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30 Years of Memories-Rich Mullins

30 Years of Memories-Rich Mullins

September 19th, 1997, Rich Mullins died in a car accident near Peoria, IL. Rich had been in concert for us three times over the years. Still today, much of his music rotates in our highest rotations library of music. Even gone, Rich is still sharing the Gospel in his unique way. During the last couple years of Rich’s life he had moved to Window Rock, Arizona, to teach music o Navajo children. He had taken a vow to live the lifestyle of the average wage in America and had no information about all the financial results of his music career, leaving that to others. Rich Mullins was more than a musician who wrote song lyrics, he was a ‘thinker’ of the Gospel who was transparent about his struggles with and the wonder of God’s Love. A good weekend read might be Rich’s biography written by James Bryan Smith, An Arrow Pointing to Heaven. The Rich Mullins of our first concert with him in 1990 was not the same Rich Mullins in his last in 1996. Smith’s book narrates Rich’s Gospel journey.

Another one of the things that he did was to write a monthly column for Release Magazine. I stumbled across a couple of those in my desk recently and I thought it might be interesting and perhaps trigger memories of one of CCM’s most influential artists if we reprinted one of those articles. This appeared in the fall issue of Release in 1993. It’s a true story of Rich living in at attic in a friend’s house in Wichita, Kansas. My favorite picture of Rich that we have from one of his concerts was him barefooted, a diet Coke sitting next to his feet, a pair of frayed blue jeans, and wearing a white wrinkled t-shirt. That was Rich. Common, no pretense, no wasted words. This short column fits his image: a hammer, nails, his room a mess.

‘My new apartment is in the attic of Jim and Megan’s house. It’s a big old one-roomer with a mind of its own – a cacophony of lines that occur at approximately 45 to 90 degree angles, with floors that sort of redefine ‘level.’ This attic has its own idea of what ‘square’ means; its studs have their own interpretation of the classic 24-inch on center.

Its walls are loosely vertical and the whole thing is about two weeks away from being much more than a lot of potential. Right now it is resistant to change – openly hostile to my ideas of what it ought to be. But slowly, surely, occasionally even patiently, I am (with the help of some friends, a hammer, a saw, some nails and a wrecking bar) enlightening it, changing its self-concept, convincing it that it is not merely an ugly, old attic – it’s a great space full of promise and beauty and order and life.

I suspect that it wants to cooperate, but it’s hard and I must be patient. Whoever it was that shaped the attic before me did so with some pretty big nails, deep cuts, hard hammers and rough saws. The considered the attic to be a wasted space – distance between the roof and the ceiling – a buffer zone and not much else. Someone else came along and closed it in for a smoking room; a place for ignoble activities that would be inappropriate in the ‘house proper.’ They slopped over the walls with cheap, nasty paneling and put in a bathroom, covered the floors with ugly carpet and stunk it up with a tobacco habit.

Sometimes in the heat of the toil of my labor I give in to fits of self rage –frustration more over my lack of skill than over my apartment’s progress. But, late at night when I look over the piles of dust and drywall and the knee-deep debris that remain during this reconstructive effort, I am strangely moved by the place and I proclaim the Gospel to it softly. I say, ‘I know how it hurts to be torn up. I am often choked on the litter left by my own remodeling. I know what it’s like to settle (by the grave act of a strong will) into the despair of believing that you are wasted space. I have felt the blows of heavy hammers that nailed me to a sense of uselessness. I have been shaped by some pretty careless workers who came to the task of making me and lacked any craftsmanship or artistry. I know the pain of wanting to be changed and yet distrustful of changes, of wanting to be worked on, but being suspicious of the intentions of the Worker. But here is some good news: He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. However messy it may be now, however confusing and scary it appears, however endless the task may seem, we will someday be glorious, beautiful, alive! There is much tearing out to do – a lot to give up. No thin coat of new paint, no shallow, petty piety will do. It’s not good to cover up imperfection, it must be corrected. Art, beauty, functions – these things take time. They may take until the day of Christ Jesus.

But we are not wasted space, we are temples of a Being greater than ourselves, temples being built to be inhabited and brought to life. Though we may not understand the process, our Rebuilder does. We are His workmanship and the place where He lives. Little attic, do not despair! I’m being made by a Master Carpenter. I’m learning a little about building, too.’

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters

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