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.”

Musing on Remembering Pentecost

Yesterday, Sunday May 27th, 2012, was Pentecost Sunday. Unfortunately, that is a fact that many people in the church were unaware of. In most churches during most years, Pentecost Sunday comes and goes without even a mention.  It seems that by a large, a good portion of the church has simply forgotten Pentecost.  It is a day that should never be forgotten and people need to wake up and remember.  The early church fathers I think would be appalled if they were to find that such an important day is rarely remembered.  We celebrate Jesus birth, we celebrate Jesus sacrifice and resurrection, but we fail to acknowledge God giving us the comforter, the one who empowers us.  The question is why do we forget?

The day of Pentecost falls on the Biblical feast day of Shavout also known as the Feast of Weeks or Feast of first fruits. It is a day very important to God, and it is one in which He has moved to give important gifts.  It is not only the day in which the Holy Spirit came to indwell those who have been redeemed, it is also the day he provided the Torah.  God has chosen on this day to give both His instruction and His empowerment. It is a day of sealing and cementing His promises and establishing connection with mankind. 

So the question is why do we forget something so important?  Why is the day not attended to?  One could post many theories but at some level the shift comes from a looking to God’s direction and moving in our own way.  God gave us guidance through Torah and the Holy Spirit, yet we all too often want to go our own way, do our own thing, and determine our relationship with God.  We may grow in knowledge of God and grasp varied orthodox understandings of God, but do we at heart, deep down have a God directed relationship. Others may embrace spiritual experience but the focus is on what feels good, feels powerful, or looks cool but lacks depth or growth.  Do we seek Him for guidance and empowerment or do we ask God to bless us as we go about doing our own thing?  Do we follow God, and surrender to Him or just do what we want to do?  I think in essence, it comes down to that question. Going the way of self or going the way of surrender.

So here is a challenge on this day of remembrance, take time to remember God.  Take time to examine where you have gone your own way versus walking in submission to Him. Let God bring to mind what He asks of you as you move ahead.  Each us will continue to have a choice. Follow God’s ways and surrender to Him. Grow in walking His path and let Him enable each step. The other choice is the way of self. Each of us need to wake up and remember.  For God and His ways have not changed, He has shown and provided a narrow way to walk in and given us the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us along the way. So wake up and remember for God is with us, every day.

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.

Freedom House Update and Continued Prayer: Status hanging in balance- Enter the battle help with prayer and support!

Just received an update from Jim Michaud regarding where things are at related to the final hurdle of licensing. Currently the St. Paul City Attorneys and State of Minnesota officials are discussing working out the final licensing issues.  Please pray for this to be resolved quickly. 

When the licensing question became clear to be a huge final obstacle for moving forward felt God indicate that “there are others in the city” as a reference that He will do the work to get things approved one way or another in His way and in His timing.  This Sunday my mother commented that freedom always comes with cost and battle, so should be no surprise that in things moving forward with Freedom House there would be a battle. Ultimately the facility will serve to help folks battle issues with housing, chemical dependency, and mental illness. Lately, have God direct me to several passages and encouragements that what God initiates He will see it through.  So this will get resolved.

I have been asked a couple times about my involvement with the project. I am a current member of the Board of Directors for the non-profit organization responsible for Freedom House, Kingdom Pathways. The website can be found at www.kingdompathways.org.  I will be responsible for training and educating staff related to mental health screening and skills training. This is something God has put on my heart to help.   

Now outside of the licensing obstacle, a huge major barrier is the finances.  Jim Michaud and his family have given everything. They have not felt freedom given the battle to get things running to do much fundraising.  Yet, support ongoing is needed.  I posted before that there was a need of basically 18,000 dollars worth of costs for the first two months. It has been hard to keep posting about that need because of the ongoing battle to get everything in place to receive state funding and be able to fully move forward.   The need is very real, however and dire.  They need help and if do not get support they can LOSE ALL.  Jim and his family have followed God’s lead at expense to self and with ongoing threats of dire circumstances.  Yet, God carries through. But now is the time to give support. Please give even before word is given on the license situation is complete.  Take a step of faith and trust that God will work it out and give to a ministry that will help those hurting and in bondage.  Help the Battle.  Give and Pray.

Here is the breakdown of needed expenses.

One Time Expenses:

* Board and Lodge license Fees: $1,450
* Commercial Dishwasher Purchase and Install: $4000
* Commercial Sink Purchase and Install: $1000
* General and Professional Liability Insurance Down Payment: $700

Monthly Expenses: (Need Help with January and February)

* 426 Oxford Mortgage: $2,200 

* 1038 Aurora Mortgage: $1,400 

* Debt Payments: $1,100 (Jim and Lori facing Bankruptcy if not paid)
(This is the $ that Jim and Lori put into keeping the houses running and operational covering bare minimum. It is NOT PERSONAL DEBT)

* Household Insurance for both properties: $240
* Gas and Electric for both properties: $925
* Phones and Faxs: $240
* Trash for both properties: $120
* Water for both properties: $260
* Comcast for both properties: $229
* General and Professional Liability Insurance: $150

All payments will be tax deductible, reported to, and reviewed by the Freedom
House managing board shown on the website. Donations can be made on-line at
www.KingdomPathways.org, or sent to Kingdom Pathways, PO Box 4125, St. Paul, MN
55104

 

I look forward and praise God for what He will do.  If you care to give to personal need just designate it. If you have any questions for Jim Michaud feel free to email him at info@kingdompathways.org.

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!

#wcaacc: Day Two summary thoughts: Changing perspectives lead to actions that can change perspectives

Day two at the World Conference of the American Association of Christian Counselors was a day the provided challenge. The key words for me were that of being engaging in changing perspectives. Now of course the questions is what is the meaning in those words and how does it related to what God stirred within me today. These thoughts are ongoing musings that are not so much about any specific teaching but a bringing the thoughts together into a perspective on what God is showing me today.

The thoughts are that each and everyone of us see things from a perspective. God has worked and operated in our life and reveal Himself to us. We have understanding. Yet, our understanding of God, mankind, self, and relationship is partial and limited. We all have growth needed in one way or another. Some growth and healing from hurt and pain. Some growth in moving into what God has called and helping others move into what God has called. God has given each of us gifts and perspective. Our eyes and ears, and hearts and minds God has opened to certain views. We need to grow in what God has given us and ask God to open our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to a broader view.

We can easily settle for what we think we already know. We can have a knowledge that can even develop into pride and arrogance if we let it. God though has ways of shaping us in particular seasons. What God does one day and in one persons story is not necessarily the way it is for the next. God engages as He does in our lives. And while God does not change, the relationship varies in accordance with the individual not in relativistic or pliable way, but in a relational way in correspondence with how He designed us. He knows our individual design intimately and what we need for growth.

Now here is the deal, God interacts with us in a relational manner. He gives us His love. We reflect what God does in us. We take what He has done and reflect it to those around us. “We let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God in heaven.” The reflection is a simple small light compared to the brightness of God’s glory. An encounter with God brings weight and the vision is never the same. And each of us, regardless of where we are have a response to the weight and brightness of God’s glory. There is no way we can grasp it all at once, so He gives us different and varied perspectives and lets us reflect. Each of our lives and actions are a story of revelation much like those who came before.

So, in reflecting what God has revealed we in turn touch others. For we have no other choice but to do so, because an encounter with God and his interacting with us in ways that are relationally true, there is no other response but to engage others in love and truth with what God is doing. For the Love of Christ, how he has touched us pulls us to in turn share with and engage others. In other words, we are compelled by Christ’s love. We engage in being who we are in line with what God has done and gifted. We then become salt and light, answering Gods call where we are. Not for the point of some great transforming of this temporary world, but to draw others toward a change in perspective about God to the point where they may yet choose to surrender self and become a member of God’s Kingdom. Yet, not just a member but an adopted child. Blessed only because of who God is, which gives us the opportunity to draw others toward there own encounter with the great, mighty, and heavy God of glory.

#wcaacc Conference Day One: Re-establishing Focus

 

Today the start of the World Conference for the American Association of Christian Counselors was a day that served as a good start. God already has been at work showing me, reminding me, and teaching me what I need to know today. My story and journey here is unique as it will be for the 7000 other counselors and ministers of varying forms. Each situation and story is different and what God has to teach at some levels is the same but for each individual it is different, for he created us each unique. For me today, the day was about renewed focus.

 

My day started with Dr. E. John Kuhnley with a training related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. So the conference started for me with examining those who at a core have a disorder in focus. It was interesting that in the course of the training the comparison was made to vision loss and the nature of “corrective measures.”

 

The journey of the day continued with a training sponsored by the Society of Christian Psychologists about the Problem of Evil and Suffering in Christian Counseling. It was a time focusing on the essence of dealing with the suffering around us and those we encounter. The lecture and conversation centered on who God is and how we impact others. An awareness of God being beyond our grasp and when interacting with others, we are not about the answers but the coming along side to encourage healing and growth. The thoughts that stuck with me are related to being okay with the “I do not know” followed by having a grasp of the function of suffering and what happens when we do face the suffering of this fallen world. So in other words, we may never understand the meaning of what happens to us related to the pain and suffering we encounter in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We don’t have to understand. Ultimately suffering serves a purpose in each of our lives. Each story is unique and different and of the course we learn what there is to learn and grow deeper from knowledge to understanding. As we walk the path in thing enduring faith, God brings to further clarity at times His calling and path. Something that path is different than expectations as dreams shatter. Yet, God works, as He wills and works, in each life, for each story.

 

 

 

The day wrapped up with the opening plenary session. Before either Dr. Tim Clinton or Lois Palau spoke worship was lead by Charles Billingsly. He made a statement “The world is all of us. The only thing that separates us is the blood of the lamb.” Dr. Tim Clinton then spoke on the growing importance of faith and spirituality in counseling. He touched on Colossians 1:27 with emphasis on the last portion of the first “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He went on to state “It’s personal. It is all about you and what God wants to do through you.” He then challenged each of us to ask God to do something special which may be a renewed calling, a being strengthen to fight, to simply do what matters before God.

 

For me the night ended with Lois Palau talking about the mysteries of union with God, the human condition, and communion with God. The emphasis was about God being with us, within us. That each day we need to start with our focus on God and Jesus in surrender. We need to abide in Him. One profound statement was “That along as God is in us, we are the power of God wherever we go.”

 

 

 

So in summing up my thoughts on this day. For me it was renewed focus. We each can easily lose focus. We can lose sight of the basics. We live in a fallen world and have a fallen sin nature. We are no different than anyone else. We are all in the same boat. The difference that exists, exists because of what God did in suffering for us. He suffered and died so that we may be made free and lived. This freedom is not to do what ever we determine but to enter into God’s Kingdom and follow His way. It is only in being aligned with God that we are whole. God moves in each of our lives in ways beyond our limited understand. We all have a a unique story. It in involves joy and sorrow. Yet, in that each of us have a path and calling. We are enabled to walk the path God puts before us because of His strength, for He is with us. Whatever we do, whatever steps we take, whatever moving forward, comes becomes of God in us. And this is the focus. Whether in plenty or want that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

 

Well those are my thoughts and summation for this first day of the conference and what God is doing. Take time to ask God to help your focus and see what He wants you to see. Accepted what you do not know and trust in God alone. For only in Him is there any strength.