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24

To the casual observer, this title suggests I am referring to the television series starring Kiefer Sutherland. While this counter-terrorist drama brought Jack Bauer to life, I mention this because 24 is the only television show that I have followed live since getting married in 1995. In the early years of my marriage, cable wasn’t a priority, just watching the four major networks and whatever else our antenna could pick up. While visiting my father in law in Chicago, 24 watch parties were a common occurrence, fixated for the entire hour once a week.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord, Proverbs 18:22.

However, the real meaning of today’s title is the number of years that I now have been married. For today, November 25th is my 24th wedding anniversary. While eating brunch with my groomsmen, I watched Ohio State, where I did part of my college internship, lose to Michigan in college football. As the 3 pm wedding time drew near, Chicago was seasonably warm, in the fifties. While Leanne did most of the planning, my input was the music, having two friends sing in our wedding and DJ from Indiana where I served as a youth pastor. My favorite part of this day was personally greeting each row, meeting and talking with family and friends. Yet, it’s hard to believe that 24 years have passed in a blinking of an eye.

House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord, Proverbs 19:14.

Looking forward, next year will mark a quarter of a century and the following year will mean that I have spent half of my life on earth with Leanne. What Moses says in Genesis about marriage is true, two people become one. While selfish desires still exist, part of marriage is coming together as a team to follow God’s will. Three children and one wedding later, there are still many events that await in the future. Yet, I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to meet Leanne Marie Wagner at a youth workers convention 26 years ago. I pray that as our home becomes an empty nest in three years that the Holy Spirit will guide us in the years ahead. As for today, I wish my bride Leanne a happy anniversary.

by Jay Mankus

Bad for Business

I spent the first two years of my youngest son’s life, James, trying to start my own business. Well before the reality show Shipping Wars aired on A&E, I was making bids to deliver freight and important documents up and down the East Coast. My shining moment occurred when I made $3000 in 24 hours, delivering a few pallets from Wilmington, Delaware to Chicago, Illinois. Since my parents lived in Cleveland, Ohio at the time, I drove 7 hours, slept for 7 hours and finished the remaining 7 hours with a couple to spare. However, I did spent $1000 on renting a truck, gas and tolls so I only profited 2K. Unfortunately, the cost of maintaining two vehicles, driving 1000 miles a week and breaking down a couple of times finally inspired me to walk away from this business by entering the classroom as a teacher.

About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way (Jesus, Christianity). 24 Now a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of [the goddess] Artemis (Diana), was bringing no small profit to the craftsmen, Acts 19:23-24.

According to Luke, the spread of Christianity had a negative impact on craftsmen during the first century. As followers of Artemis began to convert to Christ, idol worship gradually declined. Thus, requests for silver decorations, idols and shrines of Diana plummeted. This economic downturn inspired craftsmen throughout the province of Asia to gather together in Ephesus. Luke details the discussion in the passage below, trying to figure out how to restore the popularity of Artemis and idol worship throughout the world. Workmen in similar trades were panicking, fearful that if Christianity continued to spread, their occupation would no longer be in demand or needed.

These [craftsmen] he called together, along with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you are well aware that we make a good living from this business. 26 You see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but almost all over [the province of] Asia, this Paul has persuaded [people to believe his teaching] and has misled a large number of people, claiming that gods made by [human] hands are not really gods at all. 27 Not only is there danger that this trade of ours will be discredited, but also that the [magnificent] temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and that she whom all Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned and lose her glorious magnificence,” Acts 19:25-27.

During more recent great awakenings, there are more examples of how the spread of Christianity was bad for business but good for the community. This is best detailed in a book and sermons by Leonard Ravenhill who spent most of his life as a Christian evangelist. Born in Leeds, England in 1907, Ravenhill reveals how the revival of the early 1900’s transformed parts of England. At the height of this spiritual awakening, crime disappeared causing police to be laid off. As attendance at evening church services skyrocketed, policemen were hired by churches to direct traffic. Meanwhile, mules from local mines needed to be retrained as transformed miners stopped curses causing mules to not know to respond to calm, gentle voices. Although recent revivals haven’t completely transformed nearby communities, when true awakening breaks out, God’s business of saving souls prospers.

by Jay Mankus

Distortions of Truth

During my senior year of college, I became president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the University of Delaware.  With any type of leadership position, there are numerous responsibilities that you must face and fulfill.  My first week on campus was spent sitting at a table in different venues, meeting and greeting incoming freshmen as well as transfers who wanted to know what our group had to offer.  During an outdoor event later that week, I was positioned next to a Make Cannabis Legal table.  A reporter for our college newspaper thought this was ironic, Christians and pot together, stopping by to ask me a few questions.  When the article was posted, I realized that I was set up as what I said was taken out of context.  This was my first encounter with a distortion of truth.

As it is written and forever remains written, There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God, Romans 3:10-11.

Five years later I attended a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.  Sixty five thousand men filled this stadium eager to hear Colorado University football coach Bill McCartney.  One of my co-workers at Four Winds Golf Club, who wasn’t a believer, was amazed by this speech.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the headlines which led Chicago’s nightly news.  Roughly six million people lived in Chicago at the time of this event who heard reporters interview women who opposed the Promise Keepers movement.  These protestors labeled participants as anti-woman, bigots and sexists.  The coverage suggested that several hundred women marched outside the stadium, standing in unison against Promise Keepers.  However, the press failed to tell their six millions viewers that there were only ten protestors on Friday night and two on Saturday.  Nonetheless, the media had a specific narrative that they wanted to communicate and the only way to execute this plan was through a distortion of truth.

All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, no, not one,” Romans 3:12.

In the last few months, there hasn’t been a day without some sort of news story on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process.  From week to week, there have been twists and turns creating a media feeding frenzy.  The initial stage began by trying to collect and uncover all of Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions on previous court cases and decisions.  After an extensive examination, Senate hearings followed with days of questioning.  Despite allegations, criticism and doubt, Brett Kavanaugh passed the second phase with relative ease.  On the verge of a senate confirmation vote for this Supreme Court nominee, Democrats have unleashed a desperate attempt to derail this process by smearing this man with a series a sexual assault allegations going back to Brett’s high school days.  A letter leaked to the press resulted in another hearing with an accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.  While compelling, this didn’t satisfy every senator, leading to a seventh FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.  If you watch cable news, ninety percent of the coverage on Kavanaugh has been negative with an odd talking point, “guilty until proven innocent.”  Perhaps, a distortion of the truth?

This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [Jew or Gentile] who believe [and trust in Him and acknowledge Him as God’s Son]. There is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:22-23.

This current Supreme Court nomination process reminds me of a previous election in the state of Washington.  When the candidate who was suppose to win lost, there was a series of recounts done.  Each time the individual who lost picked up a number of votes.  By the third recount, the democrat was victorious with the republican departing quietly into the night.  If this current standard, going back to your days in high school is applied to future judges or politicians, there will be no one left to run for these offices.  No matter how hard you try to do the right thing daily, sooner or later you will fall, giving into the temptation on earth.  Human beings are imperfect people, full of distortions that deviate from truth.  According to the apostle Paul, the only way to overcome mankind’s flawed human nature is by coming to faith in Christ.  As you reflect upon current events in the United States, may you pause to consider what’s reality important, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

Enduring a Spiritual Identity Crisis

If you enjoy or follow sports, success is defined by winning and losing.  Despite how many victories a team earns over the course of a season, if a championship is not won, fans lose hope.  In the meantime, coaches, players and stars who endure humiliating loses in the playoffs are labeled as chokers, overrated and trashed throughout social media.  Those who seek to self identify themselves using these standards will experience disappointment, failure and shame unless titles are won.  Thus, its not uncommon for people to go through some sort of identity crisis.

Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant, 1 Corinthians 13:4.

Non-athletes tend to use a different set of standards.  Depending upon your career choice, degrees earned and annual salary, value is placed upon your life.  Intelligence, social status and wisdom add or subtract to how the world views your importance.  Anyone called into the ministry, social work or has a low paying jobs are looked down upon by the upper class.  If you let this bother you, then you may be tempted to adopt worldly standards.  The longer you allow yourself to be defined by rich or poor, wins or losses and success or failure, the more likely you will go through a spiritual identity crisis.

It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening], 1 Corinthians 13:5-7.

When I moved to Chicago after getting married, living among millionaire neighbors, I tried to fit in initially.  Unfortunately, the best job I could find was making thirty thousand dollars a year, chump change to everyone around me.  Attending Willow Creek Community Church on Wednesday nights helped alter my perspective.  As I began to hear, read and meditate upon God’s standards in the Bible, my soul was comforted by the fact God keeps no records of wrong.  Therefore, if you ever feel like your life doesn’t measure up to the world’s standards, use biblical principals to overcome any spiritual identity crisis that you may endure.

by Jay Mankus

 

What Makes It Worthy

David Paul Kuhn felt inspired to write a book about a topic many have brushed aside.  As technological rapidly changes, automation, computers and robotics are taking away millions of jobs once held by working men in America.  If modern advances in driverless vehicles continues to progress, another 3 million truck drivers could be in danger of losing their long held careers.  In his 2015 book, What Makes It Worthy, Kuhn details the importance men derive from working.  If men can’t provide for their families, a sense of worth is lost, creating a chain reaction that negativity impacts future generations.  The goal of this book is to illustrate the worthiness of maintaining a job.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things, Philippians 4:8.

The term worthy refers to abilities that merit recognition.  Whether you have a certain job title such as a doctor or demonstrate impressive qualities, others will quickly take notice.  Careers, fields of work or occupations place individuals within a specific social status.  Entry level positions will place you within the lower class.  Promotions into lower management will elevate you into the middle class.  Meanwhile, entrepreneurs, exceptional sales and higher degrees can lift some hard workers into the upper class.  However, on the way to the top, some participate in illegal, shady or ungodly methods.  Thus, pursuing noble causes outside of any career provides its own sense of accomplishment.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Galatians 2:20.

When I first got married, I always felt inferior while talking to other groups of men.  While it didn’t help living in an affluent suburb west of Chicago, I didn’t possess the DNA to become rich and wealthy.  My relationship with Christ didn’t mesh with the ways of the world.  Thus, I became confused, unable to find my place in this world until becoming a high school Bible teacher and golf coach.  Six years have passed since this position was taken away from me, placing me back where I was before.  Nonetheless, if you want to experience a sense of worth, begin with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10.  From here, the Holy Spirit will guide you to the place where you need to be, Galatians 5:25.  Until then, keep praying until clarity and self worth is restored.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

I Wouldn’t Trade Things For the World

My wife’s oldest living relative is ninety nine.  Up until six years ago, Aunt Peg hosted a Thanksgiving Day celebration at her home in Kewanee, Illinois.  Every other Thanksgiving served as a reunion for the Hanson and Wagner families in southwestern, Illinois.  Days prior to my wedding twenty two years ago, I was introduced to ninety strangers who would soon become relatives.  While at times this was more of an interrogation, I played along trying to remember as many faces and names as I could for our reception.  Marrying into a large extended family can be overwhelming, yet I have grown to appreciate the special personalities within Leanne’s family.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me,” Matthew 4:8-9.

Working for Amazon the past five years hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to travel out to Chicago for this festive event.  Like a prodigal son, I felt compelled to make the effort this year, especially with the passing of Leanne’s father.  Flying out after work one morning, I was able to reconnect with Leanne’s side of the family.  Following a typical Thanksgiving meal, the Hansons usually puts on a talent show aptly named the Hanson Family Theater.  However, this year each attendee was asked to give a thirty second infomercial, a synopsis of their current life.  While I was dreading the idea of fifty people standing up one after another,  I was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of enduring boredom, I appreciated the commonality exhibited by almost everyone.  Faith, family and God is the bond that has kept this tradition alive for half a century.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.

As Leanne and I inch closer to the half century mark in age, I had a revelation last night.  Actually, this was more of an insight to where I am in life.  As much as I complain about my current job, I see the hidden blessing of only working four nights a week.  Despite missing out on any type of social life, I have been able to attend nearly all of my kids sporting events.  I have been there to rejoice in victories, comfort after defeat and explain from a coaching perspective why things played out as they did.  My resume isn’t exciting; nor is my income self-sufficient.  Nonetheless, I have embraced my role as a father, raising my children to the best of my ability.  Sure, I have several flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, but I have reached a state of contentment.   I still have bigger dreams and goals that I would like to fulfill, but I wouldn’t trade things for the world.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Only A Car

When I was a child, I amassed a sizable collection of Hot Wheels.  Birthday and Christmas gifts brought a challenge course, race tracks and a special case to organize all my vehicles.  Before Atari and Cable television existed, I spent many rainy days racing cars inside.  Since most parents couldn’t afford a new car, Hot Wheels were a marketing tool to introduce children to sports cars.

And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, Colossians 3:10.

Although many of my friends became obsessed with automobiles in my teenage years, my dad’s background as an immigrant to this country kept me grounded.  This upbringing ingrained in me an ability to be thankful for what I had.  However, I did have a wealthy neighbor whose parents always brought their son the latest and greatest electronic devices.  When these gifts were flaunted in front of me, I was jealous of his families wealth.  Yet, you can’t buy love as toys are just an earthly possessions.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, Philippians 2:14-15.

During my last winter break in college, I got into an argument with my parents.  Like a typical adolescent, I stormed out of the house to blow off some steam.  On the way to my friend Dave’s house, I got into a fender bender, hitting the car in front of me.  This situation could of have been worse, but the man that I hit didn’t care about fixing his old car.  Despite receiving a ticket for reckless driving, the words of this man struck a nerve in my heart by saying, “it’s only a car.”

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him, Colossians 3:17.

A few years later I was on my way to work in Chicago when a flock of geese starting walking across the road.  As I slowed down, the lady behind wasn’t paying attention, skidding and ramming into my back bumper.  Since my vehicle was approaching the 200,000 mile mark, I remembered the words of the good Samaritan from Delaware.  Paying it forward, I passed on the same message to this young woman, “don’t worry about it, it’s only a car.”

by Jay Mankus

 

When the Timing is Right

If you watched the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, you were not disappointed unless your team lost.  Nonetheless, winning this title in baseball is the pinnacle for major league ball players.  However, for one member of the winning Houston Astros, this wasn’t enough.  Similar to the final scene of the 1999 film For the Love of the Game, sometimes relationships are more important.  Thus, getting down on a knee, Carlos Correa proposed to his girl friend during the postgame festivities.  In his mind, the timing was right.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” – Matthew 16:15

During the first century, Jesus arrived in Caesarea Philippi with his disciples.  Led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus felt it was time to have a serious conversation with his ministry team.  After discussing what others believed about him, Jesus wanted to know, “what about you?”  This question set the stage for Passion Week, Jesus’ final week on earth before his crucifixion.  Following Peter’s confession that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for the events of the future.  This information didn’t sit too well with Peter, who was unable to grasp the fact that Jesus was a heavenly king, not the earthly king of the Jews.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life, Matthew 16:21.

In life, the future is like a blank tapestry waiting to be painted.  Yet, some times you don’t have the materials necessary to start.  On other occasions, you have the tools, but you lack the vision necessary to complete this portrait.  As for me, I was attending a retreat in southern Indiana.  I had recently resigned from my youth ministry position and was unsure of what to do next.  Following a moving presentation, God impressed upon the need to ask my girl friend Leanne to marry me.  The next day, I drove to Chicago, took a twist tie that she gave me as part of a care package and proposed.  When the timing is right, step out in faith while you have the opportunity to act.  By doing this, you fulfill the words of Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

When There is No One Left to Lean On

There are times in life where events happen so fast that it’s hard to adapt, adjust or merely hang on.  If you fall behind, trying to recover from what just occurred, you can feel lost, not sure what step to take next.  Unfortunately, death has a way of leaving some with no one left to lean on.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: Ecclesiastes 4:9.

These words above and below by Solomon may not mean much to someone surrounded by a loving family, friends or neighborhood.  Yet, for abandoned kids, single moms and widows, verse 10 may be a foreshadowing of the future.  Meanwhile, addicts, the depressed and lonely struggle to find anyone who will be there during times of need.

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up, Ecclesiastes 4:10.

These two passages of Scripture have a new meaning to me.  For the past 22 years I have taken my wife for granted, unaware of all that she does daily.  Now that she is in Chicago taking care of her mom following her dad’s death, I know how it feels to have no one to lean on.  As I struggle to manage for a couple of more weeks raising my children, there is an invisible force who can pick you up, John 16:13.  When there is no one left to lean on, cry out to Jesus who may send angels, the Holy Spirit or a stranger to get you through each day.

by Jay Mankus

Songs to Get You Through the Storms in Life

When radio was in it’s prime, I spent summer days as a teenager hanging out on my back deck with friends listening to music.  Except for all request lunch hours, you could guess which dozens songs were played on an hourly loop until the next set of singles were released.  The only thing comparable from this era that remains today is Delilah Radio.  One of the few DJ’s to survive advances in technology, Delilah’s nightly show plays songs to get it’s listeners through the storms of life.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you,” Deuteronomy 31:6.

Like the various genres that exist, my tastes in music has evolved over time.  Early on, I turned to songs from Air Supply, Chicago and REO Speedwagon to get me through trying times.  Unfortunately, some of these songs made me more depressed, especially ballads by Chicago.  Thus, I began searching for something more meaningful.  Lyrics with encouraging, positive and uplifting messages.  My good friend Mindy introduced me to a new sound, inviting me to my first Christian concert.  My swim coach Ken Horne who also served as the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s school huddle leader, furthered my knowledge of this brand of wholesome music.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:23-27

These two individual inspired a life long quest to uncover hidden gems.  This lead me to discover a huge Christian warehouse where I could listen to music before buying it.  Meanwhile, Jackie, the former owner of the Sonshine House was my guide to find my favorite songs played a new local Christian station.  When I didn’t have anyone to ask, I developed a successful system based upon album covers.  Those artists who spent a little extra money on design and graphics usually produced solid tunes.  Sure, I bought plenty of duds void of any decent songs, yet I pressed on to share my passion with others.

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him., 1 Samuel 16:23.
On this journey, I came across Christians who practiced legalism, referring to any secular form of music as being inspired by the Devil.  Years later I read a quote from Wes King in an article on the difference between Christian and secular music.  King’s opinion struck a cord with me that I have adopted.  “There are two types of music, that which glorifies God and those that glorify self.”  Depending upon your preference, you need to make sure you don’t get caught up judging the opposing side.  Rather, it’s best to seek and tell others about those songs which help you overcome the storms in life.  Below is a list of artists and topics that have helped me endure various hardships in life.
Crying Out for Help: Breathe on Me by Jennifer Knapp
Coping with Suicide: For Annie by Petra
Finding Answers: Is There Anybody Out There by Secondhand Serenade
Finding New Life: The Lost Get Found (remix) by Britt Nicole
God’s Presence: Hold On by Stellar Kart
Holding on to Hope: The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz
Loneliness: He Won’t Let You Go by The Kry
Long Distance Friendships: Somewhere Somehow by Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith
Overcoming Addiction: Pull by Curious Fools
Perseverance: For Those Who Wait by Firefight
Starting Over: A Father’s Love by Billy Crockett
Seeking Forgiveness: When God Ran by Benny Hester
Starting Over: Back to the Start by Esterlyn
Struggling with Integrity: Get it Right by Silverline
Struggling with Problems in Life: Therapy by Reliant K
The Fullness of God: The Love of Christ by Wes King
Overcoming Failure: Perfect Love by David & the Giants
Overcoming Self-Esteem Issue: Mirror by Barlow Girl
When You’re About to Quit: Six Candles by FM Static
When You’re Losing Faith: Faith Like That by Jonah 33
by Jay Mankus
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