For the past two weeks I’ve been listening to Rich Mullins each morning as I drive to work. This past friday I wrote a short post about the one song I’ve listened to each morning. I make sure I get those words I heard before I turn off my car and exit into what has made me appreciate the word “labor.”

Friday night after kids went to bed, I got on YouTube and watched Homeless Man, a documentary about Rich. Friends and other christian artists are interviewed telling his still very unique story. Brennan Manning is among them.

It’s almost impossible for me to separate Rich and Brennan in my head.

When I was done, I went back to my office – which really is where I just have stacks of books and where Bethany works on necklaces. The book I came out with was Manning’s memoir, All Is Grace. I walked back into the den. Put it down and decided to pick up the iPad for a few minutes before digging into Manning’s life once again.

A friend on social media sent me a message telling me Brennan Manning had passed away.

It was no surprise, the dragon of alcoholism had dogged him for years. His health was tenuous, I knew. So this was no surprise at all. But the timing. The timing. I was not sorry to hear of him passing. It felt right. And yet, death does still sting in the sadness of those of us who have drunk deeply from the well he dug for us.

A few years ago. I had been given a gift card to a bookstore. Normally, it would never make it to wallet. But it was to a bookstore we did not have where I was living at the time. So I had forgotten about it till a few weeks later and we were living in Birmingham.

The card then burned a hole through my wallet and threatened my pocket. So I went to that bookstore and searched the shelves. I need to back up a little.

We had just moved to Birmingham, our hometown to be involved in church planting. The last church we had been in had paid me to leave and it still stung. It still stings to this day, if I’m honest. It was a wound that would continue to grow. Most of the time, I would go to a particular author in my Reformed tradition to get some help. Perspective. But none of the people I normally read and listened to sounded appealing. It may be telling to say that I was looking for comfort and none of those men sounded comforting at all. I kept going to them for grace but it was always a word of grace with “but” attached….hell, it sure felt that way.

So there I am, walking among those shelves, not even knowing what I’m looking for. And for some strange reason I picked up The Ragamuffin Gospel. Only God could’ve done it. I’d never wanted to read it before. Seemed too popular and not Reformed. Maybe rebellion made me do it. Glorious holy rebellion.

I’ve never been the same since. Only the Scriptures have comforted me more. While I do not believe in must read books, this is the one book I would recommend to anyone and everyone. If you only read one Christian book, this is it. A part of me still wishes I had read that book many years earlier. But I know I read it at just the right time. When I needed it.

So this is my tribute to Brennan Manning. I love him. He keeps me honest with myself and he has helped keep me honest with God.

This is my tribute to Brennan Manning. I love him.

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