Streaming services make it easy to connect with musical memories and artists of many eras. I used to listen to Rich Mullins—had several CDs of his back in the day—but he had slipped my mind. However, in the last few months I’ve reconnected with his music through Spotify and am loving it all over again.
Looking through my Kindle library a couple of weeks ago, I discovered I had a book on his life. I don’t remember purchasing it, but there it was. And so for the last few weeks I’ve delved into the life of this late contemporary Christian artist through the biography Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven by James Bryan Smith
Smith, who knew Mullins well, having hosted him in the Smith home for several years, tells Mullins’ story in themes rather than strictly chronologically. In this way he touches on Rich’s early life and influences, his relationship with the church, his intimate friendship with Jesus even while struggling with temptation and sin, his great love of nature, his altruistic bent and more, ending with his thoughts on death and the life to come—which he entered in 1997 at the age of 42 as the result of a car accident.
The book is rich with lyrics of Mullins’ songs and their genesis. (View of list of the songs he wrote here. The most well-known is probably “Awesome God.”) Smith has also dug up articles Mullins wrote, interviews he gave, along with the observations and memories of his temporary in the Christian music—including Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Gary Chapman, Carolyn Arends and many others.
Rich Mullins: “A spiritual thing is folding your clothes at the end of the day. A spiritual thing is making your bed. A spiritual thing is taking cookies to your neighbour that is shut in, or raking their front lawn because they are too old to do it. That’s spirituality. Getting a warm cozy feeling about God is an emotional thing—there is nothing wrong with it—I think there is nothing more practical than real spirituality” quoted in An Arrow Pointing to Heaven p. 208 Kindle Edition.
Another favorite aspect of the book for me is its generous selection of quotes from writers and thinkers that influenced Mullins. These include luminaries like Saint Francis of Assissi, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Frederick Buechner and many many more.
The book with its many voices is beautifully woven together—an inspiring read. Not only did it enhance my appreciation of Mullins and his music but it challenged me to look at my own priorities in the light of life’s brevity and uncertainty.