Rich Mullins was a rarity in the music industry, a recording artist who traded in the perks of his celebrity status for an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of real people --- the children who lived on a Navajo reservation in the Southwest. It was there that he lived and taught music when he could have spent his life in relative ease in Nashville, the center of the Christian music industry. He constantly defied convention, especially the Christian convention of the American evangelical variety.
When Mullins, best known for the contemporary praise song "Awesome God" and "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," recorded by Amy Grant, died in an automobile crash in September of 1997, his fans and colleagues felt a genuine sense of loss. This wasn't the passing of a superstar; it was the loss of a man who surrendered his life in service to God and verbally expressed his unqualified devotion to him through the utterly stunning poetry of his lyrics and the candor of his off-the-cuff observations about the cultural Christian lifestyle and mindset.
Mullins didn't always say what people liked to hear, but he always spoke from his heart. The same can be said about his writing. Seriously, how many Christians do you know who would have the guts to accuse God of playing hard to get --- and ask it in a song, for millions to hear? (That song is appropriately titled "Hard to Get," by the way.) That same kind of honesty appeared in the always perceptive columns Mullins wrote for Release magazine in the early 1990s. Which brings us to THE WORLD AS I REMEMBER IT, a compilation of those columns.
Now I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that this book is a repackaging of an earlier book called HOME, released several years after Mullins's death by Voxcorp, which owned Release. The columns may be the same as those published in HOME, but I no longer have access to that book to double-check. At any rate, this one is an entirely different design, published in a small, gift-book format with dozens of beautiful sepia-toned photos of Mullins and the places that were significant to him.
The main attraction, though, is Mullins's masterful writing. The same elegance that he brought to his lyrics is evident in his prose. It didn't matter whether he was writing about the lilies and the sparrows Jesus mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount or about growing older or even about fiddles --- profound truth and mundane objects were equal sources of wonder for him. He could glean as much insight from his attic apartment renovation as he could from the rich poetry of Proverbs 30. Every one of his columns is well worth reading. Readers who were familiar with Mullins's work when he was alive will no doubt be able to see his face and hear his voice again as they read the treasures he left behind in print.
The negative? There's only one. Reading the words he wrote may make you miss him even more.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on March 8, 2004