Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rich Mullins: Ragamuffin Poet

Well the moon moved past Nebraska
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills
And angels danced on Jacob’s stairs…
There is this silence in the Badlands
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled
By the whisper of a prayer…
And the single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames
I feel the thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out your name

One would be hard-pressed to find a better lyricist in Christianity’s legacy of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs than Rich Mullins. Wounded, flawed, and filled with a melancholic joy that came to recognize God in the unlikeliest of places, Rich had a craftsman’s gift for shaving and shaping a song just right.

Saints and children we have gathered here
To hear the sacred Story…

Above all, Rich was a teacher. But he was the kind of teacher who was really just excitedly sharing something he’d discovered. 
Every song was re-telling a story from Scripture: “Jacob, he loved Rachel. And Rachel, she loved him. And Leah was just there for dramatic effect”; 
or teasing out some deep truth: “Love is found in the things we’ve given up more than in the things that we have kept”
or a prophetic challenge: “These men of violence, they have made this a world full of wars”;
and always seeing and praising God: “Be praised for all your tenderness by these works of your hand!

One of my favorite things about Rich was what the Mystics call “detachment.” Rich seemed to move through life relatively unfazed by the more superficial things. Clothes, flash, money, polish—these things didn’t seem to occur to Rich…strange for a performer. He just seemed to show up and be in the moment—even if that moment was happening on a stage in front of thousands of people.  

Rich died in a car crash on September 19, 1997, at the age of 41. Personally, I lost a favorite artist who was a constant source of inspiration, instruction, and comfort. He pointed me to passages of scripture I’d never paid attention to, to the teaching of St. Francis of Assisi and Brennan Manning and to the liturgical life of the church, but he especially pointed me to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. His devotion inspired my own and continues to do so. His songs are like warm blankets when my heart is cold, like refreshing pools when my soul is dry and thirsty. I am thankful that Rich’s work is part of the kingdom songbook, poems for our journey, and that Rich is a rough-around-the-edges ragamuffin companion.

To find out more about Rich, this inspiring and well-done documentary was made soon after his death:

1 comment:

BarefootRagamuffin said...

Thank you for your post and video. His music continues to fall on this soul that drought has dried and it is one of my passions in life to continue sharing it if you'd be interested in listening. :)
Peace of Christ to you, my friend.

Amy Vreeman, "Remembering Rich Mullins," Volumes 1 & 2 on iTunes:

NEW BOOK--An Untold Story: Heroism, Mysticism, and the Quest for the True Self

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." ~ Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings About the Boo...