This was the first Manning work I have ever read----I was blown away. Manning's message of what GRACE really is and how it transforms mirrors exactly what I have found late in life years after my salvation was secure. I have found that my heart was transformed and overflowing with love and forgiveness for others when I experienced the GRACE that Manning tries to convey and share with others. For those of us who battle "issues" in life, I think Manning is a mirror to what we have felt for years. Those who live life from the overflow of God's Love (as opposed to DOing the things we learn at church to DO) will be re-energized after reading "All Is Grace." I am now reading Ragamuffin Gospel, and next up will be Abba's Child.
Brennan gives the background to all his work through his life story. I greatly appreciate his brutal honesty and vulnerability. God truly does use broken vessels and Brennan is such an example of that. I love his works. As I wrapped up this story, I found myself hoping for just one more page, one more chapter, one more book....sounds like this is his last. Thank you Brennan for not stopping short of this one!
Several years ago I read my first Brennan Manning book, "The Ragamuffin Gospel." I was so moved by the writer's self-effacing transparency and testimony to grace that I have since read nearly everything of his that is in print. When he came within a hundred miles of our area, several of us drove the distance on a rainy Friday evening to hear him speak. He did not disappoint. As a conservative evangelical, I found myself strangely drawn to this former Catholic priest, who was a self-confessed alcoholic. But his message, "God loves you just as you are, not as you should be; because none of us are what we should be," resonated with me at a time when I struggled to understand the enormity of God's saving and sustaining grace. Few could have known the extent to which Manning was at that very time fighting the demons that have tormented him throughout his entire adult life. In this memoir, he elaborates upon the essence of the grace by which he has lived, recounting his repeated lapses into drink and a failed marriage. Perhaps it is with his human shortcomings and obvious weaknesses that most of his readers identify; but I found this book to present a paradox. In retrospect, he has sown seeds of this confession in his other books, but none are as self-revealing as this one. Now disabled and unable to speak, write, or dress himself, Manning has reached the final stage of life and is willing to tell "the rest of the story," that which he did not fully share from the platform or in print. Those who knew him well were aware that speaking engagements were sandwiched around drunken binges in which he would lock himself in a hotel room for days. He describes the guilt that accompanied these frequent episodes, but seems to find solace in the fact that God's grace was always sufficient to forgive and restore. While I cannot debate the merits of grace bestowed upon undeserving sinners, the problem with Brennan Manning's concept of grace is that it seems to come with little power to overcome the sins of life that require grace in the first place. The Apostle Paul wrote that God's grace was sufficient for him because His strength was made perfect in Paul's weakness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9). Rather than finding this strength Manning, by his own admission, remained a weak man. He repeatedly availed himself of God's forgiving grace, but to the point of abusing it. He never seemed to discover that grace not only forgives, it empowers. Yes, Brennan Manning had an addictive personality that constantly drew him back to the bottle. And yes, he claimed God's grace, love, and forgiveness. But where was the power of God to transform his life? And how can one excuse the hypocrisy--again, by his own admission--that allowed him to preach against sin while excusing his own? This is a moving memoir that took great courage to write (with the help of an amanuensis), and Manning is to be commended for admitting his shortcomings. The story is spell-binding and I could not put the book down. In terms of its redeeming value, it is left to the reader to decide. His is certainly not a life to emulate, but neither is it one from which life-lessons cannot be gained. If, as a follower of Jesus Christ, this is the first Brennan Manning book you read, you may not want to read another. But if you have found the ministry of this diminutive man to be helpful to you in your walk of grace, you probably need to complete the circle with this one. It will hopefully open your eyes to the true meaning of grace through a life that never seemed to appropriately apply it.