Contacting Craig

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Need your help!

Hey guys...
After a lot of prayer and thought I am excited to announce that this year I am expanding the ministry GREATLY!
Some of my goals include
Return of the daily podcast "Dad Stuff"
Expand the radio show to two evenings a week AND a daytime show so that our European friends (And there are many!) can have the opportunity to call in
Revise and re-release my book "Sometimes Daddies Cry"
Develop and offer "Total Dad" Life Coaching services for divorced / separated dads
Expand materials to include DVD teachings and print materials for study groups
Develop a nation-wide network of churches and mens groups who meet each week during the broadcast time for the show and become a live audience for the show.
More to follow!

Here's how you can help!
Click the link and find the Indigogo fundraiser site. Give if you can. Tell LOTS of others about the fundraiser!

Indigogo Fundraiser Please help support this ministry!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Breaking the Grip of Loneliness

Matthew 25:36 says "I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me."

Jesus was delivering His "Sheep and Goats" sermon. The one where he gives a glimpse into what's really important in the heart of God.
In this sermon he gives the well known example of how those who are really His followers clothed Him in His nakedness, cared for Him in His illness, etc.
When the astounded believers (the obedient ones referred to as sheep) asked Him when it was they did this, He replied, "Because you have done this to the lowliest of my followers, you have done it to me as well."
Last week I was thinking about this verse and the part where Jesus said "I was in prison and you visited me..." stayed in my heart. Why?
I found it interesting that Jesus didn't say; "I was in prison and you paid my bail and got me out" or "I was in prison and you hired a great lawyer for me and helped me win my case."
That's what I would want someone to do for me if I were in prison. But Jesus didn't commend them for those things. He commended them for visiting Him.
If you know much about the context from which Jesus taught this parable you would know that prison in those days was a horrible thing. In many cases they were subterranean and the dampness and disease killed more prisoners than the beatings and punishment. The refuse of the town was dumped down drains in the street and many times the prisons were built in direct position to catch the disgusting waste. Sunlight rarely made it's way into these places. Food and water was an afterthought. You were in chains 24 hours a day. Your bathroom was where you stood.
It was this imagery that Jesus used when He commended His true followers for coming to see Him.
They cast aside whatever personal revulsion they held for the situation their friend was in, and they joined Him in His loneliness and suffering.
They came to see Him. They sat by His side as His chains clanked and they endured the stench, the health risk, the embarrassment of descending into one of these horrible places. They held Him as He wept, they dressed His wounds. They kept Him from going crazy with despair. They intrinsically grasped that with all the battles their friend was facing while incarcerated, the health issues, the shame, the beatings, the malnutrition...they knew the loneliness would be His biggest enemy. Maybe He could endure all the ignoble onslaught of the Roman prison, as long as He didn't have to battle loneliness too. They knew that if they could keep His spirits up, then He would have something of a chance to escape this inhumane treatment. But left to suffer this torture alone, He would likely give up and succumb to the physical abuse.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Proverbs tells us this. Visiting a jailed Christ, in the form of one of His precious followers, in His hour of deep suffering, (Which Christ presented in the metaphor of a prison) gives life to His Spirit. Maybe we can't undo the damage done by the world. Maybe there is a pain we can't ease or a problem we can't fix. But we can all stave off the loneliness that steals our ability to resist.
Being homeless for four years taught me much about the value of a true loneliness-busting friend. Sadly, I learned this value not from seeing it in action, but from the gaping hole it's absence left in my heart. I walked this road alone. And I assure you, the four years I spent homeless were the loneliest in my entire life. I had friends from back home who called and kept me company as best they could, but I had virtually no one locally who stayed in touch, cheered my heart, lifted my spirits, or offered encouragement. I missed my daughter, I missed my home and my life. I missed feeling like a man. And I suffered this alone, because there are precious few people in this world who have ever really grasped loneliness and who understood how much it can take from your ability to fight.
Recently new battles have emerged. And again I am in my foxhole by myself.
When Goliath challenged the Army of Israel, he threw down a unique challenge. He said "Let's not bother with our entire armies doing just send your best man against me and we'll settle it for everyone." Goliath tried to separate the warriors from their source of strength...each other. Except for a wise young kid named David, it might have worked.
I see this attitude prevalent in the Church. Put on a happy face, pretend everything is great, quote the pastor's latest sermon, act as if it actually helps. Smile. Lie to everyone about how everything is going to be okay. Question everything deep in your heart but don't dare tell anyone you have questions. Hide your disappointment in the Faith you desperately want to believe in. Go it alone.
Jesus knew better. He surrounded Himself with those closest to Him as the hour of His trial approached. He taught in a parable that one of the greatest acts of service and love for Him was to sit by the side of one of His followers...those folks we casually call "brothers and sisters in Christ" and take away their loneliness.
It was good enough for Jesus.
Just not good enough for those who claim His name.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Christ-likeness defined...

Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that we are to let the mindset that was alive in Jesus also be our mindset. We are supposed to not simply emulate Christ, but we are to think like He did.
Life would have me believe we don’t do this very well.
The fact is that while I have experienced Jesus internally, spiritually, even emotionally, I have never had a second person, two-people-hanging-out-together sort of experience. The last people to have done that were the Apostles. In fact, having a physical connection to Jesus was what specifically made one an Apostle and it’s why the apostolic age ended around 90 A.D.
So all I have to go on, as far as what Jesus would be like and how He would react to my life and my situation, is what I read of Him in the Bible, what I’ve experienced in my heart…and how His followers react to me and amongst each other.
And to be honest, if I had to come to some sort of character assessment of Jesus, based on His followers, I’d be badly disappointed.
If I judged Jesus based on His followers I might surmise…
  • Jesus would prefer to throw money at a given situation than to actually get involved with the broken people that situation produces. He'd rather stuff cash in your hand and send you on your way, than hold your hand through your dark lonely night.
  • Jesus really finds Christians who still struggle with sin and failure very annoying and He avoids them at all costs, even going so far as to rebuke them heartily for their miserable lack of faith that produces such failure.
  • Jesus only really likes people who have it all together, and He tries hard to like people who don’t but, who refuse to admit they don’t. Jesus is big on pretenders. 
  • Jesus likes charlatans and heretics who have big, successful ministries because Jesus loves successful people even if their success is tainted by their horrifying actions on a personal level. He looks the other way at their porn-of-Solomon books and their cruel cult-like management of their churches because,  Hey…they’re successful and isn't that a better reflection on Jesus than some broken, people-loving little pastor who toils away in anonymity but deeply loves his people because he deeply knows his people? 
  • Forget all that stuff about Jesus being poor and homeless and so broke he had to be buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus was a great business man and he expects his shepherds to be rich, successful businessmen as well. I mean who’d follow Jesus if it meant leaving everything behind? That whole “Rich young ruler” thing was only for the 3 ½ years Jesus was on the earth.
  • Everything you need to be a huge success is right there in the Bible. If you aren’t successful there is a faith problem. If you aren’t successful you don’t work hard enough. If you aren’t successful, you need to repent of something, and you need to be very quiet and stay out of sight until you are successful.
  • If your life is broken and damaged and it hurts being you…suck it up big boy! Your testimony of barely being able to hang on as your life disintegrates is very damaging to the “cause of Christ”. Why should someone come to Jesus if it means they’ll have hardship and struggles like you do, you loser? How can we “sell Jesus” in the marketplace if they see people like you? So what if most people are like you! They don’t really want to be…they really want to be like US, and with you around, they might not see what it is they have to shoot for.
  • Praise your way out of it! Raise your hands as if you’re happy…or at least remember what it felt like to be happy. Let your eyes gloss over and sway to the beat…the same, repetitive, uninspired, unimaginative, beat that the rest of us sway to every single Sunday. Except for Christmas…when we sing Christmas songs.
  • Forget those things which are behind! Get over it! Forget that house you lost and those pets and that marriage and that child who died suddenly and the life you once had where you were happy. Forget the failed business and the broken dreams and the feeling like life is racing by you and can’t keep up with it. Let go of the brokenness of disappointment. Nobody guaranteed your happiness. And your sorrow is messing with MY happiness. Stop getting your tears all over my great life!
  • Jesus did the whole “Friend of Sinners Thing” already. Stop sinning. Stop being fat and stop drinking to ease your pain and stop whining about how you can’t quit the bottle. Stop crying yourself to sleep at night over your stupid losses and hurts. You think it’s all about you? Stop saying how you’re trapped by something and you can’t get free. Of course you can! You have a pathetic faith and you don’t know enough scripture. Just quote verses at your heartaches and they will be gone. If that doesn’t work, sing some of those cool praise songs at them. If that doesn’t work,  it’s a faith issue. Ye of little faith! Jesus is tired of you and your dirty clothes. Jesus prefers smiling faces when He comes to our church. Jesus doesn’t want to hear how lonely you are and how isolated your failure has made you feel. He doesn’t care that you are alone in a strange town and you don’t know many people.
  • Pray more about your problems. Pray silently too so we can’t hear you as you struggle. Keep it between you and God, comprende?  Because your “negative confession” is really very boring, dude. We’ve all grown tired of your sadness. Other people have problems too pal. Heck I’m down to my last 5 million. Then what?? My car is almost 3 years old and it has almost 40,000 miles on it. It’s practically a Conestoga wagon. Quit your bitchin’ and be thankful. And keep your grief to yourself.
  • Being your friend wouldn't really make me any better as a person…so my time with you is very limited. Actually it’s nonexistent but I’ll keep pretending that “we need to get together, Bro!” because I’m supposed to say that, because everyone here says that.  Also, it keeps you hanging on like a stray puppy, and I like the thought that you think so much of me that you really want to hang with me even though I find you detestable and even though I’ll never really develop a friendship with you. I can’t…you can’t advance my life, my ministry, my record deal, my book sales, or my standing in the community. Also, you don’t play in anyone’s famous band, you have no hit songs, you don’t play for one of the pro sports teams here, you aren’t in government, you don’t host a money show where you call people stupid, and you aren’t on Fox News Channel. If you were…I’d give you a ton of latitude, I’d grieve when you grieve, I’d laugh at your funny stories, I’d tell everyone how great a speaker you are, even if you are actually kind of boring. No…you’re really and truly a nobody and I have no time for nobodies because hey…this is ministry and nobodies can’t help me advance my the kingdom. Come see me when you’ve actually achieved something that puts you in a place of power and can help me somehow. Then we’ll have that coffee you keep talking about.
  • Jesus doesn’t like you. Face it. Nobody said He liked everyone. I don’t like you either…not really. It’s okay. It’s not ungodly to dislike someone. It’s when you fail to hide it…that’s when it becomes sin. You can’t be there for everyone and being there for people is hard work…it takes a lot out of you. So the thing to do is to be there only for those you like. If you don’t like them, then at least be there for the ones who bring something to the table. Sure they drive you nuts with their OCD obsessions about obscure books they’ve been reading and songs they just wrote or their latest ten page tome on how to be an artist. But they are connected.  They know really cool people and that’s one of the perks. Eventually, I’ll develop a relationship with the really cool people losers like you somehow know and then I’ll drop you altogether. But until then, I have to endure your boring stories because you have cool friends.
  • Jesus defined friendship differently than we do. I mean, cmon! He hung out with pathetic street urchins. I hate those people. I mean I love them…because Jesus died for them and all. But I hate being around them. They bore me. They have no cool stories about hanging out with rock stars or politicians or famous preachers. Knowing them can’t advance my place in life in the least bit and time is short. Too short to hang with losers.
  • Jesus wept because of sin. He saw what sin was doing to the world. Never mind that crap about how when He wept, the people stopped their own weeping and were shocked at how much He loved Lazarus. Never mind that THAT was what they felt in his weeping. No…Jesus wasn’t saddened at all about Lazarus’ death. He was weeping for reasons common folk like you can’t grasp. Your hope that maybe Jesus understood how much it hurts being human…that’s your bad theology showing itself again. Jesus was the Ultimate Overcomer, Dude! When will you learn this and have the glorious, blessed life we all have? When that happens...get back to us.

I’m obviously reassessing some things lately. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Way I Wish Things Could Be...

The way I wish things could be…

I am 49. This year I turn 50. When I was little, 50 was old. Now it seems like it’s barely the place to begin. I wish I wasn’t trying to make a new beginning at 50. Because it’s very hard. People don’t want to hire you because you are “too experienced” but the truth is that they know that at this age you won’t ever vest in any pension or 401K or stock plan so you are…in their eyes…a mercenary. You are working for a paycheck and as soon as something better comes along that pays more you will jump.
Actuarial tables tell employers that they make the most profits when they hire someone under 29. Most 401K plans take ten years to vest so you aren’t going to jump ship for that first ten years so it makes sense for them to invest in you and train you and move you up the ladder. The odds are that you’ll stay.
But not for guys my age. We aren’t vesting anywhere and they know it. I wish it wasn’t like that.
I wish my book had sold well this Christmas. I can honestly say that nobody who bought it was disappointed…in fact virtually everyone who read it was very deeply touched by it. But financially it was a bust. Another bust. I had hoped that my “Community of believers” here in town would have gotten behind it, but actually they never even heard about it. This baffles me. It shouldn’t I guess. I’m not famous, I don’t host a TV show and a radio show (well actually I do…sort of) and I didn’t write any of the Veggie-Tales. (Thankfully that has yet to be a part of my resume) so buying my book wouldn’t promote the general cause of the Faith, the way buying those guys books apparently did. But then again, neither of them will be sitting next to those folks in church ever again.  But it would have made a huge difference in my life personally and now I am picking up more pieces. Besides the practical aspects…they are sort of family to me. At least they are supposed to be. And a big show of support would have made me feel good about these last 4 years.
And I could really use to feel good about something.
Two weeks from today will mark 6 years since I lost my home. 6 Years since I packed up a moving truck and loaded the dogs and the cat and my belongings and said goodbye to only the second home I ever owned and the only one I truly loved owning. I have never stopped thinking about that house. And that yard and those 5 acres and that big vegetable garden. I never stopped thinking about the pony and the smell of hay in the morning. Or walking at night under the winter sky and seeing the Milky Way stretching out from me to Heaven’s door. I wish I still lived there.
I was in the park today, trying to get some fresh air into my lungs to fight this terrible flu and a couple came walking by with a beautiful black and white Springer Spaniel. It made me cry. I closed my eyes and for a moment I could feel our beloved Bonnie’s chin on my lap like she used to do. I miss our dogs and our cat. I wish I still had them. My daughter wishes we still had them too.
I wish my daughter was always with me. I say I miss her terribly because there just isn't any other way to say it. If there was another way to express how broken my heart is almost every single day without her I would. But I can’t think of any.
I wish I wasn’t divorced. I don’t wish I was still married to my ex wife. I just wish I was married. I wish I mattered deeply to someone and there was someone there to make it feel like I wasn’t facing every crisis alone. Someone who would walk with me through the dark days and never complain because they care. Not someone to tell me to “Trust God” “Pray About It” or “Keep your head up”.  People don’t have time for broken dreams anymore…or for broken dreamers. People…especially those who have been successful and who purposefully stay around only successful people have no tolerance for those who have fallen and failed.
I wish I could talk to my dad. I wish he'd seen my play hockey in college...or seen me graduate. I wish the losses would stop piling up. I feel like saying I wish I was home...but I don't know where that is anymore.
I wish I had a wife. A partner. Someone to bow my chest up and protect and to drop my guard around and cry. I never had that even when I was married. But I wish I had. If I had never been divorced, I would never have missed a day tucking in my daughter, or listening to her prayers, or helping her with homework. Instead I have missed big chunks of time with the most important person in the world to me. Time I can’t get back. But I wish I could. God how I wish I could.
I wish I was someone’s hero. I wish I was their hero because I was actually being heroic and not because I am their hero positionally.
I’m nobody’s hero. I’m 49, and another of my dreams has fizzled out and I’m too tired to dream again. I worked every job that came my way while I finished school and wrote that book. I installed a single window for $150, pressure washed a driveway for $200 and built a deck for $3500. If it paid I did it and in the end it hasn’t paid nearly enough. People are afraid to spend money right now and I am afraid to keep going in this job.
I wish I had an option. Right now I don’t.
I wish I was an adult in a different day and time. I wish it was the early 70’s…like when I was a boy. Or the early 80’s…like when I first went to college.

I wish my daughter could have grown up under Reagan and not…this.
I wish I had the strength to dream myself one more dream and get behind it. But I don’t think I do. I think that somehow this weekend…after assessing the dismal and disappointing failure of yet another dream that I had wanted desperately to succeed…I think I’m done hoping for greatness. I wish I could be great. But I think I’ll have to settle for survival. And I hate that. Because survival is what homeless people do.
And after all this time…after five years and all I’ve accomplished…nothing that I thought might happen has happened. And for the first time since I lost everything…I wish I hadn’t. I just wish I had it back. I wish my daughter was 9, and it was Sunday night in Thompson’s Station and I was tucking her in and taking her to school tomorrow and we were saying bedtime prayers and reading a book.
I can’t ever go back there again…
But I wish I could.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


 I was thinking about the Apostle Paul this morning. I was on my morning walk and, as usual, it took me into a time of serious contemplation. I was thinking about my life and about my current situation and about the last 4 years and all that has come and gone. So many sunrises and sunsets and so many seasons and so much time.
I usually use this time for prayer and introspection and today was no different. I was praying and walking and my heart grew heavy with the thoughts of how I have dishonored God so many times by refusing to trust Him to resolve issues and fix things and the stubborn insistence on not waiting for answers to prayer. To be honest, this time of grieving wound up with me feeling repentant over really not trusting God much at all.
I know the promises and the character of God all right. I know He is good, and Holy, and omniscient and Omnipotent, and Immutable etc. I have built whole teachings and sermons around His amazing love and grace and mercy and how breathtakingly wild He is about us. It’s not that I don’t believe these things to be true about God…it’s just that I don’t believe them to be true about how He feels about me. …and only me.
I believe He has shown unfathomable grace to heathens and murderers and whores and drunks and scallywags. I believe He loved David and called him “A man after my own heart” even after he lusted, committed adultery, then murdered to cover his adultery. I believe he was so quick to forgive Peter for his obscenity-laced tirade of denial that he never even asked for an apology, nor is one recorded in scripture. I believe He loved the worst of sinners and the best of saints. I believe His one and only concern is our return to Him when we are estranged.  
“We will certainly die and be like water poured out on the ground, which can't be recovered. But God would not take away a life; He would devise plans so that the one banished from Him does not remain banished." II Samuel 14:14
I believe He adds no sorrow to our sin but instead uses all His means to bring us back to where He can bless us again. I just don’t believe it about me.
I sort of understand why. I won’t go into it here in depth but I have a very hard time processing love of any kind. Other than the love of my daughter, I distrust love in almost every form. People are fickle and they can withdraw their love for no reason other than they simply wish to, or they don’t find you lovely anymore.
God never does this…I get it. But somehow I don’t really get it. Not all the time.
And for years I have beaten myself up over my lack of faith in His love and grace and my hesitant, reluctant attempts to embrace this love of His.
I was walking and thinking about this and wondering how it is that God built me with such gifts of communication and yet I never listen to my own message. I wondered how one of the gifts most prevalent in my life is the ability to convince those far from God that He adores them and longs for them and misses them and that it’s safe to return to Him…and yet I can’t let my guard all the way down and accept this truth myself.
For some reason I started thinking about two great men. One, an apostle and father of the Church and the other a modern day prophet in rags with a message of grace as sweet as it’s ever been told and who has touched the lives of a generation of broken, Grace-starved Christians…myself included.
The first man is Paul. I was thinking about Paul this morning. I was beating myself up pretty good about not accepting the gift of grace as completely as I should, all the while preaching it with all my might to others. I felt quite the hypocrite. I felt angry with myself and fraudulent and disqualified to carry any message at all.
Somehow I thought about Paul. I thought about the passion of his writings. I thought about the topics he dealt with. I thought about that thorn in the flesh about which he wrote so openly about but never disclosed the identity of.
I was raised to believe it was a physical ailment. Perhaps a problem with his eyes or a limp or a wound that would not heal properly from all the beatings he took. But I began to think it might be emotional and spiritual and so this afternoon I researched the words in the passage (II Cor 12:7-10) In reality there is nothing in the Greek or Aramaic that would render this an actual physical malady. This was emotional and spiritual.
I started to wonder what it was. Was Paul haunted at night by the image of a dying Stephen as the rocks smashed against his skull and Paul gave approval? Did he wake up in a cold sweat most nights with the screams of those he had dragged out of their homes and tortured for the Faith ringing in his ears? Did he weep over the broken friendship with Jon Mark?  Did he miss his wife and toss and turn sometimes in fevered longing for her body in the night? Was this why he wrote to younger men “It is better to marry than to burn with passion”?  Did Paul battle with a drive for perfection (as easily recognized in his writings) that drove him to constantly feel unworthy, underachieving and maybe a little insecure? Is this why he would go on and on sometimes as he taught…preaching one night for so long that a man drifted off to sleep and fell out of a window? Was he worried he might miss something, and thereby leave his teaching somehow lacking and this drove him to long-winded marathons?
Did he ever wonder…maybe just once in a while…if “The Way” was really the way? Not all the time…not even much of the time…but once in a while. Did he doubt?
I saw Paul in a different light. I grasped Romans 7 in a deeper way. I heard a slight twinge of desperation in “I have run the race...” I saw a pained look of regret in “But forgetting those things which are behind…I choose to press on to the high calling of God in Jesus Christ”. Were they all good accomplishments he was forgetting and leaving behind? Or were there painful memories in there? Was he occasionally worried that his best wasn’t enough and God might not be as forgiving as he hoped he would be when the day of reckoning came and he stood before Jesus and in the background saw the faces of those whose deaths he had caused by his war on the Church in the days before his salvation. I guess what I really wondered is “Was Paul human?”
Humans find grace difficult to grasp and even more difficult to accept. We grew up believing there was no free lunch and dawg-gonnit we aren’t going to stop now.
I thought of my recent interaction with a high school friend who I hadn’t seen in probably 25 years. I had no idea about her life or her situation or anything. We reconnected via social media and eventually, over time I learned where she was in her faith.
Life had taken a few good swings at her and she had been beaten a bit. Like almost all of us, she saw her failings as terminal illnesses where God was concerned. “Surely He didn’t want me around after this.”  Over the past several months, very quietly and gently behind the scenes I have been reminding her consistently and repeatedly about the grace of God. About His fabulous love for her. About His longing for her to just come near to Him and to let Him come to her. About how He hasn’t cared about her failings since Jesus paid the debt for them on the Cross.
This has been my gift for years and it is something I am good at and enjoy. I love to relate the loving grace of God to those who doubt it.
I just wish I could convince myself.
Where my friend gulped it down and let it soothe her raging heart almost instantly…I battle it. I choke on the message I loudly proclaim and swallow it like bitter herbs…a tiny taste here and there.
I wondered this morning, as I walked, if Paul was like this. Did this drive his passion and fuel his obsession with perfectly defending the faith? Was there ever a night when he secretly lay awake until the deep hours of the night wondering if--after all this-- God really was wild about him?
I know I have. I know I have preached sermons about grace. I have written page after page about the magnificent depth of the love of God. I have proclaimed His love and grace and his wild passionate pursuit of his beloved with as much eloquence and imagery as anyone has. I am good at this. But for me…I doubt it just a little.
I realized this morning that it is this doubt that drives me to proclaim it in the first place. I must surely believe it because I still offer it as life changing truth to anyone who needs it. And perhaps with each word I speak to someone else…it becomes just a tiny bit more true in my own heart as well.
I wondered this morning if this is how Paul was. When he taught of grace, did the words wash over him and soothe a raging fire that no one knew existed? Did he feed the hungry souls of thousands of lost and longing sinners and in each enraptured face, see himself looking back. Did some still small voice whisper “You see Paul…if it’s true for them it must be true for you”?
I am convinced this is the case. I could go into some scriptural references to support this…and I might in the future…but my gift is that of painting a picture and letting you think about it a bit.
After considering Paul and his struggle with accepting grace I thought immediately of another man. A man I love dearly and admire and look to as a literary hero and whose mantle I have openly asked for as his life ebbs.
Last March, during a brief ten-day break between semesters, I read the autobiography of Brennan Manning. A book called “All is Grace”. It cut a path through my soul that still remains open. Those of you who know me or read this blog frequently know my love and admiration for this man. Brennan’s masterpiece “The Ragamuffin Gospel” literally saved my life…if not physically then most assuredly spiritually. I have read everything he has written before and since that wonderful book. But it was reading his memoir where I saw what Grace is and can be if we let it. And I saw what it is not if we don’t.
Brennan lived his entire life with one message…Grace. His ministry could be summed up in this statement: “This man is better at convincing people that God loves them than almost anyone who ever walked the earth”.  I always knew this to be true about Brennan. But until I read his story, I didn’t know how much he struggled with his own medicine.
Brennan was an alcoholic. He made no attempt at hiding this fact and it was always the centerpiece of his teaching ministry, at least over the last 40 years. He openly recounted how he battled the bottle since childhood and how he stayed for an extended time at Hazeldon and how the crash of his alcoholic self is what brought about his ministry of grace to begin with.  What Brennan never revealed until this book came out last year was that in truth, he had never really beaten the bottle. Other than a seven year period where he was sober, he was actually a raging drunk. The last years of his ministry especially were masked in the pretending of an alcoholic. This was a man who could teach with eloquence and passion about a God who loved us to a conference center full of desperate believers, thirsty for the flood of grace he was unleashing. He could do this from Thursday through Sunday, almost every week of the year. Then on Sunday night he would fly out, get a room by the airport, buy a bottle of cheap gin and get blind-drunk. So drunk he missed his mothers funeral because he was passed out in an airport motel and his family couldn’t reach him. So drunk it cost him his marriage. So drunk it cost him his health.
I wept openly and often as I read “All is Grace”. I wondered how a man could convince masses of folks that God adored them and wanted nothing more than to love them as they were and where they were…and yet he could not convince himself of this truth entirely.
I wondered how many times he looked in the mirror before catching a cab to a conference and saw a wretched drunk looking back at him and heard Satan whispering “You fraud!” in his ear. “How can you stand up and teach about Jesus…you’re a drunk”.  I wondered how many times he slurred a word or two and worried that the jig was up and he’d be exposed. Then I wept again thinking about what this must have done to his heart.
But after envisioning this broken man, filled with doubt and fear and pain and self-loathing…I saw him preaching his sermon of grace. I saw his typical wild-eyed passion as he told once again, the story of the relentless tenderness of Jesus. And I realized that Brennan’s failure was precisely why he was so great at proclaiming the grace of God. His passion was born of a desperate need for this message of his to be true for him too. Perhaps in each tear-filled face he spoke to, he saw himself. Perhaps each time he taught the message of grace, he was preaching it to himself as well. Perhaps his own failure and shortfall made him a compassionate, powerful, tireless expounder of the very grace he sought.
I saw myself in this. Maybe I am so good at explaining the love and grace of God because I so desperately need it to be true for me. Perhaps I can patiently and gently lead someone to a place of forgiveness and a place where they feel the love of God because I struggle so deeply with this myself. When I speak those words I am so wanting to believe them myself. And with each person who hears the message, maybe just a little bit more of it breaks through to me.
I learned a valuable lesson this morning. A lesson about living honestly. We all wear masks. We hide what we think is unattractive about us and we display, instead, that which we think people will want to see and that which might…just might…make them love us. We smile when we want to cry. We tell people everything is great because that is what our Christian friends demand we say, when in reality we are in immense pain and we need to be reminded just to breathe sometimes. We learn to withhold our doubts and fears because we are forced to be spiritual Supermen. We fear opening up because if we admit our faith is tattered and we have doubts, we are treated like spiritual bastards who neither know the Word nor trust it.
So we stop opening up and we cease to live honestly. We are surrounded by people exactly like us. People in great pain because life has us in a submission hold and we are forced to smile and pretend to ignore it when everything in us wants to cry “uncle” and break down in tears.
I lived as a homeless dad for almost four years and I can tell you that I received far more reproof for my frequent vocalization of my doubts and hurts than I ever did encouragement for my staunch refusal to quit.
My story was messy and ugly, but instead of being blessed and uplifted, most of the time I was rebuked for not having enough faith and for verbalizing my pain.
But honestly…who benefits from my story if I only tell the pretty parts? Who sees grace in action if I keep pretending that “Jesus is all I need” and other assorted bumper stickers.
Who has more in common with my story…the broken believer whose cheese keeps sliding off his cracker or the stately Saint who has never had a bad day in his life? Jesus said He had nowhere to lay His head…not “Come see this massive palace my Father has “blessed” me with! You could have one of these too if you believed enough!”
Paul bore scars, Brennan bore scars. I bear scars. If I hide them they merely reveal themselves as some sort of gruffness or distance. If I reveal them, I become a minister of grace to those like me…and in that ministry I receive the grace I am so thirsty for myself.
I am not what I should be, and I may never be all that I should be. But if I admit that instead of pretending otherwise I find the grace that makes who I am right now okay, and that gives me the hope to try to become who I am called to be.
Grace is seldom overwhelming…it is usually simply sufficient. Just enough for me to survive the day and not much more. If God gave me all the grace I’d ever need as soon as I came to him, what hope would I give to the people who struggle? Seeing someone who never struggles does nothing for me except drain me of the hope that someday I will struggle less. Watching someone struggle and question and doubt and fail and stumble and limp but never quit…that gives me hope. That is truth.
That is grace.