In His Own Words

by Rich Mullins

CCM Magazine November 1997



When Rich Mullins opened his mouth - be it to sing or to speak - people listened. And well they should, since pearls of great wisdom and truth dropped from those Irish lips as often as the biting witticisms for which he is famous. What follows is a small sampling of Rich on Rich taken from a variety of sources including CCM Magazine, Reunion Records press materials, the Pursuit of a Legacy video, Rich's own writings, Release magazine, American Songwriter magazine, and interviews with writers Warren Anderson, Nancy VanArendonk, and Lou Carlozo. Thanks to all who contributed or gave us reprint permission.

Faith

"I feel like God's leading me out, so I'm kind of sleeping with my shoes on. When God parts the sea, you don't want to say, 'Oh rats, where are my sandals?'"

"The amazing thing about the whole joy of Christianity is it's something you can't find, it's something that has to find you. Once we submit ourselves to God, the things of God stifle the Spirit. We can thwart the work of God in our own lives. We can choose to nourish that which should be crucified and ignore that which should be nourished, but God ain't done with any of us."

"Faith is walking with God. The biggest problem with life is that it's just daily. You can never get so healthy that you don't have to continue to eat right... Spiritually, we're in much the same place... It's not what you did, and not what you say you're going to do, it's what you do today."

"Our faith becomes real when we focus on what never changes instead of our ever-changing opinions."

God

"God doesn't have to be good to anybody. He doesn't owe us the breath we breathe. I figure if God has given us salvation, that's way more than we deserve, and I won't judge Him for not giving me something else."

"For me the greatest joy that I have is knowing that I do have a Father who loves me, and that He doesn't love me in a passive way. That He loves me so much that He sent Christ to take away the guilt of my sin, and that it is a real thing, that it really did happen. If I will experience joy in this life, it will be when I let other people know that there is a God who loves them, and He has taken away the sin that separates them. There is no greater joy than just that proclamation."

"Psychobabble is that language spoken by sailors who become so interested in navigating their way around the boat that they've forgotten to read the stars and the sea. They may be able to get from the galley to the head, but they will be lost in their journey from point to port. Jesus being God is the perfect picture of who God is. Jesus being man is the picture of perfect humanity. To find Him, to meditate on Him is to find God and our own true selves. It is to see the brilliant design of the boat and its course and the beauty of the sea."

Life

"I tend to think success is overrated, that it's something everybody goes after until they get it, then nobody knows what to do with it."

"I take comfort in knowing that it was the shepherds to whom the angels appeared when they announced Christ's birth. Invariably throughout the course of history, God has appeared to people on the fringes. It's nice to find theological justification for your quirks."

"If you're a plumber, and you become a Christian, you don't quit being a plumber [to] become a preacher. You become a great plumber because your work is infused by your faith."

"If I have to have perfect people in order to have friendships, I'm going to be a very lonely guy."

"There are all kinds of things that are pushed on us, and we have no say over. And they shape the way we see everything. Because I grew up in Indiana, in the Protestant tradition, in fact in the Quaker tradition - that had a lot to do with biasing me. That's going to have an effect on the way that I interpret the Scriptures; that's going to give me my perspective. And I need to be aware of what my perspective is, so I can both appreciate it and be a little distrustful of it."

"My take on [single life] is, for those people who are too weak to handle celibacy, God gives a spouse. People who are too weak to handle a spouse, God gives celibacy. I'm pretty comfortable, and I wouldn't mind being married, especially from 10 to 2... but I also believe that if you're not happy where you are, you're not going to be happy anywhere."

"Until you come to terms with your heritage, you'll never be at peace with yourself."

"God has called us to be lovers, and we frequently think that He meant us to be saviours. So we 'love' as long as we see 'results.' We give of ourselves as long as our investments pay off, but if the ones we love do not respond, we tend to despair and blame ourselves and even resent those we pretend to love. Because we love someone, we want them to be free of addictions, of sin, of self - and that is as it should be. But it might be that our love for them and our desire for their well-being will not make them well. And, if that is the case, their lack of response no more negates the reality of love than their quickness to respond would confirm it."

The Ragamuffins

"They're not cute. They're slightly nuts. They have enough of a musical identity that they make lousy studio musicians 'cause they kind of are who they are, and that comes through in what they play. They're guys who have been real honest with me about who they are and about their shortcomings and about their failures and even about their failure to want to do any better. [Because] when I get down to it, the bottom line of every confession I have to make is, 'Lord, I don't really want to love you. I don't even have the desire to do that.' Unless God intervenes, I never will."

Music

"The thing that's cool about music is how unnecessary it is.Of all things, music is the most frivolous and the most usdess. You can't eat it, you can't drive it, you can't live in it, you can't wear it. But your life wouldn't be worth much without it."

"[This concert] won't be very different from concerts I've given in recent years. If you've liked what I've done in the past, you'll like this. If you haven't, you should go to a movie."

"I would hope that when someone comes in contact with me or my music that they would be caught in a sense of wonder. Not that they would have a sense of wonder, but that a sense of wonder would possess them. And I hope that they would be enveloped with a sense of joy. Joy is a very enduring quality. If it ever flies over you, it does change you forever."

"I think in a lot of ways, what I'm hoping to do in a concert, what I'm hoping with... every album is to help [people] come to terms with the fact that they are human, with the fact that they are alive."

"I always try to put Scripture references [in album liner notes] just because it doesn't matter what I say. I mean, ultimately, I can only tell you about my own experience.... I put the verses by the songs [to say], 'This is where it's taken me, but you go back and look at this and see what it says, and let it take you where it's going to take you. Bring your own perspective to this.'"

"Most instruments you get to strum, but [my 58-string hammered dulcimer] I get to strike. My therapist tells me I'm saving thousands of dollars."

"Any imbecile should be able to produce good music on a million-dollar budget. Great music is a matter of give and take."

"People listen to contemporary Christian music, and they take it so seriously. I'm in contemporary Christian music, and I don't know nothing. If you want spiritual nourishment, go to church."

"You have to have a certain shamelessness to write. You have to be willing to drop your pants in front of anyone that might want to look. And you don't do that because you're proud of it, you do that because you have to write. It's not a choice.... You write because you have no other option."

Death

"St. Francis is a big hero of mine, and Francis reminded himself daily that he would be dead. I think that while we live, the one sure thing about being alive is that we will die. Everything else is kind of 'iffy.' I mean, you may get rich, you may be poor. You may have a job tomorrow, you may not. Nothing is sure in life except that you will be dead. There's something really great about living in the awareness that we will someday die. For one thing, that makes all that is hard about life more endurable because we know it will pass, and it makes all that is good about life that much more valuable because it will pass. So I think that it teaches us to not hold on to things, to live with some sort of detachment. Not the sort of detachment where we are unmoved, but the sort of detachment where we allow ourselves to be moved easily and quickly, but we don't try to possess those things that move us."

"I just figure we're all gonna be dead someday anyway. You may as well go one way as the other. If you're overly obsessive about health, then you're dead already. What problem do you have that [death] wouldn't fix?"

"My favorite song that I've ever written is 'Elijah.' I wrote it around the time when John Lennon was shot. He was a big hero of mine, and my great-grandma died about the same time. I began thinking about the influence both of those people had on my life, and they were dead. These two people would never know the impact they had on me; John Lennon I'm sure would never care tO know, but my great-grandma, I never got to tell her. But then I realized I don't have to tell her. She didn't do what she did to have some kind of an impact on me. She did what she did because that's who she was. And I'm going to be dead someday too, and I wanna die good."

"I hope that I would leave a legacy of joy, a legacy of real compassion because I think there is a great joy in compassion. I don't think that you can know joy apart from caring deeply about people - caring enough to actually do something."

In 1989, aspiring songwriter Matt Barnard wrote to ask Rich Mullins how to get involved in Christian music. Here's his oh-so-Mullins' response:

Winston Churchill is famous for a lot of things and because of his fame, his advice to the student body at his alma mater is famous as well. He just said to them simply, "Never ever ever ever ever give up!"

I am not so famous, but if I could tell you something about getting into writing for Christian artists or growing up in Jesus or whatever, I would summarize a letter Paul the Apostle wrote to the Saints in Ephesus. I would say to you, "BE FAITHFUL."

Remember, God sees the big picture and is working in you to create something UNIMAGINABLY great. It is God who does the work and to an end that He alone knows. I do not know if you will be writing for Russ Taff or Amy Grant someday. Make every effort to let the desire of your heart be to write for the Lord. Write honestly. Write the truth as best as you know it. Do not be preoccupied with writing. That will choke out your ability to see what should be written. Be preoccupied with the task and privilege of following the Lord and write as you go. "Throw your bread upon the water...." Sing to those who need to be sung to. Memorize for yourself Psalm 137:4-6: "How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy."

If "Jerusalem" is your desire, Nashville will be just a layover. You can take it or leave it. Be faithful.

Be God's!

Rich Mullins





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