I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book, but I knew Rich Mullins wrote it, so I wanted to read it.
It turns out that this book is a collection of articles that Rich wrote for Release Magazine, between 1991 and 1996. Because of that, there is little continuity, as Rich seemed to be writing whatever was on his mind.
It begins with a welcome by Rich’s manager, Jim Dunning. This is followed by “A brief glimpse into the life and music of Rich Mullins.” I’m not sure who wrote that bit. One thing that struck me in this section was Rich’s belief in the connections during communion. “He said if we believe in the communion of the saints, then it is not only communion with the saints that are still in the Body, but also with the saints of old.” it’s one of the reasons that Rich loved singing the old hymns that people have sung for generations.
The book proceeds from there to the articles, which are grouped chronologically. Rich writes about faith and life, in various scenarios. There are many topics, but all fit into the scope of how faith and life work together. I’ll provide some quotes that I highlighted while reading.
“I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey.”
“And Jesus Christ is, for me, the evidence of God’s unreasonable and unsolicited attentiveness, His unearned favor, His incomprehensible love.”
Concerning the faith we had when we were children: “When we were little, we gave ourselves over to faith. Now we are big, and too heavy to rise above our own understanding.
“When we were kids we sang for the joy of singing, we colored and cut and pasted for the fun of doing it. We ran for the love of running and laughed and got scared and saw the world as a real place full of real dangers and real beauty and real rights and wrongs.”
I love this one: “Faith is not a denial of facts–it is a broadening of focus. It does not deny the hardness of guitar strings, it plucks them into a sweetness of sound.”
“I hope you see the faithfulness of God in everything He has made. I hope you learn to trust that all of this is His care sworn to you. But mostly, I hope you know Jesus through whom God has wildly and ferociously loved us. I hope you know and that you become sacramental to your neighbor who God also loves passionately. I hope you leave them little doubt about His love and the victory Jesus won over hate and death.”
“Don’t stop reading. Don’t stop listening. There are many things that are too amazing for all of us, many more that empower us beyond what we can understand.” (I will never stop reading, and if I go blind, I will listen to audiobooks.)
“But, if we still ourselves, if we let Him calm us, focus us, equip us for the day, He will remind us of our Father’s prodigal generosity and about the pitiful weakness of greedy men. He will remind us (as He reminded the devil) that ‘Man does not live by bread alone,’ though He may call us (as He called His first disciples) to give bread to the hungry (presumably because man cannot live long without bread). He will remind us about the cares that burden common people, the illusions that blind those the world calls ‘lucky,’ and the crippling effects of worry. He will give us hope–hope that stretches us (where worry bent us) and faith–faith that sustains us (where greed smothered us) and love–love that is at the bottom of our deepest desires, the loss of which is at the root of all our fears.”
“How is it that we can accept that Moses saw a bush that burned and was not consumed, yet we doubt that God can love in a rage and never cool?”
And finally, Rich quoting his uncle’s response to his determination to live a life of poverty (and I’m sure that Dallas Willard would agree): “If you’re really concerned about the poor, becoming poor isn’t going to help them, it’s just going to ease your own conscience. If you’re really concerned about the poor, go out and make a fortune and spend it on them.”
Rich Mullins was, still is, one of my life heroes. I’m thankful that I got to see him twice in a concert setting. Both times, as many others have experienced, he came out on stage in a white t-shirt, blue jean shorts, and barefoot. Both times, he quietly left the stage at the end of the “show” while the audience worshiped, singing “Step by Step.”
There will never be another Rich Mullins. Nor does there need to be. We already have one. God decided that he needed Rich in heaven more than we needed him here. It’s not my business to understand that. But, in a sense, we still have him here, because we still have him. We have his liturgy, his legacy, and his ragamuffin band.