I have a couple of tendencies the seem to keep me from reading a book in a reasonable amount of time. I love reading because of what I get out of it. Unfortunately, however, because of various circumstances I tend to have at least two or three books going at a time. These are in addition to a daily devotional book and almost daily bible reading that I do. My point is that progress with any one text, with the exception of the daily devotional, is always less than steady and seldom more than slow. That being said, I did actually finish a book today. So, I felt this would be a good time to document some of the most worthwhile reading that I’ve done lately.
Over the past few years I’ve read four different books by Brennan Manning. These are in addition to Devotions For Ragamuffins which I read on a daily basis. I learned about Manning after finding a reference to him on the Myspace page of former dc Talk member Kevin Max. After reading a bit about the background of Manning on his Myspace page I decided to give him a shot and checked The Ragamuffin Gospel out of the local library. The book was the first tremor in the landslide of change that has churned inside of me over the past few years. I went on to read Abba’s Child, Ruthless Trust, The Importance of Being Foolish, and I recently started The Wisdom Of Tenderness. Now in his 70’s, Manning’s personal, humble portrayal of his own alcoholism and life lessons immediately appealed to me, a skilled sinner, much more than any suit behind a pulpit. Manning masterfully blends down-to-earth honesty with humility in an effort to communicate the truth about God’s grace. Grace was just an overused religious buzz word to me until I read the writing of Brennan Manning. Through Manning’s writing and speaking (I attended a retreat where he spoke in Savannah, GA in February 2007) I’ve learned to accept God’s love for me by realizing that it is not dependent upon me. All men have sinned and fallen short and nobody has any hope for salvation, but, by the grace of God. We can not earn it and nobody can take it from us if we confess our faults and realize our need for him and accept that His grace is sufficient. Of course, salvation and grace don’t carry much weight with somebody if they think that they’re doing fine on their own. But, because I knew and still know that I am a flaw-laden man, I’ve been able to realize the magnificent gift that is His unconditional love.
My interest in Brennan Manning led me to a Christian bookstore one morning where I asked if they had any of his books. While they didn’t have any, the salesperson showed me a book with the foreword written by Manning: Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing To Heaven – His Life And Legacy by James Bryan Smith.
I owned one Rich Mullins CD when I was in high school. A Liturgy, A Legacy, And A Ragamuffin Band was an odd CD for me to own because most of the others in my collection had a much more adolescent spin. Mullins, on the other hand, represented a more mature, sophisticated, and less flashy Christianity compared to other Christian music that I listened to at the time (e.g., Michael W. Smith, DC Talk, Newsboys). The music that he and his Ragamuffin Band presented on that album had a unique, and beautifully folk aesthetic quality to it that was juxtaposed brilliantly with his profound, yet down to earth, lyrics. The Manning-Mullins connection exists because of the manner in which Manning’s message of grace touched Rich Mullins. A Liturgy, A Legacy, And A Ragamuffin Band (the term Ragamuffin is drawn directly from Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. Songs like “Hold Me Jesus” convey a real and honest humility from the perspective of someone who truly understood our role in relation to God, our Abba.
Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing To Heaven – His Life And Legacy provided a sketch of the life of Rich Mullins sprinkled with insights, thoughts, and commentaries excerpted from interviews with Mullins and articles that Mullins wrote while he was alive (he passed away in a car accident in 1997). The life of Rich Mullins and the manner that he chose to live his daily life made his life such an interesting and inspiring story that a Rich Mullins biography can’t help but to be a worthwhile read. But what is most memorable to me are not the many accounts of things that happened in his daily life, but, how he interpreted such events and how he reacted to them. The life of Rich Mullins is a story of a dirt-in-the-fingernails life led by someone who sincerely sought God and turned his back on the glory and acclaim that was available to him as one of Christian music’s most influential and talented artists.
“Hold Me Jesus” by Rich Mullins
Spaghetti Reading To Be Featured Soon:
The Beautiful Mess, by Rick McKinley
Unfinished Work, by Kevin Max
Save Me From Myself, by Brian “Head” Welch
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller