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A Not So Happy Thanksgiving

For most of my days, I’ve lived a sheltered life.  However, my first job after graduating from college brought me to inner city Wilmington, Delaware as a social worker.  My eyes were opened to the homeless, poor and unfortunate.  This experience led me to serve the needy during my first Thanksgiving in Chicago, going to a homeless shelter near Cabrini Green, one of the roughest projects in Chicago.  I didn’t see any television cameras or professional football players handing out free turkeys, what I observed was a not so Happy Thanksgiving.

Everyone should get of their comfort zones once in a while to see what its like on the other side.  I’m not talking about Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places.  Rather, I think its healthy to see how little other people have so that you may begin to appreciate all the things you have accumulated in life.  Fashion, shopping and temporary pleasures blind most individuals to what’s really important: family, faith and fellowship.  Without this type of perspective, a spoiled generation will continue to whine, “what’s in it for me,” while the less fortunate have another not so Happy Thanksgiving.

Clothes, food and a place to call home is foreign to some individuals.  Though many may receive a Turkey to cook, how long will the leftovers last?  Will some have to wait til Christmas before the next act of generosity finds these helpless souls?  Therefore, as you watch the parades, gather for a feast and watch some football for dessert, don’t limit your giving to a couple of times per year.  Rather, take a look around and see who you can help so that a not so Happy Thanksgiving can turn into a very Merry Christmas.

by Jay Mankus

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Behind Closed Doors

Zach got up like any other work day, going through his morning routine.  On his way to his office, he noticed a parade of people lining up down Main Street.  With no holiday on the calender, he stopped to chat with some folks in the crowd, curious about all the commotion.  To his surprise, Jesus was passing by Jericho, receiving rock star treatment, minus the screams from young ladies looking for an autograph.

Vertically challenged, Zach could not see anything, despite jumping up and down with all his might to catch a glimpse of this legendary man.  Caught up in the frenzy, Zach runs ahead of the masses, finds an overhanging tree and starts to climb.  Yes, this wasn’t your typical day, especially when the chief tax collector hangs out over the road to get Jesus’ attention.  What happened next got the grapevine stirred up as gossip rumbles across the town, Luke 19:5-7, “Jesus meeting a sinner in his own house?”

Unfortunately, inquiring minds are left to wonder what occurred behind closed doors as the doctor gives a shorthand version in Luke 19:8-10.  Touched by this offer, Zach doesn’t panic about what his house looked like.  Nor does he spend countless hours making excuses for his past sins.  Rather, Zach appears to be convicted by the wrongs he had committed.  Thus, he makes a pledge to the poor and penance to those he overcharged.  Following this meeting with Jesus, Zacchaeus was spiritually transformed, moved by the promise of salvation, John 3:16 and inspired by faith to act, James 2:26.  May we all be so fortunate to one day experience a face to face meeting with Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

A Family Christmas

The origin of Christmas is based upon the words found in the gospel of Luke 2:1-7.  In a sense, the census issued by Caesar Augustus forced a family reunion of sorts.  However, in this case, “everyone went to his own town to register,” Luke 2:3, back to your home town where relatives were born and raised.  Thus, Mary and Joseph rode on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem nicknamed the City of David creating the first Christmas traffic jam.

Like finding a cheap hotel in Dover, Delaware during Race Weekend, Joseph didn’t have a prayer.  With the odds stacked against him, Joseph begged, pleaded and sought out a hole in the wall motel.  This dive was filled with manure, cold drafts and the constant noise of animals.  Yet, in this desolate place, the world welcomed a Savior, who came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.  When the shepherds arrived, the first Christmas concert was performed by angels, praising God for the miracle of life.

Today, Christmas has become a day where families reunite, if only for a day, meal or weekend.  Putting the past behind, its a time of reflection, thanksgiving and worship.  Despite the distractions of parades, sporting events and more shopping, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without family.  Maybe this is why death, divorce and orphans struggle to find peace on this sacred day.  Regardless of where this holiday may lead you in 2013, let me be the first to say, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

by Jay Mankus

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