A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin: What I Learned From Rich Mullins

A few weeks ago, I got to see a preview for a movie about the life of Rich Mullins, which led a few of us to reminisce about his life, music, and impact on our lives. He blew into my life the summer between middle school and high school with Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth, and his music became the soundtrack of my coming of age. Sure, we bought that album so we could have our own personal recording of “Awesome God.” But it was songs like “The Other Side of the World,” “If I Stand,” and “Ready for the Storm” that helped turn me into something of a theologian and a wannabe mystic and ragamuffin.  That conversion never fully happened. I’m too immersed into the practical stuff of doing church to be a true theologian, I’m too Protestant to be a true mystic, and I’m too pleased with myself to be a true ragamuffin. But the music of Rich Mullins was a constant companion and agitator, comforting me when I need to be comforted and afflicting me where I needed to be changed.

Here are a few things I learned from Rich Mullins.

  • Image is crap. Be yourself but keep working towards being the best version of yourself. Don’t play games. Don’t be who someone else wants you to be. Everyone else will try to make you into their image of you. Don’t conform to it. Conform only to Christ.
  • Live on what you need; give the rest away. Rich never knew how much money he actually made. His accountant gave him a monthly stipend to live on and the rest was distributed among charities and causes he gave his life towards.
  • Love the land you came from, but recognize there’s another world beyond your own. Those aren’t mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, the more you leave home, the more you can embrace a larger worldview. And the more you embrace a larger worldview, the more home fills your heart and becomes the most important place on earth.
  • It’s okay to be Protestant and Catholic. Rich opened my eyes to the active faith of St. Francis, the beauty of the liturgy, and the fierce communion of monastic life. I realized I didn’t have to fully pick one stream or the other. I could be Baptist and still celebrate Lent. I could love Sunday School and saints.
  • Relationships matter. In fact, the investments others make in us and the investments we make in others are the only things that really last. Whatever you do, do it with others. Rich’s ragamuffin band and Kid Brothers of St. Frank were probably early inspirations for my formation of The Gang and assembling of the Minions.

January 3, 2014 12 Comments

12 Responses to A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin: What I Learned From Rich Mullins

  1. Mike Jeffries says:

    Nice……We were all discovering Rich around that time and it rocked to be riding along with you. What a rowdy group of ragamuffins that arose from that Mobile coast.

  2. Jon Stolpe says:

    Great thoughts, Heather. I still remember hearing news that Rich had been killed. His legacy has definitely outlived him. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. Dave Treat says:

    Got to meet Rich in our adult sunday school class back in the mid 80′s. In the Q&A someone asked him what he read for devotions that morning. He said “Isaiah.” We knew better than to ask him what chapter. He meant the whole book. He did not intend to make us all feel pathetic. But we did, and with reason.

    I think of this whenever I hear one of his songs, which happens frequently. I miss the guy.

  4. Theresa H says:

    That is awesome, Heather. I have not heard any of Rich’s music, but know Brennan Manning references him in his book Ragamuffin Gospel.

    I hope the movie comes to my area because I would love to see it! That last time I checked, it wasn’t scheduled to be close. I guess there’s always DVD or Netflix!

    • Heather says:

      I don’t know that the movie is ready to be released yet, Theresa. I think it’s still in post-production.

      • Chip says:

        Nope, it’s making the rounds in churches across the country now into the spring, usually one night per city/town. Check out “Rich Mullins Film” on Facebook, or google “Ragamuffin movie.” There are also a very few reviews of it by individual bloggers (I.e., no professional reviews yet, from what I can tell).

        • Mike Kelly says:

          They had the debut of the film January 9th in Wichita, KS where he lived as an adult. Knew him when he was just starting his music career. Loved his honesty!!! We all miss a guy like Rich.

  5. Fredric says:

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.
    It’s always useful to read through articles from other authors and use something from
    their web sites.

  6. Chupacabras says:

    Anyone who bought that record, or many other recordings by Mullins before his death in a car accident in 1997, was bound to see another name in the liner notes, that of producer Reed Arvin. Arvin, who has spent his years since working with Mullins as a novelist writing legal thrillers as well as teaching and writing on creativity, recently took time to reflect on working with Mullins and the recording of that album.

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