not flat, but round…

July 21, 2012

This morning
the chickens
jumped out the coop
and I peeked in

their first ever eggs
peeked back.

I nearly squeeled.

I took them in the house
and left Ryan a note
“from the chickens”

For: Ryan…

We made you something.

From: Haymitch, The Road Runner and Boss Hog.

Sorry about the chicken scratch.

On Instagram, with this picture, I said “Thanks for the eggs, Haymitch.” Someone asked if the name comes from The Hunger Games and I tried, not so eloquently, to explain. (If you don’t know much about The Hunger Games, Haymitch is a soft-hearted, hardened and drunk human being.)

“Yes, actually. I understand Haymitch a little too well. So there’s some meaning for me. Chickens make me feel peaceful and that name reminds me of how much I need that dose of grace. Which sounds weird if chickens aren’t your thing.

Yesterday a friend told me that Brennan Manning died. (Edited to add: Upon further research–done by Nish, not me–I’ve found that Brennan Manning is currently in his final days but has not died. Please forgive the misinformation.) In case you don’t know who that is, he’s an author and speaker, a former priest and an alcoholic. His words have helped me. Though controversial and considered blasphemy to many Christians, I found Manning’s theology and way of expressing it to be a balm to my aching soul. (Ragamuffin Gospel, The Furious Longing of God)

I am grateful to be a part of a circle of understanding that can’t be described unless you’re a drunk. When your face is to the floor because you can’t stand or you wobble back and forth while brushing your teeth. When you can’t remember what you said the night before or when you know you shouldn’t have driven. When you get sober and you spend day after day hanging on by a thread and you feel like you’re in a box or a cage and then you’re freed and sometimes you just go through the motions and sometimes you screw up and you gulp and your insides scream hate at you…it is so dark and so broken that you see God’s love. You turn from it or you start to understand it in a totally new way and whatever you call it you know that it is there and it’s yours and hers and his and every single person can have it.

It strips you of God in a box and pulls you out of yours, even if you don’t stop drinking or you do. It’s just different, sober seeing and drunk seeing, but both have God in their eyes.

I can’t stop thinking of Brennan Manning. (To be clear, I cannot find confirmation of his death on the worldwide web, which is rare and strange so I don’t know specifically what happened or even if it certainly did. My friend explained that in Manning’s latest book, Sharon Hersh talks about Manning’s addiction and how it caused dementia, including the words “in his final days.” See above: I have now learned that Manning is still with us, in his final days.)

I’ve read some of the things that have been written to oppose Brennan Manning’s teachings. Many of those articles/posts bring up his alcoholism and call him unrepentant, a grace abuser at best. I get it. I suppose people think that struggling with alcoholism takes some of a person’s theological credibility away. But what I’ve written above stands true. I say that because I know what it feels like to have a strangling toward humility. To see the face of God more clearly, like the hungry child, the thirsty man lost in the dessert, the soldier ducking in the trenches, the mother hiding her baby under a seat in a theater being taken over by a madman. The alcoholic is more that child and man and mother than he is the madman.

Brennan Manning was called a fool and for what? For believing that unconditional love was truly unconditional.

When you are forced to surrender, to duck and cover and bob and weave and you are dodging your own mess and the mess of this crazy mixed up place, you not only see the face of God but in seeing it, all of the sudden, you feel Love. To see that face is to see Love because It is Love. Brennan Manning knew that face so I don’t care what your theology is or what you think of drunks like me or a teacher like Manning. I don’t care like a baby doesn’t care. I don’t care like a dying man, his head a tangle of broken synapses, does not care.

I am keeping it too simple to care how you judge his degree of repentance or mine. I sit in the proverbial lap of a Father that is more like a loving Daddy. The guy that scoops you up because he’s crazy about you, even if you’re a little mischievous, clueless and rebellious and toddling little lovable thing.

My very core, my soul and my heart-gut spirit weep when that man speaks because he spoke of the compassion of a loving God and I know that kind of real compassion like I know that my fingers are typing these words. I could hold it out in my hand and throw it out to you but so many people would bat it away and go back to the comfort of rules on signs outside of church buildings that shout are you doing this right?!

NO. I’M NOT. Tell me that you are doing this right before you tell me which Biblical understanding of grace is true.

My chickens, they made us some eggs. It’s so miraculous if you think about it. A shell and a yolk formed inside and let go for sharing. The design of it all, I just can’t wrap my head around it. And it makes me think about how the eggs are there even though my coop is full of too much chicken shit and I haven’t changed the hay. I got busy. I’m distracted. I need to make them a nest. I will. They gave something to me this morning anyway. It makes me want to jump up and down so I did. It made me feel so free, I don’t even really understand it and then it made me want to do right by them.

Do you see it? Forgive the cheesy analogy, but God gives us eggs. He HAS to because he has to–it just is what it is. If your very being is Love. If you are designed to be Love in all things. If all is grace. Then you lay eggs no matter what the coop looks like. Did my chickens walk around in circles trying to hold back until things were a bit more tidy, cleaned up, washed out and opened up?

They can’t do that.

Ryan, he doesn’t even really like the chickens. Maybe there is someone in-between, passing on the note. “We made you something.”

Those eggs, they’re still his to keep.

I’ve been crying
about
Brennan Manning
a man so much like me
I’ve been crying
about
Love
and how people twist it
but mostly
grateful tears
for words that turned
me inside out to see God’s face
the one right there right up close
and to not fear it like he’s about to zap
my messy life
and banish my soul
but to know
oh yes I already know
that this

the face of love
is always.

Always is always and He just is and Mr. Brennan Manning knew that with me. I will miss his words that didn’t make any changes to always and didn’t hold back and told stories of grace. So many of us just can’t stand always because it doesn’t make sense. There’s not enough credibility in always, but oh yes there is. There is a bridge and a middle, passing the note.

Can you read the chicken scratch? Don’t look for ways to demand that it comes only with good behavior or praying The Prayer in just the right order or crossing off some Things on a list. I know-I know, chicken scratch is hard to read but you just look at The face and you see it. It’s very simple and It is Love.

It passes a note; THIS IS FOR YOU.

All is grace. 

 

“Whatever I believed about grace was blown to smithereens working with Brennan Manning. Most of us have some moral point on the horizon, some edge beyond which we believe grace does not touch; grace on a leash. Its what I call the flat-earth theory of grace…sail beyond a certain longitude and latitude and you’ll fall off the lip of God’s love. Brennan Manning has been an explorer, a Christopher Columbus bracing into the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God. And what did he discover?”John Blase, co-author of All is Grace with Brennan Manning

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellie July 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm

This moved me to tears, Heather.

Thank you for your gorgeous writing and his gorgeous words.

-xo

-Ellie
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Sara Bowyer July 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

This was beautiful, Heather! I love Brennan Manning and his writings! I did go to his website and there is nothing said about his death, so maybe it is misinformation. I hope so…his books have completely changed my walk and my life.
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Heather July 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Hi Sara! Me too. His books just…yeah, you know.

and I went to his site, too. I can’t figure out why it wouldn’t be mentioned. But I guess what’s written in his book makes it clear that his health had failed because of his drinking. It was stated in All Is Grace that he had “wet brain syndrome” (I think that’s it) where alcohol damages the brain. So sad. I get it, but so sad. You can see how unhealthy he is in the trailer for that last book, which is on youtube under all is grace. I’m pretty sure he died, and I wonder if there’s just been a lot of quiet around that because of the way he died. I don’t know. Either way, and if he did die such a horrible death, I’ll always think of him as a soul brother. :)

Peace.

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jen July 21, 2012 at 9:58 pm

wow.
have i ever told you that i love that we’ve met? and that i was lucky to be able to sit and listen to you read your stories once? because now? i always hear your voice. your poeticness in your words.
poeticness is totally a word.
because i say so.
xoxo.
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Heather July 21, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Of course poeticness is a word. I don’t know why that red squiggly underlineness is happening under that word. It’s as if my computer thinks it’s not a word and it’s trying to tell me to take a better look at it and try again. Whatever, computer.

Also. thank you. You’re radness is not unnoticed by me. xo

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Amber Cadenas July 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Your ability to speak truth with fearlessness, “poeticness” (love it), humor and grace often leaves me stunned, and then grateful, that you speak in your own creative voice things I feel so deep within me. I LOVE this: “Tell me that you are doing this right before you tell me which Biblical understanding of grace is true.” I see Jesus in you.

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Heather July 21, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Thank you, Amber. Wow. What more can I say? I’m just soooo humbled by your words.

Peace. All is grace.

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Sherry Carr-Smith July 22, 2012 at 8:49 am

I think, maybe, I was supposed to read this today. Thank you.
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Shawna July 22, 2012 at 9:10 am

Its been years since I believed in God. But in some small way I understand yours and if I believed in God, I would like to believe in yours. So thanks for your faith and your grace and your strength.

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Joy July 22, 2012 at 9:43 am

As always, lovely writing Heather. I love how fiercly you defend the things that matter most to you.

I have also been drawn to Brennan Manning- love the quote, “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyles. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” I first heard it at the beginning of a DC Talk song of all things. But -words like this make the MOST sense to me as I struggle to define my own faith. So THERE. Right?! It is my faith-walk afterall, not anyone elses and if the words fit…

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Chrissy July 22, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Thank you for this…and for your lovely, brave and beautiful blog. Brennan Manning’s teachings have always been a favorite of mine, the kind of words I read over and over again and let gently become script sewn into my heart…I feel I have to take the time and pray so thankfully for a lived so openly vulnerable and shared. What a beautiful, beautiful man….

I found these words on another site from the last pages of his last book, All is Grace:

“John, the disciple Jesus loved, ended his first letter with this line: “Children, be on your guard against false gods.” In other words, steer clear of any god you can comprehend. Abba’s love cannot be comprehended. I’ll say it again: Abba’s love cannot be comprehended.”

I find it so reassuring to know I don’t have to have it all figured out…..

X
Chrissy
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Eileen July 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I absolutely love your voice, Heather, and don’t tell yout that aften enough. Thank you for this post and for all you do.
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Elaine July 23, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I’ve never heard of this man before but that video was amazing and what’s even better is that I could imagine the priest at the church we attend saying many of those things. He himself is a recovering alcoholic and he makes no bones about it and admits his own failures a lot during his homilies. GOD knows. He always has and he always will. That’s why he is there for you and me and all of us.

I’m so glad his words have helped you in your journey, my friend. And I know your words help others, me included.

xo
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robin July 23, 2012 at 5:48 pm

this was beautiful. <3

His ebook is free this week, too, if you don't already have it or want to grab it electronically.

http://www.dccebooks.com/
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julie lessner November 15, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Thank you, Heather

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Pat Donohue January 31, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Amber,
Thank you so much for what you have written about Brennan. His words have helped me in my journey so much, as do your words of Hope. The Rabbi’s Heartbeat was the first book that changed in me how God sees and loves me, Daddy. Being that close to Our Father to hear His heartbeat is where we belong.

All is Grace,
Thank You.
Pat

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Laura G. Vaden March 28, 2013 at 4:19 pm

My sister first introduced me to Brennan Manning’s books. I have read a lot of them and have loved every one of them. I am reading”Abba’s Child” right now and it is so fantastic! Everyone should read it. I have waked up in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and I would pick up my Nook and start reading where I left off in one of his books. God has used him in a mighty way. I am so thankful that Brennan Manning fell in love with God and was so open about his life that he was able to share many things that all of us think and do so that he could help us understand the love of God. Thank you, Brennan Manning.

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Sharon Bull April 13, 2013 at 1:32 am

Brennan Manning passed away today, April 12, 2013. While he is gone, his words will continue to reach many.

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