and have a conversation, see his smile.Hear his sweet voice, Praise God.

  • Hmmm. As I sit here trying consider what words could or would do justice to how God touched my heart through the life and music of Rich Mullins, tears come to my eyes. It’s strange. I never met Rich or had even heard of him until after he had died….but I know him. Does that make sense to anyone? I think it has something to do with my own ragamuffin journey with our Lord. Somehow, Rich led the way for me…and I imagine, for many of you reading this. He led in the way of trust. To reach down deep, take a big breath, and trust God with your life…right down to the small details, which, looking back, aren’t details after all. Rich helped me to believe. Both in the awesome wonder of God and in the very human reality that I too am loved. I’ve shared Rich’s music and lives with hundreds of other people, hoping that they too might be drawn to the God of this man who did his best to live in this kind of ruthless trust. I once had a very vivid dream that I met Rich. He was young and so was I. I remember like yesterday, he gave me a hug and affirmed my journey. I’ll never forget it. Thank you Rich for your love for God and people. Please pray for me as I too seek to leave a legacy of true joy and compassion. And thank you Marty, for such a beautiful post.

  • I had the joy of meeting Rich several times at concerts. I loved the quirky way that he’d forget the lyrics of a song he’d written and then ask someone in the room to help him out. He’d always refused to write any of his lyrics down saying, “if I have to write it down, maybe it’s not worth remembering”. Ironically, Rich decided uncharacteristically to write out (and record on a boom box as only Rich would do) his final project, The Jesus Record (he preferred the title “10 Songs About Jesus”). It’s almost as if he knew his time were short. The last time I spoke with him was the year before he died. I sheepishly asked him to autograph my cd inserts – all of them (I had the complete set). He laughed at me and ended up writing a distinct variation of his signature “Be God’s” on each. Still have them. And I’m still learning what he meant by that … Often helped along by pulling out one of his CDs or selecting “play all” on largest anthology on my iPod.
    Be God’s,

  • michelle

    how could i get in contact with david strasser?