Reflections on Brennan Manning: A Teacher of God’s Love and Grace

Today 4/13/2013 news that Brennan Manning left this life on 4/12/2013. He was a man of God, a disciple who now has moved on. Yet, he was a teacher of much controversy. The top of the controversy was that he taught “contemplative prayer” with use of things like emptying thoughts and repeating words. This controversy exists and is out there, yet, I have no question that in He was a true follower of Jesus the Messiah. His teaching and from what I understand even his life was fractured and flawed. He knew fully what it was to experience God’s grace. Yet, he is really know different than any other disciple of Jesus. He tought things wrong, he did things wrong, he was flawed. Yet, he knew what it was to be loved by God. He was a teacher and preacher of God’s love. His messages focused on deepening the understanding of God and His love. This is true for me.
I heard Brennan Manning speak at Church of the Open Door in Minnesota two or maybe three times. When he spoke his words and presence displayed and shown the love of God. His words touched to the very core. I do not remember his words or his teaching at that time. I do know what he taught and spoke of on those days changed me. He gave words that brought closer awareness to the love of God. He taught in such a way that got beyond the fractured images I had of God the Father and God used to touch hurt and pain and let God’s love in. God used this man. And for that I am grateful. He served and was used by God and he touch my life and many others. There are a great many quotes out there that demonstrate the truth he taught. It is important to note in God’s economy the words of Love and truth have far greater impact than the things we speak that are flawed, dangerous, or destructive. Truth and love always have greater effect. In closing this article I am posting some Brennan Manning quotes that demonstrate the Truth and Love that he taught that impacted so many.

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”

“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.”

“God is love. In human beings, love is a quality, a high-prized virtue; in God, love is His identity.“

“God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be.”

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, & I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

“Christianity was not some moral code; it was a love affair, & I experienced it first hand.”

“If we conceal our wounds out of fear & shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”

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Thanksgiving Day Musing: The Challenge of Gratitude

Here in the United States of America it is Thanksgiving. A legally mandated day set aside to express gratitude and give thanks. Being thankful is the order of the day. It is true that for ordinary day to day things it can be easy to forget to be grateful. We at times have to be reminded to count our blessings. It is important to not take those day to day and important matters for granted and to have and express gratitude. Sure, sometimes that may seem trivial and unnecessary so of is ignored but engaging in being grateful is good for overall wellbeing.
Now gratitude for the blessings is actually the simplest aspect of being grateful. There is a much more difficult challenge in having a grateful attitude. The real challenge of gratitude is not being thankful for our blessings. No, rather it is being thankful for that which is unpleasant. It is being grateful for harm done. It is being grateful for pain and suffering. It is being grateful for loss. None of those areas are where one is able to be naturally grateful. Gratitude in such events is contrary to our own inclination. It is very tough yet that is what the Bible directs of each of us. The Bible directs us to “rejoice in the Lord always”(Philippians 4:4) not just when I feel good about things. The Bible directs us to “Give thanks in all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20) not just be thankful about what is good for self. It is not be grateful for good stuff and curse the occurrence of bad stuff. It is in all things be thankful. So why does God gives us such direction? Be thankful about bad things happening, really? Wow! Pretty challenging!
The reason why God directs us to do so is it is taking focus off of self and onto God. No matter what occurs if the focus is being thankful the focus is taken off self. It is important to note that it is not really being thankful about the events, the good or bad things that happen. The thankfulness is something that is beyond what is happening for it is not about such things. Rather, our being thankful is about God and who He is. It is growing in awareness of the goodness and love of God. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.” (Psalms 107:1) Our thankfulness is about God, not about self. True thankfulness in all things takes one away from the ups and downs of life to the constancy of God which is always good. And it is with God’s aid that we are able to enjoy and endure whatever may occur for with God all things are possible. So, today, be Thankful, in all things, and where you cannot turn it over to God and ask Him to help you to be thankful: for God is good and His does endure forever; embrace it; be thankful!

Musing on Facing Threats and the Care of God

Personally things have been emotionally draining the past week. Emotions have been raw and anxiety has come easily. The reason for the anxiety is related to some current ongoing threats of loss. Things important to me are at risk. It does not really matter what the risks are, but they are there. However, the things that are at immediate threat are the potential loss to the state of Minnesota if politicians do not approve a stadium. The other threat is to our dog’s health and well being. She developed a cancerous skin tumor that most likely is benign. However, it is still a threat and anxiety producing. See, these are things that personally there are deep care and attachment. When what we care about is at risk, our emotions become volatile with anger and anxiety there easily. Questions come about whether these things that are cared for have too much importance or the care has reached the point of idolatry. Yet, idolatry comes when things cared for are things from which we draw life. They become so important that nothing else matters. God created us to love and care. He wired us to develop attachments. God has given us directions to deal with such threats. Psalms 55:22 (ESV) sates “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” And 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV) states
“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” The verses shows a simple step. Turn over what we care about to God and trust him. God will see us through whatever the threat. God does not promise that there will not be loss. God promises to sustain us, and to look out for our welfare regardless of what happens. God simply directs us to present our request to him. Philippians 4:6 (ESV) states “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We are directed to ask God about the things we care about but have an attitude of thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanksgiving is important here, because God gave us things to care about. Be it a pet, be it a sport team, be it family or whatever else we care about. God gave us these things. So whether there is loss or the ability to continue to care, we are to be thankful for what God has given and allowed. Loss may or may not happen, yet what God has given is good. Yet, God allows threats and difficulties. Life is an ongoing battle with pain, suffering, and loss constantly lurking. God directs us to stand firm and endure. He asks us to submit to Him, to acknowledge Him, to depend on Him. When we do so, he will sustain us and at the right time, raise us up, not because of anything of our own regard, but because we turn to Him. It is easy to get lost and distracted in the things we care for and we can easily make them more important than God in our life. However, the treats of loss are not related to anything out of proper alignment, rather such times allow us to evaluate and examine where our affections lie and what we look to for life and strength. Even when nothing is out of alignment, God still allows for loss and tests, for it draws us to Him and allows Him to work and show us His love for us, by working as He will in the matters that we care about. This is why God wants us to direct our request to Him and depend on Him, for it gives Him opportunities to demonstrate His love for us. Whatever the results God shows He cares for us. Romans 8:28 (ESV) states “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” God does not promise that everything goes according to our will, just that He works it all out for good. The good ultimately comes from God demonstrating His love and care in whatever way he will in the circumstances of life and what we care for. God works when we give him opportunity to do so, and that work is ultimately building us up in His love, whatever may occur. So, in my life there may be loss, or loss may be stayed. Yet, God will be faithful in all. That being said my requests before God is for the football team to remain in Minnesota and for my dog, Bella, to not have her life in jeopardy due to some cancerous skin cells. Yet, whatever happens God will demonstrate His love for me, because He does care for me, far greater than my care for a sports team and a pet.

Saint Patrick’s day musing: learning from the Faith of the Irish

 Today, 3/17/2012 is Saint Patrick’s day. A day where people celebrate their Irish heritage. This writer does have family who immigrated from Ireland, so the day has some meaning. Yet, the meaning for me does not rest on green beer and alcohol, but rather the roots of the Church in Ireland. There is a lot of history related to Ireland. Now I am not talking about the modern and infamous Protestant and Catholic battles that can easily focus on. The history is not even the legend and stories related to Saint Patrick. Rather, it is the unique elements of the early Church in Ireland and what it should point us to today. It is very worthwhile to examine and explore the early church history of Ireland. Granted, this writer has only viewed a few articles here and there over years and seen varied writings about “Celtic Christianity” but there is a core element that runs through the early Church and Ireland that want to discuss and encourage others to take to heart. Some of these thoughts are triggered by an old article found here: http://www.cslewis.org/journal/hearts-and-minds-aflame-for-christ-irish-monks%e2%80%94a-model-for-making-all-things-new-in-the-21st-century. There are three key elements of the Irish faith that is important for us to learn from: growth focused, other focused, and wholly surrendered. Let’s look at each area briefly.

 The early church in Ireland stressed growth with a balance of both knowledge and spiritual.  The encouraged discipleship. Growth of the whole person. They developed schools, monestaries and varied means of encourage growth in relating to God and growing in knowledge.  Ignorance was not tolerated. In order for people to grow in truth they needed to learn, so people were taught through a variety of means. Growth was not just limited to education either as creativity was embraced and used to spread and teach the truth. The just not teach things from a growth in knowledge standpoint but encourage over all growth. They truly embraced Philippians 4:8 (ESV) Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. This focus should encourage us to each continue to learn and grow much like the early Irish Church.

The second area to examine is that the early Irish Church was other focused. They engage others. It starts with Saint Patrick who is rumored to have brought the whole Island of Ireland to be disciples of Jesus. Now, while that is interesting piece of legend, those reach in Ireland were reached because of actions Patrick took to share God’s love with others. The same is true for Columban, who brought the Gospel from Ireland to England and beyond. The Gospel spread greatly because of early Irish Christians. They lived not to hold back but to share and give to others. They did so by word and deed. They created great works that spread. Even the Hymn “Be Thou My Vision” has Irish history. The used the gifts they had and created whatever God put on their heart, by it for a few, or be a reach of many. They gave of themselves to others. Too often in today’s church the focus becomes on what is good for self and what makes me comfortable in the world we live in. We want the world to shape to what makes us comfortable. The early Irish Church impacted the world by engaging with the Gospel and living fully as salt and light. It is a challenge to us to be that engaging and not dependent on what others give, but to give what we have to give to reach others.

The third area is that of a while surrender. The early Irish church recognized that whole submission to God was vital. They gave of all. They even often pursued a “Green martyrdom” of giving up all of self. They encouraged the fully giving of all not just for the purposes of self, but to reach and touch others. A relationship with God was considered, that a relationship involving the whole person with total commitment. In terms of what is best for the whole person, it all stopped and started with growth in knowledge of God. As one grew deeper in knowing God, one also grew in experience of God’s love. As that grew, in turn it flowed to those with whom they interacted. That love built great passion for God and others and that passion was seen in their expressions of music and art. Today, we settle for “good enough” and too often simply lean on the works of others. We sing songs with passion, but do we create? We recycle what others have done, but how much of gifts and self do we give? Do we have limits, do we give all that God asks of us? These are things the example of many of the early Irish Church pushes us to examine.

Admittedly, the early Irish church was not perfect and there are elements of what they said and did that are flawed, for we are all but just a part with limits that skewed by our own minds and imaginations. The early Irish Church though did not shrink back. They advanced the Gospel. They encouraged growth with actions that impacted others with a passionate whole surrender to God. This is the Faith of The Irish that should impact each of use today.

Biblical Holy Day Musing: Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)- Sorrow turns to Joy.

Tonight is the start of one of the final fall festival in the Jewish calendar. Sadly, as with most of the Biblical festivals we know very little about this day and the experience of the Holiday, yet it is one that will be part of the experience to come (See Zechariah 14:6). This festival is not just a day but an 8 day party. This festival does not involve fasting or sacrifices. This involves celebration. It is not a somber time, it is a time to celebrate. Now, admittedly this writer does not have much understanding of the rituals, traditions, or symbolism of the days of this festival but in reading about the Holiday the concept of embracing Joy and Happiness in this time is central.

There is a distinct flow to the fall festivals. It starts with the alarm, the call, the trumpet, the awakening of Rosh Hashanah and the ushering in of the new. It is followed by ten days focus on change and repentance. Then comes Yom Kippor, the day of Atonement, or At-one-ment; it is the day of cleansing, of sacrifice and ultimately of judgment. It is a solemn day. Then five days later it is party time. Note that during the days preceding Sukkot there is much focus on change, self, and being right with God. In that there is much sorrow. When truly engaging in recognizing areas of change and then stepping into them, it is not easy. Leaving old ways for the unknown new is tough. There is grief involved in leaving the old behind, in turning to follow what God leads without knowing how it will play out. Yet, starting tonight and for the next eight days, God designated a party. So what is that about?

Well, one thing I have learned about the day in learning about the events of this upcoming week is the booths/tabernacles/shelters/tents. Hand-crafted shelters are made and lived in or at least meals taken in the temporary shelters. The imagery really points to the temporariness of the things of this life and even that, which is of our own hands. We live in dwell in the temporary but there is something greater: God and His love. Everything that God offers pales to what we depend on. It is in recognizing the fragility of self and own works and the greatness and fullness of what God gives. It is taking focus off of own life, pain, and sorrow and embracing joy, letting the feeling swell because of the goodness of God who has given all beyond measure. Such consideration turns sorrow into Joy. The changes lead to what God will do when the focus leaves self and turns to God. In such action does sorrow turn to Joy, in this does mourning become dancing, as recognition is given that God brings that which is beyond measure and lasts.

The whole focus is that beyond our circumstance to what God provides. He provides refuge and strength. We change not of own accord but obedience empowered by the Holy Spirit through obedience in faith. The little bit of reading about this celebration points to demonstrating the whole submission of self to God in faith. It points to complete surrender of self in every aspect and direction of life. In such surrender is sorrow turned to Joy. For the focus is on God and His Glory. It is a focus on the great things He has done. It is a time to PARTY.

So here is a challenge. Each day for the next 8 days take time to focus on what God is done. Celebrate. When you feel sadness, pain, or anxiety, take time to praise God. Something stressful happens praise God. Make concerted effort to bring your mind, heart, soul, and strength to focus on what God has done and celebrate. This is a time for Joy, let Joy envelope you to the core. May the Holy Spirit feel you with Joy beyond measure as you set aside all that burdens and turn all to God; for His ways are not our ways, and He always delivers what He promises. Beyond measure! So rejoice. Party! For God is Good and His Love Endures Forever!

Rosh Hashanah: Celebration, Rememberance, and Renewal

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, also known as
the Day of Remembrance. It is the Jewish New Year.  The greeting for the day  was “may you be inscribed for a good year. A
good website for basic information on the Holiday if found at this website: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Rosh_Hashannah/rosh_hashannah.html.

The article has two areas that bring thoughts to me find.
First is the thoughts of remembrance. It is a time to remember who God is and
what he has done.  Two aspects of God are
central for remembering today. It is that of God as creator. Today is thought
of as one that goes back to the “first day.” So, it is a day to reflect on what
God did in creating the world and us.
The second aspect of God to contemplate is that as God as King. Today is
also thought of as a coronation day. It is a day to think of the coming actions
of the King. It is a time to start reflecting on repentance and judgment. It is
the start of the King doing what he does to make things right.

One of the parts of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the
trumpets. The shofar is blown over about a 100 times on that day. The is a
combination of four types of trumpet blows. One type of blast signifies the
King’s coronation. One blast type announces a focus on repentance. A third is
about an awakening of the soul. The fourth time is a long blast that goes until
you cannot blow anymore.

These trumpet blow types signify to me a perspective that
goes well together. We start with God as King. We need to recognize and identity
and submit to what we need to change to be in line with the King’s will and
directive.  We need the basic elements of
who we are before God awakened and revived.  A blast of alarm is what does awaken each of
us if we hear it.  And finally there is a
giving all of self until reach the end of self: a total submission.

It is worth noting that all these elements are what today is
about. It is a time of rest, renewal, and celebration. It is a focus on God and
self. A time of renewing proper alignment and embark on what and he has ahead for
the New Year. So take time today to learn, reflect, and examine. Let God show
you what to remember and what to move forward into change. Celebrate God. Remember Him and His work in your life. Change course from where you left His will and be awakened to what He is directing and calling. For Today is the day. Celebrate. Repent. Awaken. These are the words for today. In this is found renewal.

#AACC World Conference: (Correction) Celebrating Faith vs Renewing Faith

Just realized that last years conference theme was renewing faith and this years them is actually celebrating faith.  Clearly there are thoughts on renewal that have been stuck at and shows that stuck place been at. So pray that deep down move into renewal and to celebration.  Pray that this is forms the celebration of the basics of my faith as embrace renewal and move toward celebration.  Have not thought much on the celebration part of the equation but that needs to be part of the picture and a question. In the being confident and sure in what God is doing and not yet at that point how do you embrace the celebration.  Somewhere in here is the answer to both renewal and celebration for we are told that the Joy in the Lord is our strength. So how do we celebrate what we don’t yet see and find strength in the Joy of the Lord in the midst.