Sunday, September 19, 2010


The first time I saw Rich Mullins was in the summer before my freshman year of high school.  Our youth group went to a conference at Taylor University, where he was the recording artists for the weekend.  My friends and I had front row center for this guy I had never heard of, but by the end of the night would never forget.

His music was truly artistic and poetic; he was funny, he was insightful, and more than anything he was real.  He didn't put on a show of having it all together, but instead was honest about his frailty and his thankfulness for God's grace.  I thought it was amazing when he performed a whole song just clapping and playing plastic cups, realized I did know one of his songs when he did "Awesome God," but what stuck in my mind most from that concert was the end.  He closed with, "I See You," an audience response song.  The line repeated throughout is, "And everywhere I go, I see You."

For me, as a freshman, this was my first time really experiencing corporate worship where I didn't know anyone else was there but me and God.  Rich went A Capella at the end; I had my eyes closed - a first, and my hands in the air - also a first.  It was beautiful a moment, but being a freshman, after a few minutes I peaked.

Rich was gone.  The band was gone.

They had just walked off the stage while everyone was singing.  No big applause at the end, no big bow.  Just removing himself from our focus so we could focus on God.

Between then and college I saw Rich Mullins six more times: at a Second Saturday with YFC, during a SonLife event, at All State Arena, twice at Wheaton, and at another youth conference.  Probably the two moments I am most thankful for were the Son Life Event and one of the Wheaton shows.

The SonLife event was at Moody in the summer.  I was working on campus and found out Rich was there to hang out with the students attending the conference.  I ditched the cleaning crew I worked with and headed over to Alumni Auditorium where I not only saw Rich play an acoustic set, but also met him.  We talked for about 5-10 minutes and I even got a picture with him (which is in storage - yes, I looked for it).

I found out about the Wheaton event the day before it happened, and thankfully our bookstore still had a few tickets left.  My friend & I headed out there for what we thought was a Rich Mullins concert, but turned out to be the premiere of the musical that he wrote, "The Canticle of the Plains." The musical was only performed a few times, so I really can't explain how thankful I am to have been in the audience that night and how it moved me.

13 years ago today Rich Mullins passed away.  He was, and still is, one of my favorite musical artists and his music is one of the biggest encouragements for my life.  

There aren't more poetic descriptions of God's power in creation than "The Color Green" and "Calling Out Your Name." During my lowest moments, "Hold Me Jesus" brings me comfort, during my times of doubt and confusion, "Hard To Get" helps bring some semblance of hope, and after times of failure, "Growing Young" helps me embrace forgiveness.

But of all of his songs, "Step By Step," based on Psalm 63, has been my life prayer:

I haven't always remembered to pray it, which is my failure, but it has always focused me. It's simple words really summarize what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Over the last 6 months I've been going through a really rough time, trying to figure life out, wrestling with God, and everything in between.  This last week was probably one of the worst weeks within all of it, with times of tears and feeling very alone.  It's really hard to put it all into words, and it's hard to think others understand.

But it's kinda funny, in the midst of everything last week, I realized the anniversary of Rich's death was coming up and I knew I wanted to write about it.  But of course, I didn't remember until 10pm tonight.  I've been cruising around the net since, watching videos on YouTube and reading memorial articles from others.  And in the last two hours my soul has been lifted more than it has been in a long time.

Rich was one of the first people I encountered who vulnerably admitted that following Jesus is hard, that trust isn't easy.  When he talked of God's grace and mercy he was speaking as someone broken, someone who clung to them.  The future wasn't just tomorrow in his music, it was ultimately heaven - everything else was the sojourning space between now and then. 

These are things I was reminded of tonight, the things I needed to hear.

Outside of "Step by Step," this is my other favorite Rich Mullins song, "The Love of God"

I love how he messes up and keeps going.

And really, that's what Rich Mullins has always been for me: a reminder that when I mess up or life seems like a mess, to keep going.

If you want to read more on Rich or start diving into his music, this is the best site to go to:

There's a wildness 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

Now I've seen no band of angels
But I've heard the soldiers' songs
Love hangs over them like a banner
Love within them leads them on
To the battle on the journey
And it's never gonna stop
Ever widening their mercies
And the fury of His love

Oh the love of God
And oh, the love of God
The love of God

Joy and sorrow are this ocean
And in their every ebb and flow
Now the Lord a door has opened
That all Hell could never close
Here I'm tested and made worthy
Tossed about but lifted up
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

- The Love of God, from "Never Picture Perfect"

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