A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Fan

Oh my goodness, kids, I have actually felt inspired to write blog posts. In addition to this one, I have three more ideas bouncing around in my head that I hope to write out before I go to bed tonight.

(In reality, it’s inevitable that I have inspiration. My parents are going to be in town tomorrow, so of course I want to procrastinate from cleaning.)

Today my Twitter buddy Jen (@jen_rose) reminded me on her blog that today is the 15th anniversary of Rich Mullins’ death. Her post on it is much more eloquently written than this could possibly be and you should go read it instead…but if you prefer my ill-formed scribblings for some reason, well, here you are.

Rich Mullins in an album that is way cooler than the cover image would lead you to believe.I honestly can’t remember a time before I knew Rich Mullins’ songs. I mean, I’m sure such a time exists, but not by much. I mean, Awesome God came out when I was six.

Because my mom was a fan, I had the privilege of seeing Rich Mullins in concert three times. I liked him. He performed barefoot and told stories and interacted with the audience.

He kind of ruined Christian music for me. Back then, Christian music was in its heyday. Lyrics focused on personal and social issues, or emphasized the theological aspects of Bible stories. Take Step by Step. The chorus has been a church staple since it came out, and it makes sense…it’s a good worship chorus. “O God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you.” But it’s the verses that draw me in:

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

You still get pockets of lyrics like that (Andrew Peterson comes to mind), but everything I hear on Christian radio these days seems like meaningless praise, like the songwriters jump to the climax, the “I will ever praise You,” without faltering in their steps (but never beyond Your reach).

The thing about Rich Mullins is that he was painfully aware of his own failings (such as porn use) and yet humbly aware of God’s saving grace. And because of that tension, that striving to live up to God’s standards and failing miserably, virtually every song he wrote is filled with a sense of wonder and awe. And the songs will just reach into your heart and wreck you.

Probably my favorite song (the one that almost inevitably makes me cry) is “If I Stand.” Probably, that’s because in spite of all my silliness and pettiness and obvious neuroses, it sums up my life pretty well.

The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things…

A memory: a missions trip in Mexico, a conversation with Gabriel, one of the Mexican helpers. Being surprised that he knew of Rich Mullins, let alone liked his music. “Si, me gusta,” he said, and sang, “If I stand, let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through.

A memory, remarkably recent: learning a good friend has cancer. Rushing to my guitar. “If I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to you.

A memory: on stage, my last Sunday at my parents’ church before moving to Lansing. Singing as a duet with my mother: “If I sing, let me sing for the joy that has borne in me these songs.

A memory.

The month surrounding the death of Rich Mullins was odd. Princess Di died; Mother Teresa followed a few days later. After two weeks came Rich Mullins’ fatal crash. A month to the day later, Pastor Dan was voted in, triggering a major divide in my church.

Mr. Chamberlain was a quiet, unassuming man from my church. He was one of the men who ran the sound board and a family friend. One evening, a day or two after Rich Mullins passed away, he went on a jog. A bit later, his wife heard sirens, but thought nothing of it until he failed to return home. Mr. Chamberlain had suffered a heart attack on the road. He died instantly.

And I thought, “God must have needed him to run the sound board in heaven for Rich Mullins.”

And if I weep, let it be as a man who is longing for his home.

Image stolen shamelessly from the Kid Brothers of St. Frank