Monday, April 15, 2013

BookPastor > "All is Grace" (Brennan Manning)

In remembrance of Brennan Manning who passed away on April 12th, 2013, this week's book recommendation will be his personal memoir. The review was previously published at Panorama of a Book Saint on June 23rd, 2012. 

One of the most memorable quotes of Manning is this: "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."


TITLE: All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir
AUTHOR: Brennan Manning
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2011.

This book is the most intimate, painful, honest, and personal autobiography to come from the influential spiritual leader and communicator. Intimate because of the tender details with regards to his childhood, his vocational discernment, and married lives. Painful because of the  traumatic childhood, the difficult bouts of alcoholism, divorce, and the ins and outs of the Church ministry. Honest in terms of the highlights of his achievements and the low moments of his career. He calls himself a "ragamuffin," which he aptly describes in a prayer, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." He is like a crooked stick which God uses to draw straight lines. He has been a priest and an ex-priest, a married and then divorced, a highly sought after speaker and a suddenly shunned indivisual. At various parts of the book, he shares openly with readers about his constant discerning process.

In between the autobiography, the work is sandwiched by multiple endorsements from Max Lucado, Michael Card, Larry Crabb, and many others, and encouraging letters of affirmation and gratitude from personal friends. Manning has also generously provided personal photographs to share with readers his life, as well as people from the "Notorious Sinners" recovery group.  I like the way he ends his book with a poem, with a title similar to the book's title.

Now there’s no more crowds and no more lights, still all is grace.
Now my eyes are wrapped in endless night, still all is grace.
Now I pace the dark and sleep the day yet I still can hear my Father say— “all is grace.”
It was easy as a younger man To squander in the far off land
Where sin was sin, like black is black.
But older brother sin is white, this doubt that creeps me up at night
— “does Jesus love me still?”
Now I take my meds and hear the game, still all is grace.
Now old friends drop in and bless my name, still all is grace.
Now a prodigal I’ll always be yet still my Father runs to me.
All is grace.

This book is Manning's version of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, with him as the main protagonist.

My Thoughts

A book like this is not easy to write, given the deeply personal contents. Not many people are courageous enough to be open about their down times. Indeed, it takes a person with a certain level of inner security to be open with both the highs and the lows of one's life. The details offered to readers ensure that the sharing is specific, that the words are incarnated with real openness about his weaknesses and strengths. Reading through Manning's struggles with alcoholism teaches us that no one is immune from addictions. It reminds me again that often, the peaks of success are immediately threatened by the valleys of disappointment and distress. What I particularly appreciate is how Manning shares with readers his discernment of God's calling for his life. There are many points of learning. He remembers and reflects actively about how he has been affirmed about his gift of writing, of communicating, of teaching, and of spiritual guidance. Through his failures, he learns about the power of grace. Through his successes, he gains insights about the temptations that lurk behind each high. Above all, he learns about the true power of friendship, and of learning to grow and to recover within the confines of a loving and open community of faith.

If you read this book, be prepared for your heart to be moved.


This book is provided to me free by David C. Cook Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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