Thursday, September 20, 2007

Remembering Rich Mullins

Hey, folks. We're gearing up for the concert tonight, and I read through this piece I wrote for CCM. I'm pretty sure all they used was a sentence of it, so I don't feel bad posting the whole thing here.
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Beaten Up and Carried Home

Today I drove across the flat, wide prairie at the foot of the Grand Tetons. My wife of twelve years and our three children were with me on the journey, and as is our custom on long trips, we let the kids take turns choosing the music. We listened to Riders in the Sky (the best cowboy music around), the soundtrack to Silverado (the best Western film score ever), and some Sara Groves (who doesn't have much at all to do with the Wild West, but who was a welcome salve after ten hours of the kids choosing the aforementioned music).

Then we rounded the bend at sunset and there before us stood those craggy Tetons, all gray stone with white snow tucked into the fissures. The clouds were gold with sunlight and long, misty fingers of rain were dangling from them, caressing the peaks and down to the aspen- and fir-covered shoulders of the range.

Who else but Rich Mullins could write music that would adequately compliment a scene like that? I asked for the iPod, selected A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band, and we drove the next forty five minutes without speaking. We weren't speaking because we were being spoken to.

Rich's music has a finely tuned resonance. Some people I know could listen to his music and miss the vibration completely, while others, like myself, hear the songs and feel rattled to the bone. Driving today in the shadow of the mountains, my bones were rattling with the gospel, and it was the gospel according to Rich. He sang about a God who bares his holy arm in the sight of the nations, who roars and smites and laughs from heaven at his enemies; but the God Rich knew--the God he knows--is also one of tenderness and deep mystery and patient love. He's a God who thought to make the color green, whose mercy rains down from heaven and trickles even to the brown brick spines of our dirty blind alleys. I remember Rich saying in a live recording from years ago that God is like the kid who beats you up and then gives you a ride home on his bike. I've learned a lot about God from Rich, mainly because he put to words the things I already knew were true: I have been beaten up, and I have been carried home.

I could write all day about the ways God has blessed me and changed me by way of Rich's music; I could write all day about the ways I have missed his wry, odd wisdom in the midst of the industry I find myself so often befuddled by; I could also write about the way Rich's writing craft leaves me awestruck and humbled; or about the countless stories I've been told by those he either knew or was known by; or about the uncanny number of artists I know of who point to Rich as one of their chief influences, both spiritual and musical.

But today, after that glorious drive through the West while listening to him sing about America and Jesus and the very truth of God, I can only here express my gratitude to God for Rich's ability to remind me that it is to God alone that I am to be grateful. There's nothing else an artist could better aspire to than to leave that legacy. I have sung his songs and read his writings and visited his grave and am convinced that in his barefoot, quirky, grace-filled wake he left a pair of shoes that no one will ever fill.

14 comments:

Shawn said...

I pulled out this CD and started listening even as I finished reading your post. I can't say anything about it that you have not already said, but I also miss Rich. I'm glad I'll get to praise God alongside him in the future.

And I'm glad for the humility that I see in your words, even though I feel that you have a gift for writing that rivals Rich's.

Keep writing...and always wear a seatbelt.

LisaBeth said...

I love Rich's music, too. I was driving down back country roads in Idaho the other day listening to that same CD and I couldn't help but laugh out loud listening to "Calling Out Your Name", my God was just so GOOD, and even the rocks and hills and wind and songbirds were praising His name...and I couldn't help but join in.

K. H. Kan said...

A beautiful picture you have painted of God, His creation, and a child of His that "we have not too quickly forgotten..."

amy said...

Found your blog from a friend and I love it and really enjoyed this post~ Rich Mullins had a real heart for people.

I have always enjoyed "Hold Me Jesus!

Mattie said...

It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since Rich went home. Reading your words and how his songs affected you makes me think back to the first time I heard that cd, about 9 years ago. I had never heard anyone write with such honesty and power. His songs, as you said, struck deep into my bones, and I was drawn to the God he sang about.

I said I had never heard anyone write with such honesty and power, because I believe you are filling those shoes for us all now. I often tell my wife that you are ably filling Rich's shoes.

Awesome post AP.

lyndsayslaten said...

ap, you've done it again. your words are works of art. thanks for sharing them with us. i've been thinking about rich all week. i only have a couple of albums, but my nearly-obsessed brother let me borrow 5 or 6 of his cds (and he said "i have more if you want them!) it's been a rich week.

ps - can't wait to hear how the concert went last night!!!

chris said...

Wow. 10 years really does fly.

My wife & I had just gotten married a short bit before Rich's passing and it hit us hard like it did many. Like others have mentioned, I find my thumb scrolling to Rich & the ragamuffins when I find myself driving in beautiful or even not so beautiful places.

Interestingly enough, the summer after that one, a close buddy gave me a bootleg of a guy playing at Cornerstone introduced as Andy Peterson who had just signed with Caedmon's Call's new label. My buddy said, "I'll give you three guesses as to who this guy brings to mind." It only took one. This last week I did actually restumble upon this bootleg cd in all it's awesome sound quality of the mid nineties, and what a gem!

I got to see Andrew & the Captains play a couple weeks ago in St. Charles Missouri and was moved yet again.
Wow.
So the last couple weeks have been enjoyable listening through Andrew's catalog, (minus Carried Along... can't find it for my life! But I have half those songs on the bootleg).

Thanks Andrew.

LisaBeth said...

Oh, and one more thing. If your kids like Riders in the Sky they should try Sons of the Pioneers...pretty cool stuff, that. :)

And more music for you to get tired of too!

Peter said...

Hey, Chris, congratulations on 10 -- mine comes up in two weeks. Our courtship took place across 500 miles, which may be why The River is still one of my favorites. Calling Out Your Name was the first of Rich's words ever to stir my heart and mind, and coincidentally, Nothing to Say (my first AP song) is what I often find myself singing in the presence of creation's grandeur.

So yeah, AP, all that stuff about shoes... you're not exactly Mr. Petite Feet yourself.

Joy from the Prison said...

Andrew, That's beautiful.

Chad Myhre said...

Rich's music was introduced to me by the cheesy dorm-mates I shared a room with in Bible School. While I was sneaking the Clash into my Sony Walkman, they were pushing bands like: Bloodgood, Michael W. Smith and Petra on me. My nose couldn't turn up fast enough. Unfortunately, they did me a big dis-service by grouping Rich in with their Sandi Patty tainted tape collections.

Years passed in darkness for me, as the light of Rich's music bounced off of my impenetratable prejudice. Then, one day, I was caught unaware. I was in someone else's car. They were listening to the local Christian radio station. Suddenly, "Boy Like Me, Man Like You" came on. I was stopped in my tracks. I cut off the conversation and asked.. "what's this? on the radio? what is this?" When the answer came, I was stunned. (The guy who sang "Awesome God"?) - (btw, in the late 80's you couldn't go to church and not hear someone trying to sing that song to a worn out cassette track.. that added to my prejudice)..

Later that day, I heard, "Calling Out Your Name" WOW! Within a week, I bought everything I could get my hands on that Rich wrote. One week later, God took permanant possession of my newly found hero.

I never had a "Rich" experience. I never saw him in concert. I fell in love with his spirit, his music and his heart for the Lord just in time to loose him.

Bummer for me...

I don't remember how many years passed, but there I was, in someone elses car and a song came on that grabbed my attention. It was this one phrase "Rich is on the radio"... - "Who is this?" Andrew Peterson. That was good enough for me, I like AP.. and it only took that one line...

I've bought a few AP cd's over the years. In them, I hear that same spirit.. that same level of excellence... that same ability to portray the mysteries of God in Word.. just as Rich did. My all time favorite song is "Queen of Iowa".. which is followed closely by "Calling Out Your Name". If anyone has picked up the torch in the musical world.. it's A.P. I'm awaiting w/great anticipation the release of this current recording.

Whipple said...

Hey man. I've thought for a few years now that if there was anyone carrying Rich's mantle - that one of looking with an unnamable drawing towards the horizon that death will be for those who believe - it was you.

Ever since Love and Thunder (and, indeed, as far back as Shiloh and Carolina), I've watched you dream about the day when we shall gather at the River, and I couldn't help but see you walking that same path, and yet in a different way, having a wife and kids to shake your ground into holiness.

...and then I remember that you once accidentally told everyone in the venue that you farted. And perfect people who are in love with Jesus certainly don't do things like that...

By the way, I've enjoyed your blog, and the Spaceman Spiff picture.

Whipple said...

Hey man. I've thought for a few years now that if there was anyone carrying Rich's mantle - that one of looking with an unnamable drawing towards the horizon that death will be for those who believe - it was you.

Ever since Love and Thunder (and, indeed, as far back as Shiloh and Carolina), I've watched you dream about the day when we shall gather at the River, and I couldn't help but see you walking that same path, and yet in a different way, having a wife and kids to shake your ground into holiness.

...and then I remember that you once accidentally told everyone in the venue that you farted. And perfect people who are in love with Jesus certainly don't do things like that...

By the way, I've enjoyed your blog, and the Spaceman Spiff picture.

Unbreakable Joy said...

AP thanks for your notes about Rich. I too was thinking of him recently and posted about him @ http://unbreakablejoy.blogspot.com/2008/01/extraordinarily-gifted-musician.html.

I've been glad to be able listen to a musician who has a bit of Rich still flowing through him. I've often thought that you, more than any other, have filled somewhat the large shoes that Rich has left.

Thanks.