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Chips, Salsa, and a drive through the cornfields of Indiana

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We (The Rich Mullins Movie “Ragamuffin” ) get a lot of questions and emails.

Like, what’s your favorite Rich Mullins song? For me it’s ‘The Color Green’, but it’s hard to explain why…

We get all types of questions, messages, and emails…I’d like to talk about one of those questions tonight.

P.s. if you are new to my blog. I don’t spell check. Enjoy the bad spelling and grammar:-)

So I received an email tonight asking a very serious inquiry asking why I (we) would make a movie about Rich Mullins, who according to his perception on stage and the book “Arrow Pointing to Heaven” by our friend Jim (James Bryan Smith) ..would probably be the type of person who would not want a movie made about himself.

Great question.

It reminds me of how this whole thing got started. About six months before I met Dave Mullins I remember driving around in my beat up toyota corolla on a long road trip, I don’t remember where…and I got out a stack of CD’s that are usually filled with scratches and are usually stacked about 7 or 8 inches high and jammed into whatever crevice I could find in my car. I pulled out a CD, that I had listened to a hundred times before, that a buddy from college gave me. It’s a collection of rich mullins radio interviews. I popped in the CD ( I know I’m old school…it’s sad I know…) and I started day dreaming as I listened to Rich …I started day dreaming about what a movie would look like about Rich. Although an honest confession is I’m not sure I was terribly intentional  about the whole thing. In other words, I’m not sure if I purposefully dreamed it up, or out of child like day dreaming I just started seeing the movie in my head. But never the less that’s what happened.

6 months later I was speaking at a Church in Indianapolis and I found out

That Dave Mullins was one of the pastors at that church. Without even thinking about it I asked my friend who booked my speaking engagement at the church to ask his friend to ask Dave Mullins if he would have lunch with me.

He agreed. I had no plan. No money for a movie. I really didn’t know what I was doing.

He wanted to meet at a Mexican Restaurant.

I was early. I sat at a table and in walks Dave Mullins. It’s funny thinking about it now. Cuz now he’s one of my favorite people on this planet, and three and half years ago he was a stranger. Adventures and time can bond you that way I guess, among other things.

Later I found out he knew why I asked him to lunch. At the time though he appeared to seem clueless. He’s a great poker player that way. He holds his cards close to his chest. If you don’t know Dave let me tell you he would’ve made a great cowboy in the old west. Quiet and sharp.

I on the other hand was like a  Chris Farley sketch on SNL. I was so nervous. Why? I’m not sure I don’t really get nervous.

This is where I’m not sure I’ll be able to quite paint the picture. You might have to read through all my blogs, listen to the occasional radio interview I’ve done, or watch an old VHS recording of me preaching to see a glimpse into how much, like many of you, Rich Mullins means to me. God has continued to ambush my life with his love through a select few. Some I know. Some I don’t. And one of those few, was Rich Mullins. So to simply give a satisfactory answer of why were making this movie, may always remain somewhat of a mystery to anyone that doesn’t know me. Because the answer is very much intertwined into God’s story in my life.

But I’ll still try. Dave Mullins sat down. We had a few chips dipped in Salsa, and I just blurted out. “I want to make a movie about your brother.”

What Dave said back to me through he course of the day is kind of a blur, partially because I was nervous and partially because David is on the quiet side. In a very good way. He has a wisdom that is beyond me. I’m the jump in the deep end and learn how to swim later type of guy. This usually isn’t good, but sometimes has it’s advantages.

Dave did say a few things that day. He asked me, “Why do you want to make a movie about my brother?”

I said to him, “First, I know your brother probably would not like a movie made about him.”

He said, “You’re right.”

And I said, “But to answer your question, I didn’t know Rich Mullins, but I was an audience member to his life, and God used that to change me (that’s the short answer), and I simply want to give other people the same opportunity.”

We had a deeper and longer conversation about life, how God used Rich to change my life while we had our burritos.

Then as I rambled on like Chris Farley. Dave said to me, “Do you want to go for a drive?”

No the nerd part of me in that moment was like, “Rich Mullins brother just asked me to go for a drive through the cornfields of Indiana.” I was so excited. So dumb I know. So nerdy. But that’s what I was thinking. Now that Dave is my friend, it’s almost embarrassing, but I can honestly say that I’m more excited to spend time with my friend Dave now then I was then, cuz he is a mixture of friend, brother, and pastor all wrapped up into one. That’s a different story.

But I will say a fun little tid bit. A few years later Dave told me, “You know if you hadn’t gone on a ride with me through the cornfields I would’ve said no.”

And I said, “Well, I’m glad I said yes.”

In the car as we drove, he asked me, “If we let you make the movie how would you do it?”

Remember. I didn’t know. I had no plan. No money to make the movie. Nothing. All I had was that Daydream. And I told him exactly that.

Even through all the drafts of the script (with even abandoning that day dream in the script) eventually that original idea for the movie. That day dream I had. That’s the idea we shot for the movie 2 and a half years later.

Now what I won’t tell you is why Dave and the Mullins family let me make the movie. That’s for them to answer. Not me. But what I can tell you is that it didn’t happen right away. We met a few times, hung out a few times, and by God’s grace and silly love they let me go forward with “trying” to make the movie.

A honest confession while we were shooting the movie, as we were reflecting on all this stuff, Dave Mullins turns to me and says, “I never thought it would really happen.” And I said to him, “Me either.”

I love when God surprises you.

I still probably didn’t answer your question, your question that I think even goes deeper that the character of Rich’s spirit. The question of why? Why make this movie? There are more fun questions to add to that pile like how? But a simple answer to all the questions is “We are not quite sure, except it seems like it’s beyond us somehow. Or at least we hope so.”

I will say that for the Christian- we don’t own much. Not our money, not our possessions, not our friends, or even…our story. It’s this crazy thing Jesus does in our lives, he wants it all. Maybe this is why Rich signed his autographs “Be Gods”? That’s where many of get confused about a testimony. A testimony isn’t ours. That’s a biography. A testimony is Gods story through your story. Not the other way around.

To get a better picture of the why…well, you never know. Maybe one day you’ll find yourself in a Mexican Restaurant and you can have some chips and salsa and  then we will ride through the cornfields of Indiana as we tell you the story of how it all happened, but I’ll warn you it will be a long car ride, as my head is still spinning and the beginning of the story for me starts when I was just thirteen, and my cousin put in a cassette tape in the car, and for the first time ever I heard, “The Color Green.”

Comments (29)

  1. For you, it was thirteen and a cassette tape in the car of The Color Green.

    For me, I was around 10 or 11 and my uncle put in a cassette tape for me to fall asleep in a cabin at our favorite lake. “Boy like me, Man like you” was the first song i heard by Rich. And his album “The World As Best As I Can Remember It” is still my favorite of any genre, era, etc.

    Thank you for what you’re doing. And thank you for agreeing, Dave! I know there are a ton of people out there that have similar stories. Rich was that person who changed our lives through his music.

    1. Yes! I was in college—an Appalachian girl of Celtic ancestry in the flatlands of Indiana—the album was “Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth,” and the path was begun that would irrevocably change my life. My youth pastors, professors, and Lewis informed much of my theology, but none did more than the barefoot bard. Which he probably wouldn’t be thrilled about, as he’d rather we get our theology at church and not from musicians, but there you go. He was way more than a musician. He was a brother.
      That album alone demonstrates two of my greatest passions that I didn’t even realize I had at the time–God eventually led me to teach overseas for four years (“The Other Side of the World”)–and I continue to work with TCKs and international students 15 years later. And the genius of Dougie MacLean (“Ready for the Storm”) is just icing on the cake that Rich Mullins was. I have led Bible studies with college students using the biography Jim wrote. I have been introduced to the writings of Brennan Manning, Frederick Buechner, and Tozer. I have come to love liturgy and Native America. I have been blessed to know many of Rich’s friends. I have rejoiced and wept and sat in cornfields, all with these soundtracks to my life. The gift he gave the Church by simply being himself–with all his flaws–is priceless, because it was real, raw faith.
      Thank you SO much, both Davids, for seeing that the arrow pointing to Heaven continues to do so for a new generation. May we all follow his lead, until God calls us Home.

  2. I love how you said “A testimony is God’s story through your story. Not the other way around.” That is a great way to look at it. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  3. Hey there David! Do not have any questions. I am overjoyed for you!!! You have met Rich Mullins’ brother, David. WOW! You have made friends and more with Rich Mullins’ brother, David! WOW! When I saw Rich at a concert he made the comment that people often say to him, “Man, it must be great to be able to play guitar and write songs.” He then said, “You know what I say to them, ‘Throw away your guitar and hug someone!!'”
    Well it was all I could do not to yell out, “hug MEEE Rich!!!! hug MEEEE!!!” Since it was one of “those” crowds (i.e. “the frozen chosen”) I did not. However, did I suffer!!!! Since then I’ve had to sneak back stage to HUG Carolyn Arends, who I heard knew Rich, and then, by the grace of God, I HAD the opportunity to HUG Mitch McVicker and annoint him!!!!! I was SO HAUNTED by not yelling out “hug MEEEE Rich!!! “hug MEEEE!!” I think the Lord allowed me to undo the damage through Carolyn and Mitch. Perhaps Rich is not done speaking to us huh? Lord knows no one has spoken to my spirit as loudly and profoundly as Rich … there’s something in his voice when he sings that compels a soul to attention. Just SO grateful for the Lord’s work through your daydream!!!!!!!!

  4. The movie is about God’s love. That is what Rich reminded us about. Not because he was perfect, but because God loved him and used Rich to tell the world about His Grace.

  5. The movie will explain why you made a movie about him. For the world to know. It’s like asking, why would God create a flower? They don’t serve any real purpose on this earth, but they glorify God in the most beautiful way. Rich didn’t ask to touch so many lives with his music, he just did. Imagine being able to see all the lives Rich touched with his music and then multplying that by a thousand. If the movie touches even one more life like Rich’s music touched mine, then it will have been worth it. I am personally going to tell everyone I know about it, especially the ones who don’t know The Lord already, so that they will see what it’s really all about.

  6. Love his color green song as well, enjoyed your story! Wish i could sit down with rich and ask questions, rich was born three days after my husband (of 20 yrs) ex,, former husband, now deceased, he and rich had so many of the same thoughts on god, when i first listened to rich, i was angry at him, at his opinions, you see,
    We divorced over”religion”..many years,
    Many tears, i heard many of same sentiment s from rich, my
    mind, my heart began to change,, i had been wrong in so many ways..holy spirit used rich to open my heart and mind, kinda finishing what was started with
    My husband years before, ouch, but grateful for the reality ..still pains me, but, im much more free..peace of christ to you

  7. I liked your answer. God put the dream in you so that others will know more about Him through the simple ways Rich showed Him and shared Him. I believe everyone who knows about Rich will be better for that, and I am still praying for this movie to be a success, God’s success. Thank you for your dream, your work on this, and for sharing in your blog.

  8. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing the story. I too believe this story to be an opportunity to influence and touch others for Christ. That was what I thought from the beginning. Great job in being obedient to the threads God weaves through our life experiences and the storytelling thereof.

  9. Wow! David, I can so relate to this story. Rich had a way of impacting people he didn’t even know. My life would not be the same at all if a little boy had not brought home a cassette tape with Awesome God and The World As I Remember It Part 2 on it. I am convinced of that. And I am so thankful that you went to lunch and on the drive. I’ve already told you the story of my son, Sam. I just really believe that so many lives will be changed because of this. I’m so looking forward to it!!

  10. Rich Mullins has influenced my walk with Christ more than any other single person. I didn’t know anything about Rich Mullins until I got to wondering who wrote “Awesome God” – so I started reading everything I could about Rich, who feels like my friend even though he had already gone to heaven when he started encouraging me to live a life that would be worthy of going out like Elijah!

  11. I have ordered the book today from Amazon, and without me asking, the book will deliver tomorrow by 8:00 PM…..now how can this even happen when I got free shipping……must be Rich really wants me to have this book, and sent a bit of angelic intervention! Thought you might like me sharing this…..oh, hope that movie finishes soon, but all in God’s timing!

  12. For me it was listening to Awesome God and Sometimes by Step from my earliest days of memory. It’s so inspiring to go back and listen to his interviews, seeing the struggles he had in his faith and knowing I’m not alone, that even the greatest Christian singers can have struggles. I wish more artists would be open about things like that. What an example of a humble, God loving human being.

    I remember he was to play a concert at the college campus in my hometown a day after he died and I was to go with my family. Upon hearing the news, I was crushed. But I know I’ll get to sing right alongside him someday, and that’ll be pretty cool. Looking forward to the movie!

  13. I was in college when I met Rich for the first time, shortly after the Winds of Heaven album, and I had gone to a few of his concerts and a few of his local radio appearances. He never failed *not* to recognize me, and for a young woman struggling with the internal whirlwind of bipolar disorder, his steadiness was an anchor – whether personally or through his music. Rich had this amazing knack to treat you as if he had known you his entire life, and you came away feeling that you had been loved for the first time in your life. For me, that moment came when I laid my eyes on his hammered dulcimer up close for the first time (this would have been around 1991) and when he saw my curiosity he invited me to sit down, laid the dulcimer on my knees, and taught me how to play it. If he had a prized possession, the dulcimer was probably it – and here he put it in the lap of a completely novice stranger and shared his love of the instrument with me. I later went on to buy a handcrafted hammered dulcimer from the guy in Wichita who used to tune/repair Rich’s (or so I was told). And when I play it, it’s like reconnecting with a friend…

  14. Hi David, thank you for doing this movie. I’m so happy to hear about it!
    I read An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, and I’m reading now Singing from Silence (from Pamela Richards) and the more we read about Rich Mullins and listen to the songs and interviews he recorded the more we wish more people could have the opportunity to do the same to be touched by God as well. I have a dubbing company in Florida, with studios in South America, and I want to offer it to dubbing your movie into Portuguese for free and Spanish just for the basic cost so that Rich Mullins’ life, music and pure Christianity that inspired my life so much and the the lives of so many people as we can read above, can also inspire and touch the lives of millions more in Latin America, not only in the US. Feel free to contact me. God willing, I’ll be there at premiere with my family and many friends.

  15. I am just finding all of this on the Northeastern Alumni FB page. Rich Mullins was pure love and simplicity while being one of the most complex and deeply thinking people I had ever known. We went to NHS together, sang together in the New Creations choir, played together in band, jazz band and more importantly, we talked…a lot. We were the “outsiders” the strange members of the high school group Crusaders for Christ (CFC). We challenged the church and we got in trouble for it…a lot. We kept in touch for many years and even had our annual “back home in Indiana” Christmas meeting for lunch at the Richmond Square Mall. I loved his honesty, his purity, and most of all his ability to love through all he had experienced. I took friends to see him perform once in South Carolina…he came out barefooted, in jeans and that same plain white t-shirt…they said, “He’s barefoot!” I just smiled and said, “Yeah, that’s Rich.” Traveling in his Jeep with the dogs and living off anything that came his way. No, he didn’t mean to find fame…he told me he was just looking for Peace. Love you Brother.

  16. For me its starts at 5, Sing your Praise to the Lord on vinyl from my sister’s room who was in college at the time. Albeit Amy Grant– it made sense to me when I learned it was Rich in 1996. That song has been the signature of my life. My first “Rich” experience was “Awesome God” like many people. However, the depth of his lyric and soul of the music are truly what pulled me in mostly in his other music. (I also preferred folk instruments to “pop-rock” anyhow.) He could make something so simple so profound. Also taking Old Testament (I can hear Dr Hooks influence) and make them seem real, not just “nice Bible stories.” We knew several mutual people professors at college (CBC to ACC) as well as friends. Upon his death, it was very close to home for several reasons due to people I cared for grieved his death and had been close with him. He was to do Canticles of Plains with our college near Atlanta a month or so later… that didn’t happen obviously. I only saw him 2 times in concert; two of the best I have ever seen. My favorites: The Color Green; Growing Young; The River; Step by Step (on volume 2); and of course his rendition of Sing Your Praise to the Lord. I learned the Bach piece from the same book he did with Katie C. I briefly met his mother at NACC in 1998 as they honored Rich in St. Louis, MO. Yep… that’s the short of it.

  17. Rich was known & loved by my high school aged children from knowing him at “Rock Lake Christian Assembly” in Vestaberg, Mi where he met w/them every year in the mid to late 80s. He was a tremendous influence in their Christian walk. Our kids came home from camp one year & was all excited to sing for me Rich’s new song he wrote, “Awesome god.” They told me Rich wanted them to hear it first before sending it to the publishers. This made them feel a special bond w/Rich. Last Mar 10th I lost my son, Randy Garcia after he fought for his life on life support for a week. He felt special also because the kids @ camp referred to Rich as Randy’s dad because they were similar in stature & looks. It was their way of kidding around. Now I am imagining him in heaven having communion in w/ Rich & other loved ones who have went on b4 him. What a great reunion w/our Lord Jesus as guest of honor. I want to own this movie so it can b in our family collection for all who love & miss my son to view. I feel it can b an inspiration for all of the youngsters who r growing up as well as some others who may need a boost in their faith.
    .

  18. I knew Rich back when I lived in Cincinnati. He was very laid back. I recall seeing him in concert on the Cinti, Bible College campus during the time that I was a student there, as well as several years later after he went to Nashville.
    I told him about a reel to reel tape that came in to my possession when I moved off campus. I think some one put it with my tapes by mistake. I am pretty sure it is a live recording of Rich before he went to Tenn. I asked him if he recalled a song he did called ” The Lake Between the Hills “?He said that back then he did not write things down. I still have that tape, but do not know if it can be useful. “I call it The lost Rich Mullins Tape”.If anyone knows about this tape my email is labaker1012@yahoo.com.

  19. I am soooo glad this movie is being done! As a Catholic mother and wife, I wasn’t really up on current Christian music in 1996. One of my daughter Deborah’s evangelical Christian friends turned me on to Richs music. Such healing and profound truth in his music! Little did I know when Rich passed away in 1997, that his music would help sustain me when Deborah died in a single car accident April 1998. God so powerfully used Rich’s music and still does. I would cry and cry through the movie tribute made shortly after his death. In many was, he and my daughter were kindred spirits. I somehow know they are up there, in great joy, cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1).

  20. I am so pleased with this. The one time I saw Rich. I was pregnant with my third child and had no idea who he was. The band was passing through and played at my church! All these years later…his music is the music that speaks to my soul. His words are so full! Exposing his issues and how he continued to love The Lord will only be a greater witness and hopefully bring more people into the fold!!!

  21. To read all the posts here is to see many of my own thoughts and feelings in those who, too, have been influenced in their Christian walk through Rich’s music. I had just begun listening to him right before he was in the accident. I remember being sad and thinking wow, he’s really good and I’d like to have seen him in concert. God has and continues to use Rich’s music to touch my life, thus maturing my Christian walk immensely. I have worn out at least 6 Songs CD’s! I cannot tell you of the excitement when I get a new CD because I have stumbled upon a song on Youtube that he wrote/sang. It’s like I get a new jewel to ponder and enjoy! I then learn all the songs and find even more jewels! I listen to every interview, watch every Youtube video, travel for hours to see the movie Ragamuffin, reread the books, watch the DVD’s and I enjoy reveling in the Godly moments provided through Rich. He and I thought alike in so many ways and he gives me food for thought in interviews I come across. Rich is only physically away, but his gifts he left us will continue to give! My latest jewels of amazement as I worship through Rich’s music is Man of No Reputation, The Breaks, and All the Way My Savior Leads Me. I know there will be more! I savor every new song that speaks so deeply of his walk, which is like my own. He is the artist that I have grown with through most of my 19 years as a Christian. I will carry him with me because God has placed his music in my life to keep me focused, understand Jesus more and love him like I never have before. I feel a kindredship with Rich and would’ve loved to have been a friend of his and to talk about Jesus with him. I’ll be able to do that when I get to heaven though!

  22. I never met Rich Mullins nor saw him in concert. However as a hypocrite living youth pastor in 1997 I was so convicted of the way I was living in secret that I repented in front of the church and resigned my position. When I did that that day I felt chains fell off of me and I knew I was totally free. I’ve not been the same since then. But something so unique happened just a couple weeks after that day in August 1997. I was in upstate NY visiting my family and I took my new wife of 8 months to show her where I grew up. As we were driving around the bend to climb a large hill to go see my old house the radio blurted out that Rich Mullins had died in a car wreck. It hit me really hard, so hard I had to pull over the vehicle to the side of the road I was stunned and crying. Mostly because the 1st ever Christian song I heard was Awesome God by Rich Mullins. My newly saved family who did not grow up in church would sing this song often in the car on the way to church it was our family song. Even though I would struggle with myself and sin for years after that song represented to me integrity and holiness. I sat in my car and remember saying to God I don’t understand why you would take someone like Rich Mullins a man of integrity and love who has done so much for your kingdom and leave someone like me behind who has been a hypocrite for so long. Immediately I felt the Lord encourage me that I would have integrity and a legacy like Rich Mullins. That God was using Rich as an example in my life to encourage me to sell out everything for Jesus. Well a lot has happened since that day but in short my family and I have been missionaries in the Philippines working among the poor for the past 11 years. I wish I had more opportunity to share all that has happened over the years but lets just say our God is still an Awesome God! I came to this site because I saw a trailer on my friends wall about the upcoming movie about Rich’s life. I am so excited that there is a movie about one of my heroes of the faith.

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