Here Lies a Ragamuffin


“Shalom, be at peace. I understand your fears, your failures, your brokenness. I don’t expect you to be perfect. I have been there. All is well. You have my love. You don’t have to pay for it and you can’t deserve it. I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself. You only have to open and receive it. You only have to say yes to my love – a love beyond anything you can intellectualize or imagine.”

It was three years ago, and I was on a time of personal spiritual retreat. On my drive to the retreat location I had stopped at a bookstore and picked up a book called Souvenirs of Solitude by one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning. He words above are from the first chapter. They were words he felt like God spoke to his soul during a similar time.

Brennan Manning died last Friday. Far from perfect, he was a man who struggled with grace. He was a Korean war vet, a Franciscan priest who left the priesthood to get married and then eventually divorced, and an alcoholic. Far from being remembered as a Saint, I think Brennan would want to be remembered by the moniker he proclaimed in one of his books: A Ragamuffin. In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan described himself this way:

“When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

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.”

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.”

He wrestled with the ability of God to love the wretch alongside the saint, and who brought those of us who read his works or heard him speak a life changing glimpse into the character of God.

I was asked by my friend and author Sarah Cunningham at a recent writers retreat what author I most related to and hoped that my writing resembled. Without a doubt my answer was Brennan Manning. He had a way of taking realities about God which almost seem too big or too good, and wrapping you in them. Like a comforter sitting beside a cold bed, Brennan would take the comforter of God’s love and grace and wrap you in it, allowing it to warm your soul in a fresh understanding.

manningI haven’t written in this blog in several months. God has done some amazing things at Rivertree, the church that I serve as Lead Pastor. The changes have kept me from maintaining my regular posting schedule here. But I had to come out of hiding to acknowledge Brennan’s passing.

I would encourage you to grab on of Brennan Manning’s books. His Ragamuffin Gospel is a new Christian classic. Abba’s Child, Souvenirs of Solitude, and The Furious Longing of God are all great.

Brennan’s last book was called All is Grace. In honor of his passing I am going to give away two copies of this book. Here’s what you need to do to get entered into the drawing. Use the comment area below to post a comment sharing your favorite author, and why they are your favorite author. I will draw winners next Monday.