Brokenness, Depression, and Brennan Manning

I‘ve put together a collection of quotes by my favorite author, Brennan Manning.  I have found that when he writes, he penetrates.  What he writes goes deep into the soul of this ex-junkie, loser, and mentally ill person—he tells me of God’s love like few have ever done. 

To Manning, every person is redeemable, none are too far gone.  Brennan Manning is a strong voice to the weak, the lame, the mentally challenged, and for the prodigal.

Some of his thoughts:  crucifixion

“There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.”

My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

 “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

“To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace.”

“Christianity doesn’t deny the reality of suffering and evil… Our hope… is not based on the idea that we are going to be free of pain and suffering. Rather, it is based on the conviction that we will triumph over suffering.”

“I am what I am in the sight of Jesus and nothing more. It is His approval that counts.”

“[Be] daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burnt in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how phony [you] are.”

“The blood of the Lamb points to the truth of grace: what we cannot do for ourselves, God has done for us. On the cross, somehow, someway, Christ bore our sins, took our place, died for us. At the cross, Jesus unmasks the sinner not only as a beggar but as a criminal before God.”

“Do the truth quietly without display.”

“It is for the inconsistent, the unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.”

“The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust—not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.”

“I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself… God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”

“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 with their life style. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

“The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness.”

“In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us–that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace.”

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I really hope some of these quotes have connected.  Brennan Manning has authored several books all of which I can heartily recommend. 

I blame him for this blog’s theme–that brokenness is our path out of depression: Bipolar, Schizophrenia, OCD, PTSD, Schizoaffective disorder, and addictions.

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Release the Perfume!

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“Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices.”

Song of Solomon 4:10

“When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume.”

Luke 7:37

What about you? What precious perfume is locked inside your heart that could be lavished on our Lord? The little treasures you and I struggle to hold on to may hold back opportunities to worship Him with extravagant praise, releasing ministry and service to Him that will bless all those around us.”

-Angela Munizzi

We must come to the conclusion that our simple actions have a way of blessing Jesus.  We must come to see that the rich and good place, where what we do or don’t do, makes a real difference.  How long has it been since you have really had this responsibility?  We are significant.  You really do matter! The worship we sincerely offer reflects back on us. This makes us radiant to any observers.

We touch Jesus, somehow, and in some vague way, and in some way we have blessed Him.  I believe that this must encourage Him, that He receives our offering.  He then responds and blesses those who are desperately crying out.  Jesus is not capricious, or sceptical, and so our worship must really affect Him. If only to add to the volume of those who have already crying out for mercy.

Our worship needs to become extravagantly simple again.  Poured out, ‘down-to-the-last-drop’ kind of worship.  It gives and gives until there is simply no more.  I also think it must be intercessory in its direction.  Intercessory worship will cover the helpless, and turn God’s ear to the needs of the depressed.  When the Holy Spirit tunes us, we become precise instruments of grace and love– enabling us to touch the hearts of many millions who are lost, who have no hope at all.

As a believer, one who struggles with clinical depression, the realization that I can be inserted into a “crisis-critical” situation is a bit comical or surreal— like sending the “Three Stooges” in to do brain surgery!  But you must see this.  I have learned this as I worshipped at His feet.  I have attempted to pour out every bit of perfumed nard,  I sincerely desire to hold nothing in reserve.

This desperation has a way of making me adequate, it is showing me how to become competent.  It has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Jesus Christ, and His undisputed authority in the realm of this world.  His desire is to create a flock from the willing, and to bring all that glory home, to His Father.

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Rembrandt’s Meditation on the Younger Son

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Painting by Renbrandt, 1606-1669
“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to  one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:11-24, ESV

Three hundred and twenty-nine words– these describe the life of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. These 329 words reveal to us a God who forgives much, and loves easily; the Father loves far too much, way too easy— and far too extravagantly for human beings to understand. Perhaps we sort of expect that he will ‘appropriately’ punish his son— at least put him on probation at least. It only makes sense.

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Many of us have lived in prodigality, some  of us for a very long time. We have spent our inheritance like ‘drunken sailors’ and have nothing at all to show for it. The prodigal, completely destitute, takes the only work he can find. (Imagine a good Jewish boy feeding hogs.) He is so far gone that he starts inspecting the slop pails for something to eat.

Many of us will understand his despair. But there comes this crystalline moment of amazing clarity. The prodigal—filthy and impoverished, has  a memory of the Father’s house. The servants there had far more than him. Sometimes in our captivity we instinctively want to go home, if only to be a slave.

The Father has dreamed of this moment. The parable says, “He saw him–felt compassion–ran out to him–embraced him–and kissed him.” In moments we see a swirl of servants who completely overwhelm an already overwhelmed son. I’ve read the Parable of the Prodigal Son a hundred times or more . It never loses its punch. I simply want to bring you for just a few moments back into its light. I expect that the Holy Spirit may have business with you. rembrandt-prodigal3 (1)

We see that his father receives him with a tender gesture. His hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. His head is downy, almost like a newborn’s. Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in stoic judgment; we read in the parable that he objects to the father’s compassion for the sinful son.

Rembrandt had painted the Prodigal before, when he was considerable younger. And it is a very good painting. The prodigal is happy and gay; there is absolutely no indication of the consequences of sin. He is charming young man at a happy party. But Rembrandt chooses at the end of his life to re-paint it to reflect reality. This is one of the last paintings he will do, and it is the Prodigal Son–destitute and repenting. I can only imagine; the years have taken a toll and he doesn’t really feel his first painting is enough. He wants to paint what is true. He is painting us.

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When Your Name Gets Changed

Naomi and Ruth

“So Naomi and Ruth went on until they came to the town of Bethlehem. When they entered Bethlehem, all the people became very excited. The women of the town said, “Is this really Naomi?”

Naomi answered the people, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very sad.

When I left, I had all I wanted, but now, the Lord has brought me home with nothing. Why should you call me Naomi when the Lord has spoken against me and the Almighty has given me so much trouble?”

Ruth 1:19-21

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Naomi has traveled from Moab to her hometown of Bethlehem. People were pretty excited and made it a point to bring out the crowds. It’s great for her to be around happy people, who were definitely pleased to see her again.

But Naomi makes it clear that something has happened. She has been fundamentally changed by the Lord. She can no longer be called Naomi (“Pleasant”) but insists she is now “Mara”. Her reasoning is painfully clear, she grasps the reality of her condition. “I am now Mara (“Bitter”), that is my new name.”

“Call me by this new name, because the Almighty has acted “bitterly” against me. I am not the same person I was went I left here. I am different, when I left here I was prosperous, everything was going very well. But now, its different, and I come home with absolutely nothing. And it’s all because the LORD has hurt me deeply.”

I read this the other day, and was intrigued by her perception, and of her theology that recognized God’s handprints on her life. I believe she was a broken person, and therefore essentially changed. I believe she had a measure of peace in seeing the Lord was in control. It wasn’t fate, karma, or destiny. It was God! That is to say a lot.

As a mentally ill person, I find a comfort in this. God has touched me, and I am not the same person I was five years ago. I know hard things, even bitter things, about myself and the world around me. I went out healthy and strong and have returned weak and empty. Bipolar disorder will do that. God’s dealings will do this. He loves us far too much to allow us to go unchanged.

God is not malicious, but He is very thorough. And all that He does is for our good.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Romans 8:28

There are distinct times when the Lord works to bring us to Christlikeness. That involves a refining and smelting process. This is never “pleasant”; it is almost always “bitter.” Naomi was finding this out first-hand, to the point of changing her name.

“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.
    Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.”

Isaiah 48:10

I’d like to encourage you to recognize and announce your weakness and your brokenness. See God’s hand in your bitterness. You will be surprised at the release that will come to you. It shouldn’t engender anger, but surprisingly it can bring you healing and salvation.

“God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance.”

–A. W. Tozer