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How Relevant are You?

I spent the majority of my years as a student in obscurity, afraid my stuttering would embarrass me in some way.  It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I began to become relevant, serving on student council, volunteering to help build the class float for homecoming and reaching out to individuals throughout the school.  Whether popularity makes you relevant or not, I came into my own as a human being, with the highlight turning my parents basement into a nightclub for one Christmas evening during my freshmen year of college.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? – James 2:14

In the years that followed, inconsistency is the best term that describes my life.  I had my moments in the spot light, playing sand volleyball at Geauga Lake in its hey day, serving as a journalist for Travel Golf Media and store manager of Michael Jordan Golf at O’Hare International Airport.  However, I consider these personal accomplishments, not something that makes you relevant.  The best way to explain relevance is by quoting Larry the Cable Guy, ” get ur done!”  Yet, what if you invest your time and energy into things that are trivial?

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead, James 2:17.

From an eternal perspective, my most relevant year was 1993.  I spent the first portion at a youth ministry trade school called Tentmaker’s, fine tuning my spiritual gifts.  The next three months involved applying this new found knowledge as a counselor and teacher at a boarding school for career underachieving junior high students.  The final six months of 93 were my finest, serving as a youth pastor in Columbus, Indiana.  These days were the epitome of relevance, meeting my wife to be in the final month of this year.  Yet, for now, I struggle to find relevance, distracted by the stress of life.  Although its nice to reminisce from time to time, its never to late to become relevant again.  May we all strive to find our place in this world so that our deeds, faith and work will not be done in vain.

by Jay Mankus

Waiting in a Holding Pattern

Before I moved to Delaware, I was a store manager at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.  Running the Michael Jordan Golf Shop across from gate B4, weather delays meant big business.  Whenever planes were in a holding pattern, people waiting for their fight to arrive or family members picking up loved ones often passed time in my store.

However, in life waiting isn’t nearly as fun as shopping.  Yet, if you are forced to enter a holding pattern, following the example of Moses in Leviticus 24:12 is a great place to start.  Sometimes when you are angry, individuals can make rash decisions or be quick to jump to a conclusion.  Therefore, make sure the will of the Lord is clear before you finalize your decision on what to do next.

Whether you’re deliberating on a punishment like Moses, contemplating something like marriage or living in a constant state of uncertainty, time can be a friend or foe.  Perhaps, this is why God reminded prophets and psalmists to wait on the Lord.  I know waiting isn’t enjoyable, but it gives you an opportunity to surrender to Christ so that Jesus can take the wheel, driving you out of the storms in life.  Like the late Rich Mullins once sang, Hold me Jesus as you wait in a holding pattern.

by Jay Mankus



Traffic Jam

In August of 2010, one of the worst traffic jams on earth took place.  According to Forbes Magazine, the Beijing-Tibet Expressway came to a standstill as traffic backed up for 62 miles.  This nightmare scenario lasted 12 days until the gridlock ended.  As summer vacationers crammed onto this highway, too many cars entered without any place to exit, resulting in an epic battle of patience.

Whether its Memorial Day, Labor Day or Thanksgiving Weekend, traffic is one of those things you can’t avoid.  Sure you can plan ahead, using GPS to find alternate routes, but when roads are packed there is usually no where to go.  As a former resident of Chicago, traffic jams are a daily occurrence extending your commute by 1-2 hours regularly.  When I worked at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, I left home 2 hours prior to my shift.  I took a book to read in case I was early, yet nearly every morning I arrived just in a nick of time.

From a spiritual perspective, traffic jams occur for multiple reasons.  Sometimes, individuals need to slow down, take a deep breathe and embrace God’s creation, Psalm 46:10.  On other occasions, God wants to divert people in a different direction, away from harm and temptation, Galatians 5:16-18.  Meanwhile, dead ends and roadblocks serve as supernatural vehicles to bring about God’s will, Proverbs 19:21.  Therefore, the next time you find yourself in a traffic jam, ask the Lord to provide faith, perseverance and maturity until the roadway is clear, James 1:2-4.

Feel free to share the worst traffic jam you’ve been stuck in.

by Jay Mankus

Carrying You

In the famous Footprints poem, Carolyn Joyce  Carty uses a dream of a man walking along a beach barefoot with the Lord.  Looking back, this man sees only one set of footprints at times, not two.  Like the countless who have been touched by this piece, during the difficult times in life, the Lord carries us until we have the strength to walk again.  Nonetheless, I have discovered in 2012 from personal experience, there is so much more involved when God sends angels to carry you.

Prior to this year, I was filled with pride based upon my accomplishments and somewhat stellar career.  Athletically, I have been able to play professional golf, coach for a decade at the high school level and received an invite to play for a professional Ultimate Frisbee Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  From a business sense, I was a manager of the Michael Jordan Golf Shop in O’Hare International Airport, on pace to do 1.1 million in sales under my leadership before I left and a production manager for a prominent Christian company.  Finally, during 15 years of service in youth ministry as a pastor and teacher,God used me to impact the lives of young people.  Yet, in the good times, I took most of the credit, leaving God off stage.  Thus, all of these accolades were stripped away a little over 12 hours into 2012, creating a desperate, humble and weakened man.

Most of my days in 2012 began with a similar prayer, “Lord, I can’t do this without you!”  While I talked a good game the past 25 years, I was forced to daily practice Jesus’ own words in Matthew 11:25-30.  From an emotional sense, I had become like the man in Acts 3:1-5, crippled by broken promises, shattered dreams and unemployment.  Peter didn’t come to my rescue like his words to the beggar in Acts 3:6-7.  Instead, God sent numerous friends at appointed times, facebook messages, phone calls and the occasional angel to lift me up, until I could walk on my own once again.  If you are feeling helpless like I have for most of 2012, exercise the authority available in Christ, Luke 10:19.  This will serve as spiritual physical therapy until God renews your strength, Isaiah 40:30-31.

by Jay Mankus

Personal Responsibility

Last night, I watched a re-airing of ESPN’s 30 for 30 special entitled Benji, the life and tragic death of Ben Wilson.  Since I got married in Cook County, lived in Chicago for 2 years, worked for Michael Jordan as the manager of his Michael Jordan Golf Shop at O’Hare International Airport and had a co-worker whose son was offered a full ride to play college ball at Illinois, I was intrigued by the previews of Benji.  Although I watched the premiere showing on Tuesday night, I was distracted by the Celtics/Heat game, flipping back and forth between each.  Thus, as I examined the whole episode, I discovered the moral of this biography was personal responsibility.

Similar to Michael Jordan’s growth spurt in high school, Ben Wilson grew several inches between his freshman and sophomore year at Simeon High, located on the south side of Chicago, reaching 6 feet 5 inches by the start of the basketball season.  After teammates convinced their coach to allow Benji to try out for the varsity squad, it wasn’t long before Ben Wilson became a fixture in the starting line-up.  As a junior, Benji led his team to the Chicago City Championship and eventually to the Illinois AA State Title.  Invited to the top summer basketball camp, full of the nation’s top senior prospects, Benji out shined every player, receiving the #1 rating as America’s number one college prospect.  Unfortunately, one day before the first game of Benji’s senior season, he was shot twice while taking a walk during lunch, dying 24 hours later.

Underneath all the glamour, glitter and future stardom, there was a dark cloud hanging over Benji’s life.  His father only attend 5 or 6 of Benji’s basketball games to his recollection, too distracted by crack cocaine, addicted to the highs he received.  Meanwhile, Benji was once suspended from school a week for striking a teacher in the hall, got his high school sweetheart pregnant and became overly possessive of her, which led to his death.  This cloud grew in size like Hurricane Sandy when William Moore and Omar Dixon decided to skip school one day.  With his uncle’s gun in his coat pocket, William Moore disregarded his uncle’s warning after Benji accidently bumped him.  Encouraged by Omar and fearful of Ben’s size, William choose to shoot Ben twice, fleeing the scene until the police knocked on his parents door later that evening.

Anyone can play Monday morning quarterback, yet if personal responsibility was taken by the party’s involved, Benji might be still playing in the National Basketball Association or finished a hall of fame career by now.  First, William Moore joined a local gang after his father died of cancer.  If William would have sought professional help or the advice of a local pastor, he might have turned to someone else and likely would not have skipped school on the day of the shooting.  On the other hand, if Benji would have demonstrated anger management, respect and self-control, this bumping incident would not have escalated into his murder.  Guns don’t kill people, people pull the trigger as their lives begin to fall apart.  A lack of leadership at home often pushes young people to their peers or even worse, to gangs where family values turn into self destructive habits.  These attitudes taught on the street shape a teenagers’ worldview, influences their behavior’s and leads to a life style which led to Ben Wilson’s murder.  May this story prevent future violence, discouraging today’s students from pulling the trigger.  Remember Benji!

by Jay Mankus

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