The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God's Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives


A Stirring Invitation to Accept God's Unfathomable Tenderness

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The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God's Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives

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A Stirring Invitation to Accept God's Unfathomable Tenderness

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Brennan Manning's thesis is simple. He believes that all changes in the quality of our lives must grow out of a change in our vision of reality. By developing our relationship with God and recognizing God as the heart of tenderness, we can develop a spiritual life that releases us from the narrow, fretful concerns that misshape most of our days. This affirmative book possesses a winning conversational tone.
Philip Gulley
“For every thirsty pilgrim who has wandered life’s desert seeking an oasis of grace, your search is over.”
Crystal Lewis
“An extraordinarily vivid picture of the love of God...”
John Ortberg
“This is the demanding, unyielding, impatient tenderness of God that will ... give your heart new life.”
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
“A passionate, luminously articulate challenge to Christians to move beyond fashionable idolatries and become authentic followers of Jesus...”
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
“A passionate, luminously articulate challenge to Christians to move beyond fashionable idolatries and become authentic followers of Jesus...”
Publishers Weekly
This testament to God's tenderness is a modern-day epistle to churches, though its core message is sometimes obscured by the author's personal issues with the institution. Manning, a retreat leader and author who married after leaving a religious community in which he had been a priest, is openly critical of churches and leaders that have failed to reflect and transmit the tenderness of God. Because of this, his words can be harsh, perhaps by prophetic necessity, but this tone sometimes detracts from the tenderness of which he speaks. Manning came to write on the subject when, after an extended time of silence spent in the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania, he heard a single phrase in his head and heart: "Live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness." In elaborating on this inner directive, he draws on a wide range of sources, including Daniel Berrigan, Ken Keyes and C.S. Lewis, giving his work an ecumenical flavor. He is most effective, however, when he uses his own life as illustration, relating how alcoholism made him keenly aware of God's tenderness and mercy. Manning writes for the individual and the institution, and both will benefit from listening to his words. Especially those who long to hear more about divine mercy from the pulpit and see it reflected in their leaders and institutions will welcome his brief treatise. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The author of ten books, including The Ragamuffin Gospel, Manning examines the transformative possibilities of sin and pain and how they compel us through suffering to find our way to spiritual maturity and ultimately to the quality Manning calls tenderness. This book, like Daniel Lanahan's recent When God Says No: The Mystery of Suffering and the Dynamics of Prayer, is well suited to the present moment and should find a broad and appreciative audience. For most collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060724467
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/29/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 237,352
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Brennan Manning is the bestselling author of many books, including The Ragamuffin Gospel and Ruthless Trust. He leads spiritual retreats in the United States and Europe for people of all ages and backgrounds.

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First Chapter

The Wisdom of Tenderness
What Happens When God's Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives

Chapter One

The Wisdom of Tenderness

Every change in the quality of a person's life must grow out of a change in his or her vision of reality. The Christian accepts the Word of Jesus Christ as the master vision of reality. Jesus' Person and teaching shape our understanding of God, the world, other people, and ourselves. This shaping exercises a decisive influence on the Christian's lifestyle.

A simple example: If we accept the revelation of Jesus that God is Father, that there's "one God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in all" (Eph. 4:6), then we're making a statement, not just about God but about ourselves. To say, "Abba, Father," in the Spirit is to say that we're children. It's to acknowledge that other people are our brothers and sisters in the human family. This understanding affects our lifestyle because it implies acceptance of others and responsibility for others: we do our best to give family members whatever they need. This familial relationship is to be taken literally, for it's a thing of flesh and blood in the bond of the Holy Spirit. True Christian community is the realization and actualization of "Our Father, who art in heaven."

Classic author A.W. Tozer sees the link between our perception of God and our understanding of humankind as crucial. He writes,

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.... Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, "What comes into your mind when you think about God?" we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the church will stand tomorrow.

Formed and informed by the Word of God, saints and mystics down the centuries have chanted the same refrain: God can't not love us. Without the eternal, interior generation of love, God would cease to be God. When we're steeped in selfishness, indifferent to the poor, tormented by lust, wallowing in self-pity, and flattened by depression, God's love continues to carry us. According to John, the essence of our faith lies in trusting that love of God (I John 4:16). Salvation happens the moment we accept without reservation what G.K. Chesterton called the "furious" love of God. Jesus' life of preaching, teaching, and healing and his death/resurrection are the supreme manifestations of a love that defies human comprehension.

Whether your childhood was idyllic or abusive, the challenge stands: Do you accept yourself as one utterly loved by God? The human love experienced in a happy home, though rich and rewarding, isn't even remotely comparable to divine love, and the absolute deprivation of human affection isn't an insuperable impediment to "being seized by the power of a great affection." Both those who have been loved well and those who have known nothing but contempt in the home need stubborn grace to make the leap of faith into the arms of love. Thus, no one is exempt.

But what of God's justice? The Scriptures state unequivocally that God is both lover and judge. Are not the two diametrically opposed? Should not -- must not -- one have priority over the other? Thérèse of Lisieux, recognized as a Doctor of the church because of the truth and depth of her analysis of the spiritual life, penned the following words: "I hope as much from the justice of God as from his mercy. It is because he is just that he is compassionate and full of tenderness." She continues, "for he knows our weakness. He remembers that we are dust. As a father has tenderness for his children, so the Lord has compassion for us. I do not understand souls who have fear of so tender a Friend.... What joy to think that God is just, that he takes account of our weaknesses, that he knows perfectly the fragility of our nature."

The genesis of this book can be traced to an extended period of silence and solitude that I spent in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania. My retreat began fitfully with several days of physical fatigue, spiritual dryness, boredom, and vague feelings of existential guilt over the prospect that I might be using the ministry to satiate my appetite for approval and recognition. In the late afternoon on the fifth day, I dragged myself to chapel to endure yet another hour of the Great Stare: meditation. As I settled into a straight-back chair, the carillon bells tolled four times.

Thirteen hours later, I rose from the chair and walked out of the chapel with one phrase ringing in my head and pounding in my heart: "Live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness."

Once again, every change in the quality of a Christian's life must grow out of a change in his or her vision of reality. Thirteen hours of silence and solitude radically altered my perception of everything.

If I'm graced to understand with my head and to accept with my heart that the essence of the divine nature is compassion, then God is best defined by the heart of tenderness. Daily the universal church cries out in morning praise, "In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and to guide our feet on the road to peace" (Luke 1:78-79, italics mine).

Relating to God as the heart of tenderness identifies the Holy Spirit as the bond of tenderness between the Father and the Son. Thus, the gentle Spirit dwelling within us is the deepest expression of tenderness -- indeed, the Spirit-filled Christian is one whose heart is overflowing with tenderness -- and...

The Wisdom of Tenderness
What Happens When God's Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives
. Copyright © by Brennan Manning. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Life changing freedom setting must have

    Brennan Manning is our favorit author and we are reading everything we can find by him. He makes spirituality relavant in a freeing way. Shaking off all the religous stereotypes. I started with the Raggamuffin Gospel and ended with this with two more sitting and waiting for me to complete the one I am on. My husband and I read this to each other on Saturday mornings as a devotional.<BR/><BR/>A pleasant read. I do suggest you start with the Raggamuffin Gospel. I keep buying it and my husband keeps giving it away. He wants to share it with everyone he meets.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 26, 2011

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