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Rich is in Heaven 
(But He Left Some Valentines Behind): 
A songTALK by psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT 

As a prelude to the article presented below, hear/download this free two-song "soundtrack": 

Riches in Heaven/Rich is in Heaven 
Words and music by Dr. BLT (c)2006 

Between THE ROCK and a Heart Place 
Words and music by Dr. BLT (c)2006 

you laid all your songs on the altar 
we watched them multiply 
you sang all your songs to the children 
who thought you'd never say good-bye 
you poured all your soul in the music 
with a twinkle in your eye 
you wanted to leave like Elijah 
In a chariot up in the sky... 
This is the month for valentines, and there could be no greater valentine than the love of Jesus, freely given as a sacrifice for our sins.  When things are going well, we all tend to take it for granted, but when we're between a rock and a hard place, we invariably return to our first love, the love of Jesus.  Notwithstanding severe personal trials and tribulations, nothing transports me to the throne of grace (that place between The Rock and  a Heart Place) quicker than the songs of Rich Mullins---songs I refer to as valentines for Jesus.  
You laid all your riches in heaven 
You laid down your life for your friends 
Well done, my good and faithful servant 
We'll meet you in the end 
Now that our Rich is in heaven... 
I found a corner table showered in sunshine from the nearby window and sat down to enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee at the once-classic-now-defunct Capital Garage Coffee Company on K Street in Sacramento.  It was a place where up-and-coming rock bands, and obscure to "established" underground acts like Cake used to play.  But on September 20, 1997, it was to be my place of mourning.   I slapped the Sacramento Bee on the table, glanced at the front headlines and breathed a sigh of relief.  There was no bad news that had any apparent direct effect on how my day would go.  That was before I reached A4.  If A4  were a jukebox song, it would have been one of the saddest songs ever written. But it was the newspaper page that reported the death of the legendary Christian artist, Rich Mullins.  The headline read something like this: Contemporary Christian Artist Mullins Killed in Auto Accident.  I choked back my tears before they had a chance to stain my "mourning" paper.  From that point on, no other news mattered.  

My mind immediately went into rewind mode, flashing back to a live Rich Mullins performance my wife and I had attended just a few months prior.  It was, without a doubt, the most poignant performance I had ever witnessed.  Rich Mullins stood there, barefoot, singing his humble, praiseful songs, like valentines to Jesus, bearing his soul and pouring out his heart with every note.  Some songs were sung alone, and others featured various combinations of amazingly talented back-up musicians and dancers.   There were no mediocre offerings, all were prepared and performed as if Jesus were the guest of honor.   I had never met Rich Mullins, though my wife had, and had an autographed CD to prove it.  Yet because Mullins had been so transparent, vulnerable, and authentic, I felt as if he had become a close friend within a matter of a couple of hours. 

Rich Mullins was born in Richmond, Indiana on October 21, 1955.  He was a country boy, and it showed in his love of nature, his innocent, artless enthusiasm and love of life, and his rural charm.   The country church he attended faithfully as a youngster was his musical launching pad.  He took off like a rocket ship in 1986, with a self-titled Reunion release.  This was followed by several other releases, including Pictures in the Sky (1987), Winds of Heaven...Stuff of Earth (1988),  and The World as I Remember It (Volumes I & II).  His missionary experiences with the Navajo Indians were reflected in Brothers Keeper (1995), which, barring several posthumous releases, would be his last great musical contribution.   His most critically acclaimed albums were Wings of Heaven, Stuff of Earth (1986) and A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffic Band (1993).  Some critics consider these classics to be some of the very best contemporary Christian albums ever released!  They are certainly some of the best I've ever heard.  

Like the great singer/songwriter, Andrae Crouch, and like Ralph Carmichael, who came before Crouch, some of Mullin's songs-songs like Awesome God, Step by Step, Sometimes by Step and Sing Your Praise to the Lord, would become classic songs of contemporary worship and praise.   While these classic songs never cease to lift my spirits, the songs closest to my heart are Hold Me Jesus and The Color, Green.  Almost as famous as his songs were the numerous inspirations and aphorisms he gathered and freely shared along the way, all drawn from his passionate pursuit for spiritual truth and divine wisdom, grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Many of these can be found here: 

Rich Mullin's rock 'n "role" model was St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), who had a mind replete with divine wisdom and a heart for the poor, which he lived out in accordance with a vow of poverty.  His admiration for St. Francis is well depicted in Cantical of the Plains, a musical Mullin's composed, depicting his life.  

Rich Mullin's is a rock 'n "role" model to many musicians and music-fans alike---myself included.   One of the greatest measures of an artist's legacy is the tendency of other great artists to cover the material of that artist.  In Mullin's case, such artists include the likes of Debby Boone, Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Third Day and Jars of Clay.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  

Some of Mullin's songs are so uplifting and poetic that they remind me of another Psalmist, King David.  David, though profoundly imperfect, also loved the Lord with all of his heart, and loved to offer the Lord his own special valentines of praise and adoration.  

If you happen to stumble across this article of mine before Valentines Day, there is still time to buy flowers, cards, chocolates for your significant other.  But no matter what the day, the week, the month, or the year, you should always take time to offer valentines to the Lord for the wonderful savior that He is, and for the wonderful gifts he has bestowed upon His children.   If you find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place, I would suggest listening to a Rich Mullins CD.  When you do, you'll find out how near Jesus can be to a heart besieged by trial, tribulation and sorrow.  You'll find a new place to rest your weary mind and your embattled soul---Between The Rock and a Heart Place!  HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!


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