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.”

Love is all we need

All_We_Need_Is_LoveLove. It is a simple word. It signifies something we all so desperately want but it is also so very lacking.  Love is the most talked about subject within our culture and everything point to a significant relationship and subsequent children as the apex of love.  Yet, ultimately none of us get it. We fail to grasp love.  We all wanted be care for and are hurt when we are not.  We all desperately want to be loved and to love. It is at the core of humanity. It is why we take on pets for example, to love and be loved.

 Yet, ultimately we fail to grasp love and are really far from it. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves provides a definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Our experience of love falls far of that definition.  Here is the reason. The definition involves no focus on self. It is looking outward toward the welfare of others. The essence of love is found in Philippians 2:3 (ESV) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.   When we love we are emptying of self. We are giving of self. We are focused on the welfare not of self, but of others.  However, we are ever self-focused.

We are wrapped up in our perception of being loved and are quick to voice when we are not engaged in behavior that is perceived as caring or loving. When we get upset, we do so when someone else has failed to engage in looking out for our welfare and did or said something we find lacking.   Such a response is even followed suit in understanding and rejecting God.  Many who reject God look at pain and suffering in the world and their own lives and conclude that a loving God could not allow such.  So they reject God. Some in that rejection will push simply engaging in looking out for the welfare of others.  The refrain is “all we need is love.” Simply look out for others and make the best world today.  Yet, lost in it all is the day to day agony when that desire of love falters.

 The fact is God does look out for our welfare. He never fails.  The rest of us fall far short.  So, yes we all need love, and love is what we all need, but if you separate that love from the author  and source of love it is but illusion. God is the only one who provides full care and love. Yes, the love does provide limits and structures, not out of cruelty, but in understanding what we need and what hurts us. We see that every day with parents and children, choices made and limits set for their welfare often in spite of great protest. Sure, any one of us can demonstrate love to others. We can do good too others apart from God. We can make the best out of life. Yet, it is making the best of what we can. But that falls far short of a life submitted to God, the source and author of love. And none of us have a grasp on God’s love. Our understanding is limited.  Yet, as you grow in understanding God, love grow. Love for God, self, and others. It comes as you grow and as you understand and grow the wounds and hurts from the damages of living life heal and allow true forward movement that in turn demonstrates the care for others found in demonstrating true love. We need love. We need God. You cannot separate the two for God is love.  So yes, all we need is love and that need is only found in God, who is love. So God is what we all need, for God is love.

Musing on Remembrance

Today is a day marked of remembrance of a fateful day when two towers fell in New York city. On this day the memories of the darkness and the evil on man can inflict on another are prime. Remembrance is importance. This blog is not going to reflect on any aspects of that fateful day but rather discuss the ongoing importance of the act of remembrance. It is some God directs us to do and is important to any level of moving ahead and growing. Often we want to forget dark and painful things. Yet, there are important things to bring to attention, primarily the ways God moved.

God directed others over and over to remember. First of all to remember Him and His promises as we can often forget. We can become dull of mind and caught up in varied aspects of life and we can forget. God knows our tendency to forget. He directed Israel on several occasions to set up memorials and altars to remember what God has done. He established festivals in Israel such as Passover that focus on remembering what God has done. These things can be easily forget or even set aside off in some dusty corner of our lives and mind. We need to remember. There is restoration and healing in healthy remembrance. Any healthy remembrance is focused on what God did, is doing, and has promised to do. So take time, reflect and consider what God has done, is doing, and has promised. Look back on that fateful day eleven years ago and look at how God dealt with you then, where are you know, and where are you going. As you remember let God move in your heart and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with and surrender whatever comes to light to him. And when you do, when you remember, then praise God, for whatever has been gives chance for God to reveal Himself and each memory is an opportunity to give God praise and glory. Even in the darkest of memories and time.

Video: Healthy Growth talk from 2/23/2012 @ New Joy Church

Back in February of 2012 I gave a talk at a Men’s breakfast at local church and had meant to post it and have it available for others to listen to and be blessed by. I neglected to post it but am doing so now. The theme of the talk was highlighting and overview of healthy growth from a spiritual perspective. I also put together a handout that outline the basis of the talk. You can find it here: handout. I hope you are blessed by the presentation. Fair warning I am not a polished speaker and the opening I say “from my heart a lot.”  There was also a moment in talk I lost track where I was, back tracked and repeated a segment. FYI, you will need to view this from a computer as it does not appear the video will show up if trying to view it by phone. If the video does not work for you, you can try directly viewing it at: http://www.dailymotion.com/f1354243611#video=xrn9vm

Holy Week Musings: Good Friday and the Crux of the Cross.

The day of April 22nd, 2010 is Good Friday.  It is the day we focus on Jesus death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins.  The very action taken on that day is really the fulcrum point of all of history. The cross and Jesus death as the eternal lamb is central.   Now in order to understand how essential and critical Jesus death was to the whole of history let us go back to the beginning of humanity and the first sin of man.

Back in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.   In that disobedience, lies of being able to be able to determine right from wrong and elevate self to be “like God” was at the core.  It was a move out of being dependent on God, to being able to determine for self what is right and wrong.  This decision brought separation from God and resulted in consequences for the whole of creation. Those consequences entail the varied forms of suffering and the twisting of all creation.  The consequences that are suffering were designated by God, for apart from God, nothing is right, nothing is as intended.  It is a natural out-flow. When things are not in correspondence with how God intended to work, through dependence on Him, the result is pain.

Now recognizing that the pain and suffering comes as consequence to the initial deportation from depending on God, let us look a bit more closely at what Jesus death means.   Jesus came because of love. God had the plan ready to go when humanity chose to go on way.  The plan was for the innocent to take on the wrath for the guilty, but not just any innocent, a member of the Godhead himself,  Jesus the Son.  He left the full dynamic relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit, took on humanity, and took on all of suffering.  He lived perfectly, was wholly innocent, and suffered that we might live.  It was God’s plan, for there had to be away to redeem that which went another way.  Love dictated such an act.  The wrath of love dictated that the price be paid. So God paid it Himself. 

It is very important to grasp the depth of what it means that the Son of God came in the flesh.  Jesus, in whom “All the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in bodily form”(Colossians 2:9), came to earth, entered in to suffering all in order that we may be free.  All God actions prior to the cross pointed ahead to the event and after everything points back to the cross. It is the center point.   He endured the suffering of humanity. He took on the worst death humanity could conjure. He was betrayed, mocked, belittled, and scourged.  This all because He did not measure up to what humanity expected, that He make the immediate life more comfortable and undo the tyranny.  He came to undo a tyranny, but that tyranny was the consequences of humanities sin. Just as through one man, sin entered the world, so too by one action, a solution was provided and tyrants defeated.  Just not in accordance with human perspective. 
Jesus came, suffered, and died so that the justice demanded by human pursuit of self-determination and moving away from surrender to God was fully satisfied making the action on the cross the crux of God’s plan and His story for humanity.  

It starts with sin and God establishing the consequences as the whole of creation is twisted. God takes on humanity, takes on suffering, and dies.  Dies, rejected of men.  For the first time the relationship of the Godhead is broken as the Father turns away from the Son for he cannot look upon the sin, for it is too much.  Jesus takes it all on, willingly, following the fathers plan, always in perfect submission to His will.  It is noteworthy, that at the moment of the death there were many events testifying to the importance and crucial moment.  Storms, darkness, earth quaking, and the veil tearing in two.  There has never been a greater act of love.  For some the act is foolishness, how can a Father require a Son to die for those who reject the father and are in conflict?  What is not grasped is the Son was fully on board, always in surrender to Father’s will, for there was no other way to make things right.  No other way to undo the twist and the suffering that entered due to self-determination.  God took the initiative. One that demands response from all and one of which to all response will one day be given, some just with weeping and gnashing of teeth because they continued along the way of self-determination instead of surrender to the one who suffered all so that all can be freed.

Musings on a Night at the Orchestra

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time at the Minnesota Orchestra at an inside the classics concert featuring music of Maurice Ravel.  In particular, the concert included orchestration from Chloe and Daphnis and the music poem, La Valse.  The evening was educational and intriguing. The music of Maurice Ravel is unique. He uses complex harmonics, repetition of simple strands of music, and gradual building to a full crescendo in his orchestration. An a piece composed by Maurice Ravel, there are groups of instruments that have specific sounds that make up the whole, and within that group the instruments may very differently with complex harmonics contributing to the whole of the sound. 

In terms of the way Maurice Ravel puts music together, my thoughts go to the similarity of how the body of Christ, the Church, is supposed to function.  We all have gifts and talents. Those talents all several similar functions but may differ slightly.  Each gift serves a role.  And just as in any orchestration, any one piece can be critical to the whole sound, so it is in the body, what each of us have is crucial to what God intends. It may not seem like much to the naked eye but to God it is crucial.  In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that it is the parts that seem inglorious that are indispensable. A piece of Ravel orchestration highlights how that plays when one sound deviation can be key element to the overall sound intended.

The night at the Orchestra also illustrated another brought my mind to another key point.  The element brought up is that of distraction.   During the performance there was a family in front of us with a couple children, a brother and sister, close to each other in age.  The children were having difficulty attending to the music and the father had fallen asleep during the music.  Well, one thing led to another and the family ended up engaging in behavior that served as a distraction for others. There were those who attended the concert with me and who love classic music but were distracted by the behaviors of those in attendance.  The thought comes to mind is that is often the points where we are being selfish, disengaged, or purposefully disruptive that can distract others from attending to the true picture of the good news of the Gospel.  It does not take much to distract others and we maybe oblivious to the disruption we cause others, but rest assured that disruption happens. Now, rest assured there were consequences for varied members of the distracting family, and in the same way, there are consequences that occur for each of us when we distract from the Gospel, for God does discipline those we love and some times what we say or do greatly impacts the perspective and views of others.

In Remembrance: Sharing of Memories related to Janie Blake

My thoughts have been many since Janie Blake started her new day and left us behind. It has been hard to focus and write anything, yet there is much to write and process. It is though time to start putting down words that are on my heart. The best place to start is sharing a bit of the impact that Janie Blake had on my life and in the life of others. Yet, for me the sharing of the memories that is the story of Janie Blake and how she touched my life is not easy. See, Janie Blake in my life from the start is a mix of pain and hurt along with blessing and healing. The two really go hand in hand and are hard to separate. The elements of pain are not appropriate to write about as there are other people involved and they need to be considered and honored. So, my sharing of memories publicly is limited. However, the limit is on me being able to share the fact that God did use her in people’s lives to build them up and help them grow in love and truth by sharing love and truth.

Ultimately, the core of my relationship with Janie Blake can be summed up as a mutual sharing of love and truth. No matter what was going on with each of us being who we are, there was love and truth in operation. And honestly, most of the time, most of the memories are just us being who we are, together. This was whether sharing meals, playing games, or just having conversation. There are stark differences in our personality despite sharing that core of interacting in truth and love. Her personality was more active. She would find a way to be involved. She had to be part of the “action.” If there was something going on, rest assured Janie wanted to be a part of it. Now, my personality is one that is more observant, watchful. I want to be where action is but will often be at the edge, watching what is going on, always looking to grow and understand. Recently saw a picture from during my sophomore year on college, it was me as always on the edge, watching & observing. My nature is to meet people where they are and come along side.

Janie’s nature is that of going after someone and pulls them in. It is because of Janie that have met and cared for several people that otherwise would not have. It is even in her active pursuit that the healing, blessing, and growth that occurred in time, happened. She actively pursued with love and grace. Part of the healing pertains to my dear wife. We had a period where she ran from God in response to deep pain and disappointment. One related to a young man dying of brain cancer, the other a disappointment over a hope for job situation. Janie loved her, spoke truth, and pursued her with not knowing anything more than my wife was hurting and angry. She provided an accurate reflection of God’s pursuit, for ultimately God pursued my wife through Janie and others until she returned back to God. Janie was consistent in her pursuit and building up of others, reaching out with love and truth. She was faithful to God’s call on her life and produced much fruit. She lived who she was before God and man. She let her light shine in her actions and deeds and brought Glory to God the Father.

I hope folks take the time to share memories of Janie there are many places to do so. There is the comments section here on this blog article. There is here Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=828554733. There is my father’s Facebook page as well: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=1128826601. There is also Janie Blake’s caring bridge site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/janieblake. There is also the option to share thoughts at the online obituary at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/startribune/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=147504299. You also may have own resources, but please do share. I may add folks thoughts to comment sections as run across, so please subscribe to the comments in this article. I know there are many folks who have prayed for Janie and did not know her, by sharing others can know and the harvest and impact will continue.