Thursday, November 30, 2006

book review #1

Another joy over the holiday weekend was being able to spend a lot of time in a couple of good books. I read two and would recommend them both highly. Here's my version of a book review for the first one.

Posers, Fakers & Wannabes (Unmasking the Real You) by Brennan Manning

I have read about five of Brennan Manning's books in the last three years and have been deeply touched by every one of them. Every other book I've read of his preaches the simple, simple truth that God loves us in our 'as-is' condition and that when we embrace that fact we will be able to be gentle with ourselves which allows us to live lives of love for the world around us.

The only quirk that some readers might not enjoy is his enjoyment of using words that no English-speaking person I know ever uses. This book is actually put out by NavPress for the college-aged market. Jim Hancock, a former youth pastor, joined with Manning to take his book Abba's Child and translate portions of it using more of the language of pop culture.

In Abba's Child, Manning explains that the chapter he wrote titled "The Imposter" got more attention than all the others combined. With Jim Hancock's help The Imposter became The Poser. In Manning's words,

This cunning poser exploits my temporary amnesia to make me
forget that everything I am is grace. Everything. Even the grace to
grasp grace is grace. Instead of being stunned by the extravagance of God's
love, many days I just expect it. In place of heartfelt gratitude for the
sheer, unearned abundance of God's gifts, I'm often gripped by an arrogant
satisfaction in my accomplishments and the false security of spiritual superiority.
The [Poser] is baffling, sneaky and seductive. At the same time
he tempts me with self-satisfaction, he also undermines my truest self, my
identity as Abba's beloved child. The [Poser] tries to convince me
that, no matter what God says, Abba's Child is a false identity, completely
out of my reach. The [Poser] wants me to believe my only hope is to forsake
my true self and become...'everybody else'.
One of the qualities I appreciate most about Brennan Manning is his willingness to be honest about his own sin and character defects. He is not afraid to use his own story to demonstrate foolishness of both 'scandalous' type sin (he is a recovered alcoholic) and the sin of religiosity and phariseeism.

Posers, Fakers & Wannabes... offers a great balance of biblical narrative, modern-day story and practical advice on how to identify the Poser and the Pharisee in us AND what to do after that. In the book introduction, Manning gives an overview of how he has dealt with The Poser in his own life.

If it weren't me, I would say it was a fascinating struggle. My
greatest difficulty in recent years has been bringing...The Poser into the presence of Jesus instead of trying to whip him into shape on my own. But it is me, and there's nothing fascinating about it. I want to beat The Poser into submission. I want to win this war with myself. Bitter irony. Instead of surrendering my self-centeredness to Christ, I try to beat it to death. Then I get discouraged and decide my alleged spiritual life is just self-deception and fantasy.

Finally, I appreciate that the author does not stop short of leading the reader to embrace the grace of God for herself only, but instructs that truly embracing the grace and love of God allows us to move beyond herself and extend that grace to the world around her. This, to me, is true religion...

I leave you with the blessing that Manning closes his book introduction:

May all your expectations be frustrated, may all your plans be thwarted,
may all your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the
powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who
is Father, Son, and Spirit. And today on planet Earth, may you experience the
wonder and beauty of yourself as Abba's child and temple of the Holy Spirit
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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