As a sixteen year old at the time of Rich Mullins fatal car accident I will not pretend that I appreciated him to the degree that I would later in life. I didn’t own any of his albums, and was only familiar with his songs “Awesome God” and “Alrightokuhhuhamen” due to youth ministry choir. (That’s right I was cool! Haha)
It wasn’t until later college years in the 2000’s that I was able to fully understand what an amazing person and musician he was. In fact, I can’t tell you with any certainty what song first captured me, or exactly when I was stopped in my tracks by his artistry. Memory fades, but I do know it was sometime after reading the devotional biography of his life titled “Arrow Pointing to Heaven” by Rich’s friend James Bryan Smith. I highly recommend it for any looking for more first hand details of Rich’s life. What an inspirational read!
Like any great music, most of his has aged well. Time has only served to season it, there’s a depth to his lyrics that is rarely seen in today’s music industry, and that’s largely because he wasn’t afraid to spend time wrestling with God over big questions. So, I set about the unenviable task of trying to pick ten of his songs to highlight. It’s turned into twenty pretty easily so I ran with it. Not an easy list as there are so many great ones. Trust me, anything he wrote is worth hearing at least once, but I chose these because they have made an impact on my life in some way or another. Outside of the first listed (“If I Stand”) they are in no particular order because I just can’t…these are simply songs I love for various reasons and come back to most often.
Here’s my Top 20 Songs of 20 Artists for the one and only Rich Mullins.
“If I Stand” Favorite Lyric: If I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through/and if I can’t let me fall in the grace that first brought me to You/if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs/ and if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home
“Hold me Jesus” Favorite Lyric: Surrender don’t come natural to me/I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want/Than to take what you give that I need
“Hard to Get” – Favorite Lyric: “I can’t see how You’re leading me unless You’ve led me here
Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led
And so You’ve been here all along I guess
It’s just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get”
“Elijah” Favorite Lyric: But when I leave I want to go out like Elijah/With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire/And when I look back on the stars/Well, It’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park/And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye
“Screen Door” Favorite Lyric: Faith without works/Is like a song you can’t sing/It’s about as useless as/A screen door on a submarine
“Let Mercy Lead” Favorite Lyric: Let mercy lead/Let love be the strength in your legs/And in every footprint that you leave/There’ll be a drop of grace
“The Love of God” Favorite Lyric: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy/I cannot find in my own/And He keeps His fire burning/To melt this heart of stone/Keeps me aching with a yearning/Keeps me glad to have been caught/In the reckless raging fury/That they call the love of God
“Awesome God” Favorite Lyric: And when the sky was starless/In the void of the night/(God is an awesome God)/He spoke into the darkness/And created the light /(God is an awesome God)
“Sometimes by Step” Favorite Lyric: Sometimes the night was beautiful/Sometimes the sky was so far away/Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close/You could touch it but your heart would break/Sometimes the morning came too soon/Sometimes the day could be so hot/There was so much work left to do/But so much You’d already done
“Creed” Favorite Lyric: And I believe what I believe/Is what makes me what I am/I did not make it, no it is making me/It is the very truth of God and not/The invention of any man
“Sing Your Praise To The Lord”
“Surely God Is With Us”
“We Are Not As Strong As We Think We Are”
“The Color Green”
“I Will Sing/Hope to Carry On”
“Verge of a Miracle”
“While The Nations Rage”
“Here in America”
Here’s a link to all songs listed for your listening enjoyment should you so desire. https://open.spotify.com/user/jukeboxjosh/playlist/1DG0eXgkDD61AO5it18Vhx?si=uvjBNxZ9
What about you? Do you have a favorite Rich Mullins story/memory? Concert experience? Song? I’d love to hear from you!
I’m pretty sure the lyric in “Hard to Get” is ” just playing hard to get” not “just plain hard to get”. Enjoyed the list.
Hey Marty thanks for reading and commenting. I believe it’s both “playing hard to get” in the earlier part of the song, but the the part I quoted is the very end line “just plain hard to get.”
I apologize, you are right. I did not look hard enough. Had not caught that he switched up the lyrics with a homonym late in the song. Clever. Glad I had this exchange with you though to draw my attention to what Rich did there.
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No worries! You almost had me, had to go back and look. 😁He was such a great Lyricist!
Rich Mullins is one of the very few Christian artists active before the mid-90s where I’ve gone deep into their discographies, though having seen all the love for SCC and Smitty on here I’m wondering if it might be time for me to saddle up my horses and go west, middle-aged man? With Rich it’s only been over the past 10 years or so that I’ve gone beyond the hits, so it’s never too late to start….
Top five albums:
#5 TWABAICRI Volume Two
#4 The Jesus Record
#3 TWABAICRI Volume One
#2 Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth
#1 A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band
#20 …And I Love You
#19 Boy Like Me/Man Like You
#18 One Thing
#17 Screen Door
#16 I’ll Carry On
#15 While the Nations Rage
#14 We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are
#13 Hold Me Jesus
#12 Let Mercy Lead
#10 Awesome God – I remember when this (obviously chorus only) was overplayed at church events, but I can’t deny it’s one of the great worship choruses. Shout-out to the Insyderz for killing it with their cover version – your tolerance for skapunk will determine whether that’s positive or negative 🙂
#9 My Deliverer – love the demo and the way Rich’s voice doesn’t quite reach all the notes. dc talk’s version is fantastic.
#8 52:10 – wins the “best Scripture to song” award
#7 Sing Your Praise to the Lord – love the epic instrumental intro (and bridge), the chorus had to grow on me but I love the way the different parts of the song fit together.
#5 Ready for the Storm – I know it’s not an original, but this is such a powerful song. Love the picked guitar (wish I could play it!) and the Irish sound.
#4 If I Stand – this and #2 belong on the soundtrack to my life. For a long time I only knew Jars’ version, but I now prefer the original. It’s incredibly sad for those who knew Rich, but I can’t help but feel happy for him that he’s home with the One he loved so much.
#3 Calling Out Your Name – let all creation praise the Lord! Praise Him on the hammered dulcimer!
#2 Sometimes By Step – this one really imprinted itself on my heart the year our first daughter was born and my Grandad died. If I had to choose one song to play at my funeral to pictures of my life, this would be it.
#1 The Color Green – brilliant lyrics and beautiful music come together to create something spectacular here. The instrumental after the chorus, with its subtle change in time signature, is soooo good. My wife is from Ireland and we love to spend time on the coast when we’re there, so I love the music video too!
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