Several years ago I read a book called Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. I also had the privilege of attending a couple of his seminars and meeting him. His books, and the messages he taught, resonated within me then and today. Brennan was a forthright, gifted writer, speaker, and very flawed lover of God. His message was simple; God loves us as we are and not as we should be. Let that sink in a minute before reading further.

Brennan held spiritual retreats where he taught contemplative spirituality and centered prayer; he taught people how to be quiet and listen to God speak His love into their spirits. At one of the seminars I attended, Brennan spoke about each of us being a child of “Abba”. Abba is an Aramaic word meaning “Father” and the connotation is very intimate.  Galatians 4:6 says, ….God has sent forth into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, the Spirit who cries out, “Abba!” (The Complete Jewish Bible)

For the vast majority of my life I have never felt worthy; worthy of love or acceptance from anyone, especially God. Nevermind being forgiven for “sin”. If I couldn’t believe that God loved and accepted me, how was I to expect that He would forgive my “sins”? And then Brennan Manning happened. At one of the seminars he had us close our eyes and quietly speak the words “Abba I belong to You”. He said each morning when we wake, and before we went to sleep at night, to settle into a quiet state of being before God and simply repeat that phrase a few times. One day the reality of that simple phrase would take root in our spirits; it did for me.

Life was not good for me at that time and it continued to roll downhill gaining speed. Nonetheless, a simple phrase reverberated within the core of my being helping me to see myself through the eyes of my Abba. God and I have not always been on the best of terms because of the valleys of my past I was drug through, however, since internalizing that my Abba loves me as I AM and not as I SHOULD be, I have known He has never, and will never, step away from me. That is the “furious love of God’ that Brennan spoke of.

Do you know, really KNOW, that you are loved with the “furious love” of the Creator of all? If not, I would challenge you to quiet yourself before God and repeat that simple phrase, “Abba, I belong to You”, as you are waking in the morning and as you slip into peaceful sleep for the night. Throughout the day when life’s stressors begin to mount, silently speak these words into your being. They are not “magic” words by any means, and some have argued they are a “mantra” of sorts; those who participate are dabbling in the black arts and so on, but that is not the case. It is a reminder that we are loved and accepted as we are.

If you think about the “self-talk” we all have running through our brains all day, everyday, most of that dialogue is negative. The self-talk most of us hears tells us we are not good enough, we don’t measure up, we should be thinner, smarter, have more money, be a better mother, father, daughter, employee, friend, spouse; the list is endless. But the reality is that we ARE accepted and loved despite all of the “shoulds” we beat ourselves up with. Will the knowledge that you are Abba’s beloved erase the negative self-talk? No, but it gives us another option. When we find ourselves berating ourselves with negatives we can remind ourselves that there is One who does not need for us to be “better” or “perfect” to be accepted and loved. We are the ones who berate and belittle Abba’s beloved. Our negative self-talk then permeates the thoughts we have about others and we see others through the lens of negativity resulting in dislike, criticism, and ultimately hatred.

Over the years I have read negative reviews from those who do not appreciate the teachings and wisdom of Brennan Manning. There are those within the church, denominational or otherwise, that believe Brennan was a heretic; a wolf in sheep’s clothing because he believed we could be accepted and loved as we are. The negative nellies claim his message was dangerous because it was egocentric; apparently we don’t dwell on our sinful nature enough, don’t flagellate ourselves for a respectable enough amount of time for being human, for not measuring up.

I am fully aware of my sinful nature, of the “sins” I commit on a daily basis, but as I recall the Bible says that God is faithful to forgive us of our sins, and that He has loved us before we breathed our first breath. The knowledge that I am loved regardless of my humanity and all its flaws and warts empowers me to be a little more patient with my fellow man, a bit more tolerant when met with the flaws of others.

I am a ragamuffin, and I am loved with a furious love by my Abba. The “shoulds” and “thou shalt nots” have fallen to the wayside; they are no longer my focus. Rather I choose to focus on my Abba, and the tender love and acceptance He offers me in my fallible humanity. That change of focus has led me into a closer relationship with my Creator; a journey of love and acceptance of myself and all others. There is plenty of room for you and others on the journey……..

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