Contacting Craig

To contact Craig for speaking or interview opportunities, email at
Visit his website (Big Fat Grace) at

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some Thoughts on Brennan Manning's "All is Grace"

For the record, Brennan Manning is my favorite Christian author and one of my favorite authors of any genre. I am only marginally kidding when I say that I wish his classic; "The Ragamuffin Gospel" were canonized and included in the Bible. The book...and the concept, and Brennan's teaching on grace literally saved my life during a marathon 18 hour reading when I wept my way through it the night before, and into the morning hours of Thanksgiving 1993. I have never been the same.
Last year Brennan released what he himself proclaims is his final writing. His memoir "All is Grace". It is at once the most beautiful and yet the most tragic and poignant book I have ever read. I love this man. I have been influenced by him in my own writing, and while I try not to write "Craig-as-Brennan" it is true that he invariably influences me and his voice is heard sometimes as a whisper in my own.
Brennan writes in this book of his painful, harrowing struggle with alcoholism throughout his entire adult life...including the most victorious days of his writing and speaking ministry. He preached for 40 years about grace and mercy and the insult of trying to earn what God desires to pour out for free.
His signature phrase "God loves me as I am and not as I ought to be...because I will never be as I ought to be" becomes so much more powerful when you come to realize that Brennan himself was certainly not as he ought to be.
I was discussing "All is Grace" with a friend last night. It seemed like such a struggle for us both to reconcile Brennan's astounding ability to preach Grace better than probably anyone of his era, and his inability to beat the bottle and his wrestling with accepting the very grace he so wonderfully and eloquently preached. Then my friend and I suddenly realized, the very reason Brennan could proclaim the grace he struggled with accepting completely, the reason he was so vocal about it and so wildly passionate about proclaiming it, (Watch a Youtube video of him preaching sometime and you'll understand how passionate he was) was that he so desperately needed it to be true and he leaned on that grace so deeply. I told my friend, "Imagine the horrible guilt and pain during each of his conferences when, he dragged a huge burden of shame into another church, in another town, to preach another conference, while hiding the raging, blind-drunk battle he'd literally had the night before. Then imagine the moment during the conference when he spoke of grace to these new faces and the sound echoed in his own ears, the truth of his message was becoming truth in his heart yet again, and he found the grace for his own hidden wretchedness that he was so wonderfully proclaiming for these folks. Brennan never stopped preaching to himself!" Alan and I rejoiced at this thought. The very thing that drove Brennan to wildly passionate proclamation of God's love and grace was his desperate need for it to be true in his soul yet again...just one more time. I learned, reading this heartbreaking yet victorious book, that the most effective, most passionate, and in reality most truthful ministers of Jesus Christ, are the ones who realize and accept that they are first-and always-preaching to themselves. We are frail. We are fearfully made. We really are irretrievably broken this side of heaven. Brennan knew this. His thorn in the flesh was actually a spike. It kept him desperate for his own message and that made him believable to everyone.
I pray for Brennan here at the final curtain of his life. I love this man and I have prayed that somehow, some way, if a mantle falls as he rides the fiery chariot on his journey home, I pray it lands on my shoulders just a little. Because if anyone needed Brennan's message of grace it was me. And if anyone can proclaim it with zeal and passion it is one who embraces his own brokenness and imperfection. Which I am now doing more freely and openly since Brennan revealed his in this book.
All really is Grace

Monday, January 16, 2012

And Down the Stretch they Come...(My Last post about graduation until Graduation)

My final semester as an undergrad began today. On May 12 I will put on my cap and gown, and walk across that stage at Williams stadium and get the degree that eluded me for more than half my life. I will finally be more than an alumni of L.U...I will be a graduate. I wish I had done it sooner. But I did it nonetheless. I plan on writing something in tribute to Harry Kalas on my mortar board. I will smile and wave at my daughter and at some people who love me and who are making the journey to Lynchburg to see me walk.
And at some point before the weekend is over, I'll pay a visit to Dr. Falwell's grave site. I'm thinking a picture of me standing there is a bit macabre. So I plan on doing two things. One...I'll make a pencil relief of the plaque by his headstone that reads "A Man is measured not by what it takes to knock him down, but by what it takes to keep him down"  and then I think I'll quietly whisper  "Thank you Doc". Because without this wonderful man of incredible faith and vision, I might still be homeless and hopeless.
Then I will ask God where my Liberty Mountain is. Where will Doc's legacy lead me?
...and I'll listen for the quiet answer.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A little note about Tim Tebow...

Okay let me say right up front that I LOVE the guy. he is a truly godly, wonderful kid who lives it like few others. But I have been in the presence of an even greater man of faith and had this thought tonight...
"If bowing in the end zone and giving God praise after winning a football game is Tebowing, what do you call having amazing vision, uncharted faith that started a world-changing, life changing school, homes for unwed teenaged moms to have their baby AND get an education (for free) homes for alcohol and chemical dependent adults to find help, a TV program that reaches the world, a ministry that does every single thing it does as good as, or better than anyone else has done it, and a church that has affected its community so greatly that one in three people in the entire CITY attend? "Falwelling"!"

Monday, January 9, 2012


I have been asked by a few friends why my mood has been so different over the last few months and why things just seem to suddenly be (finally!) turning around for me.
I didn’t have a “come to Jesus” meeting. I didn’t change my attitude. It wasn’t positive thinking or the affirmations I read daily. (Although all those things work wonders and I believe in them and recommend them highly) For those things to work there has to be something to build on. You have to have one thing you can cling to that perpetuates the dreams and visions you carry in your heart. From January 2007 when I lost my house, to May 2008 when I became homeless and for the three years that followed as I was living sometimes in my car and sometimes in a bedroom or a basement in someone else’s house, I had nothing left to hold to. I had no home, no job, no routine, no escape from the grind of broken dreams and shame. Nothing but the fierce love I have for my daughter that kept me alive and enduring.
Well almost nothing…
What I was lacking was hope. Nothing was working. The plans I’d tried were failing. I put out 207 resumes and gotten ONE offer here in Nashville. It was for a part-time position at Publix. I began a move to Houston to take a job with an insurance company. I trained for three months. I took the Life and Health exam and scored the second highest score in the company history. Then Texas changed their licensing process and it was taking three months instead of three weeks to have my license. I couldn’t wait that long.
I drove back to Tennessee with my tail further between my legs and wondered if things would ever change at all. Life without hope is the worst kind of drudgery. I couldn’t point to one area of life that held promise. If you want to know how the class clown…the heretofore funniest guy in the room who never stopped making people laugh, can become an attack dog who prefers confrontation and harsh words over funny one-liners…take away his hope.
That was where I was when I got back to town in August.
The only constant I could point to during this prolonged period of loss (other than my stubborn love for my daughter) was school work. I had taken advantage of my destitute position and applied for grants and aid and returned to college to finish my degree. My alma mater has become the third largest online university and that afforded me the chance to complete what I’d started in 1984, and at the same school I’d attended without moving to Lynchburg Va.
So in August 2009 I began my studies again. I plodded along for two years while searching for a plan and a vision. Nothing worked and dreams continued to die while still in infancy. I worked odd jobs and lived in an embarrassing fashion. I studied at Panera or FedEx office or by flashlight in my car. I would love to tell you I made straight A’s but that would be a lie. Given the circumstances it was very hard to put forth my best effort day in and day out, but I did B / C work and I got through.
This past August 17 (2011) I was in FedEx Office uploading the last of my summer assignments and decided to run a Degree Completion Audit. (This tells you what you need to graduate, how much of it you have completed and what remains)
This was the day Hope arrived.
I need 120 hours to graduate. As of August 17 I had 100 with two semesters coming up. At 12 hours each, that meant I would graduate in May 2012.
I’ve recounted this story before so I won’t go into detail, except to say I had to run outside so nobody would see me crying.
What is it about a degree Audit that would drive a fairly large man to tears?
Prior to this moment, it had been four years since hope had begun to diminish. It had been three years since it vanished altogether. Nothing was working. No plans would succeed. Nothing. Take away someone house and it hurts. Take away someone’s job and it hurts. Take away someone’s family and it hurts. Take away someone’s dreams and it hurts.
Take it all away and it will kill your soul.
That’s where the night of August 17 found me and where God threw me a lifeline.
Looking at that paper and realizing that for the first time in three years one thing I’d attempted was going to work was a steroid shot for me. Seeing a real, tangible, valuable goal in front of me and being able to see it and touch it for the first time in three years was like a heart transplant.
Hope is an amazing thing. If you have it…even a tiny bit…everything looks better than if you don’t.
Instantly I was transforming. I was softening and dropping my guard. Within a week I had decided to return to carpentry and doors flew open. I’ve been able to earn consistent (if not huge) money since September. I leave the job each day with more of that tangible accomplishment in my soul. It’s a job that gives you something to see every day that tells the world you just worked a good day’s work. Pride returned.
Last week I moved into a beautiful 2 bedroom condo…this weekend I spent with my daughter...overnight. I cooked her breakfast and tucked her in. We went to church together for the first time in almost three years. I felt like a dad again.
Hope does this. Hope has made me start being funny again. Hope has made me let go of being angry for angers sake. Hope has made me a nice guy again. Hope returned when I saw something actually working out. I instantly transformed from a survivor to an achiever. There is a lot to be said for that.
If you know someone struggling with defeat after defeat. Pray for hope. Pray for some sort of success to come their way. People don’t really want hand outs. People don’t really want government-created pseudo jobs that really aren’t careers or life’s work. They want hope. They want something to hold to that says “I can do this and this will open doors for me”. I always wondered what the guy who chiseled Lincoln’s nose on Mt. Rushmore would have done once that project was over had WWII not happened. Chisel another nose on another mountain?
Hope is everything when you are trying to build…or rebuild. Without it we are sad, miserable, scary people. We are hopeless. With it we love, laugh, smile, joke, forgive and ask forgiveness.
Pray for hope.