Tag Archives: Lent

My Virtual Spiritual Guide: Brennan Manning

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the death of author and priest Brennan Manning.  I didn’t realize it until recently, but I had read one of his books, about 11 or 12 years ago.  When I was in college, my next door neighbor in the dorm gave me a copy of a book that had been utterly life-changing for her.  Through this book, Abba’s Child, my friend had a deeply impacting experience of God’s love.  I read it and thought it was pretty good, and put it up on my shelf with all my other books.  I can’t tell you why this book didn’t stir my soul at that time.  I think I had always felt loved by God and never doubted it.  But my spiritual journey has taken some dramatic twists and turns in the decade or so since, and today’s me is flabbergasted by God’s unconditional, never-stopping, always and forever love.

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In typical fashion, I sucked at fasting this Lent.  I am so ashamed at my inability to be hungry for even a few hours.  Clearly, gluttony is my besetting sin.  While I did not participate in the suffering of Christ, my lack of discipline made me keenly aware of my depravity and weakness, and also of the luxury of my life.  “Fasting” for me meant skipping lunch, while much of the world clings to life on a fraction of my daily portion.  I am comfortable and warm and clothed and fed.  I am blessed beyond measure and I need to work harder at living simply so that others may simply live.  Even not fasting has made me more keenly aware of the poor and downcast and I have been struggling to reconcile my life-style with how I have been called to become a servant of all.

I’m not sure how it happened, but Brennan Manning showed up to be my Virtual Spiritual Guide for Lent.  When I’m doing my data entry job for the office, I often catch up on my favorite TV shows to pass the time.  I gave this habit up for Lent and was looking for sermons to watch on YouTube.  Somehow, I noticed a link to Brennan Manning’s classic sermon, “Abba Father,” and I remembered my friend’s book.

Watching that first sermon brought me to tears.  Watching “Our Call to Participate in the Healing Ministry of Christ” brought me to gut-wrenching, body-wracking sobs.

There is something about Manning’s grumpy-old man, gravely voice shouting at you about how much God loves you.  If you learn about Brennan’s loveless childhood and debilitating alcoholism in adulthood, these words become all the more powerful:

So this Lent, I’ve been watching all of his YouTube sermons again and again, soaking up his message about God’s incomparable love.  I’ve been working extra hours lately for the office, which translates to less time writing for the blog but more time with earphones on, listening away to my spiritual coach for this season.  I have been deeply impacted by Brennan Manning in the past month and had to share him with you, especially with those of you who are not familiar with him.  I hope you take the time to listen to one of his sermons and let the message of God’s astounding love soak into your own soul.

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P.S.  Brennan Manning is best known for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, after which Rich Mullins named his band (another remarkable man!).  I would love to read Manning’s autobiography, All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.

 

Journey to the Cross: Lenten Devotional

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If you are looking for a good Lenten devotional, here is a link to The Gospel Coalition’s “Journey to the Cross.”  The intro gives an explanation what Lent is for newcomers to its observation.

What I’ve been hearing over and over from the Lord, from Lisa’s sermon on Sunday, Ann Voskamp’s Lenten blog posts, and the Journey to the Cross devotional, is that we need to cease from consuming (food, entertainment, comfort, etc.) so that we can be fed by the Living Water that truly satisfies.  All else only leaves you parched and dry.

It is so easy to be consumed by our schedules, by our thoughts (regrets, resentment, criticism, pessimism, ingratitude, fantasies, etc.), by our pursuit of comfort and materialism, and by our misplaced priorities.  St. Augustine described this as disordered love.  That is when your love of God is eclipsed by other loves.  We were talking about how an eclipse works at Bible study the other day.  Lisa explained that the only reason why the moon can eclipse the sun, which is vastly larger, is because of the proximity of the moon to the earth.

And that is why Lent is such a powerful season.  It is in drawing near to God that our loves are reordered.  We are all on a spiritual journey that is taking us somewhere.  We’re not just standing still.  Depending on where you are in your spiritual journey, this much is true: you are either moving nearer to or farther from God.  I know that in my own life, I need to be redirected back to the cross.  I get consumed by entertainment media and comfort food and my schedule and my disordered loves.  How easy is it to put the tangible before the intangible?!  By fasting, we have a tangible reminder (hunger, extra time) to remember the cross, to remember God’s astounding love and forgiveness.  To remember that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If you have never observed Lent before, you may not know how to begin.  My suggestion is to think of something in your life that you consume in order to feed your spiritual hunger, and fast from that.  The place you turn when you feel drained, stressed, lonely, etc.  If you can practice replacing those things with spiritual practices that will actually feed you, you will be able to reorient your life back to finding your sustenance in God.  Lent began yesterday on Ash Wednesday and continues until Easter Sunday.  We break our fasts on Sundays, “Feast Days.”

May God bless you this Lenten season.

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I didn’t want to overwhelm you with too many Lenten resources, but if you are looking for more, here is a great list, “40 Ideas for Lent,” from www.rachelheldevans.com.