God, Dad, Me, and Rich Mullins: A Few Thoughts On Rejection 31

There's a phrase you never thought you'd associate with me. Try to get it out of your head though. hahahahaha

There’s a phrase you never thought you’d associate with me. Try to get it out of your head though. hahahahaha. Seriously though, I look like an Irish Buddha. Kinda disturbing, huh?

I wrote this a few weeks ago during a showing of “Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins”. I’ve put off publishing it because I’m afraid it’s a little bit muddy. I know what I want to say, I’m just not sure that this says it. I hate to be misunderstood. I hope this makes sense. Feel free to let me know what you think.

I’m sitting in Mr. Coblentz’ old Sunday school classroom in our church basement. Upstairs we’re playing the 3rd showing of the movie “Ragamuffin”, the story of the gospel musician, Rich Mullins, my brother Wayne (sorry, but I’ve never been able to bring myself to call him Rich). This being the 3rd showing this weekend, I’m kind of reaching critical mass with it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie, in many ways, a great movie, but it’s painful to watch, for me anyway. It’s even more painful, or maybe difficult, or emotional, or uncomfortable are better terms, to watch it here, in the church we grew up in. Not only does it bring back memories of Wayne, but also of Mom and Dad, my sister Deb, Harold and Martha Coblentz, Bill and Betty Cox, Naomi Green, and so many more that I’ll never see again, at least not in this life. It makes me remember how much I miss them all, and how much I owe to them, and to the folks who are still here. I’m not going to mention any of their names; I’m pretty sure that would just embarrass them. Suffice to say, they are the ones who were here when I was growing up. These are the people who, when I moved back home after being gone for 20 years, welcomed me back with friendly smiles and open arms. The people who, most of all, should have known better. These are the heroes of my own paltry faith, and, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say, of generations of kids who’ve been lucky enough to grow up in this church.

As far as the movie goes, much has been made of Wayne and Dad’s broken relationship in the movie. I can assure you that it was both much worse, and much better than it’s portrayed in the movie. The movie’s portrayal of their relationship seems, as far as I can gather from reading people’s comments on the Facebook, to be helping a lot of people who had dads like mine, and I’m glad. I’m also glad that Mel Fair is a good enough actor to show the pain Dad felt over that relationship. I think he gave an outstanding, nuanced performance in a very tough role. I think though, that a large aspect of that broken relationship has been missed (or maybe it’s just me. I’ve seen this thing about 6 or 7 times, and just realized it this weekend). Everybody seems to get that Wayne’s broken relationship with Dad is symbolic of his broken relationship with God. That he kept trying to get Dad to love and accept him, and Dad just couldn’t do it. That’s true, as far as it goes, but it seems to me that that is the smaller part. To understand the bigger part, I think you have to understand how we all felt about Dad (please keep in mind that this is all based on my own feelings, and my perceptions of my siblings feelings. I do not presume to speak authoritatively for any of my brothers or sisters). When I was little I saw my Dad as God. Not the touchy-feely, “footprints-in-the-sand” God of the New Testament, but the wrathful, “I love you, but for your own good I’ll kick your ass if you don’t do as I say” God of the Old Testament. Dad was everything a man should be, everything the Old Testament said God was. He was stern, he was tough, he was pissed. He was DOING THIS FOR OUR OWN GOOD. He was also perfect, or at least a perfectionist. Dad could make anything, he could fix anything. Things that he fixed lasted longer than one fresh from the store. He could look at a fistful of nuts, and pick out the exact size and thread that he needed. A lot of the reason for the disconnect between Dad and me (and I’m pretty sure the rest of us), wasn’t that Dad was tough, or that he was emotionally distant, it was that we could never measure up. We were all, in slightly varying degrees, totally incompetent at anything practical. We tried and tried, but we were all trainwrecks, a danger to ourselves and others. I think that was the root cause of the disconnect between all of us and Dad. We felt inadequate. It wasn’t that Dad never said he loved us, we knew he did. It wasn’t that he expected us to be as good at things as he was. It was pretty obvious from an early age that none of us were very good at anything practical. He did expect us to do our best, and REALLY our best, not that “I’m doing my best” that we all pull out when we’re half-assing something we don’t really want to do at all. Dad yelled at me all the time when we were working together, but as I think back, I can’t think of a time when he ever said a cross word to me when I really was doing the best that I could. He had more confidence and faith in us than we did. I think a lot of the problem was not that Dad rejected Wayne, but that Wayne rejected Dad, and it is in this that I think Wayne and Dad’s broken relationship represents the broken relationship with God. Of course, it’s possible that I’m just projecting my own issues.

Most of the problem between me and Dad came not from Dad, but from me. I knew I couldn’t be as good, or as tough, or as hard-working, or as right as he was, and so, I rebelled. I couldn’t understand how he could love me as I was, because I knew I wasn’t good enough. I’d find some other way to prove I was good enough. So, as years went by, I found myself constantly looking for his approval. I tried so hard to do the right thing, on so many things, and fell short on pretty much all of them. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t him I was failing, it was myself. Dad loved me just the way I was, even when I was doing some just remarkably stupid things (and if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s finding remarkably stupid things to do). Unfortunately, Dad died just as I was getting old enough, or mature enough, to really appreciate him, and to really know that, although he didn’t approve of the stupid things I did, that he loved me just as I am. I think that a lot of the reason that Wayne didn’t feel God’s love, that many of us feel that way, is that we believe in God, but we KNOW us. I mean seriously, how could a perfect God love me? I know what kind of stupid things I get up to. I know that a lot of the things I really want to do are things I shouldn’t do (but man, do they look like fun!). I know I don’t measure up to God even in my everyday life, when I’m trying to do the things I’m “supposed” to. I know I’m not cutting the theological mustard even on the little things. I know I eat too much, drink too much, cuss too much, smoke too much, don’t pay enough attention to my kids or wife, don’t make enough money, aren’t a good steward of my blessings, and God help me if he comes back in the evening, because it’s far more likely he’ll find me watching Game of Thrones or The Wolf of Wall Street than reading the bible. I also suspect strongly that I am not alone in this. How could God love losers like us? You’d have to go all the way back to Exodus to find another bunch as venal, fickle, unfaithful, self-righteous, and dim-witted as I am. And I’m talking about those of us who go to church regularly, and really try to follow God. Well, you might not have to go back to Exodus. Take a good look at the disciples sometime (I know I don’t measure up to those guys, and they lived with Jesus for 3 years and still didn’t seem to get it, so how much do I suck?). So a lot of us rebel. We’ll be as good as we can, and that’s gonna have to be good enough for God. After all, we’re still a lot better than a lot of people we could mention. I mean, aren’t we all the way God made us? Then, because we know in our heart of hearts that that’s just a load of rationalization bullshit, we feel even worse, like even bigger losers, and push God farther away. It seems to me that what appealed to Wayne about Brennan Manning’s message is that it seems to say (to me anyway),“You are as God made you. You’re not perfect, but he loves you anyway. So stop trying to make him love you, and be the YOU that God made. Do your best, your REAL best, and when you fail, and you will, remember that God will always love you.” Now I’ve read that some people believe that the Ragamuffin Gospel is just a lot of new-age hippie, I’m ok, you’re ok bullshit, but I disagree. I don’t see it as a license to just do whatever you want because, “That’s how God made me.” It seems to me that it is a way to move the stumbling blocks that keep us from loving God, to keep from just giving up. To remind us that God is bigger than we are, is bigger than our sin, our weakness, so that we can always see him, always find our way back to him. I think the question we’re really asking isn’t, “How can God love me?” but “How can I make him stop?” Because we just get tired of feeling like losers all the time, and if we can get him to turn his back on us, we won’t be reminded constantly of how far short we fall. Fortunately, it’s not up to us. He loves us whether we want him to or not, whether we deserve it or not.

A common (I think) way of referring to God as “our rock”, and he is. He is always there, and always Himself. But there’s a big old ocean of crap out there too, and we’re us. We’re prone to want to slip down the Rock, just to soak our feet, and end up getting washed off. But when you get washed off, you don’t say, “Well, that’s it for me, I don’t deserve to be on the Rock. I’ll just drown in this ocean of crap. In fact, I think I LIKE this crap. This is great crap! I can’t believe I was missing out on all this crap!” Well, you shouldn’t anyway, but that’s exactly what a lot of us seem to do, and so, down we sink, sucking in as much crap as we can, all the while congratulating ourselves on how much smarter and more sophisticated we are than all those poor saps sitting up there on the Rock. In fact, we’ll just be our own rock, or make our own rock, out of sex or drugs or booze or money or power or whatever trips our own particular trigger. Some of us even manage to be quite happy in our ocean of crap, sitting on our own personal rocks. But it is all a lie. There is only one Rock. Accept no substitute.

All of which brings me back to Dad. Dad didn’t bust our asses because he was mad at us. If he was mad at anyone, it was himself (most of the time anyway). He was hard on us because he loved us, and he knew the world wasn’t about to give us a break. If he hadn’t taught Wayne the value of hard work, Wayne wouldn’t have worked so hard at writing and performing. If he hadn’t taught Wayne to be tough, the music business would have chewed him up and spit him out like it has so many others. If he hadn’t taught Wayne that there are more important things than success and money, Wayne wouldn’t have been able to walk away and stay himself, the Wayne that God made and Dad trained.

And that brings me back to Whitewater Christian Church. I let myself get washed off the Rock as a young man, and I sucked down as much of that ocean of crap as I could. It took me quite a while to recognize my mistake, and as a result, I did a lot of damage, both to myself, and to those I love. Eventually though, I found a tractor big enough and powerful enough to pull my head out of my ass, and I started swimming back to the Rock. Our church has helped guide me back. Thinking about the example that those wonderful, loving, flawed people had set for me when I was a kid gives me hope for myself, and I think about them every time I set foot in that church. I know that they weren’t perfect (and to be honest, most of them would probably horrified at the pedestal that my generation has put them on), but they had the courage to try, and the patience and love to keep trying. I’m also comforted when I look around and see so many willing to take their place and continue the tradition established by our forebears. I don’t know that any of us will ever have the positive impact on the kids that those older had on us, but it’s encouraging to see so many willing to try. I feel lucky to be a part of it.

31 thoughts on “God, Dad, Me, and Rich Mullins: A Few Thoughts On Rejection

  1. Reply Dave Scott May 5,2014 6:20 am

    Lloyd,
    Thanks for being open and honest. I hung out with Rich at Cincinnati Bible College back in the day. In fact, I went with him on his trip to Nashville to sign his first deal with Blanton and Harrell. I have to work at being as transparent as you have been but I am glad I get the chance to try. God’s patience has been tried by my stupidity I am sure. That is what makes His grace that much more amazing to me. I pray that Holy Spirit will plant His truth in an area of your heart where it will flourish and produce a lot of fruit.

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 5,2014 4:18 pm

      Dave, The transparency thing comes pretty easy when you’ve done as many blatantly stupid things as I have in such public arenas. Eventually you figure out that just about everybody is pretty much just as jacked up as you are, they’re just better at concealing it. Fortunately, I’ve never been encumbered with an abundance of dignity. At the very least, it gives others a good laugh. My life has been a cautionary tale for others. Maybe they can learn from my mistakes. Of course, I’ve never been good at learning from them, but at least it gives me something to talk about. Later

  2. Reply Carlye McLaughlin May 5,2014 11:33 am

    Thanks for your thoughts and insight, Lloyd. You made me cry this morning and it’s just what I needed today. I, too, have all those wonderful, flawed Whitewater Christian Church people you mentioned (and didn’t mention) up on a pedestal as saints who loved me growing up there. Awesome to picture you in that basement writing this! Lots of memories came back for me. Love to you and your family.

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 5,2014 4:13 pm

      Hey Carlye, how are ya? (I’m assuming you’re Carlye Harris). Anyway, glad you liked it. I don’t know where any of us would be without those awesome people. Gotta say this is the 1st time a woman’s ever thanked me for making her cry, so you’re welcome I guess. Check out some of my other posts, they’ll give you a good laugh. Later.

  3. Reply Debbie Blackwell Buckley May 5,2014 1:15 pm

    Lloyd, I remember you visiting the Cincinnati Bible College campus when you were a little boy. I was also a friend of your brother’s. You have written such a powerful story from another perspective. It’s exactly right. Sometimes we learn what not to be from our past. Sometimes we learn what to be. We’re just a mixed up mess most of the time. Thank you for baring your soul.

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 5,2014 4:09 pm

      Debbie, glad you liked it. It’s funny how this movie getting made and coming out has finally made me start dealing with a lot of stuff that I’ve kept bottled up. If nothing else, it’s made me feel a little better. It’s been a little intimidating throwing my own thoughts out there, especially with thinkers like Wayne and David in the family, guys who are much more qualified than me to comment on this kind of stuff, so I appreciate your kind words. Thanks again. Also, if you need a good laugh, check out some of my other posts. I’m better with stupidity. Later

  4. Reply Mark lutz May 21,2014 3:24 pm

    Hey Lloyd,
    I just read your blog. Sprinkle & Beth told me about it, I just got the chance to read it. You put words to feelings that have been rambling around my heart for years. In the last couple of years those feelings have been getting closer and closer to the surface. Your words pierced my heart and made a hole for some of those pent-up things to get out. For me, and probably a lot of other people, you picked exactly the right words. Richard Wayne had words for a particular bunch of people. David’s words hit another group of people. But yours are for another group of folks that neither of your brothers might ever get through to. Hard headed, rough and tough good ole’ boys (and gals) need a wake up call as much as anybody. When I read the words you wrote I felt the weight of God’s truth in them. I could imagine them working life in some really lost, far away souls. I couldn’t imagine coming up with any better words if I had to, to accomplish what needs to be done in the lives of people like my family – heathen rednecks. I love them and hope that somehow God will get hold of them. Reading your thoughts gives me hope that God has all kinds of poets able to craft words to touch all of his kids. I think I’ll re-read what you have written here. Maybe some of those words will stick in my head and be there when I get a chance to through out a life line to someone who needs one. Maybe you’ll get more chances to speak words that are powerful and meaningful to people who are a long ways off from fitting in at church. I hope you do. Thanks, Mark

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 24,2014 1:57 am

      Hey Mark, thanks for the kind words. I’ve been kinda hesitant about posting this kind of stuff on here. I mean honestly, with articulate guys like Wayne and David in the family, I’ve always kinda felt like I should just keep my mouth shut. However, I’ve found that writing this blog (among other things) has helped me to start dealing with a lot of stuff that I’ve kept bottled up for years, so I just decided, what the hell, there are only about 30 people who read this anyway. I’ve been really surprised by the response. Anyway, thanks a lot, have a good weekend. Later, Lloyd.

  5. Reply Virginia Daum May 23,2014 4:33 pm

    John Mullins was what I term a ’50s dad. I have one who at 88 is still going strong. I have friends who grew up with 50s dad who still struggle with dear old dad as their God image. They wanted to grow up with a touchy, feely 21st century dad, but 50s dads grew up in hard times and knew times could get hard again. The world is not a kind place.
    As for a loving God, I studied in Germany in the early 70s and in this church I discovered a wonderful quote in the church bulletin. Gott liebts un nicht, weil wir gut sind, aber weil er gut ist. God love us, not because we’re good, but because he’s good. It was by some bishop named Joseph Ratzinger. I’ve had that quote posted above my computer and church office for many a year. I laughed my head off when he became Pope Benedict XXVI. That whole philosophy was what Brennan Manning preached. It’s catholic in the sense of being of ancient Christianity, but we often think Christinity was invented recently. We haven’t gotten any better than those first century Christians. What Lloyd says is oh so true. Thanks for saying it.

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 24,2014 2:00 am

      Hey Virginia, glad you liked it. It’s gotten a surprisingly good response which is nice. I know I’m good with the funny stuff, but feel like I can get a little too heavy-handed when it’s something that I care about. Anyway, thanks for your kind words. Later, Lloyd.

  6. Reply Tanya Stone May 23,2014 5:26 pm

    I don’t know what you mean by muddy, that was all very well shared. My husband had a rough relationship with his dad growing up, and actually was not speaking to him when we married. It wasn’t until we were about to have our first child that he decided to try to patch things up, and found out his dad was not the same one he thought he was. Adulthood and perspective really change things. My own family is broken right now, only it’s about our mom, not our dad (I’m the oldest of 5 girls). I don’t known what the answer is for us, but I do know that forgiveness and acceptance are going to go a long way. I love this post, I love your “about me” (you had me cracking up), and I want to know how to follow your blog. Yes, I was a fan of your brother’s–huge fan. But I like real and funny people no matter who they are. 🙂 Your parents obviously raised some amazing children. I am sorry for the recent loss of your sister (I loved the things she had to say in both the “Homeless Man” video and recent documentary). God bless and thanks for sharing. That takes something special to be willing to open up like that. Take care.

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 24,2014 2:03 am

      Hey Tanya, glad you liked it, and thanks for your condolences. I’m sure you know, no matter how long they’ve been gone, it still hurts. As far as amazing children, I’m not so sure about that, but I know that we had amazing parents. I hope things work out for your family. You’re right, forgiveness and acceptance are critical. Well, have a good weekend. Later, Lloyd

  7. Reply Christy Patton May 24,2014 10:58 pm

    Dear Lloyd,
    I lived in a town so close the Whitewater and though only there 5 years I consider it to be my home town. Connersville, Indiana. I feel almost as if I know your family since Wayne is only a year younger that me and we grew up around the same time.
    So you're a ragamuffin, too! So glad to hear it. Me too. Only for awhile I tried to be a saint and I didn't think so at the time, I was very legalistic. I just knew bringing up my kids to love The Lord and the Church would keep them from making mistakes. I didn't see that in the future I was going to make plenty of mistakes/sin that I never would have guessed I'd do and I hid all the other stuff even from myself. What a motley crew we all are. Move over there's still room in that boat! I'm more comfortable here knowing I don't deserve Gods love and yet, "He's crazy about me." It gives me the freedom to really love Him, myself, and the rest of the crew in this big boat. Thanks for this post. I wondered about you. A friend told me about this blog. I needed it today. You did make me laugh and cry. Can you email me about your blog regularly?

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 26,2014 10:40 pm

      Christy, glad you liked it. We do tend to get hung up on a lot of nonsense, don’t we? Anyway, I’m glad it helped. Thanks for reading. I’m not sure how to set this up to give you an e-mail notification, but I’m planning to try to post something every week, so just keep checking back. If I do figure it out, I’ll set it up. Well, have a good one, and thanks for reading. Later, Moon.

      P.S. By the way, I just figured out, at the bottom of the comments section, there are a couple of boxes you can check to be notified when a new post is published.

      • Reply Christy May 28,2014 3:59 pm

        Dear Lloyd,
        Will wonders never cease!? I figured it out! And I got your post! Thanks! Keep writing! I loved seeing your family on the documentary. I can put a face and a voice with your writing now. PS my Dad and my husband’s Dad were just like your Dad

  8. Reply Mary Beth Bonacci May 25,2014 4:04 am

    Don’t you dare think that you should keep quiet, or compare yourself unfavorably to your “gifted thinker” brothers! I knew Rich in the last year of his life, and he meant a great deal to me. But you, my new friend, are an incredibly gifted thinker in your own right, and I find you simply hilarious to boot. Please keep writing and sharing with us!!!

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 26,2014 10:12 pm

      Hey, Mary Beth, don’t get me wrong, I know I’m a pretty smart guy, but when it comes to writing about religious stuff, I’m not exactly in Wayne and David’s league. Don’t worry though, I don’t intend to let that stop me. I agree with you on one thing though, I am funnier than either of them. Anyway, thanks for reading. Later, Moon

  9. Reply Tom Laughlin May 30,2014 1:05 am

    Lloyd,

    I enjoyed hearing your perspective on the movie! And the verse that keeps coming to mind is: Romans 5:6 – 11. While we were his enemies, Christ died for the ungodly. So how much more, now that we are trying to live for Him, will we be saved through His life!” God is for us!!!

    I was really disappointed in the movie because Rich was such a hero of mine, and it failed to convey what a special, gifted, awesome man he was.
    I met Rich on Dec. 15th, 1978, when Zion was performing at the United Campus Ministry at Miami University. I had just accepted Christ, leaving a deadend life of drugs and drinking. When I met Rich, I had hope that I didn’t have to become a nerd to be a Christian. I was an immediate fan, and followed Zion to concerts at the Jesus House, under the Water Tower in Oxford, and many other places around Cincinnati. Rich made quite an impact on so many people because, in my mind, he made old things new. He took dead Christianity and breathed new life into it. He was a new wineskin, and he made it cool to be a Christian… by rebelling against the dead church, and calling the Body of Christ to be real and alive in their relationship to God.

    The movie portrayed a pitiful creature, which is so far removed from the guy who mentored so many, and touched, and attracted, and inspired so many!f
    My favorite movie about “father angst” is “Smoke Signals” with Adam Beach. There is a poem at the end of the movie that says “Can we forgive our Fathers, for having loved too little, or too much!” I think we all have some “father” issues. Rich rose above any of those issues to have a profound impact on so many with his music ministry.

    I was disappointed the movie did not capture that wonderful, gifted, profound Rich who we followed from 1978 through his death, and the “Jesus Record” tour, and on. Eating lunch with Rich at Skyline Chili is 1995 was one of the highlights of my life. And attending his visitation, and hugging your Mom, in 1997, was one of the saddest days.

    Your Brother was real, and honest, and imperfect (like everyone else)… but he was also incredibly gifted by God… and he was able to use his gifts to impact so many! So, your brother is, and will always be my hero in the faith!

    It helps to know your thoughts on the movie, and your relationship to your Dad. I think we all inherit a bit of insecurity as part of our fallen human nature. And some people are a lot better at expressing love than others! And that condition of fallen man creates much angst in our midst, unfortunately. Just reality in a fallen world! So grateful to a God that loves us despite our imperfections and failures!

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com May 30,2014 6:50 pm

      Hey Tom – I think you’re kinda missing the point of the movie. They could have gone with a different angle (and actor) and shown Wayne’s charming, witty, funny side, but that’s the side everyone knows, and the side everyone (well a lot of people anyway) emulates. The side that I think most of us look at and say, “Why aren’t I like that?” But the upshot of making that movie would have just been preaching to the choir, and ultimately just glorifying Wayne as some kind of paragon of Christianity. Let’s face it, if you want that kind of stuff, you can find a shitload without really even trying. Just go to U-tube. What they were trying to do was make a movie that we could all watch and say, “Holy shit, I am just like Rich Mullins in so many ways! Maybe God loves me too.” A movie that ultimately glorifies God and not a musician who sang about him. Don’t get me wrong, I think Wayne was a good man, and a good Christian, if there is such a thing (at the very least, he was a better Christian than me), but I think part of the problem today is this whole cult of personality that has taken over. Even the “real” news is inundated with pointless pablum about celebrities and how great this one is or how bad that one is. The reason for this is that’s what the people apparently want. To hold up Miley Cyrus or Lindsey Lohan as examples of how terrible people are, or to hold up Tom Hanks or Princess Diana or Rich Mullins as examples of what we all ought to try to be. At the very least, us Christians ought to know better, but instead, we make heroes out of guys like Wayne or Amy Grant or Billy Graham, and have the nerve to be offended when we find out they’re just as jacked up as we are. It’s especially bad once somebody like that dies, whether that someone is a celebrity or just a family member. Once they’re dead, we sanctify them. We block out all the bad stuff about them, or, if we can’t block it out, we make it funny and endearing. I’ve lost both parents, a brother and a sister, and did that to all of them. Only when this movie came out did I really start dealing with all of it. Up til now, recognizing the bad aspects of their personalities and behavior seemed like a betrayal of their memory. Now that I’ve started actually dealing with it though, I realize that to deny those aspects or to try to laugh them off is really robbing them of their humanity, and that is unfair to them, and unfair to myself. I love and miss them all, but if I could have them back, I’d want them back warts and all, because that’s who they were. I think if you really want to know who Rich Mullins was, then the movie they made tells a necessary part, especially when taken in context with all the truly wonderful things about him that everyone already knows.

      Well, sorry about getting on my soapbox. I do understand where you’re coming from, and I hope my little rant here won’t stop you from reading more (normally, I’m a lot funnier). Anyway, take care and thanks for reading.

  10. Reply Christina Marie May 5,2015 5:07 am

    Hi. I stumbled across this blog when looking for something else entirely. I think it’s a beautiful post, as in, insightful, thoughtful, honest.

    I’ve spent a great deal of time in the last few years wondering about the very strong pillars of goodness in the church where I grew up, and why I and my friends are not like them. When I think of all of the sins and sinful lifestyles that we’ve had, I think, “That’s just not right. We not only grew up in the church, but actually loved church when we were kids growing up…felt the Spirit, walked with God, loved His Word. Then we fell like ninepins when we came into our teens. If we sinned so much, and we’re the ones who were raised in the church, what hope is there for those raised outside the church? I mean, what could anyone have done more for us than was done? Even if much less had been done, we should have been stronger in goodness, should have been wiser, should have been prepared, should have followed God.” I mean, some people have changed their lives for God having just read one tract, or met one person, or found one verse in the Bible. Do you know how many thousands of excellent sermons we heard and hymns that we sung? And they went to our hearts, too. We “walked the aisle.” We loved God. Why are we not rocks?

    Do you remember going to their houses on Sunday afternoons? He quietly read the paper; she knitted. I thought they were incredibly boring and vowed I would never live such a dull life, even as I benefited from their solidity! Now I crave decency, and have to dig back to their example in my mind to find it. I found a stash of old sermon recordings and I listen to them in awe. They discuss *morality*, making right decisions, that our choices and habits matter. I think that all of the things that my generation said didn’t matter, matter, all that we thought was just legalistic: modesty, not drinking and smoking, reading your Bible every day, watching what you read, what you watch, all that you take in, being separate, being apart, “coming out from among them,” living cleanly, even if you have to sit and knit on Sunday afternoons. It’s better to wait quietly for the Lord than to party with the sinners and coast on “free grace.” I know why those people were different: they tried. They did “a little violence to themselves” early on (St. Thomas A Kempis).

    And do you know what? I’ve made some changes. And…no one thinks I’m a rock! 🙂 People are starting to avoid telling me things about themselves because they know that I have standards. People are starting to say things like, “You’re hard to please.” But I know I am not anywhere near as good as the people on whom I have set my eyes to follow, and I want to be with them in the “home of righteousness” one day, and feel at home there. I don’t judge others, but I do discreetly withdraw when they begin doing or discussing something that I don’t want to be a part of, and I can’t help if they feel judged by my actions. I’ll willingly take the hit if they call me rigid or prudish, old-fashioned or judgmental.

    Do you remember a *clean* feeling on Sunday morning that carried with you through half the week? You may laugh, because it was due to things at which we now scoff: those pillars not only didn’t drink, they didn’t even have alcohol in their homes. Their skirts came below their knees and the men didn’t go shirtless. They didn’t swear. As Francis Schafer said, the external shaped the internal (or did he say the opposite? oh, well, never mind). These outer things that we thought couldn’t change who we are inside, did. Do you know, I recently filled a bag with all of my tank tops and shorts that were above mid-thigh and took them to Goodwill? Then the Lord showed me that even what I wear in the privacy of my own room is going to have an impact on the modesty of my soul. If I want to be modest in spirit, I have to be modest outside and that will shape my spirit…that’s the opposite of what my generation was taught, not what it was taught by the old school church, but by the world and the modern church.

    Jesus came to our home one Christmas in a very special way, and during a home service we had during that time, the Holy Spirit convicted two of us to dump out all of the alcohol in our home, pronto, even though we use it mainly for cooking. We did it, including even an old keepsake bottle of red clover wine that my now deceased grandfather made. Since then, we’ve let it creep back into our home…stroganoff and spaghetti sauce don’t taste the same without it, but I think we’re making a mistake in this. I can’t see anything wrong here, but if He cleared it out in order to come near, I must be blind on the topic. There’s a real cleanness of spirit that comes from living in outer purity, and I hunger for it now. And now, we’re the ones. If we don’t have it, it won’t be in the world. And the world needs it. Somehow, we got the idea that we don’t matter spiritually, that we can coast because others are strong, and, also, that the sins that we gave into weren’t the *real* spiritual battles that we had always heard about, the ones that we were supposed to valiantly fight, that we could do what we wanted.

    I’m so glad to hear that there are people who are trying to be the next generation of purity and moral strength and faith in the congregation where you grew up. I think our generation was deceived about what matters spiritually and what doesn’t, and where the battle lies, and what really pleases God, or, more importantly, how to cleanse ourselves to walk closely with him, with radiant souls and unveiled faces.

  11. Reply Christina Marie May 5,2015 2:10 pm

    p.s. As one who spent ten years as a Ragamuffin Gospel devotee–and is no longer–I can tell you that a great deal is based on the misuse of Hosea 11:8: “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?….My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” Because in spite of saying that, He DID find it in His heart to hand them over, first to Babylonian destruction and captivity, and then to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In light of that, I think that here He was only expressing His painful regret as a Father at having to do so. Since seeing that, I no longer go to sleep at night cozily resting in that verse.

    Much, also, is based on the story of the prodigal son. But, again, it is overlooked that the prodigal son didn’t stay in his wastrel, sinful life, chanting, “The Father loves me. He won’t punish me. Hosea 11:8!” The punishment of his sinful life did come upon him: the filth that he was living literally manifested itself into the physical company he ended up keeping (pigs) and the food he was coveting (their filthy food). This is how God’s wrath and discipline came upon him for his sins. It was when he repented and returned to the Father, that he was forgiven and received, not while he kept living in sin. Who dares to believe that he still consorted with prostitutes and lived as he pleased once back under his Father’s roof? And was still accepted “as he was, not as he should be”?

    Also, I think it’s dangerous to make a delineation between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New. I’ve been reading the Old Testament again lately and–yikes!–at the plague that broke out among the Israelites when they sinned or complained! But it was after “touchy-feely” Jesus came that Jerusalem was destroyed. And Peter spoke and Ananias and Sapphira were struck down by an unseen hand. And the Corinthians were “falling asleep” due to lack of reverence for the Lord’s Supper. He is that same “Mount Olympus” type of God. Who is also our–yikes!–Father. I mean, read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. I’m doing much more obeying with fear and trembling lately, and letting the Ragamuffins go their own way, boasting of their sin and God’s grace…I’ll quietly obey here and quietly yet valiantly strive and struggle. I’m going to read Pilgrim’s Progess next…it’s been years, but I think it gives a better picture of the Christian life than anything I’ve heard: struggles and trials and valiant endeavors toward faith AND purity.

    Okay, I’ll go away now. 🙂 Thank you for your thought-provoking writing. I never find anyone who is even thinking about these things and it was delightful to see.

  12. Reply Sandy Jan 7,2016 5:29 am

    Lloyd, I sang Rich’s songs in church and hear them on my Pandora Christian station, and knew he died. I recently watched the Ragamuffin movie and was extremely moved. I had to learn all I could about Rich. He has really impacted me; God has used him to draw me much closer to God and helped me in other ways. What disturbs me is, in all the videos I have watched online of Rich in concerts, he was always clean, and usually upbeat. The movie showed him looking pretty bad, and usually in a kind of downer mood, or like there was a cloud over him. Any problems Rich had, aren’t talked about out there. So I feel like someone is being deceptive. I kind of feel like the guy who made the movie was working out his own demons. Would you care to comment on Rich, what he was like. I do not want dirt, I love the man, and one thing about him is that he always seemed to be very honest. Not that he had to tell everything about himself. Now I’m feeling muddled in what I’m trying to say! Just, I feel like I want to know him better, and I don’t believe anything you say could make me love him less. Also, how about joining the Rich Mullins FB group. It would be so good to have your input.
    It sounds like you are finding God’s peace–I constantly marvel at His huge forgiveness! love you brother, Sandy

  13. Reply Delores Chappell Jan 7,2016 8:39 am

    Hi Lloyd! I just found this (was up to check the lottery numbers. Nope, Ray can’t retire today) I signed up and will becoming back to read all the other posts. Maybe there was a good reason for me not being able to go back to sleep? I can still remember the “terrors” when I messed up on something and your dad, “setting me straight”! Once in particular of my smoking and drinking colas instead of taking better care of myself. Once when young and he took me along with Deb, Wayne & Sharron, to Lake Celina. I had no idea about the danger of the waves and we were all holding hands and out to far and loving having the waves lift us off our feet. Man did I get chewed out over that one, and chewed and chewed and chewed. Yes, I was several years older but never having been around a lake like that, and no one had explained before sending us out to play. But you are right in that he just wanted to make you “better than you were before”. I think one of the hardest parts was he just could not understand why everyone didn’t see and understand things without having to be told. Maybe in somethings, John was to smart in the common sense area and didn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t that way also. He wanted you to see the stupidity of some mistakes so we would be better than we were and not make the same mistake again and I think to try to keep us from really really messing up big time. And then always, your mom’s beautiful smile to let you know, “everything will be okay”. Miss them both Now with a “few” years of experience, I can look back and see, many times when we are being “set straight” is to keep us from having to go through the pain and feelings of not being “good enough” that we all go through, and I think we have to go through those rough times so that we can recognize the good and that we are loved no matter, good or bad, Maybe it comes from becoming parents ourselves, that we finally start to understand that God can love us even though we are so very imperfect, messed up, stumbling and failing but can still be loved. I think God tells us things so we won’t “mess up” but he knows we are going to anyway. He just shakes his head, gives a sigh, and loves us anyway.

  14. Reply caseysean Jan 9,2016 9:28 pm

    Found your blog earlier today. This one is really good and made me think really hard. I sort of choked up. Reading your words in light of how your father trained Rich put your father in a new light for me. Your dad would be proud of this writing Mr. Lloyd Mullins.

  15. Reply Dana Martin Betsch Feb 1,2016 1:15 am

    I sit in puddles of tears right now because I remember how much Rich used to talk about you and David. I think he would be filled with great joy. I completely understand how you were able to see the flip side and the pain that your dad felt. I clearly saw that pain in your dad when he was around Richard and it seemed obvious how he didn’t want there to be walls, awkwardness or the inability to express their love for each other.

    I wish a movie could cram more into the 2hrs given to show all the sides of Richard, including the side where he could be a down right ass. Then maybe we could each find that part of us that relates best with each of his characteristics (I personally relate best with the ass part…but that is just me).

    I found the movie good but extremely difficult to watch. I remember from the beginning of meeting him that his eyes held so much pain. A pain that was way bigger then father image issues or father acceptance issues. No doubt there was intense turmoil and pain from many memories from his childhood that your dad may have had some responsibility for, but not for the full realm of his pain. A pain that almost seemed woven over the years into his very veins. It almost seemed incurable.

    I’ve always said that Satan doesn’t need to interfere too much because we are so capable of our own demise w/o any temptation from him, but in Richard’s case maybe not so. I think he was well aware of what Richard’s potential to spread the gospel could be and he would do whatever it takes to prevent him from his full potential. That would include family pain, substances, mind games, clearly unfruitful relationships and so forth. What Satan didn’t realize is that when we are weak God is made strong. The Richard that was found weak in his pain became the profound songwriter, the amazing teacher, the philosopher, the listener, and the one who loved God because he was God. All that, with a little bit of Richard’s attitude on the side to boot. He was the one that God used to reveal himself through, he was made tangible and his love was shown and preached.

    You are right in the fact that your dad did indeed help prepare Richard to be who God made him to be! Whether it was pain, discipline, hard work, love, tears or a dad’s own heartbreak……….it is what made him be Richard Wayne Mullins.

    All of our stories mold into his very plan and reveal the utmost intricate details of his being.

    Richard and your dad dine together, create together and who knows maybe still have an argument now and again together (Jesus as the referee) but now they end up laughing and saying that they love each other.

    Dana Martin

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com Feb 1,2016 1:49 pm

      Hey Dana, thanks for the comment! Glad you liked the post, but I’ve got to disagree with you on one point: If Dad and Wayne get into an argument now, I’m pretty sure Jesus has enough sense to stay out of the way and just enjoy the show. hahahahaha

  16. Reply Andrew Paschen Feb 28,2016 3:37 am

    Hi Lloyd. I tripped and stumbled and fell face first into your blog. I have kept in touch with your brother Dave for several years now and have enjoyed your brother Wayne’s music for many years, but I must say God has used you to speak to places in my heart that have been scarred, and He has ripped off some old scabs. Thank you for this blog and please keep the posts coming. I appreciate you very much.

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com Feb 29,2016 12:37 am

      Thanks Andrew; glad you liked it, and that it seems to have helped you in some ways. I’m pretty sure that writing it helped me in some ways. It’s funny how much crap we repress comes back to haunt us repeatedly. Writing these posts has at the very least been cathartic for me. I’m glad that it’s connected with folks like you too. Anyway, good luck to you, and thanks for reading!

  17. Reply Deb Mar 11,2016 4:26 am

    Hi Lloyd,
    I met your sister some years ago when she had moved back to Richmond for a time. We became close friends and she gave me some of Wayne’s music (I had not heard of him) and always wanted me to meet him as I had written some songs she thought he would appreciate. He passed before that could happen, but I did meet him briefly at your grandma’s calling. He didn’t seem anything like the movie portrayed him. She spoke of your family often, saying it was like living with Jesus Himself and John the Baptist (Wayne and David) and that your mom was a saint. She never felt she measured up by any means. You, however, were the black sheep according to Deb and I think she related most to you. I don’t think she and Sharon were ever too close, but she loved you all. She too had a strained relationship with your dad, but respected the fact he stopped drinking when he was faced with a tough choice. He chose wisely. We helped each other through some tough times. We didn’t talk as much after she moved from Richmond, but did stay in touch over the years and I moved from there too, but after she moved back to be by your mom, I would visit when I was back in town and we could get together. She was a great lady. It was so weird seeing the movie because I did not have her to talk to about it after. When the credits rolled and I saw the dedication to Deb, I started sobbing right in the middle of the movie theatre. She had never spoken to me about Rich’s struggles with alcohol, and we talked about everything. I know she was always afraid people would find personal things out about her and it would hurt his ministry. Crazy how our minds condemn us. She really worked the steps in her life, didn’t just quote them. If I have leaned anything over the years, it is that no one is perfect, not in their choices or in walking out their faith. But if we were perfect we wouldn’t need grace now would we. And everyone of us has our own cross to carry. Thanks for your blog. You have a little ministry right here too it appears 🙂

    • Reply moonandjess@frontier.com Mar 11,2016 3:32 pm

      Hey Deb, thanks for the comment. I’m not sure you’re not giving me too much credit, calling this silly little blog a ministry, when it’s really just more a compulsion to barf up my own thoughts onto the world stage while simultaneously making it easy for people who don’t care what I think to avoid it. And honestly, I’m probably the last person anyone should come to for theological advice. I just try to make people think. Still, I appreciate the thought. I’m glad you and my Deb were friends. She was awesome, and I miss her every day. As far as living with Jesus and John the Baptist, all I can say is she was fond of hyperbole, and loved her family very much. Wayne and Dave were/are great guys, but far, far, far from perfect. Much closer than me, but still far from perfect. On one thing though, she was absolutely right. Mom was a saint. Anyway, glad you liked the post, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the blog. Most of it is pretty stinkin’ funny, if I do say so myself. Thanks for reading!

  18. Reply James Warner Apr 7,2017 2:11 pm

    May God Almighty Bless the Mullins Family. You are all loved by so many of us out here.

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