Ragamuffins are Rigorously Honest with Themselves, Others, and God

truthContinued from here.

I’m continuing a discussion of the concept of the sinner with the tilted halo from Brennan Manning’s book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out:

The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.

Being honest with oneself about oneself is one of the most difficult, and yet one of the most freeing, things you can ever do. Manning points out that people who are rigorously honest with themselves, others, and God are nearly impossible to offend because they are already acutely aware of their shortcomings.

For example, if you point out that I am not hospitable or thoughtful, I won’t be offended – I’ll actually agree with you! While I have grown much in both areas, they remain shortcomings of mine, which I don’t deny. I know in the marrow of my bones that God deeply loves me exactly as I am. He is well aware of my tendency toward selfishness and isn’t surprised or offended when I am thoughtless or inhospitable. He gently nudges me toward being more considerate while loving me even when I am not.

Our natural tendency is self-deception, making us easily offended when someone speaks truth to us. I lived this to the extreme. For example, I knew I was overweight because of my binge eating disorder, and I was deeply offended if anyone mentioned it. My being overweight was simply a fact, but I reacted as if someone had intentionally plunged a knife into me if they said anything that I could possibly twist into meaning, “You are fat.” My poor husband was sometimes the recipient of my wrath for simply inviting me to go on a walk around the neighborhood with him. I would hear, “You are fat,” when what he was really saying was, “I love you and would like to spend some time with you.”

I used to believe I had to be “perfect” to be loved. I now know that I am perfectly loved in my imperfection. That’s the heart of the ragamuffin’s authenticity.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace like the “X Files,” saying, “The truth is out there.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Ragamuffins have an Inner Poverty of Spirit

thank_you1Continued from here.

This week, I’m discussing the concept of the sinner with the tilted halo from Brennan Manning’s excellent book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out:

The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.”

Jesus said that the “poor in spirit” are blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them (Matt. 5:3). What does it mean to be poor in spirit? It means that we know we are mere beggars in the throne room of grace. We aren’t invited into the Kingdom because we earned it – our invitations are sealed with Christ’s blood and extended solely through grace.

Manning points out (and I have observed this dynamic myself) that the richer someone is, the more susceptible he becomes to ingratitude whereas the poor often express overwhelming gratitude even toward the smallest of gifts. For example, a rich person may pitch a fit at a five-star restaurant when the food is not exactly as he wants it while a poor person may gush with gratitude over receiving one simple meal. The difference is a matter of expectations: the rich believe they deserve to have their expectations met while the poor have no expectations of grace. Thus, the poor in spirit are the ones who most appreciate even the smallest of gifts.

I used to have a haughty spirit. I believed that “my way” was the only way, and anyone who was different from me was inferior. I had a judgmental spirit and often spoke harshly against others – typically behind their backs. Today, I have much more compassion toward those who are not like me. I don’t have to relate to someone’s specific form of brokenness to understand the pain of brokenness … and let’s face it – we are ALL broken.

Gratitude was the vehicle God used to transform me from behaving like a spoiled child in my plenty to experiencing gratitude even when there’s little to be grateful for, such as when my son spent five nights in the hospital after major back surgery. I don’t have to be comfortable to feel grateful. The poor in spirit are grateful and compassionate because they know they are richly blessed in ways they don’t deserve.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying at someone’s feet and saying, “Thank you!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Ragamuffins Trust God

trust_meContinued from here.

This week, I’m discussing the concept of the sinner with the tilted halo from Brennan Manning’s excellent book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out.

The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.”

I used to be a distrusting person. As an abused child, I learned early that the world is not a safe place and that people are not trustworthy. I told my therapist that I was incapable of trusting anyone, but he said this was not true. I trusted the waitress to bring me what I ordered and that the food would be safe to eat. I trusted the bridge I drove over would hold. He pointed out different aspects in my relationships with different people that I did, in fact, trust, such as for my husband to provide financially. It was a slow process for me to recognize that I did, in fact, have the ability to trust, and I grew to realize that the issue was not what other people did. Instead, my issue was a lack of trust in myself to be OK if someone else broke my trust.

Today, I trust God with my whole heart and soul, which means I don’t need to trust anyone else. Once I understood at a heart level that God’s got my back, I let go of the need to control what anyone else did that affected me. If someone breaks my heart, God will heal it. If he harms me, God will vindicate me. If she breaks my trust, God will remain faithful. God is all I need. Anything else good that I receive from someone else is gravy. God is the main course.

But what about not trusting God? That’s where I was for decades. I was a people-pleaser and twisted myself into a pretzel trying to be what others wanted me to be, but they were implacable. Because of their own self-interest, I would inevitable displease them. I saw God as the same way – as this being who had a list of rules I could not possibly follow and who I could never fully please, no matter how hard I tried.

Today, I fully trust in God’s love. I know that He loves me no matter what I do and no matter how badly I mess up. He loves me for who I am, not for what I do. In fact, whenever I ask Him why He loves me, His consistent response is, “Because I choose to.”

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing over the words, “Trust me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

The Ragamuffin Gospel

I’m a big fan of Rich Mullins’ music and enjoyed watching his biography, entitled Ragamuffin. Through this movie, I learned about Brennan Manning’s book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out, which I am currently reading. I’m blown away by the wisdom in this book and find myself wanting to yell out, “Yes! Yes!” Considering I’m reading this book at the gym while working out on an elliptical machine, I might get some puzzled looks if I do this!

A ragamuffin is someone who knows he’s nothing but a pauper who has been invited into the presence of the King solely by grace. He has nothing to offer but his brokenness. I am a ragamuffin. I’m acutely aware of my brokenness and how inadequate I am. I’m so grateful that God does not treat me like I deserve. I’m a beggar kissing the feet of the King and simply grateful that He let me in the door.

I just finished a chapter on the “tilted halo,” which will be the focus of my blog this week. The chapter opens with a story – A man goes to the doctor for a headache. The doctor asks if he drinks alcohol, smokes, or parties. The patient indignantly responds that he would never do such things. The doctor diagnoses him with wearing his halo too tightly. In other words, the man is so focused on “being righteous” that he has choked out all the grace. Some of the most miserable people I know are Christians who fixate on doing everything “right” while also demanding this from others.

Manning says that ragamuffins wear a tilted halo:

The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.”

I’ll be discussing these three aspects of the ragamuffin this week.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

God is not a Spiritual Santa Claus

presentsContinued from here.

Many years ago, a Youth Leader made a profound statement: he said that God is not a spiritual Santa Claus. This imagery helped me see how selfish I was being in my prayer life as I rattled off my “wish list” to God every morning, telling Him all of the things He needed to change in my life for me to be happy. I am happy in my life today, even though God’s answer to most of those wish list items was no. The more I mature spiritually, the less I experience God changing my circumstances and, instead, experience God changing ME. As I grow and change, the way I react to my circumstances changes.

One of the greatest misnomers I hear Christians say is that God never gives us more than we can handle. That’s simply not biblical. The cross was more than Jesus could handle. The lion’s den was more than Daniel could handle. The fiery furnace was more than the Hebrew boys could handle. Goliath was more than David could handle. The Mideonites were more than Gideon could handle. I could go on and on, and I’ll include myself in this list: being repeatedly raped as a child was more than I could handle, as was the grueling healing process from all of the childhood abuse.

In fact, every day, I face more than I can handle, but I am nevertheless joyful. God hasn’t made my life easy. Instead, He has taught me the secret to being content even as I’m facing more than I can handle:

I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Why does God allow us to experience more than we can handle? Because it drives us into His arms. As long as I stay connected to God, I don’t have to worry about what happens – not that I’m comfortable in challenging circumstances, but I can be content. As I choose to be uncomfortable in doing whatever God says to do (humble myself in my marriage, obey laws I don’t like, forgive my enemies, etc.), God moves in my life by CHANGING ME. As I change, my circumstances change in response. This process takes effort and sacrifice, but it’s worth it … not only to bear fruit that bless others, but I get to experience intimacy with the Creator of the Universe!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace carrying lots of presents. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

What Role does Prayer Serve in the Naaman Principle?

prayerContinued from here.

Please don’t take from the last blog entry that I am anti-prayer. Just the opposite! I have a rich prayer life in which I “hear” from the Creator of the Universe every day (and often throughout the day). This is not an audible voice that booms out of the ceiling. Instead, it’s a still, small “voice” – or, more accurately, and “inner knowing” — that is very personal and intimate. Jesus said that his sheep know and listen to his voice, and this is something I experience every day. I achieved this level of intimacy with God largely through developing a rich prayer life, which includes bringing my concerns to Him, seeking His perspective on the situation, poring over the Scriptures for guidance on what my part is in the situation, and obeying whatever God leads me to do, even when it makes no sense and I, frankly, don’t want to do it. I do it, anyhow, because I love and trust God.

The role of prayer is to connect you with the Father. Prayer is how we remain or abide in God. It’s how we stay connected to God. Prayer is about relationship. It’s about getting to know God well enough to follow His direction so you know where He is going. As you follow Him, you put forth effort. In other words, I pray for God to show me where He is going. I follow Him, which requires effort and sacrifice as I lay down my own desires and replace them with a desire to follow God. And then God moves in my life, producing fruit that blesses the people around me. While I may enjoy the fruit, it’s not produced for me – it’s to bless other people. I have already received my blessing – a close, deep, personal, and intimate walk with God. I truly need nothing else – not that I wouldn’t like comfort, but I’m OK whether I’m comfortable or not because a close, deep, personal, and intimate walk with God is worth the effort and sacrifice.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying next to large praying hands. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Praying is Not Enough

prayer2Continued from here.

I know yesterday’s blog entry was harsh, but I’m trying to wake the Church up. As I said yesterday, while I probably stepped on your toes, God absolutely clobbered me with this truth. I know it’s a hard truth, but if you want that breakthrough you have been praying for, you need to WAKE UP. You need to pore over Scripture to find out what your part of the equation is and DO IT. God is waiting on you to do your part before He will supernaturally intervene with His part.

So, where does prayer come into all of this? I know Christians who use prayer as an excuse not to put forth effort, which is simply not Biblical but can sound spiritual. After all, the Bible does tell us to cast our cares on God and not to be anxious. The thinking is that simply praying for a breakthrough and then sitting around waiting for it to come about demonstrates faith while putting forth effort runs counter to faith. However, that’s simply not a biblical perspective, nor has it been my personal experience.

Let’s say you need a crop of pumpkins. You can pray for pumpkins over a field for years, but no pumpkins are going to grow if you don’t plant pumpkin seeds first, which takes effort (labor of planting the seeds) as well as sacrifice (parting with the seeds). This seems pretty basic in farming, but many Christians don’t seem to see that the same principle applies in the spiritual realm. The principle of sowing and reaping is prevalent in the Bible, with the most basic example being tithing. If you need money, plant seeds by giving some of your money away. Here are a few other examples:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:37-38).

Whatever you need, you must first give, which requires effort and sacrifice. Prayer is not enough. You can pray for decades and never experience a breakthrough if you are unwilling to plant the seeds. If you have been “stuck” for a long period of time, pray for wisdom and discernment. Perhaps God is ready to act and bring a miracle, but He’s waiting on you to the plant the seeds before He will produce a harvest.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying. Courtesy Bitmoji.]