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What Voices are You Listening To?

Movies are littered with famous lines from Hollywood actors and actresses. Amber Tamblyn played Joan Girardi in Joan of Arcadia, a teenage girl who suddenly has a special connection with God. To disguise this ability, creator Barbara Hall had Joan come down with Lyme Disease to rationalize the voices in her head. Subsequently, as season one ends, doctors chalk up Joan’s hallucinations as side affects of Lyme Disease.

Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, Except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die, Genesis 3:1-3.

In season two, one of her brothers Kevin, played by Jason Ritter recalls Joan’ imaginary friend as a child. Forgetting this period of her life, as Joan puts two and two together, she realizes this still small voice was God the whole time. Unfortunately, talking to an invisible entity often results in being labeled as crazy by your peers. In A Few Good Men, Tom Cruise wanted to know the truth as do I so ask yourself, “what voices are you listening to?”

But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity. And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate, Genesis 3:4-6.

In the Garden of Eden, a snake begins to talk to Eve. Since Eve isn’t surprised by this talking snake, perhaps all animals could speak prior to the confusion at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. Regardless of how, the passages above are similar to thoughts rushing through your head daily. As Christians learn to take their thoughts captive, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, you can start to figure out what voices you should listen to and those you need to rebuke and flee from.

by Jay Mankus

A Different Perspective of Innocence

In the second season of Joan of Arcadia, Joan played by Amber Tamblyn is a junior in high school. At the beginning of episode 19 entitled Trial and Error, Joan is given an assignment by God. Appearing as a high school janitor, God encourages Joan to join Mock Trial. After an introductory conversation in class, Joan finds herself trying her boy friend Adam who is persuaded to role play Jack from Jack in the Beanstalk. As Joan volunteers to be the lead prosecutor, she finds herself going up against her best friend Grace played by Becky Wahlstrom.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God, 2 Corinthians 5:20.

A first century letter by the apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth provides a powerful illustration of innocence. Using a similar concept found in Psalm 103:12, Paul explains what Jesus’ death and resurrection means for those who enter into a personal relationship with God. Despite whatever imperfections you possess and transgressions that you’ve committed, God has a special mirror with an unique reflection. Instead of magnifying all of your flaws, Jesus replaces all believers in this mirror. Thus, anyone who trusts in the name of the Lord, Romans 10:9-11, will be saved and deemed innocent.

For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness], 2 Corinthians 5:21.

To avoid a spoiler alert on the outcome of Joan’s mock trial, God and Joan have a conversation afterward, riding the bus on her way home from school. Little did Joan know that this mock trial coincided with inappropriate actions taken by Adam played by Chris Marquette. As the worlds of real and make believe collide, Joan is caught completely surprised. As she comes to grips with what just happened, God consoles her with a different perspective of innocence. Taking the form of a wise old woman, God claims that “innocence is faith that there is goodness in the face of cruelty and pain.”

by Jay Mankus

Confronting Your Phobias

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in cooperation with the American Psychiatric Association outlines several of the most common phobias. If you were wondering how many actual phobias exist on earth, there is no official list provided by the DSM. Phobias typically fall within one of five general categories: fear of animals, the natural environment, getting hurt or sick, specific situations like driving or flying and a generic non-related category referred to as others. Clinicians and researchers make up names for new phobias as the need arises by using Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

My initial phobia was the fear of heights after visiting the Empire State Building as a children. After several bizarre encounters with snakes and spiders in high school, these two are now at the top of my list. Confronting poisonous snakes and spiders sounds illogical and stupid. Yet, at some point you have to face your fears by trusting in God. Like many things in life, this is easier said than done. Although I have confronted by fear of heights, I still feel uncomfortable looking out the window of a tall building. Nightmares often hinder one’s ability to confront your own phobias. Just like the scene in Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford complains, “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?”

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love, 1 John 4:18.

In an episode of Joan of Arcadia, Amber Tamblyn is asked by God to join the diving team. After a verbal beat down from his girl friend Grace about never taking am uncalculated risk in life, Joan’s brother Luke played by Michael Welch also tries out for the team. Like two fish out of water, neither have the talent to actually make the team, but will they conquer their phobias? This season 2 episode challenged me to examine my own life. Have I stopped taking risks in life? Am I afraid of what others may think instead of doing the right thing? In this age of the Cancel Culture, common sense must be balanced with conviction. However, if you want to confront and conquer your phobias, faith is essential to achieve success.

by Jay Mankus

I Can’t Believe This Is Happening to Me

Action scenes from modern movies can be far fetched, unrealistic and unimaginable.  However, every so often individuals experience something bizarre, emulating a page from a Hollywood script.  Perhaps someone sees an unidentified flying object, Bigfoot or has a supernatural encounter.  These events can produce mixed emotions, amazement and fear, making eyewitnesses cry out, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid, Mark 16:8.

During the first century, a group of women came face to face with an angel.  Initially, afraid and perplexed, they did not know how to respond.  Most likely, each was quietly thinking, “is this a dream?  Did I see what I thought I saw?  People are going to think I’m crazy if I tell anyone?”  Nonetheless, as this entity vanished, the instructions communicated made sense.  Thus, despite what others thought, these women obeyed the voice of God.

After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper, 1 Kings 19:12.

In the first season of Joan of Arcadia, Amber Tamblyn plays a junior in high school who begins to hear God speak to her.  At first, Joan Girardi thinks she’s losing it, yet each time she follows the Lord’s advice, things go well.  Despite this success, Joan never tells anyone of these encounters until the final episode.  Unfortunately, a bout with lyme disease causes doctors to suggests these interactions were simply hallucinations.  When others question your own faith, may the Holy Spirit give you the strength to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

R and R

From 1972 to 1983, the CBS television series MASH, short for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, brought the concept of R & R to prime time.  The phrase R & R is an abbreviation for Rest and Relaxation.  In MASH, doctors and nurses alike went to Tokyo to unwind from the stress of hour upon hour in an operating room.  Although Hollywood’s portrayal often included drunkenness and debauchery, everyone needs a little R & R monthly to recharge their internal batteries.

A season 1 episode of Joan of Arcadia entitled Recreation illustrates a similar point when God calls Joan played by Amber Tamblyn to through a party when her parents go away to celebrate their anniversary.  Initially skeptical, gossip spreads like wild fire at Arcadia High, causing a motley crew of students to show up.  Instead of closing in on a known drug operation, the police are called to Joan’s house to check on complaints called in by neighbors.  Subsequently, Joan’s party saves her father’s partner from an explosion at the stake out location.

The term recreation means to recreate.  After a 10 day vacation for the first time in 2 years, I feel like a new person, with a fresh mind set on making a difference in life again.  Part of me was caught in the grind of life, losing focus and desire.  However, as I start a new week, I am prepared to rise above the challenges I face.  Despite the hardships on the horizon, rest and relaxation has provided a rejuvenated soul.  When your own life becomes boring, stale or unfulfilled, make sure you seek a little R & R to break through the monotony in life.

Please share how R & R has helped you in the past.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Relocating Your Voice

Freedom of Speech isn’t what it use to be in America.  Today, fear of public opinion is silencing many, afraid their beliefs will lead to a feeding frenzy in the media, falling out of favor like a fading star.  Thus, individuals are forced to relocate their voice, finding other avenues to express how they really feel.

In an episode called State of Grace, the writers of Joan of Arcadia present a show focusing on a junior in high school who stutters.  Though intelligent, he is unable to communicate what is in his mind without severe stammering.  Subsequently, he turns to writing to voice his opinions.  Joan played by Amber Tamblyn encourages her new friend to relocate his voice from the debate team to writing for the school newspaper.

As graduates enter the work force this spring, its harder than ever to discover where you can maximize your God given talents.  Though money is an important factor, failure to apply your gifts in a position can stifle your joy.  Until you locate a place that values your assets, people will continue to search for an ideal match.  May you enjoy the journey as you relocate your voice to find your place in this world.

Please share how or who has influenced you to stand up for your belief in the comment section below.

by Jay Mankus

What’s God’s Handle?

Before the day’s of cell phones, internet and twitter, one of the most popular means of communication was CB radio.   The 1977 classic Smokey and the Bandit starring Bert Reynolds glorified this coded form of conversation.  In this film, Smokey referred to highway patrolmen, especially those setting speed traps for truckers.  Snowman was Cledus’ handle, played by Jerry Reed, who drove an 18 wheeler full of 400 cases of Coors Beer and Bandit was Reynold’s nickname, who teamed up with fellow drivers to escape the police and fulfill their dare with Big and Little Enos, driving 2 vehicles from Georgia to Texas just in time for a big celebration.

In the 2003 Pilot episode, Amber Tamblyn plays Joan Girardi, a high school junior trying to comprehend God’s handle on life during Season 1 of Joan of Arcadia.  Through a series of strange events, Joan’s not sure if she’s crazy, delirious or actually able to hear God speak.  Afraid to tell others she is communicating with God, Joan starts to subtly ask others their opinions about the Lord’s existence, trying to make sense of her bizarre encounters.  Finally, after obeying God’s first assignment slowly, she lays down to sleep, removing her headphones, hoping to discern God’s voice, waiting in silence, like an old CB radio with static.

The most difficult part of adjusting to God’s Handle, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, 1 Kings 19:12, as your volume is not always tuned up.  However, when you do make a conscience effort to hear God, sometimes you may want to turn the dial to another channel because you’re not happy with what you hear.  This is where Free will enters the equation.  If you are able to watch the first season of Joan of Arcadia, CBS and the writers of the show do a valiant job of illustrating moments of obedience and disobedience.  Although the nature of God is flawed by Joan Osborne’s song “What if God was one of us,” the premise challenges the audience to ponder, “what’s God’s handle?”

by Jay Mankus

Trusting God In The Dark

Amber Tamblyn plays Joan Giradi, a high school junior developing an intimate relationship with God in the show Joan of Arcadia. However, there is a slight problem; Joan is afraid to tell anyone. In the finale of season 1, Joan musters up the courage to tell her boyfriend Adam after being diagnosed with Lyme Disease.

Unfortunately, Adam thinks she has been hallucinating, a common symptom for someone in her condition. After talking with her parents in the hospital, Joan begins to think her conversations with God were just a dream. Struggling to come to grips with her diagnosis, Joan is forced to trust God in The Silence, the title of episode 23.

I too contracted Lyme Disease about 12 years ago, the worst I have ever felt before receiving drugs to deaden the pain. Like Joan, I am also learning to trust God in the silence of not knowing where or when I will begin my next full time job. As darkness sets on another day, I am praying that someday soon God will open a new door, give me vision for the future or send me someone with wisdom to pierce through the darkness I am experiencing.

As for now, all I can muster up are the words from Isaiah 6:8. “Here I am Lord, send me” hope as a light to guide me along the narrow path. Or perhaps some popcorn to remind me been there done that! I know there is light at the end of this tunnel, but I hope I am not in the wrong tunnel.

By Jay Mankus

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