Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February 12th

“My (Manning’s) life is a witness to vulgar grace–a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up a ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying theif’s request–’Please, remember me’–and assures him, ‘You bet!’ A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mind. This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”

Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir, pg 193-94

(These sections are from recently, from the last three months.)

December 31, 2013

Yes, certainly, Jesus said, to something I had said.

“If You were speaking King James, that would be, verily, verily,” I teased Him.

Which made Him laugh. I wasn’t exactly going around talking like that, Jesus replied, smiling.

“Yes, because You were speaking Aramaic, I think. I think I read that somewhere. I wonder what it sounds like in Aramaic….”

It doesn’t matter the language I used, so long as you understand what I'm saying, Jesus said.

“I know, but I would like to hear what it sounded like… the sound of the Aramaic syllables as You spoke them…”

You yourself are the syllables I spoke, Jesus said, lovingly.

I think because He spoke His creation into being.

January 21, 2014

We were in the rooms and I had gone ahead of Him and had sat down. I looked up at Him, because He was hanging back for some reason.

Jesus was standing on the first or top step, just peacefully remaining there. As I watched, His face and eyes filled with love and quietness and pleasure and satisfaction and He stretched out His arms to each side, His hands open, as though completely embracing that moment, the love and quietness that filled it.

I could not avoid the obvious association of that gesture with His crucifixion- it was so much the same posture, but such a different situation- almost the opposite one.

I was so stirred, I could not remain sitting. I stood and made my way over to Him, filled with love. I stood on the second step, just below Him and put my arms around Him and put my head against His heart.

“Rabbi,” I said. “Master.”

Jenny, He said, with such loving reproach, because although those titles are His, they are not the ones Jesus prefers me to use.

“Okay,” I whispered. “My Beloved and my God, my Lord and my own- heart of my heart and soul of my soul. Come here. Come sit down.”

January 22, 2014

“I learned something today,” I said, excited to talk to Him about it, now that I remembered it. I looked up at Him with comfortable ease.

What, My little heart? He asked, smiling.

“I read about how much the Father longed for His people to cling to Him.” I hadn't realized that this was also the Father's hope and request.

You related to that, Jesus said, tenderly.

“Yes, very much so. I cling to You all the time- Let that vine cling to Me,” I quoted quietly, referencing a passage that Jesus had pointed out to me two years ago:

“At that same time, a fine vineyard will appear.
There’s something to sing about!
I, God, tend it.
I keep it well-watered.
I keep careful watch over it
so that no one can damage it.
I’m not angry. I care.
Even if it gives me thistles and thornbushes,
I’ll just pull them out
and burn them up.
Let that vine cling to me for safety,
let it find a good and whole life with me,
let it hold on for a good and whole life.”
-Isaiah 27:2-5, The Message.

“And I do, all the time,” I continued, lost in thought. “I cling and adhere, I lean and rely on – which is believing on You- because You are the vine and I am the branch, and I must be clinging and connected to You, or I cannot live and can do nothing.”

We went down to the sea- we went the slow way. We stood on the shore next to the outcropping- everything was golden- the sand, the rocks, the sky full of light, but the sea was a turquoise blue with white froth. The waves were high and the sea was full of movement.

We were standing waist deep in the surf, and Jesus dove into an oncoming wave and was gone underwater. I waited, content where I was, until I was aware of Him swimming under the waves and He took me by the knees and pulled me right under. I went under with a shriek of laughter and ended up flailing in the spray and surf, gasping with laughter, hardly able to see for the light springing off the white water.

We rested on the sand, feeling the sun hot and the surf, all cool and fresh. I turned my head and saw the beach curve away into hot, hazy distance. I could hear the sound of the gulls.

Eventually, I sat up and so did He. We sat with our heads close together, being silent, feeling the sun and watching the surf. I felt drowsy with the sun and light.

Do you want a dock? Jesus asked me, out of the blue.

“You mean, like at Uncle Phil’s camp?” I asked, surprised.


“But it’ll need a mooring…” I was thinking, it’s not possible to fasten a mooring like that out in the bay, in those waves.

That doesn’t matter here, Jesus assured me.

“It might float away…”

Not here.

I didn’t understand how that was possible, but I thought, why not, so I said, “Okay! Let’s have a dock.”

And we did; we had a perfectly ordinary dock, way out in the bay and we swam out to it, and it was made of wood and had that rough, fake grass on top and was rocking very strongly in the waves. The movement was so pronounced that I had to sit right down, in order not to lose my balance. I sat on it, in wonder.

“This is nice,” I said- because it really was, to be rocked that like, way out in the ocean, and hearing that delightful hollow slapping and gurgling of water against wood. We lay down in the sun. It was good, to be lifted up and down, swinging gently, as each wave came.

After a while, we sat up and Jesus stood and dove swiftly, strongly, right off the edge. He came up out of the water, and laid His dripping arms on the edge of the dock and looked up at me, His head all soaking wet. I came over to Him and crouched down.

“Do that again,” I requested. “You did that too quickly- I couldn’t see.”

I stepped back and hand put my hand down to Him. He took my hand with His strong, sure grip- His hand was golden brown and rough looking against my white one and heaved Himself out of the water and onto the dock.

Jesus stepped back to the edge of the dock and took two huge running steps and leaped right off the edge of the dock and into the water in a powerful, carefree lunge and disappeared in a splash amid the waves.

I was amazed one moment and the next moment my end of the dock lunged upward- probably because He has set it tipping by diving off the other side of it- and I fell backward into the water, my arms out-flung. I fell into the waves with a huge splash.

I opened my eyes- because the water never stings there and it is easy to open them- and saw Jesus underwater on the other side of the dock from me. We swam toward each other and met underneath the dock.

Again, I was worried that there wasn’t a chain to hold it in place and thought there really should be, and there was. But then I was worried for a different reason, because those chains are always so slimy and I had been frightened of them when I was a child- of getting caught in them or of some strange creature that might be lurking in the shadows and the chains under the dock.

And Jesus reached out and tugged on the chain and it disappeared and He said to me, no chains.

Eventually, we swam back to shore. We were together there, and as I was sitting on the sand, I saw the scar in His foot. Instead of passing over this sight, I focused on it. The hole went clear through His foot.

It was disturbing, to see it that clearly. It was unavoidable to think of the pain that Jesus went through, to be bearing that scar. I threw my arms around Him and held on, wordless.

I love you, He whispered.

Later I was moving around in this busy, anxious kind of way that was completely thoughtless- that is, I was completely unaware of it, until I was and then I thought, in amazement, what is the hurry?

I looked up at Jesus and He squinted down at me against the sunlight, His face so clear- His beautiful, ordinary face- the face of a first century Hebrew peasant and the face of God, all wet with sea water and carrying a profusion of scars across His forehead, pale and faint against His skin.

What is the hurry? He asked me, kindly.

“There is no hurry!” I replied, in wonder, because there really was not- what was there to hurry for? Were we needed somewhere, was there some place we had to be or something we had to do?

There never is, because everything that matters is fully in the present- that is, we are already wherever we need to be, and whatever we are doing is the thing that we are giving ourselves to. We do not have to wait for some future moment or place or time.

February 5, 2014

This time, I decided to trust Him farther and sooner, and so I went to Him there on the cross as Jesus was asking me to do, though I continued to not understand how that was possible- but it must be that, if I am there, it's in some spiritual way that is impossible to understand.

My protestant background did not prepare me for the gore of the cross. He was covered with blood- dark blood drying, new blood running slowly, bruises and cuts and broken places. His face was full of bloody sores and bruises and under the blood and marks, His skin was white and sickly looking and the whites of His eyes were blood streaked and yellowish tinged.

His entire back and shoulders and even His sides were a mass of raw flesh, cut open almost to the bone, and this open flesh was pressed against the rough, splintery wood of the cross and beams; His arms were lashed to the cross beams and His body was twisted in some strange, painful way.

Seeing Him this way, with His face in the way I know Him, I could not push this understanding aside.  I am by now too accustomed to seeing Him, to accepting and being within this way of seeing, and so I had no escape from the sight.

Also because of this, I could not escape the way I had seen Him before- healthy and whole, with His keen perception and sharp intelligence, and His wit and humor, in the way He played with words, and His remarkable personal courage and integrity, and His courtesy and compassion.

I could see Jesus in a dozen different ways- lost in thought and sitting so still on the hillside, or cold and huddled under His mantel in the garden at night, knowing this was coming at Him like a freight train, or sitting down to teach with authority, teaching with His bright, shocking parables, the endings left hanging and so often containing an element of peasant humor- declaring, for example, that maybe if the barren fig tree only got a good dose of manure it might finally produce fruit.

In those glimpses, He had looked young, unmarked, strong from His trade and full of the joy of life- because He loved to be alive, and to be with the people that He loved, even when they broke His heart.

Because I could see those things, the horror of seeing Jesus broken and tortured and helpless and dying slowly, fading out, was so much worse. I was wringing my hands and trying to hold myself together.

But the worst thing, almost worse than His raw back pressed against the wood, was the sight of His feet, awkwardly placed one over the other, and the nail that was driven down through both. At that point, I had to make myself breathe slowly and deliberately, to stave off the horror that was so great, it was almost like panic.

“What have they done to You?” I whispered, in this shaking voice. “What have they done? Why would they do this? Why would they do this to anyone? How could anyone do this?"

And it was pressed in on me, how war and violence and violent abuse dulls and damages the soul, so that inwardly, the man who has suffered these things becomes slowly incapable of feeling- becomes like a brute beast, and how violence begets violence, and this is a sickness that sinks inward and ripples outward.

But with Jesus, it would go no further, those dark outflows of violence after violence. In His death it would culminate and it would die with Him. All the horror of our violence against ourselves and against others- the inward tearing and the outward wounds and all of it born of a lie- all would stay in the grave. Jesus would not, and we would come up with Him, newly born and free of that history that stretched out past and future, all ending at that hour when He died.

Jesus raised His eyes and looked at me and I knew He recognized me, but He was so weak and dull. It was like looking into the eyes of an animal that has been pushed and driven almost to death and whose master continues to beat it senselessly, and it can no longer get up, but simply lies there.

“I’m here, Jesus, I’m here,” I whispered to Him urgently, but I saw no sign on His face.

I know you are, Jesus assured me- I heard His voice from all around me, strongly and echoing inside me.

I wanted to do something, anything for Him, but what could I do? I could change nothing. He having a great deal of difficulty breathing and could breathe only slowly and so shallowly, and I wanted to breathe for Him; I wanted to do a hundred things that I could not do.

But there was nothing I could do, and He went on dying! And then I knew I didn’t have the strength to stay with Him the entire time; I did not have the strength of those other women who were able to wait there the entire time, with Him. I could feel myself fading away and I was crying and crying to Him, “I’m not strong enough! I have to leave You! I can’t stay… I can’t do it.”


After a moment, I went inward with very heavy heart, only I still couldn’t look at Him and I was crying and the tears were streaming down my face.


Jesus was holding me in His arms in the inner room, but I couldn’t look at Him. I went to wipe the tears from my eyes.


Let me, He whispered, gathering up the tears with His fingers. These I will treasure. I could see my tears glittering between His fingers.

The rest of the time, I kept looking at Jesus and holding Him close in my arms, feeling how whole and alive and present He was, which was so soothing to my soul.

"You are here now," I said in relief. "You are home and You are safe and You are loved and never again."

Never again, He agreed, smiling.


"But after He stepped up to offer His single sacrifice for sins for all time, He sat down in the position of honor at the right hand of God. Since then, He has been waiting for the day when He rests His feet on His enemies’ backs, as the psalm says. With one perfect offering, Jesus has perfected forever those who are being made holy, as the Holy Spirit keeps testifying to us through the prophet Jeremiah. After he says,
“But when those days are over,” says the Eternal One, “I will make
      this kind of covenant with the people of Israel:
I will put My laws in their hearts
      and write them upon their minds,”
then He adds,
I will erase their sins and wicked acts out of My memory
     as though they had never existed.
When there is forgiveness such as this, there is no longer any need to make an offering for sin."

-Hebrews 10:12-18