All is Grace – A Thank You to Brennan Manning

To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is a gift. All that is good is ours not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned–our degree and our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite and a good night’s sleep–all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift, “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”~ Brennan Manning (Th Ragamuffin Gospel)

Brennan Manning died yesterday, Friday, April 12, 2013. Brennan Manning once helped save my life.

I first read The Ragamuffin Gospel several years after it was published in 1990. Before Brennan, I thought grace was a nice word used in a benediction. I also thought that I was less raggedy than the average muffin.

As the years passed and the cracks in my veneer began to spiderweb, I no longer thought I was a such a fine person. I didn’t see grace as a priceless gift from a loving Father. Grace had become something you fall from and I’d fallen far. And I remembered Brennan.

Re-reading The Ragamuffin Gospel as a broken person was like reading an entirely different book. It became my Life 101 book: God loves you as you are and not as you should be… Abba loves you very much…

My life is a witness to vulgar grace — a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wage as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party, no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request — “Please, remember me” — and assures him, “You bet!”…This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough… ~ Brennan Manning (All is Grace)

I would say Rest in Peace, Brennan, but I don’t think he resting. I think the Father has wrapped His arms around him and is throwing him a party!

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

45 thoughts on “All is Grace – A Thank You to Brennan Manning”

    1. Hello, dear Dru –
      This clip will give you an idea of Brennan’s take on God’s love and grace. It’s not as good as The Raggamuffin Gospel, but you’ll get the flavor. πŸ˜€

  1. Oh my! RIP indeed Brennan Manning; and thank you for saving our Debbie Branson!

    Wow, quote #2 … I admit I had to take each sentence individually to fully apprecaite what he was saying: There’s a certain “rushing past of words” … The “sins” were romping by so fast I thought, “Grace”? Can we catch it?

    It goes to show us (me), just what you’ve been driving at ALL this time: Grace is for the taking; I’ve known it all along, but didn’t know it was given freely. What a fabulous BOOK!

    You are a delicious muffin, btw! Corn muffins are my favorite, and you are a super-duper, yummy corn muffin, muffin! LOVE MEL

    1. Sweet Mel-
      So corn it is then ! πŸ™‚
      Grace wasn’t an easy concept for me. I did just what Brennan describes here: I huffed and puffed, but in my case, my own house came tumbling down. When the smoke cleared, only Grace remained.
      “Free but not cheap” – all is grace.
      I look forward to hearing your thoughts about all things Ragamuffiny!

  2. Hi Debbie…. I am really going to have to read some Brennan Manning. Both you and another blogger have posted about him since his death.

    One quote from your post I connect with is β€œA saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

    It is amazing how much many of us believe this, yet in my experience, it is so seldom practiced. Something in our humanity seems to contort grace into law and we so often then end up with a ranking system based on our behaviour, works, affiliations, and tenure in God’s family.

    Non-Christians do not tend to see Christians through the above definition. Quite the opposite.

    And I believe that we as Christians need to take responsibility for some, or most of the reason why we are perceived this way. Not by selling them on what to think of us, but by simply being and living as people who have experienced God’s goodness.

    Great post again!


    1. Chaz-
      I so agree with your assessment of our weakness. I’m searching for a particular section of Ragamuffin to share with you. Will try to add it tomorrow!

    2. I’m still trying to find the quote I wanted to share with you, Chaz, but I thought you might appreciate this very short clip from a talk Brennan gave:

    1. dearest jaels –
      I’ve read most of Brennan’s books but it was The Ragamuffin Gospel that caught me when I was plummeting. Here’s a short excerpt that I identify with:

      “The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.

      These are the sinner-guests invited by Jesus to closeness with Him around the banquet table. It remains a startling story to those who never understand that the men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence…

      The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception… God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am… We are all, equally, privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God’s mercy.”

      1. WOW, weep-worthy–such good and comforting truth. Lately I’ve wondered if, rather than pursuing the completion of my novel–I should write from my authentic/transparent faith journey. But if I’m truly gifted, I should be able to weave fact and fiction together…. hmmm Thanks much for the excerpt, TSA friend.

      1. Thank you–for now, the poems give me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Book writing is WORK, and I’m not the overly-ambitious sort. Although Deb F could testify that my emails are voluminous….

    1. Hello my friend –
      I’m re-reading Ragamuffin. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it.
      I know many who find it too simple, too repetitive.
      But I never get tired of reading it.

      “For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God.”
      ~Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

      Sometimes I forget that. Brennan always reminds me.

  3. I was changed by reading The Ragamuffin Gospel, too. I desperately needed to accept God’s love and grace when I felt the most broken I’ve ever felt. That book changed my life, my relationship with God.

    1. Hello dear Teryn –

      When I think about your words and how similar they are to mine, I think about the thousands of others like us whose lives were altered by the heart of this man who is now with His Abba.
      As you probably know, Brennan’s final years were incredibly difficult.
      In All is Grace, he shares this conversation:

      “I delayed writing this book for many reasons, one of them being that I wrestled with why anyone would want to read a book about my life. I recently asked my friend (and co-writer) John this very question, and his reply was “Brennan, you trust that the crumb of grace will fall.”

      And for you and I, it did, didn’t it? I’m forever grateful.

  4. Thank you for a great send off to our brother Brennan. He invited a lot of us to dance in this wild and free grace.

    1. Hello Ken –
      I love your comment – it so fits him!
      It made me think of Brennan’s “Nortorious Sinners” group and his friend,Michael Yocanelli – another who was called Home early and who dared us to dance the dance!

  5. I agree with Jeanne – Thank you so much for introducing Brennan Manning
    I will look for his books epecially Ragamuffin Gospel
    You’re writing and his brought me to tears
    Love and Prayers
    ps: I’m glad Brennen’s book saved your life and that the Spirit brought his book into your World!

    1. Dearest Susie –
      Please do read Ragamuffin and let me know you thoughts. I’d love to hear them!
      Here’s a short bit from the beginning:
      “If a random sampling of one thousand American Christians were taken today, the majority would define faith as belief in the existence of God. In earlier times it did not take faith to believe that God existed – almost everybody took that for granted. Rather, faith had to do with one’s relationship to God – whether one trusted in God. The difference between faith as “belief in something that may or may not exist” and faith as “trusting in God” is enormous.The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart. The first can leave us unchanged;the second intrinsically brings change.”

      1. brings Change of the Mind, Heart and Soul
        Can’t wait to go shopping and I will let you know my thoughts
        I am also going to buy this book for my sister who is going through a very rough time right now
        God Bless

  6. This is one of the finest posts I’ve read in a long time. It sure opened my eyes for a fresh look at me and a fresh look at grace. Thank you so much for sharing, Debbie. God bless.

    1. Dear Steven –
      I know you’re on your sabbatical now so you may not see this comment but it will still be here when you return.

      I love Robert Benson’s words:
      “I learned the truth of the gospel from Brennan, the same gospel you will find in this book (All is Grace):
      That in the end, my sin will never outweigh God’s love. That the Prodigal can never outrun the Father. That I am not measured by the good I do but by the grace I accept. That being lost is a prerequisite to being found.”

      May your journey bring you peace and rest and an even greater assurance that “all is grace”.

      1. Debbie,
        Yes, I am going on sabbatical, but not from you. I have made you one of my contacts in my sabbatical email account: you need to contact me. Only a few dozen folks on my sabbatical email list. I will be keeping up with you, reading and replying to some of your posts and staying in touch. Thanks for your comments. I really do like what I’ve read of Brennan Manning. I will pray about getting that book. Thanks for writing and God bless.

  7. Amen. Love your thoughts dear friend. His books helped me realize why the song Amazing Grace has always touched my heart.

    1. Oh Linda, yes, me, too. Brennan taught me so much about how truly amazing grace is.
      And Brennan always reminded me that the Father has a “relentless” (what a powerful word) love for me.
      As he said:
      “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. in admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.
      As Thomas Merton put it, ” A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

  8. every time i think of him today, or read a post about him or a quote from one of his books i cry. and i cried when i read this. love you

    1. Dearest Gaye –
      I didn’t know until I saw Tracey’s post. I cried, too.
      I bought All is Grace just last week and read in one sitting. It moved my heart and broke my heart.
      What joy to know that he is finally in the arms of his Abba.
      I love you, too.

    1. Hello dear ctpm!

      If you haven’t read anything by Brennan, I would suggest starting with The Ragamuffin Gospel.
      Brennan begins by saying who Ragamuffin is and isn’t for: (this is just a portion):

      “It is not the academics who would imprison Jesus in the ivory tower of exegesis.
      “It is not for the Alleluia Christians who live only on the mountaintop and have never visited the valley of desolation.
      It is not the the fearless and tearless.
      It is not the legalists who would rather surrender control of their souls to rules than run the risk of living in union with Jesus.

      It is for inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.
      It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.
      It is for smart people who now they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.”

      It was definitely for me. πŸ˜€
      If you read it, I look forward to your thoughts,

  9. Thank you, gracious friend, for letting us know about Brennan. I don’t remember how I came to know of him, but his books became special treasures to me. So much so that I gave them as gifts to others, wanting them to know about this kind of grace too. Love and prayers!

    1. Debbie –
      Although, if pressed, I would probably say C.S. Lewis is my all time favorite author (fiction and non-fiction) but I’ve probably given more copies of Brennan’s books than any other which is saying quite a lot.

      “Brennan Manning has touched many lives, mind included. This poignant memoir (All is Grace) reaffirms his truthful message that weakness and failure are not things to be despised but well-lit paths straight into the arms of our Lord.” ~ Ashley Cleveland

    1. Hello Lew!
      Brennan was a forthright about being a Ragamuffin.
      In All is Grace – his memoir – he highlights all in his life that was broken. You can’t read it without rejoicing for him that he is finally Home.

      As Philip Yancey said in his intro:
      “Brennan presents himself as the apostle Paul one did, as a clay jar, a disposable container made of baked dirt. We must took to his other books for a full picture of the treasure that lies inside.
      A poem by Leonard Cohen says it well:
      Ring the bells that still can ring.
      Forget your perfect offering.
      There is a crack in everything.
      That’s how the light gets in. “

    1. Debby –
      I’m sure you’re familiar with Brennan’s struggles. If you’ve read All is Grace, it’s heartbreaking. But still, the message rings true, maybe even deepened by the reading. All is grace.

    1. Hello dear Jeanne –
      I would recommend starting with The Ragamuffin Gospel if you haven’t read it already. Brennan mostly had one message: the Good New is truly good news- Your Father loves you very much!
      Sometimes I think we (or I) lose sight of that and just that one thing changes everything for me. All is indeed grace.

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