Along with Mike Yaconelli, Rich was one of the two guys I was ever around who just oozed Jesus. Listen to this quote from one of his final concerts: "Jesus said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken..." Rich LIVED those words. He moved out of the music scene in Nashville in 1991 to Wichita, Kansas, where he attended Friends University and received a B.A. in music education. He and fellow Ragamuffin Mitch McVicker (the Ragamuffins were the band he had formed in 1993) moved to a Navajo reservation in New Mexico in 1995 to live among the Native Americans and teach music. For Rich, "What Would Jesus Do?" was not a bracelet- it was the driving question of his life. And because I knew that, his music was a moving force and a comfort in my own spiritual journey. At times when I struggled with my faith his song Creed reminded me "I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am." At the lowest points of my life, when I had let down everyone who loved me and everyone who believed in me, his words reminded me that "There's bound to come some trouble to your life, just reach out to Jesus and hold on tight..." As I lost so many of the things that had been important to me, I found myself praying his words daily: "Hold me, Jesus, 'cause I'm shaking like a leaf. You have been King of my glory, won't you be my Prince of Peace?" So many of his words showed me the light of Jesus in my darkest times. No matter how bad it seemed, I knew I was still in "the reckless, raging fury that we call the love of God..." Even his final project, The Jesus Record (see picture at top), promised me that "our Deliverer is coming..." We all need people to inspire, to direct us, to comfort us and to mentor us on the #NarrowRoad. For me, both up close and from a distance, in his life and since his death, Rich Mullins was often that person.
Rich was killed in a car accident on September 19, 1997. I cried, but Rich himself had already written about going to be with Jesus in his early classic Elijah- "When I leave I want to go out like Elijah, with a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire. And when I look back on the stars, it'll be like a candlelight in Central Park- and it won't break my heart to say goodbye..." He left such a legacy in my life. I am a Ragamuffin, a bum who is only important because of the love of Jesus. Rich (along with Brennan Manning and so many others) taught me the more we come like Ragamuffins the clearer we see the #NarrowRoad, and the clearer we see the purer our hearts become. "And the pure in heart shall see God." I know that God still has things for me- yes, even ME- to do, and if I follow the path of Jesus then I will say YES when the time comes. As the song says "You can argue with your maker but you know that you just can't win...so say it...Alrightokuhhuhamen!"
Because of Jesus,