Reflections and Ramblings Volume Twenty-Two
Twenty years ago, on Friday September 19th, Rich Mullins was killed in a gruesome auto accident on a road in Illinois on the way to a benefit concert in Wichita, Kansas. It wasn’t until that next Sunday however that I heard that he had died. I was eleven and riding with my dad in our family van, sitting in the drive-thru line getting food on our way home from church when I heard the news on the radio. I remember a chill running through my body.
His death was a shock for me. I remember looking out the window and having warm tears suddenly running down my cheeks. I was surprised by his death and surprised by how much it affected me. It still affects me to this day.
I was raised to value faith, music, and service to others. Rich Mullins embodies all of those for me. And the more I have learned of him, the more I have grown to respect him and grieve his death.
On Sunday afternoons when I was in middle school, my dad would drive me to a high school on the west side of Indianapolis to play in Indiana’s Boy Scout band. I remember in the fall listening to the famous Bob Lamey call the Colts football games on the radio on our drive home. But even more vividly I remember sitting in the back of my dad’s Toyota Camry with my drum sticks, drumming away on the armrest to the songs of Rich Mullins on the way to practice.
“Christian” music in the 90s was all over the place. There were famous rock bands like DC Talk, Newsboys, and Jars of Clay that flooded the airwaves. And there was also Rich Mullins. He had made it into the limelight and into the Christian music machine, thanks to Amy Grant, who asked to cover one of his songs (“Sing Your Praise to the Lord”).
Because of Rich (and my dad) we had a nice handmade hammered dulcimer in my basement growing up. I have attempted to learn a number of his songs over the years and managed to learn how to play tidbits here and there. I still have that hammered dulcimer, and it reminds me of Rich anytime I see it or play it.
Playing one of Rich’s songs almost instantly brings comfort to my soul. Sometimes when I need more willpower to make it through tough emotional times I go look up videos on YouTube on the Rich Mullins archive account.
And the things he would talk about in between songs during his concerts were filled with incredible nuggets of wisdom and insight. Some of his quotes are almost like vibrations from my soul put to words. To me, Rich was the Beatitudes personified, as best they can be in faulty human flesh.
Over the years I have been shaped and molded by Rich’s music and lyrics, his outlook on life, and especially how he lived out his faith.
He claimed to be a “ragamuffin.” That term stuck with me from the first moment I heard it. When I heard it used with a positive connotations like he did, and related to his faith and life, I then had a word that made sense to me in regards to faith. And I am still unpacking what it means and looks like to this day.
Today, if someone asks if I am a Christian, or what kind of Christian I am, I answer that I am a ragamuffin follower of Jesus.
My favorite people in this world are ragamuffins. People who don’t claim to have it all figured out. People who understand that faith is essential to their life, but also understand that faith by it’s very definition means that they don’t know all the answers.
I am drawn to people like that. They are magnetic for me. I am comforted and encouraged by those sorts of people. In fact, I feel deep in my bones that I need people like that in my life for me not to feel alone in life.
I could go on and on with little snippets and thoughts and memories about Rich Mullins and the influence he has had in my life. I almost didn’t write any of this because I knew I wouldn’t be able to gather all my reflections and memories together into one coherent post. But that’s ok. This doesn’t need to be perfect. I am very much a ragamuffin writer, so this seems fitting.