Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Richer

It wasn't until I was commenting on Scott Freeman's blog yesterday that I realized it was the 9th anniversary of Rich Mullins' death. I went back and dug through my archives to find a piece I wrote for a local Christian publication called Christian Activities right after I heard about his death...

I heard about Rich's death Sunday night; I immediately thought about all the memories that I have with his music. The first memory is hearing Winds of Heaven...Stuff of Earth at a church youth retreat in Florida. I loved so many songs from it. "Wonder of This World," his celebration of nature was beautiful, but even more so was "If I Stand." It is a classic that still moves me and began my love for Rich's music. I only met Rich twice; once was with that same youth group and he came in and played some songs from his upcoming CD, which was Never Picture Perfect. But the most vivid memory was a snowy night at the old Koinonia bookstore. It had just begun to snow, and Rich and Michael W. Smith were doing a very small show. I watched in admiration as Rich hammered on his dulcimer. Every time I heard his music it touched me in a very special way.

For awhile I didn't listen very much of his stuff until The World as Best I Remember It, Volumes I and II came out. I fell in love again. "Boy Like Me/Man Like you" was again a breath of fresh air, and my wife and I used "Sometimes Step by Step" as our recessional in our wedding. However, my love grew stronger with A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band. I believe this is the best CD Rich ever released. It is so strong lyrically with "Hold Me Jesus," "I'll Carry On," and "Land of My Sojourn," which now holds so much meaning in his death. It describes a life on the road and being alive in America.

Rich's culmination musically came in Songs, and I feel the cover speaks so strongly of his personality, his hands over his face, almost too shy to be the man who speaks so powerfully through his music. His own recording of "Sing Your Praise to the Lord" and the additions to it are amazing. However, the song that Rich wanted to be remembered by was "Elijah," and it is true: the Jordan was waiting, but Rich isn't anymore. As sad as I am and his friends are, he lived a full life. He showed a simple life and a full one. I loved his music, and in loving his music, I loved him and grew to love God as well.
I'll be honest, my respect for Rich has grown as I've found out more about how he lived his life. The sacrifices he made financially when he could have lived much more extravagantly, his faith amid the doubts of life, his struggles with temptation. Rich was not a saint from the generally perceived perspective, but he was a saint of God.

For a great read, I heartily recommend Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven by James Bryan Smith, a posthumous biography of Rich that really does a great job of capturing a piece of who he was.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love Rich's music too. Liturgy is my favorite CD. Hold Me Jesus has a special place in my heart. I can remember listening to it over and over during some hard times.

Rob Cox

Scott Freeman said...

Liturgy was his best CD. It all seemed to come together there, as if his music wasn't already one of a kind. There will never be another like him.
Did you go to his memorial service in Nashville?

Phil said...

Nope, my schedule wouldn't allow it. I wanted to though.

nhe said...

I remember where I was when Keith Green died - and I had very similar feelings.

Whereas Rich struggled with temptation, Keith struggled with legalism, and a very unhealthy distain for the Catholic church.......but those were different times.

They have one thing in common that the truly great and impactful artists have - honesty about their struggles and writing lyrics in the midst of brokeness. From Green's "My eyes are dry" to Mullin's "If I Stand", no 2 artists captured the depth of brokeness and deeply understood the corresponding grace better than these 2.

Amy said...

I love Rich's music too. And I appreciate your post and the reference to his biography. I will have to read that one.

Scott Freeman said...

I was there and I still thank I have the order of worship somewhere. It was beautiful and moving.

NHE, great points about Rich and Keith. Another tragic loss was Mark Heard.

Phil said...

Now the Mark Heard tribute was one that I WAS actually able to go to. I don't remember much about it except for Phil Keaggy playing and Steve Taylor and Chagall Guevera rocking that auditorium out.

Scott Freeman said...

Phil, you should pick up some Pierce Pettis stuff. Heard was producing Pettis when he died. Pierce has recorded a Heard tune as the first song on each album since.

Clarissa said...

I love "The Color Green". And the one about Christmas morning. And so many others. Rob and I listened to that CD together on many road trips!

Phil said...

Liturgy, Legacy, etc is a great road trip CD. Sheryl and I always take it with us on ours.

Along with the Sound of Music soundtrack... Yes, that's right. Julie Andrews and whoever sang for Christopher Plummer.

Brandon Scott said...

Have I ever told you that I actually worked with Rich when I worked at Reunion Records? There were some hilarious moments. That boy---scarttered, unwilling to play by the rules, and always unpredictable. LOVED HIM! I also remember the first time this little innocent boy sat with him over dinner as he drank a beer and smoked a cigar. I honestly thought the world had come to an end.

What a POWERFUL influence on our world!! He is missed. Like the song reference last Sunday morning?? :)

Suzie said...

"We are not as Strong as we think we are" was my anthem during that first year of my marriage. I was at a concert at Christ Pres listening to Third Day when they announced his death. So many of his songs are like a soundtrack to my life.

The biography of Keith Green...No Compromise...is a good book as well.

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