KHAC March 10, 1992
Interviewed by Chuck Harper for Western Indian Ministries and Christ For Native Youth and KHAC
["Boy Like Me/Man Like You"]
CH: Well you're listening to a great song there it's called "Boy Like Me/Man Like You," and the "boy like me" is with us in the studio. It's good to have you with us Rich.
RM: It's good to be here.
CH: .... And we've enjoyed having you around KHAC and Window Rock and Navajo land for the last few days. It's been a thrill getting to know you a little bit.
RM: It's been really great to be here. We've been touring for quite a while and I think we've had more fun here than just about anywhere we've been.
CH: Well good, you're welcome to come back any time. We really enjoy playing your music on KHAC and maybe some of you didn't get to go to the concert, or didn't hear about it or something - shame on you. Anyway, you might have heard of Rich Mullins' songs in the past some of which include "Awesome God" and one of Amy Grant's songs "Sing Your Praise to the Lord." I got to hear you play that yesterday at Hilltop school and what a thrill.
CH: I Want to - maybe you could tell us a little about who writes your songs and how a song comes about and things like that?
RM: Well I write most of them and Beaker and I cowrite quite a bit. I don't know... a lot of people think that songwriting is a real special big deal and I kind of think it's really not a lot different than baking a cake or building a fence or putting plumbing in a house. It's just hard work like anything else. I think anyone can do it just like I can build a fence, but I can't build a great one. I built a fence around my house to keep my dogs in and it don't look like much, but it was fun to build. And I think it'd be good for people to do more stuff that they're not good at just for the fun of doing whatever you can do. We spend a lot of time riding in truck - getting from one place to another and that's where we do a lot of writing.
CH: You have a guitar or something you take with you in the truck?
RM: No... yeah, you just kind of think through ideas in the truck then when you get to a place with a piano or you get to the hotel room and you can pull a guitar out and you can start working on the actual form of the song.
CH: This song that we're listing to in the background has become one of my favorites - "Boy Like Me / Man Like You..." tell us how that song came about?
RM: Well Beaker and I were just talking about the mystery that God became flesh and dwealt among us and that is as historically verifiable as there was an Alexander the Great or there was a revolutionary war. It's not like it's some far away story that you have to completely have to believe by faith. This actually happened in history and we have records of it. We were talking about the fact that it is a fact doesn't make it any less mysterious. It's still hard to imagine that a God who is spririt would take on flesh. And we were talking about Mary and why Mary is so important is because it was from her that God took his flesh. She said yes to God and conceived of the Holy Spirit and that's a strange thing to think of. And then Jesus lived as every man does which means that at some point, He dirtied His diaper which means that at some point He likely skinned His Knees...
CH: He probably burped...
RM: He probably burped. He probably did a lot of things that God would never do, but God did. That's one of the reasons why I like to read the prophets. God does a lot of funny things among the prophets too, like He whistles and you don't hear about that when you read Paul but you do when you read the Prophets. He rolls up His sleeves - I love that image. He does a lot of things in the prophets that are very human-like. Believing that man is made in the image of God - that when God made us, He made us to be something like Him.. but we fall short. Adam sinned and Eve sinned and so their children were born defective so to speak. We are less than we were created to be. And then God, because He loves His image of Himself so much, He became His own image and took our sins upon Him Himself. And we were talking about the whole mysery of that and kind of the wonder of that. Then we ended up just kind of going - you know, it's a mysterious and a wild thing to think that a God who is from eternity to eternity should come and dwell in time. And that He who is spirit, should take on flesh. But even more mysterious - we who once were nothing, we came to be. We were pulled out of thin air so to speak. That we once did not exist. From my experience, ny father's dad was a coal miner in Eastern Kentucky, in a part of the country called Applachia is what they call it. When my dad was 14, my grandfather looked at him and his brother and said, I don't want my boys to grow up and be coal miners. So then he decided to move to Detroit, Michigan.... hoping to get jobs in a factory, and they ran out of gas in Indiana. And that's how my dad met my mom and that's how I got here. And I think that's kind of amazing to me because if my grandpa had run out of gas somewhere else, my mom and dad would never have met and I never would have happened. And so you look at people and you look around and see all of these particular configurations of genes and you go - it's a miracle that any of us are ever born. And I can't help but think that maybe God had something to do with the fact that all of us exist. That all of our fathers and all of our mothers could have mated it elsewhere but they didn't. They mated with who they did and that is the only reason that you are who you are. So I think part of growing up to be like Christ means seeing people as they really are. And I think people really are miracles. I think the world is completely populated with miracles. And that everyone who is alive is a miracle. And everyone who is alive should be treated that way. That we should all respect one another and we should all in fact have sort of a sort of reverence for each other that we sometimes don't have. Because you know what? There are slim chances that any of us would have come to be and yet we did and what a wonderful thing.
So, out of all of that, then we started talking about what are some of the things that really make life great? There's a certain amount of suffering in life and there's a certain amount of futility in life and the Bible doesn't seem to blush at the fact that life is futile. That we work and we play and we live and then we die and we're forgotten. In the midst of all of that, you go - why would God have us be alive? And we went well, maybe just for the fun of learning how to whistle. Maybe life is good because you have a dog and you can lick its nose occasionally - which is actually a line we stole out of a book T.H. White called The Once and Future King. Maybe life is good because you can skip rocks across creeks. Maybe life is good you can do all of those kinds of things. And maybe it is the really silly things in life that make life a worthwhile venture. So, while life is futile and while we all will one day die, not only did God create us in the first place, while we strive to be like Him, we're pretty apt to fail... we're pretty apt to let ourselves down... even moreso that God, because I think God knows that we're dust. I don't think He's too uptight about it. But the next miracle, the next step in this long progression of wonders is that after we have died and been forgotten and we've stunk up the ground somewhere and turned back into dust, then God will resurrect us. Then He will make us perfect like we could never make ourselves... it just don't stop. It just goes on and on.... and very much because God became a boy. Because God became a man and lived among us and took upon our sins and took them down to hell and threw them away where they belong so that we could be resurrected to live in heaven with Him.
CH: I heard you make a comment Sunday about the Window Rock and how we all have a hole within us and if we fill it with ourself, it's not as beautiful as it could be when there is blue sky behind it... or something like that? You want to explain or say it better than I could?
RM: Yeah, I don't know if I can or not.. sometimes you can, sometimes you can't. I was just looking at it and going, 'wow, I see stones every day. And driving from Flagstaff to Albuquerque and back to here and across to Tuba City... beautiful, beautiful great stone monoliths that are just shocking to see.' And I went, 'but why is this so exceptional?' And I realized it was exceptional because it was empty. And I thought, what a wonderful thing because that rock emptied itself, it stands out above all of the other rocks that I've seen. It will be the one that is somehow a sticking image for me. And I thought, not only is it wonderful that that rock emptied itself of itself, but then the sky filled it up with sky. Much like Jesus, Paul said, emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant and no one in the history of man kind was as glorious as Jesus was. And I think that the glory of a Christian is not that we fill ourselves up with our own self-righteousness... that we fill ourselves up with our own pride in ourselves and pride in our accomplishments and spiritual accomplishments, and our own little victories which are really pretty tawdry when you look at them in light of the history of the world, and in light of eternity, they're an imperceptable ripple. But when we emtpy ourselves, and we acknowledge before God that we really are nothing, then God fills us up with Himself and we become something. I believe that much of the Christian life has to do with avoiding that temptation to be full of ourselves. Be full of our own ambition. Be full of our own desires. Be bent on vengence. Be bent on being recognized... those kinds of things.
CH:God will make us into something beautiful...
CH: Well We sure appreciate you coming to Navajo land and having some concerts here and getting to know you a bit. How can our listeners pray for you and your ministry?
RM: Just by talking to God about it... specifically, I think energy is the big concern that we always have. You're always fighting a battle with fatigue. It's a strange thing, a lot of people, never having done this may not understand, a lot of people think that we put in about a 3 or 4 hour day and we probably put in an average of about 15 hours a day of work. And then there's always that problem of when you get up at 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning, which is fairly late for most people I recognize, but you jump in the truck and you have to take off and then you probably drive for 5 or 6 hours, and you get to the place where you're going to do the concert and you have to do the sound check. There are always problems at sound check... it's always hard to get all of the sounds right so that there's no feedback. It's a very delicate thing and we have a soundman who works very hard, who probably left at 5 o'clock in the morning to get to the place to get set up. You do that, then you rush through a meal, then you do the concert, then after the concert you meet people. One of the things that I like in the gospel of Mark - and I think I might give the impression that Mark is my favorite gospel, and I don't know that it is. But I think that Mark did some very interesting things in his writing and one of the things that I've noticed is very frequently in Mark, he talks about Jesus retreating to a quiet place and getting off by Himself. And I think that part of is that meeting people can sometimes be kind of draining. I notice in the Bible very interestingly, that when the woman touched the hem of Christ's garment that He felt strength leave. We're always shaking hands with people and hugging people. There are people who hug you and when they do you get a real energy charge from them. After you've hugged them you come away feeling revitalized. And then there are many people who hug you - very needy people, and after a lot of these people have hugged you, you feel really drained. And I don't know if there is anything to that or not. There might be, who knows? It certainly isn't anything that I'd want to make a doctrinal issue out of... but I kind of go, it is a very possible thing that there is a real... I know Paul says that we should not join ourselves with physical activity with prostitutes because we become one with them. A lot of times Europeans and Greeks like to separate the spirit and the soul from the body. But I'm not sure except what our body's are, are spririts. Its all connected. Maybe sometimes we can be worn out by being touched.
Then there's the problem of trying to find a laundromat. You need to do your laundry. If you're at home, you know right where the laundromat is and three minutes time you can be there, an hours time you can have your laundry done and folded and you can be back. Out on the road, you have to spend a good 45 minutes to an hour finding a laundry, you get there you realize that you don't have any soap and it takes another 15 minutes to find a grocery store to buy the soap and then by the time you get the soap you don't have time to do your laundry anymore. There are many frustrations and that sort of thing. So all in all, it becomes a very taxing thing. And you're away from familiar people, and familiar sights, and your own bed. We've been away since August I guess.
CH: Living closely with people you might not necessarily get along real well with.
RM: You know wonderfully enough - the people we travel with, I get along well with. I have been on tours where the people were very hard to get along with. But Avenue G, Jeff Sack, and Jimmy A and Beaker and Marita who is our road manager, and Bob and Cale, who are the crew and Doug... they're all just great people to get along with. Julie VanMeter, very sweet girl. The whole gang is really kind of a blast. Of course any time you put that many people in a very small space, there is going to be conflict. And if there wasn't, you would think maybe something was really wrong. Overall, they are very, very good to be with. ANd I am thankful that I have people to travel with. I used to travel alone and without someone there to watch over you, when you're in a town full of strangers, you think you can get away with a lot more than you really ought to. So it's good to have an accountability built in to your travel situation. There are a lot of things that I would be tempted to do, that I'm not so tempted to do because of the people that I have with me.
CH: Well, unfortunately, we are way out of time and again we would like to thank you for coming to the Navajo nation and stopping by here at KHAC and you're welcome here anytime. We'd love you have you.
RM: Well, I want to thank you for all of the good coffee and all of the Navajo tacos.
CH: Thank you for stopping in this morning.