A Belated Tribute to Brennan Manning

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Brennan Manning, one of my favorite authors.  I was so saddened in fact that I couldn’t even think of anything to write about him on the blog for the past (nearly) two weeks.  Brennan’s words have meant a lot to me over the years, and faced with his mortality I found myself having none to return to him…  I began my attempt at writing this post during a lunch-break at work.  He deserves more.  Yet, in the ragamuffin way, I am giving what I have, hoping it is enough.

Like all fans of his work, my first exposure to Brennan’s writing was his book “The Ragamuffin Gospel.”  It was a life-changing read.  It was the first time that I really ever understood that the nature of God’s love is that it is undeserved, but you get it anyway…and since God can’t be wrong about anything, then it actually kind of IS deserved…  Dichotomy.  I love dichotomy.  Brennan was overflowing with dichotomy…  A recovering alcoholic and a Franciscan Brother.  A priest and a pauper.  A hero to many who was very, very obviously only a man–and a man who would have hated to be called a hero.  His hero was Jesus, and that’s who he wanted people to see…

After I first read “The Ragamuffin Gospel” back in the (GASP!) 90s, I have since re-read it, given it away to someone who needed it, and bought a new copy a dozen times over.  I have also read nearly every other book Brennan has written, with the exception of his final book–fittingly his memoir, which is on my birthday list.  Brennan’s chief theme is God’s grace and mercy.  God’s furious love for a people that long ago abandoned Him, and our response of gratitude.  It feels foolish to say that I am a better person or a better Christian thanks to Brennan Manning.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

Upon reading his book “The Wisdom of Tenderness” I was so moved I wrote Brennan a letter to thank him for his work as an author.  That was in 2003.  I wrote, assuming he MIGHT read it, but that it would likely be opened and discarded by a secretary somewhere.  At best, I expected a form-letter response from his publisher, telling me of his next release date.  After a couple of months went by, what I received in the mail was something completely different than I’d expected.  Ten years later, I opened the frame I’d saved it in to take this picture…

ImageThat sweet, kind, Godly, then sixty-eight year old man who had at that time been read by literally MILLIONS of people took the time to write me back, in his own hand.  (Full text transcription available at my tumblr page.)  I wrote the first draft of this post on a sheet of yellow legal paper, in MY own hand.  I am giving what I have…it is nowhere near enough.

Though I call him by his first name, it would be absolutely misleading to suggest that Brennan and I were friends.  We did not continue corresponding after my one letter to him and his to me.  We never met.  I was not personally there for him when blindness gripped him in his old age.  I was not able nor would it have occurred to me to offer him a roof when his home was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy…

And yet it hurt–physically HURT–to hear he had died.

But then…  Then I felt a great relief bordering on joy knowing that his long suffering was over.  There is no more alcohol abuse for Brennan Manning.  No more sexual temptation.  No more blindness.  No more pain.  No more hardship.  No more struggle.  He has been freed from the Franciscan vow he so readily embraced.  On April 12, 2013 Brennan Manning walked through the pearly gates, crawled into his savior’s lap, softly spoke the word “Abba” and met his reward.  And it was all worth it.  And it was beautiful.

He gave what he had.  He gave SO much more than enough. He ran the race, he persevered…and I miss him.

Rest well under the mercy, Brennan.

 

 

Bloggium Whateveriso!

So recently I bit the bullet, swallowed my pride, and began reading the first Harry Potter book. For years, I had promised myself that I never would read the series. I figured I only had room in my heart for ONE wizard, and his name is Gandalf… But being a fan of the fantasy genre, I figured I owed it to myself to be at least FAMILIAR with the biggest thing to come along since Narnia, so I decided to give it a shot even if I ended up hating it.

I am now prepared to admit that I have been a fool, I should have read the books YEARS ago, and I have misjudged Potter fans for over a decade. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

However, as a (now) adult fan of a series of books meant for kids, I feel the need to address the situation. Although I like the story, I feel that there are some responsibilities that come with my fandom. Following is a list of things I am allowed and NOT allowed to do as a grown-up Harry Potter fan.

  • I am allowed to discuss the books with interested family, friends, and associates as it may be appropriate.
  • I am allowed to recommend the books to family, friends, and associates if I think they will enjoy the series, or if I know they are on the fence about the series.
  • I am allowed to defend the books up to a point, stating my appreciation of the works, while knowing that they are not for everybody.
  • I am NOT allowed to say things like, “What do you MEAN you don’t like Harry Potter?!?” or to use my fandom of the series as a litmus test for existing or future friendships/relationships.
  • I am NOT allowed under ANY circumstances to have a Harry Potter themed wedding.
  • I am allowed to compare and contrast differences between the books and the movies, should I choose to ever view the latter.
  • I am NOT allowed to wish death upon any actor, producer, writer, or other involved party if the movies are not to my personal satisfaction.
  • I am allowed to state my fondness for the series on various social media pages (eg – Facebook, blogs, twitter, etc).
  • I am NOT allowed to assume an e-mail address or screen-name that directly references a character name–with all due respect to all of the Dumbledores who may wish to dispute that in the comments section.
  • I am allowed to make casual references to the series, particularly in a joking manner, or if it topically relates to the conversation at hand.
  • I am NOT allowed to console a friend in a time of need with any sentence beginning with, “It’s like in Harry Potter…”
  • I am NOT allowed to describe any party as a “Muggle” or memorize any spells from the books. (In fairness, I practice a similar rule in the reading of H. P. Lovecraft and his use of the Necronomicon. Just seems logical.)
  • I am allowed to attend a fan gathering and/or theme party if others of my appropriate age-range will be taking part.
  • I am NOT allowed to join a locally organized society of “wizards,” carry a wand, or refer to Quidditch as though it is an actual sport.
  • I am allowed to express my disappointment or pleasure at any given major plot turn.
  • I am NOT allowed to throw my books into the fire as a result of the same–or for that matter give a crap that Rowling stated after the end of the series that Dumbledore is gay, as though that mattered at ALL.
  • I am allowed, if appropriate for a theme party or Halloween costume, to cosplay Hagrid. After all, there are so FEW costumes for a heavy-set, bearded gentleman…and really, who WOULDN’T want to walk around like that, if you’ve got the chance???
  • I am NOT allowed to cosplay Harry Potter or (let’s face it) Ron Weasley under any circumstance. (And I’d really appreciate it if this were the LAST I heard of the Ron Weasley comparisons, by the way.)
  • And–perhaps MOST importantly–I am not allowed to ever, EVER own an owl. That would just be an extremely irresponsible thing to do at this point in my life.

Thanks for indulging me.

CURRENT LISTENING:

  • Ani DiFranco – Record Store Day “Official Bootleg” CD
  • Rush – Clockwork Angels
  • Toto – Toto IV

One of those stupid online questionnaire things.

I’m bored and killing time before bed. So here’s a list of supposedly personal questions a friend of mine posted on Tumblr. Not sure of the original source, but who cares? Let’s see how personal this gets. I’ve got nothing to hide. Because I’m doing this on my phone, it’ll maybe look a little weird. My answers are in bold.

Violate My Privacy.
1. Did you wake up cranky? Almost always.

2. Would you date an 18-year-old at the age you are now? I don’t think so. As much as I think age is only numbers, I think she’d have to be at least 21. If she can’t drink, she can’t Brink. (I can’t believe I typed and am not deleting that.)

3. Do you prefer to be friends with girls or boys? I don’t really care. A friend is a friend.

4. Would you ever smile at a stranger? I often do, if we make eye contact. No reason to be a douchebag to a stranger, unless they are the first to douche.

5. Can you commit to one person? Absolutely.

6. How do you look right now? Jeans. T-shirt. Hat.

7. What exactly are you wearing right now? Still jeans, t-shirt, and a hat.

8. How often do you listen to music? Daily. Who doesn’t?

9. Do you wear jeans or sweats more? Jeans. Don’t think I own any sweat pants, actually.

10. Do you think your life will change dramatically before 2014? There’s always hope.

11. Are you a social or an antisocial person? Depends on the setting. I’m naturally very shy, but can be outgoing sometimes.

12. If the person you like says they like someone else, what would you say? To their face: “Oh, that’s nice.” In the car later, “Well fuck!”

13. Are you good at hiding your feelings? Depends on the feelings.

14. Can you drive a stick shift? Been a while, but I could probably remember how.

15. Do you care if people talk badly about you? More than you might expect.

16. Are you going out of town soon? Don’t have plans to.

17. When was the last time you cried? Not really sure. Probably more recently than I’d be aware. Lots of funerals this year, if nothing else.

18. Have you ever liked someone you didn’t expect to? Totally.

19. If you could change your eye color, would you? I don’t know how that would ever come up. Probably wouldn’t care enough to even explore it.

20. Name something you have to do tomorrow? Church.

21. Name something you dislike about the day you’re having. Wish I’d had plans this evening and wasn’t typing answers to not-so-personal questions on my phone.

22. Have you ever liked one of your best friends of the opposite sex? Yep.

23. Are you nice to everyone? Not really. I try but I fail. Particularly in traffic incidents.

24. What are you sitting on right now? My butt.

25. Do you think you can last in a relationship for 6 months and not cheat? Absolutely.

26. Have you ever wanted someone you couldn’t have? Absolutely.

27. Who was the last person you talked to before you went to bed last night? My roommate Jeremy.

28. Do you get a lot of colds? Didn’t used to, but in the past year or so, yeah. It seems like I do.

29. Have your pants ever fallen down in public? Sure. Dropped ’em on purpose once or twice too.

30. Does anyone hate you? Probably, but if so they’ve been polite enough not to mention it.

31. Do you have someone of the opposite sex you can tell everything to? Within reason. But I don’t because some of it wouldn’t be appropriate. There are some things one gender shouldn’t say to another unless they’re married. I’m old fashioned that way.

32. Do you like watching scary movies? Sometimes. Depends on the movie.

33. Are you a jealous person? I can be, but I don’t think I’d necessarily describe myself that way.

34. If you had to delete one year of your life completely, which would it be? I don’t think I would delete any of them. Some of them definitely sucked, but it’s all part of the journey. Not every moment can be awesome.

35. Did you have a dream last night? Probably. But nothing memorable.

36. Is there anyone you can tell EVERYTHING to? Probably pretty close to that with my brother. But I don’t really conceal that much from anyone to begin with.

37. Do you think you’ll be married in 5 years? A bigger part of me hopes so than I would’ve expected if I’d been asked that question a year ago.

38. Do you think someone has feelings for you? If they do, they’ve been taking “staying quiet” lessons from the guy that hates me.

39. Do you think someone is thinking about you right now? Right now? While they’re reading my blog? Possibly.

40. Did you have a good day yesterday? Didn’t suck, didn’t rock.

41. Think back 2 months ago; were you in a relationship? Nope.

42. Is your life anything like it was two years ago? Yeah, mostly. After like age 23 not a lot changes if you don’t move.

43. If the person you wish to be with were with you, what would you be doing right now? Weird question. We might be getting ready for bed. Or watching Doctor Who. Or anything really. I don’t know what she’d be up to at 10:00 at night in my fantasy world.

44. What’s the best part about school? Ah. This was written by a teenager. That explains a lot. Haven’t been in school for quite some time, junior.

45. Do you have any pictures on your Facebook? No, I’m the one person in the world who doesn’t. Of COURSE I do!

46. Do you ever pass notes to your friends in school? I’m old!

47. Do you replay things that have happened in your head? Who doesn’t?

48. Were you single over the last summer? Yep.

49. What are you supposed to be doing right now? Don’t really have any obligations tonight.

50. Don’t tell me lies, is the last person you texted attractive? I guess he’s pretty photogenic, yeah. Not personally attracted to him, but yeah I’m willing to confidently state that Jim is a good looking guy.

Just how close we came to dying…

A friend of mine posted a link to the path of the tornado that hit my town this week. You could zoom in and out and I thought it was kind of cool, so I wanted to see where I was in relationship to the actual path of the storm.

Here’s the overall path. All those “flags” you see are known points of impact–known damages…

1

Here’s a view of just the part of Florissant that it hit. Florissant is where I live.

2

And a little closer…

3

And THIS is where Jeremy and I were parked, in my CAR while the storm/tornado passed over us. All red all around, in a parking lot. The blue “flag” represents downed power lines. The purple one? Snapped TREES.

4
If we HAD died, I really hope someone would’ve used that photo of Jeremy at the funeral.

Killing Time by Cherishing It

I’m writing this from my phone while sitting in my favorite bar, awaiting my favorite burger. Will wonders never cease?

My town got hit by a tornado last night. The news is saying “unconfirmed tornado,” but I’ve seen the trees embedded in the houses and the snapped telephone poles and BULLSHIT, it was a tornado.

I’m fine. Everybody I love is fine. My house is fine. Will wonders never cease?

I was driving home when it hit. We’d just wrapped a church meeting and my roommate Jeremy and I were driving down the road in the dark and the rain when suddenly we couldn’t see anything except the exploding transformer off to our left. I pulled into a parking lot–instinct. We sat there until the rain let up (only a few minutes) and then notices debris from the sign and building we were parked next to. The tornado had passed right over us. Cheated the Reaper again. Then we drove home with limbs all over the place. And the house was fine. TV even worked.

And now I’m in Blueberry Hill, the by-God WHO is on the stereo and I’m about to eat and eat well.

Order’s up. I’m going to enjoy this.

On a Lighter Note

Yesterday’s post got a little heavy. So here’s a list of twenty people I think would look funny as rabbits.

1. Kevin Smith
2. Morgan Freeman
3. Dave Coulier (or any Full House cast member, really)
4. Jason Segel
5. Kevin Bacon
6. Anne Hathaway
7. Jennifer Lawrence
8. Ben Affleck
9. George Carlin
10. Dame Helen Mirren
11. Elton John
12. Cee-lo Green
13. Ellen Degeneres
14. The weirdly hot girl on The Following, whose name I don’t know.
15. Glenn Beck
16. The president. Or any president, probably.
17. Hugh Laurie
18. David Bowie
19. Howie Mandell
20. David Letterman

Hope that was as fun for you as it was for no one!

This is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night–no really!

There are a couple places where the Bible indicates that believers should pray and then assume that what they’ve asked for will be received, because of their faith. Jesus himself indicates as much when He says that if you pray for a mountain to throw itself into the sea, it will as long as we have prayed in faith.

I have to assume He was speaking at least somewhat metaphorically. Or was an idiot. Those seem the only options that wouldn’t be hugely disappointing if I prayed for a literal mountain to go take a swim.

We skip over some important things in those types of texts. Part of what we overlook is that there seems to be some indication that what we are praying for has to be within God’s will and for His glory. (In which case, if God willed it anyway, was our prayer really necessary?) There is also an indication that we have some personal responsibility in the issue. That we are to be praying for things only that would glorify God–that the results of our prayers would be to HIS glory and of HIS plan. And that we would be praying with pure hearts.

It’s probably a good thing that prayer comes with some limitations. I mean… I don’t know about you, but when I pray I tend to do it pretty selfishly. I spend very little time on any aspect other than asking God for stuff. And my list of requests rarely has any particular wording expressing anything remotely similar to, “please cause such-and-such to happen so that your name will be glorified.” It’s more like, “…and if I have to bring it up again, it’s going to get ugly!” There’s little “glory” in how I pray when something’s important to me. There’s just “need.” Or something like it…even if I’m actually praying for something that I DO think is His will. Maybe even especially so…

If I were to take what looks on the surface to be the Bible’s advice and pray in a way that assumed I’m going to receive what I pray for and it actually WORKED that way, I have absolutely no doubt that I’d abuse it. I’d be swimming in beautiful women…I’d be down to my college-weight…I’d be rich, famous, have vast property… Even Kings David and Solomon themselves would be ashamed of me. And that’s probably why God limits it.

So…

Lately I’ve been praying about something that I THINK is in God’s will for me. (That or it’s Satan lying to me, convincing me it’s God’s will–which has happened before…) It really does SEEM like the kind of thing God would want for me. And I think I’ve even maybe gotten some “signs” to that effect…but there have also been some roadblocks, too. I’m torn on it. And confused. And I’m praying and I’m trying SO hard not to do it selfishly, and I’m failing at it, and maybe that explains the roadblocks…?

I’m supposed to pray, knowing that if its God’s will I’ve already received it. And I’m supposed to do it in His name and with a pure heart.

And I don’t have a pure heart. Not close.

So maybe that’s what I’m supposed to be praying for? Maybe it’s less about the thing I want and I’m supposed to assume I’m going to GET than it is the way I’m supposed to be before I get it? Isn’t that more important anyway? And if I had the pure heart…would getting what I want really even matter in the first place?

And why do I always think of stuff like this at 3 in the morning?