I had the privilege of attending a conference at Glen Eyrie this weekend - Brennan Manning's Healing the Image of God. The company I work for is publishing his next book, so my presence there was somewhat as an ambassador of publishing-will. I took him to dinner and tried to wine and dine him as best as I could. My girlfriend tagged along for the meal; we had a wonderful time and he told me I had good taste in women.

However, I was trying to be very aware that I was not there solely as an ambassador, that God might have something to say to me through the old, ragamuffin priest. And he did. I was re-minded of God's tenderness; of the reality that God is "our Father" - our "Abba." When the nutty disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, that's the entry phrase Jesus gave them: "Our Father/Abba." It was not "Our holy LORD, high and lifted up" or "Our Rock" or "Our Shepherd" or any of those other perfectly legitimate biblical images of God. No, when it comes to relating personally to God (prayer), it's "Abba" or "Daddy" - the image of a little Jewish boy or girl running into the arms of their Abba. And that is an image of immense tenderness: "a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out" (Matthew 12.20).

Some folks have problems with Manning's theology. Some folks are convinced he's a universalist. Some folks. I'm convinced that some folks, or maybe most folks, have an image of God that needs healing. I include myself in that number. Relating to a "tender" God is almost unthinkable for us and so we respond by picking apart the messenger's theology or accuse them of being some "-ist" or anything we can come up with to keep that kind of thinking at arms length. We throw sticks and stones at best, and crucify at worst. Times haven't changed. People haven't either.

I did not attend any National Day of Prayer festivities last week. That stuff's always got the flag wrapped around it and I'm never sure what image of God folks are praying to. We'll go stinking hog-wild critical over a room full of Muslims because they're praying to the wrong image of God, but what about us? And if somebody says, "Well, it's not about us" then I think I'm going to stick bamboo shoots under my fingernails or something. It's always about us. Maybe we should have a National Day of Healing the Image of God for a few years and then, ever so slowly, move into a National Day of Prayer. Because if we don't have the image right, then we always get the prayers wrong. But some folks probably wouldn't go for that. Some folks.


  1. Oh, Amen. For professional reasons I couldn't avoid the NDP event I had to attend. I squirmed in my chair and made snarky comments to the person next to me, all the while longing for a taste of the Spirit of God to show up unattached to Nationalism. It did not. It was the longest hour and a half of the week. I would have much rather been invited into the presence of Daddy to sit on his lap a while and talk things over.

  2. Around 5 years ago, I actually had to go to a more mature believer who didn't go to my church and ask her if God loved me and thought I was beautiful even though I wasn't as conservative/nationalistic as the majority of folks at my church. Really. I know it sounds silly, but--without casting stones at any political affiliation, because they all have their strengths and weaknesses--I was totally feeling like if I didn't vote a certain way, my Savior would be disappointed in me.

    Now, this friend did say that as I matured as a Christian, I would likely become more "conservative", but that if I believed in the Trinity, and that God was my Father and Christ died and was resurrected in reconciliation for my sins, that I was a Christian. Period.

    THank you for this post and for pointing out that our Abba loves His children, and He's much gentler than we often make him out to be.

  3. I was hoping to hear that you all had some good questions answered from Brennan. I believe he has a wise, servant-heart. And also, I think that listening to his perspective is bound to draw one's heart closer to our Abba.

    I have never attended a National Day of Prayer event, so I really don't know what it is like. But I have had some precious times with Jesus, one on one, on that day over the years. Many times, I got a sitter for the kids and fasted and prayed through Scripture in a completely quiet house (a rare event with four children).

    Blessings on you and your fam today!