Book Review: The NIV Ragamuffin Bible

NIVRagamuffinBrennan Manning is one of my go-to authors when I need to be reminded of the unfailing, unchanging love of God. Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel helped me understand that, despite my many failings, I am completed loved by God. When you feel like a failure, that’s a very important concept to hold close!

The NIV Ragamuffin Bible is a standard NIV Bible with footnotes, but interspersed throughout with quotes from Manning’s books. The quotes selected for inclusion in this Bible reflect Manning’s sheer joy of being loved by God. As he says in the Introduction:

What you have in your hands is God’s personal memoirs. There are some of my thoughts sprinkled throughout as well, but they serve only to highlight God’s extravagant love. Because as the French Easter liturgy says, “L’amour de Dieu est jolie,” the love of God is foolishness, and it demands a joyful response from us.

If you have made Bible study into a cold, dry science, one that misses the heart and breadth of God’s love, then this Bible will be revolutionary for you. If you have been struggling to remember how to accept God’s love, you will find the encouragement you need to abandon yourself to the waves of God’s love crashing over you. Manning writes to remind us that we don’t bend God to our needs or whims, but are instead called to pour out everything we are, dream and want to God. The pretentiousness of posturing Christianity has to go! As Manning says,

Substituting theoretical concepts for acts of love keeps life at a safe distance. This is the dark side of putting being over doing. Is this not the abstraction that Jesus leveled against the religious elite of his day.

The Christian commitment is not an abstraction. it is a concrete, visible, courageous and formidable way for being in the world, forged by daily choices consistent with inner truth. A commitment that is not visible in humble, service, suffering discipleship and creative love is an illusion. Jesus Christ is impatient with illusions, and the world has no interest in abstractions.
-from Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging (Colorado Springs; NavPress, 1994), 142-143.

My only reservation about this book is that the version chosen (NIV) uses male-gendered language where it is not necessary. (“Man” for human, etc.) However if you can overlook that and let it wash, then the quotes and insights from Manning’s books do their work. It will make a good devotional Bible.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the publishing agent, TBBMedia. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Back to school

Sunset, Harbor Island, SC

It’s sunset time for Academia… I’m back in the swing of my LAST semester of seminary. (Can I get an AMEN?) It’s a good feeling and yet a bit surreal.

Before the semester gets going full blast, I finally finished writing the reflective essay that accompanies my CPE application. I think that if I were in my 20s instead of (ahem) something higher, it wouldn’t have taken as long. There was a lot to write about! The ministry is my third “career” and degree program. All those years of thinking “women can’t be pastors” really kinda mucked with my life journey. But in a way, it’s all good. I’ve had some time to deal with junk in my life, see our girls through a lot of their school years, and take a wild faith journey. It was gratifying to re-think my spiritual and vocational journeys as I wrote my background essay.

I’ve gone back to Brennan Manning for my devotional reading (as well as reading through the NT letters) and am finishing up my re-read of The Ragamuffin Gospel. I truly love his writing. He and Anne Lamott and Henri Nouwen help me keep things real and fresh.

In today’s reading I came across two quotes which were thought-provoking:

“When a tornado comes tearing down the street, it is not time to stop and smell the flowers. Let go of the good old days that never were — a regimented church you never attended, traditional virtues you never practiced, legalistic obedience you never honored, and a sterile orthodoxy you never accepted. The old era is done. The decisive inbreak of God has happened.” (page 110)


“Most of us postpone a decision hoping that Jesus will get weary of waiting and the inner voice of Truth will get laryngitis. Thus, the summons of the crisis parables remains suspended in a state of anxiety, so long as we opt neither for nor against the new dimension of living open to us. Our indecision creates more problems than it solves. Indecision means we stop growing for an indeterminate length of time; we get stuck. With the paralysis of analysis, the human spirit begins to shrivel. The conscious awareness of our resistance to grace and the refusal to allow God’s love to make us who we really are brings a sense of oppression. Our lives become fragmented, inconsistent, lacking in harmony and out of sync. The worm turns. The felt security of staying in a familiar place vanishes. We are caught between a rock and a hard place. How do we resolve this conundrum? We don’t. We cannot will ourselves to accept grace…” (page 113)

The first quote was just one of those obvious ones — reminding me that a faith that matters is a faith that moves and deals with life in one of those “where the rubber meets the road” moments.

The second one is probably an encapsulation of the last few years while I’ve been in seminary. I’ve been pushed to leave some old, comfortable, well-established religious opinions and grind out some new ones. And where I can’t find some way to articulate the changing aspects of faith, to be willing to not concretize something that is not yet fully formed. But in any case, to be willing to be UNstuck by letting God’s irresistible love wash me onward.

Onward, kicking down the rubble, pulling out of the mud pits… here I go. Another year. Another reminder of God’s faithfulness.