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The Casting Grounds

While growing up in New Jersey, my father took the entire month of August off of work. Since my father was in sales, he discovered a cabin for rent on a Thompson Lake in Maine. This experience opened my eyes to dirt roads and weekly trips to the dump. My father loaded up the back of our station wagon with trash bags and the kids were responsible for throwing them out the back. Little did I know that visiting these casting grounds 45 years ago prepared me for unloading my own burdens to the Lord in prayer.

Casting the [c]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [d]once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you [e]watchfully, 1 Peter 5:7.

Whether you’re young, old, or somewhere in between, life is filled with daily anxieties, concerns, and stress. If you don’t have someone to talk to on a weekly basis, these burdens will accumulate quickly. As a child, my only worries were making new friends and praying that one of my stuttering fits didn’t occur at school. Unfortunately, the older you get, life seems to become more complicated with overwhelming stress that can suck the life out of your soul. This is the context in which Jesus is referring to in the passage below.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [o]ease and relieve and [p]refresh [q]your souls.] 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([r]relief and ease and refreshment and [s]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [t]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne, Matthew 11:28-30.

One of roles of prayer is to provide a spiritual casting ground where troubled and worn-out Christians can unload their burdens. The key is you have to let go of each individual concern and let God cast it as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:10-12. Don’t take back these anxieties, concerns, and worries after you have said Amen. Rather, cast these burdens like I threw trash bags at the local dump in Maine. If you have to, use visualization to unload all of your troubles so that after praying you will find rest for your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Removing the Leeches from Your Life

Leeches are an aquatic or terrestrial annelid worm with suckers at both ends of its body. Many species of leeches are bloodsucking parasites that are hard to remove once attached. My first encounter with a leech was in the state of Maine. Unaware of this native species, I was walking in swallow water when I first got attacked. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of using my finger to remove it which only made matters worse. This traumatic experience at age 7 made me want to immediately remove leeches from my life.

Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power. 13 Food [is intended] for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will finally end [the functions of] both and bring them to nothing. The body is not intended for sexual immorality, but [is intended] for the Lord, and the Lord [is intended] for the body [[a]to save, sanctify, and raise it again], 1 Corinthians 6:12-13.

From a spiritual perspective, a leech can be anyone or anything that clings, drains, and or sucks the joy from your life. The imagery used by Jesus in John 10:10 compares the Devil to a spiritual leech. This invisible force seeks to steal, kill, and destroy lives. While praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus explains why it’s so hard to control human bodies. God’s Spirit is willing to help you remove the leeches from your life, but the human flesh is weak.

Shun immorality and all sexual looseness [flee from impurity in thought, word, or deed]. Any other sin which a man commits is one outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own, 20 You were bought with a price [purchased with a [b]preciousness and paid for, [c]made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

This weakness is exposed through addictions, bad habits, and unwholesome cravings that individuals pick up over the course of their lives. While these inner desires may bring temporary pleasures, human bodies develop a dependency upon these highs that result in less and less satisfaction. In the passage above, the apostle Paul warns Christians against sexual immorality. This type of sin results in soul ties that make it harder to break free from. Perhaps viewing your body as a spiritual temple of God will give you the necessary motivation to remove all the leeches from your life in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

The Day that Changed My Life

Prior to October 14th, 1985, I was a struggling teenager, emotionally unstable and immature. I guess you can say I was mentally soft and weak, needing to toughen up so that I could reach my full potential as an athlete. After wasting my first two years of high school, somewhere between carefree, lazy and inconsistent, I was determined to be great. This desire resulted in working out for the first time in addition to running and swimming 3 to 5 days a week. While on vacation in Maine for a month, I trained in the mountains, pushing myself to the limits like a drill sergeant.

While being reviled and insulted, He did not revile or insult in return; while suffering, He made no threats [of vengeance], but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges fairly, 1 Peter 2:23.

On this particular Columbus Day, I was running in a cross country race at Banning Park, located between Newark and Wilmington, Delaware. Earlier in the month, I helped Concord’s team upset the #1 ranked team in the state. Since the course at Banning was only 2.1 miles at that time, I felt like this was my best chance to win a race. The only problem is four of my teammates went on to become high school all-Americans. I could keep up for 2 miles, but the final 1.1 miles or 5K I fell off the pace. At the mile mark, I was in the lead pack as we approached the woods. Fallen leaves covered the hole that twisted my ankle, shattered my dreams and ended my season.

He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross [willingly offering Himself on it, as on an altar of sacrifice], so that we might die to sin [becoming immune from the penalty and power of sin] and live for righteousness; for by His wounds you [who believe] have been healed. 25 For you were continually wandering like [so many] sheep, but now you have come back to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls, 1 Peter 2:24-25.

Following reconstruction surgery on my ankle, I watched from the sidelines as my teammates lost the state title to Sales by 7 points. I did everything in my power to return for my senior year and perhaps earn a state title, only to burn myself out, going out too fast. After surgery, my ankle was protected by a brace that I wore into college. During the first cross country season following surgery, I heavily taped my ankle as extreme pressure resulted in bleeding race after race. The bleeding stopped a year later, but my scar remains today. While October 14th, 1985 did change my life, the J-shaped scar on my ankle reminds me of the pain Jesus endured on the cross. Just as the prophet Isaiah once said, “by His wounds we are healed.”

by Jay Mankus

The Day Christians Didn’t Want Church to End

From the age of 6 to 16, my parents started to vacation in the state of Maine.  After renting a small cottage on Thompson Lake for a few years, a retired couple invited my family to stay in their A-Frame and Lodge.  Subsequently, Maine became like a second home, spending several weeks there each August.  While my birthday parties were small, I went fishing, golfing or running every day.  Eventually, my parents found a church in Oxford, about a fifteen minute drive.  To my pleasant surprise, this church ran like a clock, ending in 39 minutes every Sunday.  As a teenager eager to fish or play golf, this priest kept my attention, always short and sweet.

When the congregation of the synagogue had been dismissed, many of the Jews and the devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, talking to them were urging them to continue in the grace of God, Acts 13:43.

During one of their missionary journeys, Paul and Barnabas experienced the exact opposite reaction.  While preaching to a crowded synagogue in the region of Antioch in Pisidia, the audience in attendance did not work this service to end.  After being dismissed, several Jews and converts to Judaism begged Paul and Barnabas to keep teaching.  These souls were spiritually hungry, eager to learn more about the grace of God.  This desire reminds me of a portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus reveals two key priorities.

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also, Matthew 6:33.

Spiritual hunger isn’t natural, but when individuals take time to pray, read the Bible or worship God, the Holy Spirit alters human priorities toward spiritual desires.  Although I can’t recall ever wanting a church service to keep going, there are other moments in time that I didn’t want to end.  Spiritual retreats, certain vacations and my Tentmaker Leadership Training were so life altering that I wanted to stay.  Anytime you have to go back to reality is hard, especially if you are not happy with where you are in life.  Nonetheless, when you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you may find yourself like the service in Acts 13:43, not wanting church to end.

by Jay Mankus

I’ll Pray for You

Recently, a public school teacher in Augusta, Maine told a co-worker “I’ll pray for you” at the end of a conversation.  While the context is unclear, I’m assuming this individual shared some concerns, issues or trial in life.  Despite attending the same church, these words were deemed offensive by the other woman.  Subsequently, the political correct “police” are now investigating this matter with some sort of discipline likely to follow.  I wish this was a practical joke, but its just another day in America.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours, Mark 11:24.

After completing my confirmation of faith in the Roman Catholic Church in 8th grade, I began to attend a Methodist youth group in high school.  Beside Sunday night, there were other activities offered to get to know people.  Initially, I chose a sharing group.  Students talked about what was going on weekly with a short prayer at the end of each meeting.  This non-threatening environment was a great way to ease into a relationship with God.  Shy at the time, I was afraid to ask for prayer as my life wasn’t as bad as those who constantly requested prayers.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

Today, I have a new appreciation for prayer.  Early on I saw how some individuals sought attention, almost as if to elicit a pity party on their behalf.  Yet, now I am no longer timid about requesting prayers, especially for my eyes.  I’m sure there is a happy medium, but prayer leads to healing.  Thus, regardless of how outsiders may respond, don’t ever give up verbally expressing the words “I’ll pray for you.”

by Jay Mankus

Going to the Dump

Every  summer I was exposed to a local dump in Maine.  Since our cabin did not have garbage pick up, guests were expected to take all their trash to be disposed of at the county recycling center.  The smell of the bags in the August heat was fowl, but this was all part of the complete experience of going to the dump.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.

While addressing the masses one day, Jesus refers to a different kind of dump.  The context of this discussion is based upon individuals carrying around baggage.  Whether its depression, stress or worry Jesus doesn’t want people to go through life alone.  Rather, when trash in life begins to pile up, drop to your knees to unload the garbage you have collected.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

The world proclaims he who dies with the most toys wins.  Yet, when people pass away your body will eventually become dust.  Thus, our bodies are on loan from God.  The Holy Spirit is the source of life for human souls.   The opposing force known as the sinful nature wages war by bombarding minds with trash from life.  To combat this weapon used by the Devil, go to the dump daily to unload worries in prayer which God replaces with rest.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Missing Piece to a Puzzle

As a child, my parents chose Thompson Lake, Maine as the spot for our family vacation.  Every August for a decade, my father took any where from one to three weeks off to reconnect with family.  Before this trip, my mom or dad picked up a large jigsaw puzzle, usually between 5000 and 10000 pieces.  These puzzles became a family tradition to complete on cold and rainy days or uneventful evenings.  Without a television to distract us, corners were completed first, then the hard part began.  Filling in grass, mountains, the sky or water was an endless pursuit of trial and error, trying to see if nearly identical pieces would fit.  When this tough stretch was completed, anticipation grew as pieces were put in place fast and furious.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of puzzles that any came with 4999 and 9999, missing the final piece to the puzzle.  Despite a fervent search of the floor, nothing was uncovered, leaving a bitter taste of disappointment.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” – Luke 15:8

The idea that puzzles intertwines with life has some traction.  Sometimes individuals find themselves faced with a difficult decision, a dilemma or struggling to grasp why something they want has not been granted.  The reason behind earthly trials isn’t usually known at the time you go through it, yet time has a way of revealing answers to unsolved mysteries.  During these periods of uncertainty, I often feel like a missing piece to a puzzle.  The only problem is every time I think I’ve found exactly where I think I fit in life, I discover that my gifts, skill set or talents don’t match, unable to complete the puzzle.  At this point, there is a temptation to betray your true identity by asking others, “who do you want me to become?”

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines, 1 Corinthians 12:11.

The apostle Paul refers to a church as a body with many parts.  Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, it takes time to figure who you should connect with and what role best suits your personality.  If you take 1 Corinthians 12 literally, local churches are like unfinished jigsaw puzzles waiting for the right individual to come and serve.  Unfortunately, a growing mindset of what’s in it for me is preventing couples or families from taking a leap of faith.  Anyone burned by past negative experiences are gun shy, afraid of reliving the pain of broken relationships.  In the end, each person possesses unique gifts or talents no one else can offer.  Yet, free will is designed to allow you to get involved when your ready.  Therefore, if this blog finds you struggling to fit in, may the Holy Spirit lead you to complete another church, puzzle or soul.

by Jay Mankus

Take Out the Trash… so that You Don’t Stink

Up until my senior year of high school, I spent the month of August in Maine.  After working countless hours throughout the year, my dad felt compelled to spent time with the family each summer fishing, golfing and swimming.  However, there wasn’t trash pick up so whenever the can was full its was time to go to the local dump.  Leaving any trash outside attracted bears, so each week I endured the gagging odor of the county’s waste center.

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you,” Joshua 3:5.

Although technological has come along way, it still doesn’t take long to stink up a kitchen.  Whether you’ve enjoying crabs, fish or some other messy meal, the discarded pieces can create an offensive smell in a matter of hours.  One careless, forgetful or lazy act will leave a stench behind throughout an entire house.  Therefore, the sooner you take out the trash, the less likely you will be from needing an entire household of air fresheners.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account, Hebrews 4:13.

In real life, you don’t have to be labeled trailer trash to stink.  Rather, anyone who allows sin to linger in their lives will eventually give off a foul spiritual odor.  While some will hide addictions and bad habits better than others, God lays bear every sinful act.  Subsequently, the only way to come clean is through confession and prayer, Jude 1:20.  Consecrate yourself today for God is waiting to do amazing things through you, but only after you acknowledge your shortcomings.

by Jay Mankus

 

The One That Got Away

My father was an avid fisherman, taking the family to Maine each summer to go bass fishing and Nags Head, North Carolina during Spring Break to catch blues coming up the Atlantic coastline.  Sure, golf was always on the agenda, but his quest was trying to catch the big one.  Now retired and residing on a golf course with several lakes, my own children enjoy nightly excursions to catch bass, perch and sunfish.  While success usually followed his line, I often wonder about the big one that got away.

Three years ago, there was a 10 pound bass spotted periodically along a canal.  Many had seen it, but no one was successful in reeling this behometh on to dry land.   Over a 3 day weekend, my oldest son James and I appeared to have something large bite our lines, only to have the line snap shortly thereafter.  As I was reeling in a small sunny, I felt a tug, like a snapping turtle had grabbed ahold of my line.  For roughly 10 minutes I battled this unseen creature, hoping it was the beast.  However, just as I was sensing victory, the line went dead.  One minute later, the only thing remaining was an empty hook.  Since there were no visible signs of a turtle, whatever attacked my rod must have ripped the sunny off the hook, swallowing it’s victim whole.  I’ve caught my fair share of fish, but I regret the 10 pounder that got away.

In athletics, Olympians’ shake their head over the gold that slipped from their reach.  Meanwhile, the scholar will analyze why an elite college or graduate school passed over their application.  The student ponders what went wrong to lose their high school sweetheart and the unemployed struggle to find the explanation behind why they did not receive a job offer.  Disappointment is a subtle reminder of an imperfect world, filled with empty promises and broken dreams.  Despite how painfully it is to start over in life, you need to let go of the one that got away, learning from this loss so that it doesn’t happen again.  May the truth of James 1:2-4 strengthen you to press on, to stay beat and hopeful of a date with destiny to celebrate the day the big One didn’t get away!

by Jay Mankus

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