Title: Manning offers simple truths
Brennon Manning, a former ordained Franciscan priest, had a simple but profound message for Anderson University students Tuesday during morning chapel. If you wallow in regret, spend time condemning yourself and worrying about the future, you've refused God the opportunity to extend a healing touch. "God is loving you at this moment just as you are," Manning said. "Not as you should be." Manning, wearing faded blue-jeans patched at the knee, sat on stage at Reardon Auditorium listening as AU students stood and sang before he was introduced.
Manning taught theology at a university in the 1960s and has traveled around the world working among the poor. Manning, the author of several books, spoke so rapidly that some members of the audience leaned slightly forward following his words.
Trust is a ruthless effort, he told the students. Trust in God means daily surrender knowing that where you are on the journey is exactly where you are supposed to be. Trust is the child walking hand-in-hand with the father never questioning the destination or doubting the father's love.
"When we cry out in grief and pain ... when we ask why a loving God would allow such things, at that moment, the seed of mistrust is sown," Manning said. "I do not say in my heart that God exists until I trust. The trusting heart surrenders to God every day. It is the remedy for so much of our sickness, our melancholy ..."
The first conversion is to accept God as savior and the second conversion, Manning said, is from mistrust to trust. And when we convert from self-denial to self-acceptance, he said, grinning at the students, "that is the moment of true salvation. Don't be afraid. You are worth much more than many, many sparrows."
And the evidence of ruthless, unflagging trust in God?
"Gratefulness," Manning said. "Gratitude is the appreciation of our greatness as the beloved child of God. I'm at the point in my life that I believe God is more interested in our gratitude than in anything else. Our gratitude is our gift to God. It is God's pleasure."
And that means gratitude for the good as well as the painful. It requires hard spiritual work.
"Don't be afraid to look at your whole life, and trust that you'll see the hand of a loving God," he said. "To give thanks for an unanswered prayer, my friends, is to whisper a doxology inthe darkness."
Manning was introduced as friend of the Church of God, a man who has been shouting the good news for 25 years.
During his spiritual quest, Manning has voluntarily spent time in prisons, lived for months in a cave in Spain, worked at menial jobs across Europe and, since 1982, has made his home in Louisiana.
His books -- available now at AU -- have included, "Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging," "The Ragamuffin Gospel," and his newest book published by Harper, "Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God," is due to be released in October.
Manning came to AU this week to help celebrate Spiritual Emphasis Week on campus. The AU Campus Ministries sponsors the celebration each semester by inviting interesting speakers to share their insights with students and Anderson residents.
For information, call AU Campus Ministries at 641-4203. For daily updates about special events at AU, visit the Web site at www.anderson.edu.
--- Cindy Carson is a reporter for the Anderson Herald Bulletin.