Tears streamed down my face. It was a Saturday night in 1997 when a friend called. "I know his music means a lot to you, so I wanted to call and tell you that Rich Mullins died last night. I'm really sorry."
Fifteen years ago today, contemporary Christian music's greatest songwriter/lyricist left this Earth to be with his heavenly father.
Andrew Peterson mentioned on UTR's Rich Mullins tribute that he felt foolish crying over a man he never knew personally. I felt the same way.
The night Rich died, I lost the voice that gave beautiful words to the work of God in my life and in the world around me. I grieved for the man, but I also grieved for the songs that would never be written.
What His Music Meant to Me
My relationship with Rich's music started around ninth grade. My mentor at the time, Todd Lively, introduced me, playing one of Rich's simpler songs. On that night I was grieving over the separation of my parents.
And people say 'maybe things will get better'.
And people say 'maybe it won't be long'.
And people say 'maybe you'll wake up tomorrow and it'll all be gone'.
But I only know maybes just ain't enough when you need something to hold on.
But there's only one thing that's clear:
I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life...but reach out to Jesus, hold on tight. He's been there before and he know's what it's like. And you'll find he's there.
– "Bound To Come Some Trouble" by Rich Mullins
As I grew and matured, Rich gave me perspective on the stuff of Earth.
There's more that rises in the morning than the sun,
And more that shines in the night than just the moon.
It's more than just this fire here that keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger than this room.
And there's a loyalty that's deeper than mere sentiments,
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing.
The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things.
So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through;
And if I can't, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You.
And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs;
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home.
-"If I Stand" by Rich Mullins and Steve Cudworth
And as my heart thawed from an early college winter of disillusionment, Rich's lyrics taught me a simpler faith, one in which we worship Christ: the creator – the author of green.
And the wrens have returned and they're nesting
In the hollow of that oak where his heart once had been.
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again.
And the streams are all swollen with winter,
Winter unfrozen and free to run away now.
And I'm amazed when I remember
Who it was that built this house,
And with the rocks I cry out
Be praised for all Your tenderness
by these works of Your hands:
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless
and bring to life Your land.
Look down upon this winter wheat
and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green
that fills these fields with praise.
– "The Color Green" by Rich Mullins
Over the years, I continually lose battles of sin – idolatry, lust and pride. Still today, Rich reminds me
There's a wideness in God's mercy I cannot find in my own.
And He keeps His fire burning to melt this heart of stone.
Keeps me aching with a yearning, keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God.
– "The Love of God" by Rich Mullins
Preserving the Treasure
Earlier tonight I was saddened when the twenty-something guys I was playing music with didn't know who Rich Mullins was.
I've yet to find a Christian song writer who's lyrics satisfy my soul the way Rich's do. I want others to experience the beauty and the honesty of his life and music.
I also want to challenge today's song writers. We need wonderful, simple, easy-to-sing worship songs full of spirit and truth for the Church. But the Church also needs poets, feelers, and thinkers that will dive deep in the stories of the Bible, deep into the weeds of the human heart, and deep into the beauty of creation, inspiring our hearts to look up.
How You Can Discover Rich Mullins
Additionally, there is a great website (design aside) with all of Rich's lyrics and other writing. This post could be three times longer if I quoted all of my favorites. Check out his best song lyrics here and here.
Father, thank you for the encouragement, lessons, worship, and inspiration you brought to millions of hearts through Rich's music. We pray for today's current generation of songwriters. May they, led by your Spirit, do the same.
Question: What are your favorite Rich Mullins lyrics? Second, who are your favorite writers today?