September of 2008, I had the awesome opportunity to meet Brennan Manning. He was speaking at the NPCC Single’s Labor Day Retreat. Mr. Manning was a very meek individual who truly loved God. If you had seen him, he looked like any other senior adult who could have been someone’s grandfather. He shared with us his testimony – a story of alcoholism, being a priest, homelessness, and hitting rock bottom.
What I loved so much about Mr. Manning was after he spoke, we were given the opportunity to meet him. I asked him if I could have my picture taken with him and his response was “Why would you want your picture taken with me? I’m no one special. God is the one who did it all through me.” I was floored by his humbleness and in talking with him further, I knew that God had truly used this man to further His kingdom. He also signed my copy of The Ragamuffin Gospel with simply “In Abba’s Embrace – Brennan.”
As someone who loves to write, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet two of the authors who have had a huge impact on my life (Brennan Manning and Donald Miller) and both interactions left me loving these two authors even more than I did prior to the encounters. I was saddened to hear that Brennan Manning passed away last week. In memory of Mr. Manning, I wanted to share a few quotes from The Ragamuffin Gospel that really blessed me.
“The Kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious cast of people who understand they are sinners because they experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.”
“God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”
“Over the years I’ve seen Christians shaping God in their own image — in each case a dreadfully small God.”
“The danger with our good works, spiritual investments, and all the rest of it is that we can construct a picture of ourselves in which we situate our self-worth. Complacency in ourselves then replaces sheer delight in God’s unconditional love. Our doing becomes the very undoing of the ragamuffin gospel.”
I promised myself I wouldn’t do it. I said that I wasn’t going to watch American Idol this season because Nicki Minaj was going to be a judge and I think she is the epitome of the word “talentless.” (Anyone who calls THIS ATROCITY music has no business judging a talent competition…but I digress.) I happened to be at home the night the auditions started, so I thought I would just watch them and see what the talent was like this year. To say that I was blown away would be a huge understatement.
This is the first year they have ever had a top 5 that was all female. (I think this was pretty much rigged to happen with all the complaints about the “White Guy With Guitar” factor regarding winners from the past (Season 7 – David Cook; Season 8 – Kris Allen; Season 9 – Lee DeWyze; Season 10 – Scotty McCreery; Season 11 – Phillip Phillips) but who knows.) In all honesty, the guys who were chosen to compete in the top 10 this season weren’t that great…so a female was pretty much guaranteed to win this year. Needless to say, I have followed the show quite frequently over the years.
This season, my favorites are Angie Miller and Candice Glover. If either of these two win, I’ll be happy. So far this year, my favorite performances on the show have been Angie’s cover of Evanescence’s “Bring Me To Life” and Candice’s cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong.” Enjoy these performances in the videos below.
Photo Credit: By http://www.americanidolnet.com
Many of us at one point in time have wondered who we truly are – do we believe who the world tells we are? Do we believe who we think we are? Ultimately, do we believe who God says we are? This is the premise of the book Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker. Initially, the book was released as four individual episodes (Identity, Mirrors, Unseen, and Seer) within a two month time frame, but they have since been released in one book. If you choose the “individual book” route, you may be able to find book 1 for free and then books 2-4 for less than $3 each (I think Amazon.com has the entire book for $6 as of today).
The book is about Austin and Christy, two teenagers who accidentally end up in an insane asylum (you’ll have to read the books to find out how). While trapped, the doctors try to convince the two that they are not who they think they are…but really Scott and Alice (existing patients). Austin is very quick to fight off these false notions, but Christy is not as lucky. She is convinced by the doctors that she would be happier if she had plastic surgery to become who they think she really is and not what she truly thinks of herself. This sounds very confusing, but once you start reading the book it will make sense.
Just when you think it is over, Dekker sends you down another path. Identity and self image are just two of the topics that are covered in this page turner. In true Dekker fashion, this book is tied into his whole “universe” of books. Make sure you read the Paradise Trilogy (consisting of Showdown, Saint, and Sinner) first if you haven’t…then read Eyes Wide Open. It’s okay if you haven’t read the Paradise Trilogy first – things will still make sense, but they will make even more sense if you’ve read the trilogy first.
I really enjoy Eyes Wide Open and think it would even make a great movie, if done properly. It is a must read for Ted Dekker fans and a great first read for those who are not familiar with his work.
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
Have you ever had something happen to you that you look back on in hindsight and it felt like it was something that could have been pulled straight from a movie? I had this experience last week and it seemed so surreal! I was driving home from work, like any other day. I got about half way home and noticed that there was smoke coming from underneath the hood of my SUV. I had this gut feeling (which I know beyond the shadow of a doubt was God) telling me that I needed to pull my SUV over and get it out of the road.
I was able to pull over in this gas station parking lot (far away from the gas pumps) and I decided to just sit for a few minutes and let the smoke dissipate. While waiting, I happened to look over to the left and noticed a couple of people screaming something. I couldn’t understand what they were saying so I opened my door. It turns out they were screaming at me – “Get out!! Your SUV is on fire!!” I grabbed my stuff and got as far away as I possibly could. Not five minutes later, my SUV went up in flames. At the time, I was shaking so badly when I had the realization that I could’ve been in the SUV when it caught fire. God was definitely looking out for me!
One of the merchants of a nearby store called 911 for me and the fire department was there in a few short minutes. They hosed down my SUV and it was no longer recognizable. Fortunately, neither I nor anyone else was injured as a result of the fire (I was the only one in my SUV). A tow truck came and took what remained of my SUV to their lot and I spoke with the fire chief about what I need to do in order to file a claim with my insurance company.
It was like something straight out of the movies – seeing a vehicle go up in flames in an action movie. I was not able to sleep for the first few nights as I kept having these visions of being stuck in the SUV, not being able to get out as it was engulfed in flames. Last night, I took a couple of Benadryl and went to bed around 12:00 AM and didn’t wake up until almost 2:00 PM.
My youngest brother took several pictures of the remains of my SUV (in case my insurance company needed them). Below are just a few of the pictures.
We often hear the word love used in many different contexts. “I love hamburgers!” “I love the color blue!” “I love my family!” ”I love my church!” What is the true definition of love and how does surrender come into play with this definition? Upon the recommendation of a friend/mentor, I read the book Surrender to Love by David G. Benner. When I started this book, I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I had never heard of the author.
The book is a trilogy of sorts (the second book being The Gift of Being Yourself and the third book being Desiring God’s Will). In Surrender to Love, Benner discusses the concept of Godly love and how the ultimate surrender (the death of Jesus Christ, God’s only son) provides this love for us. We have a tendency to believe that God loves us based on our merits…if we do well then God loves us more…if we don’t do well morally then God doesn’t love us as much. This concept has caused many a people to fear God in an unhealthy way. God loves us regardless of what we do. He may be disappointed in us, but that doesn’t mean He loves us any less.
I walked away from reading this book with a better sense of what true love means and that you must have some sort of surrender in order to have that true love, or it isn’t really true love. This book was an easy read and I had no problem understanding the terminology and illustrations the author used. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the concept of love and/or surrender.
Here are a few takeaways that I had from the book:
- “Love is God’s character, not simply an emotion.”
- “The Christian God doesn’t turn away from sinners in disgust but moves toward us, bringing us His redemptive presence.”
- “The story of Jesus is the story of love personified.”
- “Most of us who call ourselves Christians do so on the basis of belief more than experience.” – A. W. Tozer
- “God isn’t simply the projection of our own image on the cosmos.”
- “He (God) created us and knows us intimately…He knows how we respond to anything that threatens our need for control.”
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
I can’t believe 2012 has already come and gone! The first 3/4th of the year was not that great for me, but the final 1/4th completely turned that around when I finally got a job after being without one for almost 16 months. I am very excited about what 2013 brings and am looking forward to the new year! As one last reminder of 2012, here are my top 10 blog posts from last year. May 2013 bring blessings beyond your wildest imagination!
10) Really Church?!
See what my top 10 posts were from 2011.
I’ve often heard it said that mercy is not getting what one truly deserves. Ted Dekker’s latest book The Sanctuary is a prime example of this concept. Renee Gilmore kills two men and Danny Hansen, a former priest, confesses to the murders so Renee will not have to go to prison. The characters of Renee and Danny originally appeared in Dekker’s 2011 novel The Priest’s Graveyard. In this new book, Danny is sent to an experimental prison where he experiences first hand how punishment can be used to attempt to break a man.
Another one of the prisoners has been falsely accused of rape (the girl’s parents don’t like that fact that their daughter is dating him, so they make up a story claiming he raped her). Something happens to this prisoner while in the prison and he is unjustly given a punishment. Danny willingly takes on the punishment for this innocent young man. A primary point in the story is that Danny has taken a vow of non-violence, but the warden and those in the prison keep trying to break him so he will give in to the violence of his past.
While Danny is in prison, Renee receives a phone call and several notes from a mysterious and sadistic individual telling her that she must do as he says or Danny will die. There are a couple surprise twists toward the end of the book that really made it an exciting book. I highly recommend this read for anyone who likes adrenaline-filled books that keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Consider yourself warned – I couldn’t put this book down…I read it within a few days (on average it can take me up to a month or so to read a book).
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com