Prior to watching this movie, I had NO IDEA how much Rich Mullins and I had in common! As a matter of fact, I wasn’t confident I knew which Christian songs he wrote, although I had heard his name. I was completely shocked to learn it was Amy Grant who first discovered his talent and recorded his first hit – Sing Your Praises to the Lord; as she was one of the first contemporary Christian artists I listened to. And I remember the impact of THAT SONG on my life and how much I LOVED IT and SANG IT!
Early in the movie, they show a clip of Rich Mullins watching a movie in a theater about St. Francis of Assisi. He is touched by the man living his life completely for Christ; taking vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty.
The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
The movie shares the ups and downs of Rich Mullins’ life: his musical success, the loss of his one and only love, his addiction to alcohol and his feelings of being lost and broken. While riding in a car with a friend, he is reluctantly introduced to a man who changed his life and ministry forever.
His friend inserted a tape of a preacher, Brennan Manning, asking Rich Mullins to give it just ten minutes. The tape shares the following message:
On judgement day, the Lord Jesus will ask only one question: Did you believe that I loved you? That I desired you? That I waited for you day after day, that I longed to hear the sound of your voice? The real believers will respond, I believed in your love and tried to shape my life as a response to it. Many of us, faithful to our ministry, our practice, and church going, will answer, no Sir, frankly, I didn’t believe it. That’s the difference between a real believer and a nominal Christian bound in churches across the land. No one can measure, like a believer, the depth and intensity of our God’s love. Then again, no one like a believer can measure the effectiveness of our gloom, pessimism, low self-esteem, self-hatred and despair, that block God’s way to us. That’s why it’s so important we lay hold of this basic truth of our faith, because you’re only going to be as big as your own concept of God. When we see God in our OWN image, He ends us being as fussy, rude, narrow minded, unloving, and unforgiving as we are. God is too small for most believers, He has not been revealed to them by Jesus Christ who comes at this very moment to your side and says I know every skeleton in your closet, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship, and His word to us is this: I dare you to trust that I love you JUST AS YOU ARE, not as you should be, because none of us are as we should be.
After hearing Brennan Manning’s message, Rich Mullins pulled off the road and wept. He sought out Brennan Manning’s counsel. Brennan shares many truths with Rich, to include his own addiction to alcohol and his love for whiskey. Brennan asks Rich Mullins if he’s free and he responds he is NOT and continually fights a battle of darkness. Brennan enlightens Rich that we are all battling darkness. He explains that a ragamuffin is not ashamed to be a ragamuffin, he is a beggar at the door of God’s mercy, realizing he is a lover and seeker of God.
I was introduced to Brennan Manning by a dear friend who recommended his book: The Ragamuffin Gospel.
I have read and continue to read this book. I would highly recommend it to everyone I know.
When Rich finally hit bottom, when his father’s disappointment in him continually haunted him, he cried out to Jesus, his King of glory. Brennan called Rich, knowing he was in a bad place, and asked how hungover he was and invited him to come away on a retreat, of sorts. They left the same day. Brennan shared that Jesus taught His disciples to pray “Abba Father.” Rich shared his difficulty in calling God Father, due to the relationship he had with his own father. Brennan instructed Rich to write a letter from his father (who had passed away) to himself, sharing how much he loved him. Rich was able to hear his dad apologize for being so hard on him and explained that he loved him. He shared his letter with Brennan the following morning, which explained how his dad meant to help him become stronger, and that he didn’t understand him, along with many fathers of his time who had done the same thing to their sons and daughters. Rich was freed forever.
At one of his concerts after that, he shared with the audience: We don’t have to impress God, He’s already knocked out by you. He loves all of us, even though we’re unworthy. He takes the messiness and ugliness of our lives and makes something beautiful out of it. I hope you have an opportunity to encounter Him.
Rich Mullins was killed in an automobile accident on September 19, 1997, near midnight, outside of Peoria, Illinois. The cause of the accident was unknown. Rich had been writing the music for what had been called the “Jesus Album.” The week prior to his death, he sat down at an old piano in an abandoned church and recorded each song with a cassette recorder. He had told several people close to him that it would be his most important work. Even though Rich made considerably more, he asked his accountant to only give him a monthly allowance that was whatever the average working person lived on. The rest was given away to churches and charities. Rich never knew how much money he actually made.