Some time this last year I read a book by David Timm entitled The Power of Blessing. In that book, Timm references a quote from Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel. Manning was a priest, author and wrote candidly about his struggles with alcoholism. Manning’s humble realism and poetic soul appeals to me. I copied the following down from Timm’s book which quotes Manning on page 19. The piece of paper on which I wrote these words is passed around from pile to pile. The edges are starting to wear down. I reread it often because I can’t help myself. I especially love the line, “unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.”
I know exactly what that means.
Lately, it’s been hard to write. I’m afraid too. Opposition, criticism can really eat away at one’s self esteem, one’s courage.
Life is also crazy busy. I am drug behind the freight train of life struggling to climb aboard. This isn’t the way I imagined it would be. There are lots of moments of joy in between moments of grave disappointment. The cheese on my cracker is Swiss. Joy is the cheese. Disappointment are the holes. Manning reminds me that this is as it should be. He gives me hope that even though I’m a scalawag with slipping cheese, I am loved beyond imagining.
This is the essence of the Christmas message. The Nativity Story is the story of simple people, a simple God, and the most humble of beginnings. Love was born into this world in a barn. Imagine the smell of the animals, the flies, the little rodents who love to share spaces like these. Imagine no snow in the Middle East. Imagine hot manure. Imagine a helpless new born baby beside it.
This Good News is the Ragamuffin Gospel.
“The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up, burnt-out.
It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other.
It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together and are too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.
It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.
It is for the poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.
It is for the earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.
It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment.
It is for the smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.”
I can recycle that scrap of paper. I write the Ragamuffin Gospel on my soul.
Thanks, Fr. Manning. I’m beginning to understand the true joy of Christmas.