A few days ago, we were listening to a CD I love, Cantlcle of the Plains. This is the musical written by Rich Mullins, and it tells us the story of the life of St. Francis of Assisi… but as if “Frank” had lived in the Wild West. The musical was only officially performed once before Rich’s death thirteen years ago – how I wish I could have seen it! But even without witnessing this performed, Rich’s musical poetry still digs deeply into the human condition and love of God, and it speaks quite clearly. And poignantly. Or as my friend Barbie commented, “His words never become trite.”
The song that really had me contemplating was “Heaven is Waiting,” one that I enjoyed playing repeatedly after we purchased the Canticle of the Plains CD at Rich’s Indiana concert in August 1997. This was the first venue at which the CD was available for purchase… little did I know that this, the final concert of Rich’s tour, would be the only time he’d have the CD available after a performance. Thirteen years ago today, Rich died in an automobile accident, and a little piece of my life was never quite the same.
One thing I noticed about Rich, from the first time I met him and heard his music in 1984, is that he didn’t just go through life haphazardly, but he LIVED and FELT so deeply… and as I aged and heard Rich’s music grow, I could see little windows into his soul (only the windows from which he chose to lift the blinds). Rich felt so much, he thought so much, he struggled so much that I have to wonder – did God perhaps choose to call Rich “Home” so that his heart could be at peace?
Rich may not have realized that one of his Canticle songs would be autobiographical. “Heaven Is Waiting” was written by Rich, his friend Beaker, and Mitch McVicker (who also sang the role of “Frank”). Here is the last section of the song, the one that requires a tissue on my part, each time I hear it:
So don’t ask for no lengthy explanation
when there ain’t no reason quite wild enough
no words could be as tender
it’s greater than the fears that we imagine
more than the warmth that we remember
it’s always just beyond the pass – and I must go…
‘Cause heaven is waiting
just past the horizon
just over the mesas
across the great divide
and faith is blazing
this trail that I ride on
up this mountain I’m prayin’
I have the strength to climb
Oh, heaven is waiting.
Thank you, Lord, for giving us the gift of Rich and his life and his music. Please continue to teach me through Your word and the words and music of Your children here on this earth – and for those of us left behind who continue to struggle with parts of life, please continue to give us glimpses into Your truth. For as Rich and “Frank” reminded us, heaven is waiting.