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Lessons From A Ragamuffin

With all of the chaos going on in the world right now, for today’s blog, I thought I would keep things on the lighter side, and share a blog from one of my staff members. Dana Harding is the Social Media Director for our ministry, and is also a talented musician, producer, and writer. Before joining us “officially” at Ron Phillips Ministries in 2013, Dana produced our CenterPoint radio broadcast for almost 14 years. I actually shared one of his blogs a while back (Angels on I-40), and today, I wanted to share another of his stories, and some truth that is a good reminder for all of us…


Lessons I Learned from a Ragamuffin


In my life, I have had the opportunity to get to meet and/or hang out with some pretty notable people. Through no fault of my own, but rather because of my position on any given day, or the company I was keeping at the time, I’ve met, conversed with, dined with, and picked the brains of some fairly talented, wise, and well-known people.

That being said, for my part, all of that and $1.29 would get me a cup of coffee at Joe Muggs.

Of all of the folks I have rubbed shoulders with, a few really stood out, not necessarily because they were HUGE stars, but they were influential in some way in my life. A few names stick out… Kerry Livgren (Kansas), Steve Brown, Phil Keaggy, and…

Rich Mullins.

I was working at a music store just outside of Wichita in the late ’80’s, and Rich was a client of ours. We met and talked a handful of times. He would come in the store for whatever reason, and being the retail manager, I’d get to spend some time talking to him. I remember once when we were having a Roland clinic at the store. I had called Rich to invite him, but being that he was on the road so much, I just left a message on his answering machine. Well, the day of the clinic arrived, and just before the official kickoff time, Rich showed up. I greeted him, and then he proceeded to check out all of the new goodies that the Roland Corporation was developing at that time. A little while later, he came up to me to say goodbye, and said “Hey… think you can get me one of those shirts?” He was referring to the shirt that all of the employees were wearing that had been given to us by our Roland rep. I said, “Yeah, I’ll see what I can do.”

“Man, if you can get me one, I’ll be your best friend!” came the (almost child-like) excited reply. He left, and a short while later I asked my rep if I could get one more shirt. He said sure, but he’d have to send it to me since he had actually run out.

About two weeks later, the shirt came in the mail as promised (just a simple, white t-shirt with the Roland logo and campaign branding message silk-screened onto it). I called Rich, but once again got his answering machine. “Hey Rich, it’s Dana. I’ve got your Roland shirt here. Come by sometime.” I folded up the shirt, and stuck it under the counter.

About three weeks later, I looked out the glass front of the store, and saw Rich coming across the parking lot. I walked over to the counter, and grabbed the shirt. As he walked in, and across the floor to where I was standing, I tossed the shirt to him — “We’re best friends now, right?” I said jokingly. “Yeah man, we’re best friends!” he said while looking gleefully at the cheap shirt that you would have thought was an Armani suit, based on his reaction.

I left Wichita and moved back to Chattanooga later that year. A few months later, Rich came to town on tour, playing at a tiny church in the area. I had the day off, so I went over and hung out with he and the band for a little while. Unannounced, I walked in and sat down during sound check. A couple of the guys in the band who I knew saw me and greeted me, then set about setting up their instruments, and getting ready to sound check. A few minutes later, Rich walked in. He walked up the aisle, and glanced over as he was passing me. He just stopped, looking somewhat dumbfounded.

I said, “Hi Rich.”

“What are you doing here?” he queried.

I explained that, before moving to Wichita, I had lived in Chattanooga, and when I left, I just came back to Tennessee. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with the band, running guys to music stores for drumsticks and such, and eating dinner with them that evening.

About 8 years later, I learned that Rich had been killed in an auto accident. I just sat and cried.

Recently, I was watching a video of Rich singing “Hold Me, Jesus”. I had loved the song for years, but had never heard his story about writing it. It was interesting to find out that he wrote it after a night of struggling with the desire to watch one of “those movies” in a hotel room while on the road. That is what I really remember and miss about Rich… his honesty. While as blunt and unforgiving as a 2×4 upside the head, Rich’s brand of honesty was straightforward, plain-spoken, sometimes shocking, and dripping around the edges with grace.

I think it is that kind of honesty that is missing in the church today.

We skirt issues that are uncomfortable. We quietly dismiss the unpleasant as insignificant. We cling to buzzwords that we hear in church pews, conferences, and Christian concerts, in the hopes of avoiding the tough questions, and even tougher answers. Along with being the King of the Kings, Jesus was the “King of the tough statement”. He made comments and conclusions that would get Him run out of most churches in America, or at least despised within the walls. His words flew in the face of the religious establishment… and still do.

The older I get, the more I come to the conclusion that where we are missing it as the church of Jesus Christ is in that kind of honesty. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.” One of His self-proclaimed attributes is truth. It is a part of His very being — He is the author of it. We are the Body of Christ, and as such, truth should emanate from us. Not just THE truth of the love of God, but truth… period. Truth in how we see ourselves. Truth in how we see each other. Truth in how we deal with each other on a daily basis. Francis Schaeffer once said…

“Today not only in philosophy but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people have always thought of truth, has died.”

Making concessions is a part of living. Sometimes we have to lay down our “rights” or our desires for a common good… I get that. But when we sacrifice truth for the sake of peace, quiet, unity, harmony, financial gain, or any other laudable motivation we can name, we risk alienating ourselves from who He is. Truth is not mutually exclusive. There is love in truth (Eph. 4:15). There is freedom in truth (John 8:32). However, we have to have the courage to speak the truth, make each other uncomfortable, and get beyond the awkwardness of being less than perfect in someone else’s eyes before we can find that freedom, or operate in that kind of love. We have a tendency to think that people are being unkind by being honest. I think if we are honest, we would find that it is within the context of truth that grace and mercy are in their respective wheelhouses. True grace and true mercy are dependent on an honest assessment of what wretches we really are.

I’ll close with this thought…

“We don’t need any more nice people who are content doing nice things. What we really need are solid, spirit controlled people who are willing to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. Nice people don’t want to get involved.” ~ Rich Mullins