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When You Feel Like You Can’t Hold On Any Longer

Over the course of my life, music has gotten me through several difficult moments.  While in college, I developed an unhealthy pattern of drawing close to the Lord during the school year, then falling away over the summer.  On any given day, I listened to a few hours of music.  Whether I was running, studying or working out, the beat, lyrics and sound motivated me to press on.  One of the songs that touched my soul in college was Hold On by Wilson Phillips.  The following stanza helped me overcome the stress of college: “Don’t you know things can change. Things’ll go your way. If you hold on for one more day. Can you hold on for one more day. Things’ll go your way. Hold on for one more day.”

So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery], James 4:7-8.

When I became a high school Bible teacher I tried to incorporate music into my classes and lesson plans.  Unfortunately, most of my music was archaic, out of date and wasn’t appealing to my students.  After swallowing my pride, I began to search for modern artists that my students could relate to.  One of my former students Evan introduced me to the group Stellar Kart.  Although I didn’t have much disposable income back then, I searched the Sonshine House for discounted music.  After losing my teaching job, I spent a month struggling to find a new one.  The song that got me through this ordeal was Hold on to Jesus by Stellar Kart.  While walking through un-charted territories, the Lord used this song to help me persevere.

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. 22 Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.

Since the Coronavirus shut down professional sports in March, I have increased my time listening to music.  During the week, I spend 5 hours a day minimum, listening to Christian music.  Although I still struggle to find artists, groups and songs with a specific message and style, there is one song that gotten me through these months of social distancing.  While listening to You Tube one night, I came across a spontaneous worship montage.  Kari Jobe has a 19 minute video starting with Speak to Me before moving into the songs Defender and Closer.  This worship medley has become a daily prayer for me, another way of Holding on to Jesus as the world tries to makes sense of COVID-19.  May these songs touch you like they have inspired me to hold on when you feel like you can’t hold on any longer.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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

Stopping to Take a Deep Breathe

The idiom “taking a deep breathe” refers to pausing for a moment to calm and compose yourself. If you work in a stressful environment like me, taking a personal day or vacation is essential to prevent emotional or physical burnout from occurring. Removing yourself from deadlines, hectic circumstances and pressure for a while is good for your own mental health.

“Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth,” Psalm 46:10.

One of the Psalms of the Bible is entitled God the Refuge His people. This chapter is dedicated to the chief musician. The sons of Korah wrote this song, Psalm 46, set to soprano voices. The end of this piece contains one of the most famous and quoted stanzas of the Bible. When disappointment, hardships or trials begin to stress you out, the Psalmist urges believers to slow down by being still before God.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower], Psalm 46:11.

No matter how many friends or relationships you may have, there will always be at least one moment in time where no one will know what to say to you. When comfort can not be found by human means, the Lord is always available. Thus, when you reach a point of despair, stop to take a deep breathe. As you do, pour out your heart to God in prayer so that Selah is achieved, a peace that surpasses all understanding.

by Jay Mankus

Day Dreaming, a Trance or a Spiritual Message?

The most common form of altered consciousness is known as day dreaming.  Consciousness is our level of awareness of what’s going on around us and in us at all times. Levels of consciousness are often changing throughout the day, as individuals struggle to concerntrate as brains wander.  As a child, I day dreamed about being a professional athlete.  When my golfing career ended at Qualifying School in 1995, my goals changed toward becoming a good and faithful husband.  Twenty five years later, my dreams have shifted toward becoming a professional screen writer while I enjoy retirement. 

The next day, as they were on their way and were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof of the house about the sixth hour (noon) to pray, 10 but he became hungry and wanted something to eat. While the meal was being prepared he fell into a trance, Acts 10:9-10.

The term “trance” is associated with meditation, magic, energetic flow and prayer.  Trance like states are used by shamans, mystics, and fakirs in healing rituals,  Meanwhile, hypnotherapists, psychiatrists and sports psychologists are among modern therapists who use trances today.  As a former long distance runner, I often blacked out for a period of time while training.  For a quarter mile or more, I slipped into a trance as I listened to music.  The sound of a car horn, the beginning of a favorite song or a new thought snapped me out of this state.  In the passage above, Peter fell into a trance while praying.  The smell of a freshly cooked meal altered his mind, preparing Peter for God’s vision and message.

I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the tower; and I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, and what answer I will give [as His spokesman] when I am reproved. Then the Lord answered me and said,“Write the vision and engrave it plainly on [clay] tablets so that the one who reads it will run, Habakkuk 2:1-2. 

While speaking to his disciples or addressing a large crowd, Jesus chose an interesting expression, “let him who has ears, hear.”  Apparently, human beings have a habit of tuning out when someone else is speaking.  Some may day dream, others fall into trances while many are distracted by their own schedule.  Thus, Jesus is urging his followers to not just listen, but act upon the message God has for your life.  Day dreaming or trance like states distract individuals from becoming doers of God’s Word.  While God uses a plethora of methods (angels, the Bible, dreams, music, prophets and prayer) for communicating to and with those who believe, Jesus yearns for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  May the Lord help you overcome the distractions in life to be attentive to God’s next spiritual message.

by Jay Mankus

 

What’s In Your Heart is Making You Cold

Lately, I haven’t been myself.  Not just lately; rather for several years or so.  I usually have I good sense of perception, in touch with how I feel and why.  Yet, now I am lost, grasping at straws to comprehend the frustration within me.  Perhaps, knowing I’m not where God wants me to be and not doing anything about it is to blame.  Nonetheless, I heard a quote on the radio yesterday that might have diagnosed my problem,”what’s in your heart is making you cold.”

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

Music tends to speak to me when I am depressed.  This quote reminds me of Foreigner’s classic song Cold as Ice from the 1977 album Feels Like the First Time.  The context of this song refers to a woman’s actions, suggesting a broken relationship has occurred and the interactions are tense, like a cold hearted soul who doesn’t care about you.  The prophet Jeremiah writes about the complex nature of human heart in the passage above.  I guess the heart is unpredictable, expressing what’s inside of you in the form of cruel words or harsh behavior as detailed by Jesus in Luke 6:43-45.

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.

Diagnosing any problem is the first step, but without a solution, broken hearts will continue to convey negative emotions.  Thus, another prophet provides a prayer outline for any one who is willing to change.  This new spirit is like transforming your perspective from negative toward the positive.  Any change will take a transitional period to break old habits.  Yet, for those who bring your dirty laundry to the feet of Christ, Matthew 11:28-30, the heavy burdens on your heart can be eased.  As time proceeds, may your prayers for change exchange regret with God’s grace and love.

by Jay Mankus

Another Friday Night

http://http://www.invubu.com/music/show/song/Kenny-Marks/Hope-for-a-Broken-Heart.html

According to my former high school students, I possess one of the most eclectic collections of music.  I think this was just a nice way of saying you have a strange taste in music.  A large portion of the artists I enjoy can’t be found on Pandora or other internet sites.  Subsequently, I have to convert cassette tapes into CD’s before downloading them onto my computer.  Recently, I stumbled upon a graveyard of forgotten favorites.  The one with the best lyrics is Hope for the Broken Heart by Kenny Marks.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18.

Written and recorded in 1989 on the Another Friday Night album, this song addresses high school students coping with friends who party each weekend.  Instead of trying to fit in, the individual within the song stays home on Friday night, trying to make sense of why teenagers turn to alcohol to have fun.  After another lonely night on Saturday, this student seeks refuge in church, praying for the people she loves.  During this time in prayer, the Lord provides a message, “there is hope for the lonely and broken-hearted.”

God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, Psalm 147:3.

Not much has changed since 1989.  In many ways, this issue has gotten worse as the idea of clean fun is foreign to many.  I’m no saint by far, making bad decisions and giving into temptation throughout my life.  Yet, the last time I was drunk was over 20 years ago.  After a wedding reception, I nearly died of alcohol poison.  Call it common sense, but I can’t imagine ever drinking again as the desire within is dead.  May anyone caught in the habit of drinking away another Friday night see the light of Christ, thereby ceasing their addiction.

by Jay Mankus

 

Reruns, Rewind and Revive

The summer tends to be a season for reruns.  As students and teachers take a break until the fall semester begins, there is time for late night binge watching.  While most use On Demand, Netflix or DVR’ed programs, the older generation still rely on television guides to plan their viewing pleasures.  Classic movies have a way of grabbing your attention.  Although you know the story, desires from within carry you away for hours at a time as a distraction from the stress and worries in life.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Philippians 2:3.

For those of you who don’t spend much time watching television, perhaps you prefer reflection.  Either during a jog, walk or while doing yard work, its nice to rewind, taking an inventory of where you’ve been, where you are or where you want to go.  This practice is like setting goals in your mind, providing direction for the future.  One of the things I enjoy pondering about are those things in life which bring me the most joy.  Listening to music, playing sports, writing and working on projects around the house fill me with a sense of accomplish along with purpose and meaning in life.

Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others, Philippians 2:4.

One of the final activities I engage in involves food for the soul.  Beyond a dose of daily Bible reading and prayer, hearts and minds need to be revived and refreshed to make it in life.  Thus, I have days where I soak in music while I rest.  Sometime I find a book on a topic that interests me, giving me a broader perspective on life.  Although I waste just as much time as the average American lounging around on a couch or sofa, I experience peace that surpasses understanding when I rewind my direction and revive my soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Remembering Those Who Refresh Souls

Its unfortunate that most people wait until a funeral to thank someone for the imprint made of their life.  Instead of sharing an encouraging word, time has a way of distracting individuals from expressing how they really feel.  Thus, souls often perish without hearing or knowing the impact they had on others.

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 2 Timothy 1:16.

While writing a letter to one of his ministry partners, the apostle Paul urges believers to remember those who refresh souls.  To heed this call, I feel compelled to give a shout out for those people who have helped me along my faith journey.  The first was my high school swim coach, who also served as a science teacher and spiritual mentor.  To a student who was seeking for meaning in life, Ken Horne pointed me in the right direction as a Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle leader at Concord High.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone, Colossians 4:6.

After helping me develop a solid foundation, several college friends inspired me to further my faith.  My roommate Mike introduced me to contemporary worship music, Phil showed me how to live life to the fullest and Dave led me to see the importance of accountability.  There are others who deserve additional credit, but there will be other blogs to address their deeds.  For now, don’t let time slip away on this July 4th before you remember those who have refreshed your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Come and Give Me Wings

At my age, I don’t wake up with the same fire and passion that I once possessed.  Beyond the spiritual realm, I find inspiration from music.  One of the more recent artists which touched me is Set My World on Fire by Britt Nicole.  On her Neon Feather Remix album, this song combines a great beat with moving lyrics.  The chorus asks God to come and give her wings to help fulfill her dreams in life.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, Psalm 91:11.

According to the Psalmist, this isn’t as far fetched as you think.  However, what does it mean to command the angels and what method ensures that you will be able to usher angels into action?  Based upon the words of Moses, obedience to God is a major factor depending upon how careful you are in following the Lord’s commands.  Yet, asking angels to come and give you wings seems more like fantasy rather than reality.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them, Psalm 34:7.

Perhaps, holy fear is the missing link, preventing Christians from seeing their prayers answered.  David is not the only one who made this connection.  King Solomon claimed fearing God is the beginning of wisdom.  Although I can’t recall a time I experienced angelic intervention, Jesus once said,”you don’t have because you haven’t asked.”  While this topic is foreign to me, in your time of need, don’t be afraid to cry out to God to come and give you wings to overcome the mountain standing in your way.

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 Amazon.com for those willing to give a promising artist a chance.

 

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