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The Crossover Connection Week 6: A Touch of Britney Spears, Madonna and Taylor Swift

This is high praise when you think of the amazing accomplishments of these 3 female artists. I was initially hesitant to make such a comparison, but God has blessed Brit Nicole with a vast range of musical talents. When I reflect upon Brit’s collection of inspiration ballads, countryish tunes from time to time, the rhythm to dance, finger snapping pop songs with an uncanny ability to crossover into hip-hop, she’s approaching Amy Grant status.

Let them praise His name in chorus and choir and with the [single or group] dance; let them sing praises to Him with the tambourine and lyre! – Psalm 149:3

One of my former students at Red Lion introduced me to Brit Nicole while I was teaching high school Bible. Songs like Seeing for the First Time, The Sun is Rising and The Lost Get Found have moved and touched me over the years. While driving my kids to school for a decade, more modern songs like Vacation led my children toward Christian music. While no female artists can replace Britney Spears, Madonna or Taylor Swift, I pray that after listening to Brit Nicole for a week you’ll adopt several new favorites to your music collection.

by Jay Mankus


S.A.N.S. Episode 254: My Redeemer Lives

If you want to follow your dreams, sometimes you have to attach yourself with or serve as an underling to finally break through. Such is the case for Nicole Mullen. If you haven’t heard of her, she’s worked behind the scenes with some of the icons of Christian music. Nicole worked as a vocalist with Michael W. Smith and the Newsboys, a songwriter for Jaci Velasquez, and dancer and choreographer with Amy Grant.

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God, Isaiah 44:6.

Nicole puts her own spin on the classic hymn My Redeemer Lives. The prophet Isaiah was one of the first to speak of a calling Messiah to redeem God’s people of their sins. Unfortunately, anyone born with or acquires a perfectionist spirit, tends to try to save themselves by striving for perfection. May the lyrics of My Redeemer Lives remind you to take any burdens to the foot of Jesus’ cross, Matthew 11:28-30.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 136: Another Time Another Place

If I had to put together a list of the godmothers of Christian music it would be Amy Grant, Twila Paris, and Sandi Patti. Rather than select a song from Sandi, I picked a duet with Wayne Watson. The song Another Time Another Place is a common phrase when it comes to relationships. While two individuals may have similar feelings, the timing of when you meet someone doesn’t always work out.

Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand, Proverbs 19:21.

Sandi’s commitment to Jesus Christ provides the faith, motivation and perseverance in her music career. Perhaps the words of King Solomon in the passage above influenced the lyrics of Another Time Another Place. “Many plans are in a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand.” You may have ambitious goals for the future, but God’s ultimate purpose has a way of quickly changing your plans.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 31: Go There With You

From my introduction to Christian music in 1985, there have always been 3 main staples who have gotten most of the accolades: Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and today’s artist Stephen Curtis Chapman. When Chapman’s Great Adventure tour traveled across the country, I drove three hours to hear an album filled with classic songs. I was so touched that night by Go There with You, that I included it in my wedding.

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away, Revelation 21:4.

When I was put in charge of the Music at my wedding and the DJ at our reception, I made a mix with all of the songs to be played for all of the special dances. When Leanne and I danced our first dance as a married couple, Go There With You was played. In an age where staying married until death do us part is rare, playing this song was a statement of my will to love Leanne for the rest of my life.

by Jay Mankus

Catching Your Dreams

As a former athlete, I understand the concept of setting goals.  At the beginning of each season, I would use a notecard to write down my expectations.  Whether I was running, swimming or playing golf, I tried to raise the bar higher and higher each time I set a personal record.  The only hard part about setting a score or time to beat, eventually you reach a saturation point.  For example, I haven’t bested 69 for 18 holes in golf since my junior year of high school.  Meanwhile, I never came close to breaking 17 minutes for a 5K race after doing it once as a senior.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up, Galatians 6:9.

I guess what I am trying to say is that as an adult, I spend most of my time chasing dreams instead of actually catching them.  There is an old saying that refers to being close.  This idiom claims that being close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  If you want to be the best, losing over and over again to someone slightly better is frustrating.  When you get closer and closer to catching a dream, hope is conceived, turning doubters into believers.  Yet, if progress is never achieved, chasing dreams can become like a dog attempting to catch their own tail.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

The other night I watched the film I Can Only Imagined.  Bart Millard grew up in a dysfunctional family made worse when his mother refused to take Bart with her after moving out.  Left to his abusive father, Bart wanted to chase and catch dreams.  However, the negativity spewed by Bart’s dad bombarded his mind, leaving behind emotional, physical and spiritual scars.  Despite these obstacles, Bart traveled the country with a Christian group called Mercy Me attempting to follow in the footsteps of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.  Yet, it took cancer to inflict his father and redemption to transform his heart before the Lord gave Bart the words to I can only image.  Upon releasing this single on a 1999 album, the Worship Project, Bart finally caught his dream.  May Bart Millard‘s perseverance inspire you to catch your own dreams.

by Jay Mankus


Devoid of Light

A recent eye examine revealed that I am practically blind in my right eye.  The culprit is a large cataract in my eye that is blurring my vision daily.  Subsequently, for the second time in three years I will be having surgery to hopefully improve and repair this condition.  For someone who writes daily and desperately wants to pursue a career as a Hollywood screen writer, the odds are stacked against.  When you find yourself devoid of light, unable to see what you’re reading or about to type, my future seems bleak.

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it in a cellar nor under a basket [hiding the light], but [instead it is put] on the lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 The eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive, focused on God], your whole body also is full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. But when it is bad [spiritually blind], your body also is full of darkness [devoid of God’s word], Luke 11:33-34.

In the passage above, Jesus compares eyes to the lamp of the human body.  The goal is to place yourself into ideal positions, able to see every angle of what’s happening around you.  Just as fashion designers put lighting to highlight certain aspects of a new home, eyes were created by God to provide spiritual discernment and perception.  The more you focus on God, the clearer things become in life, resulting in good choices.  However, the moment you allow spiritual blindness to enter your life and persist, lives can spin out of control.  Thus, decision making is like being in a fog, devoid of light to lead you out of this darkness.

Be careful, therefore, that the light that is in you is not darkness. 36 So if your whole body is illuminated, with no dark part, it will be entirely bright [with light], as when the lamp gives you light with its bright rays,” Luke 11:35-36.

Beginning in the Old Testament, authors referred to the Bible or Word of God as a source of light.  Amy Grant and Michael Card once sang about this truth in the song Thy Word.  The chorus is straight out of scripture, Psalm 119:105.  God’s Word is like an old oil lamp shinning light into the darkness of night.  Although you may not know where to go initially, wise teachings serve as a light to direct and guide your feet.  While I am anxious about my upcoming eye surgery the last week in November, I do have the promises within the Bible to keep me hopeful.  As I struggle with the possibility of being devoid of human light, seeing, I know my heavenly father has a plan for me to get me through this period of darkness.

by Jay Mankus

Make My Heart Like Yours

Music can be similar to relationships.  The more open minded you are, the likelihood of you accepting and embracing someone or something increases.  Unfortunately, stereotypes about an artist, genre or musician cause individuals to give up on a certain sound after a few seconds of listening.  Subsequently, the careers of millions fail, far short of where they hoped, rejected before having a real shot to succeed.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26.

Such is the case of Linda Elias, wife of Rick whose own career far surpassed hers.  Rick spent a decade as a member of Rich Mullins Ragamuffin band and his music was featured in the 1996 Tom Hanks movie, That Thing You Do.  As for Linda, following in the Belinda Carlisle genre, I thought her 1991 album The Meaning of Life would jump start her career.  However, in Christian music industry, unless you’re Amy Grant, you’re not going to get the attention you deserve.  As a result, you can’t find any of Linda’s songs on Pandora or You Tube.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

Nonetheless, during my recent fast I have started listening to one hour of inspirational music a day.  While soaking in the lyrics to Make My Heart Like Yours, I was moved, touched by God.  This song is more like a prayer, wishing that one day our hearts will become more like Christ.  In this song, Linda confesses her failures and shortcomings.  Leaning on God’s grace, she yearns to be transformed.  As I am daily reminded of my own sins, I am eager, waiting for God to make my heart like his son’s, Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Linda’s album the Meaning of Life is available at for those willing to give a promising artist a chance.


Trusting God in the Dark

I have been a Christian since 1983, yet I can’t remember a time when I have felt so abandoned.  I have written a 100 page movie script, faithfully written a blog each day, tried to restart my used golf ball business and have applied to close to 50 job openings in the last 2 months.  I am running out of answers, options and solutions.  Except for one job offer that I turned down due to a lack of pay, I feel as if I am suffering a spiritual power outage.

In Genesis 12, God called Abram to move to a foreign land.  In Genesis 39, Joseph was falsely accused of a crime, thrown in prison and forgotten about.  At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses was kept out of the Promised Land for not following directions about striking a rock to receive water.  God had a plan for each of these situations, but these men had to trust God in the dark before He revealed why these events occurred.

As I approach one of the narrowest paths, Matthew 7:13-14, that I have come across, I need to recall the words of Psalm 1:1-3 and Colossians 2:6-7.  As Amy Grant once sang, God’s Word is a lamp to my feet and light for the narrow path that I am currently facing, Psalm 119;105.  In an age of constant mirages, I need to cling to the words of Joseph in Genesis 45:5-8, “what you meant for bad needed to happen so that God would put me here to save you!”  As my power remains out at the moment, all I can do is trust God in the dark!

by Jay Mankus.

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