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!
The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable. ~ Brennan Manning
My friend Greg recently wrote a thought-provoking piece.You can read his post: I don’t like Christians to find out why he chooses the term Believer over Christian. Greg includes a video of DC Talk’s song What if I Stumble which begins with Brennan Manning’s quote: The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians…
If that’s true, that’s pretty tragic. I want to argue but I can’t.
For almost 25 years, I had a training/seminar business with Heidi (many of you know her from Good Life). It was a slow starter. We hadn’t written a book, we hadn’t done anything famous. We had to establish name recognition.
As the business grew, even when it got to be too much to handle, we never hired a marketer. We were the product. We cared about how we were represented. Before accepting a contract, we talked at length with our potential employers about what they could expect from our time together. When we showed up, we wanted people to get what they bargained for, and hopefully more.
God has a name recognition problem. It isn’t that people haven’t heard of Him. He has written a book and He is famous. The problem is that He has us doing the marketing. When we show up, there often isn’t much Good in the News. People aren’t getting what they bargained for so they’ve quit signing up.
I can remember a time when I would hear someone call themselves a Christian and feel an immediate kinship. Now, I’m wary.
Christian, Believer, Disciple: it’s not about what we call ourselves, it’s about how we conduct ourselves.
Once again, I’m the product. This time I’m the product of His grace. If that isn’t what I’m sharing, He’s not getting what He paid for.
We should be astonished at the goodness of God, stunned that He should bother to call us by name, our mouths wide open at His love, bewildered that at this very moment we are standing on holy ground. ~ Brennan Manning
I have though, been the beneficiary of wonderfully kind words and completely unanticipated acts of kindness from friends and from strangers. I’ve left those encounters humbled and awed. I’ve ranted and raved about them to others.
I’ve got the mouth wide open part down just fine. The question becomes, what drops my jaw? I can be so bewildered and impressed with the unexpected kindnesses of a stranger and yet take for granted the daily gifts of a Savior.
How often, in my every day conversations do I go on and on about the fact that God, no kidding, God Himself, calls me by name? Grace placed me on this holy ground. It’s time to take a step back and be absolutely astonished!