On the death of Rich Mullins, 19 years after the fact (The boy becomes a man)

So, I suppose Rich Mullins died 19 years ago today and I suppose I'm still a bit in denial about it. Everyone's posting their tributes, so I thought I'd offer mine too. 

The above song is indicative of everything about Mullins. This is a tiny 3 minute miracle. It's at once surprising and simple, straightforward but with many unseen layers. This is one of the warmest songs I've ever heard (as in, it actually makes me FEEL warm, it FEELS like a hearth fire on a cold winter's day) and yet it makes me ache to my core. It envelops me in its kinship and charitas and yet there is a longing present just beyond the words that breaks your heart. It is the kind of sentimentality that feels right, even as it devastates you. Finally, the song talks about the Faith in a way that somehow manages to be subtle but entirely clear in its intentions. Mullins had a way...it was a rare way, and this is why we remember him. Finally, finally, when I first heard this song I just knew deep down that Mullins was MY friend, that he was singing this for me, and yet I also knew I'd never actually be his real life friend and that made me sad. And so I learned one of the greatest lessons about art from Mullins, that the only kind of art worth partaking in is the kind that makes you both profoundly sad and happy.

There is a part of me that believes St. Richard is at that lakeside camp still, tending to the evening fires, waiting for Jesus to come up and offer him some fish. There is a part of me that imagines he really did become an abbot and lived a blissfully quiet and celibate life amongst his humble brethren. There is a part of me that wants him to remain Other, to paint a glowing halo above all his pictures.

But no, he was driving a Jeep and flipped it due to the unforeseen circumstances of road construction on I-39, just about an hour away from my house. He flipped and flew out sans seatbelt and he was broken. The Rich Mullins we all knew was gone from us. Whatever he was doing out in Arizona/New Mexico was put to an abrupt halt and whatever songs were still floating around his brain drifted off when his brain waves ceased. At least we got 9 new ones about a year later, and I hear there is a possibility of even more coming in the near future. 

From what I hear he wasn't all peaches and cream to live with, and that's ok. The boy becomes a man, and we can all hope to be forever growing young. He didn't leave us with his sainthood, he left us his art, his songs, his acerbic conversations, and those of us who listen closely enough know all of it was God-tinged, meaning, even he didn't have much to do with it all. He was simply trying to be the best vessel he could be, and a beat up vessel it was.

So here's to our old friend. The message bears repeating and the plain old truth grows dearer every day. Let's sing his songs and let's remember his presence, but let's not forget the one he kept pointing us to, the Giver of all good things.

Rich Mullins Related Podcast Episodes:
Caleb Kruse on Meeting Rich

Joe Cook of the Ragamuffin Archive
Related Articles on Rich Mullins: 
1. So...They Made a Movie About Rich Mullins...

2. Interview--Reed Arvin: Recording Rich Mullins' 

A Liturgy, A Legacy, and A Ragamuffin Band 
My interview with Reed Arvin was originally published in a shorter form on 
Christianity Today's website and can be found here:
The Legacy of Rich Mullins's Ragamuffin Band

3. Celebrating 20 Years of Rich Mullins' 

A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band

4. The Theology of Rich Mullins

5. Movie Review: Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins

6. Take a look: The Vast Online Rich Mullins Music Library

7. Rich Mullins was weird, but he was also so good Christian radio had to play him

8. Rich Mullins and America as Promised Land

9. Interview: David Leo Schultz on 

Directing the Rich Mullins Movie (text version)

10. Finally, Here is my interview with the film's director, David Leo Schwartz: (here's the Soundcloud link)

(I told you I was obsessed)


PCR Podcast Episode 25: The Speeches of Eisenhower and Kennedy

This episode features rare interviews from Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy taken from the Presidential Profiles record series. In preparation for the 2016 election it is time to start considering politics at a deeper level. These speech excerpts and brief bios offer insights into the actions and lives of our presidents and in so doing act as a somewhat sober counter to our currently manic political culture. Also, there is still time to support the Kickstarter campaign for the book "Why Every President Sucked" (You can listen to my interview with the book's author here). Follow these links to find out more: 


PCR Podcast Episode 24: Eric Olsen, Author of "Why Every President Sucked"

Eric Olsen is the author of Why Every President Sucked, and is putting on a Kickstarter campaign until the end of August in order to get the book published. In our conversation we talk about looking at America's presidents with fresh eyes, even the ones we love the most. The book isn't as negative as it sounds, but is an attempt open us up to the simple idea that our presidents were people too and they all made mistakes. To find out more and to support the Kickstarter campaign please visit: http://www.whyeverypresidentsucked.com/

Subscribe to the podcast on itunes 
Check out the podcast page to subscribe on Stitcher, Tunein, and PocketCasts.

Related Episode:
Ep25: The Speeches of Eisenhower and Kennedy


PCR Podcast Episode 23: Joe Johnson on the importance of reading theology

Joe Johnson writes reviews on Bible and theology books at https://tabletalktheology.com/ and http://www.theologues.net/. Our conversation focuses on the importance for "normal churchgoers" to read theological texts and scholarly books on the Bible, as well as which books are good entry level texts to start off with (check below for the list).

Subscribe to the podcast on itunes 
Check out the podcast page to subscribe on Stitcher, Tunein, and PocketCasts.

Recommended Reading LIst:
The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers by Christopher A. Hall
Surprised By Hope & Simply Christian by N.T. Wright
Classic Christianity by Thomas C. Oden
The Spirit of Early Christianity by Robert Louis Wilken 
Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon
The Creed by Alister McGrath
Theology as Discipleship by Keith Johnson
Reading Backwards by Richard B. Hays
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson


What I Learned Listening to New Worship Music For An Entire Year Part 1: no melodies, beards, cuss words and Mumford and Sons ripoffs

Let's play spot the differences: One of these images is of Mumford and Sons, one is a worship band, and one
is of Civil War soldiers. Can you tell which is which? It might be harder than you think.
I have intentionally listened to new "praise and worship" music over the course of the last year. Here is my initial listening list: The Great Worship Music Binge of 2015. And here are the songs that made my final list of songs I plan/hope to sing in my church: The Best New Worship Music.

I had hoped my experiment would only take a couple of months, but I felt compelled to keep listening and listening in the hopes of being fair to all the potential "new" music in existence. The process soon became overwhelming and my ears grew weary and tired. I decided to have short but concentrated listening sessions: an evening here and there, a few afternoons right in a row.

Eventually, I came to a consensus of songs I liked, though I still feel like I have done a gross disservice to the numerous songs I have failed to even get to. Oh well...

Throughout this process I began to make a number of observations and reflections on what I was listening to. Here now are my thoughts.


The Best New Worship Music (According to PostConsumer Reports)

Off and on for the past year I have spent concentrated times listening to "new" worship music for my church to sing. I am listening to "new" music even now as I type this, feeling like I am cramming for a final! This process has been intense people!

There is so much worship music and hymnody out there it is impossible to even attempt to get to it all. To illustrate I will tell a parable.


PCR Podcast Episode 22: Blair Jeffers, artist and teller of "dad jokes"

Blair Jeffers is a Peoria area artist who is having a showing ("Comic Panels and Literals") at The Art Garage for the month of August. You can view some of her work at her blog: https://blairjeffers.wordpress.com/. Blair also juried the "Unseen Voices" exhibit which will be on display at the Foster Gallery of art during August as well. If you live close to Peoria come out to First Friday or find a time this month to visit some of the many galleries in the city (for locations visit: http://ciaopeoria.com/about-us or http://artspartners.net/).

You can view a few samples of Blair's below. For an interview about the "Unseen Voices" exhibit you can listen to my interview with Carol McPherson.


PCR Podcast Episode 21: Carol McPherson on the Church Being a Patron for the Arts

Carol McPherson is the Director of Discipleship and Fine Arts Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Peoria, Illinois. She is also the director of the Foster Gallery for Christianity and the Fine Arts, which runs out of First United. In our interview we talk about how the Church can be a patron for the arts, about what it means to bring true justice and acceptance to people, and about her former life as a country and western singer. Carol also has a PhD. in liturgical studies from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. 

Through the month of August 2016 the exhibit "Unseen Voices" is on display at the Foster Gallery, located at 116 Perry Ave., Peoria. Check below for examples of the artists on display for the month. The exhibit, which was juried by local artist Blair Jeffers (you can view her work here: https://blairjeffers.wordpress.com/), features Peoria area artists who's art you might otherwise not have an opportunity to see. For Peoria First Friday (August 5), the gallery will be open from 5-8 p.m.

Foster Gallery Page—for more hours and more information.
Peoria Journal Star article on the exhibit.
Subscribe to the podcast on itunes 
Check out the podcast page to subscribe on Stitcher, Tunein, and PocketCasts.

Past Episodes on Peoria Artists:
Episode 13: Artist Jessica Ball—Owner of the Art Garage


The "Golden Ages" of Worship Music: which one is yours?

Last week I put up an extensive history of what I would call my "Golden Age" of worship music. Actually, it was not extensive at all, but only the tip of the iceberg—oh well! 1994-2004 was my personal "good old days", when worship music was done right and not like the garbage they are putting out today! (said like an old man sitting on his porch with a shotgun across his lap, a scowl on his face, and an old dusty hymnal open to his favorite song).

The fact of the matter is that there are any of a number of "Golden Ages" of worship music, depending on who you talk to. My hope is to briefly document a number of those "ages" here.