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Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

Drifting Back Into Church

For a decade I stood in front of teenagers as a Bible teacher informing students of the importance of attending church. At the time, one of my close friends was a famous author who wrote books on Church Growth and Spiritual Gifts. When I was able to teach a couple of elective courses, I began to implement this material into my curriculum. Thus, I challenged juniors and seniors to ascertain their spiritual gifts. Once discovered students were encouraged to apply these talents within a local congregation or youth group.

But sin, finding an opportunity through the commandment [to express itself] produced in me every kind of coveting and selfish desire. For without the Law sin is dead [the recognition of sin is inactive]. I was once alive without [knowledge of] the Law; but when the commandment came [and I understood its meaning], sin became alive and I died [since the Law sentenced me to death]. 10 And the very commandment which was intended to bring life, actually proved to bring death for me, Romans 7:8-10.

As Easter Sunday approaches I find myself in an awkward predicament. Due to a strange sleep schedule, working nights, my body has become lazy, like the sluggard described by Solomon in the book of Proverbs. After attending church in January, other priorities have replaced church resulting in a three month absence. A rationalizing mind hides behind the two movie scripts I have been working on due May 1st. Despite pulling all nighters writing each weekend, there is no excuse for abandoning a body of believers. Thus, I find myself as a casual attender, like the Christmas and Easter crowd who will flock to mass this weekend.

Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! – 2 Corinthians 12:7.

Within two chapters of the Bible, the apostle reveals some sort of secret sin that haunted him. Romans 7 hints to times in life when Paul wanted to do right, but the sinful nature caused him to do that what he despised. Every Saturday night I have intentions to go to church on Sunday, but my flesh has become too weak snuffing out the presence of the Holy Spirit. In the passage above, Paul reveals a physical ailment that hindered his daily life. This pain was a messenger of Satan attempting to steal Paul’s joy. If everything goes as planned, I will be drifting back into church Sunday. However, unless I tame my flesh like 1 Corinthians 9:26-27, I won’t become the man of God the Lord desires.

by Jay Mankus

What a Waste of Time

During my time pursuing a master’s in theology, I came across an interesting concept.  The Triangle Theory is a Time Management exercise to help examine where your time on earth is spent.  If you draw an isosceles triangle on a blank page of paper, the bottom represents 24 hours in a day.  Depending upon your sleep schedule, 1/3 or 1/4 of your life is spent sleeping.  School or work will take over 8-10 hours per day, leaving a few precious hours to enjoy life, purse passions or relax.   If you want a true barometer of how your time is spent, keep track of 16-18 hours each weekend that most Americans have.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours! 25 Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither], 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

Last year I took my family out to lunch, explaining the Triangle Theory as we waited for our food.  Without being too anal, I urged my children to begin to keep track of how they are currently investing their free time.  The purpose of this discussion was to encourage my daughter and youngest son to become vision oriented, focusing their attention and time on fulfilling dreams.  Not leaving myself exempt from this, I began to share the sacrifices that I need to make to write a 100 page movie script each winter, usually lasting until late spring.  Despite how diligent I try to be, I regularly waste an entire weekend to indulge my human nature rather than focus on becoming an accomplished screen writer.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

One troubling question remains, if I truly want to pursue a career in writing, why do I waste so much time?  Perhaps, my former hobby as a long distance runner may help answer my own question.  The thought of running miles never made sense to most of my friends.  Running is a battle of the body and mind, causing most to quit before the love of running is conceived.  The apostle Paul uses a similar analogy, stressing the strict discipline to persist until your ultimate goal is achieved.  While its not easy and you will have more failures than success, may the Triangle Theory serve as a tool to enable you to seize the free time that you have each day.  May you run in such a way, suffering now, as to receive crowns in heaven God has set aside for you.

by Jay Mankus

Devoid of Light

A recent eye examine revealed that I am practically blind in my right eye.  The culprit is a large cataract in my eye that is blurring my vision daily.  Subsequently, for the second time in three years I will be having surgery to hopefully improve and repair this condition.  For someone who writes daily and desperately wants to pursue a career as a Hollywood screen writer, the odds are stacked against.  When you find yourself devoid of light, unable to see what you’re reading or about to type, my future seems bleak.

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it in a cellar nor under a basket [hiding the light], but [instead it is put] on the lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 The eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive, focused on God], your whole body also is full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. But when it is bad [spiritually blind], your body also is full of darkness [devoid of God’s word], Luke 11:33-34.

In the passage above, Jesus compares eyes to the lamp of the human body.  The goal is to place yourself into ideal positions, able to see every angle of what’s happening around you.  Just as fashion designers put lighting to highlight certain aspects of a new home, eyes were created by God to provide spiritual discernment and perception.  The more you focus on God, the clearer things become in life, resulting in good choices.  However, the moment you allow spiritual blindness to enter your life and persist, lives can spin out of control.  Thus, decision making is like being in a fog, devoid of light to lead you out of this darkness.

Be careful, therefore, that the light that is in you is not darkness. 36 So if your whole body is illuminated, with no dark part, it will be entirely bright [with light], as when the lamp gives you light with its bright rays,” Luke 11:35-36.

Beginning in the Old Testament, authors referred to the Bible or Word of God as a source of light.  Amy Grant and Michael Card once sang about this truth in the song Thy Word.  The chorus is straight out of scripture, Psalm 119:105.  God’s Word is like an old oil lamp shinning light into the darkness of night.  Although you may not know where to go initially, wise teachings serve as a light to direct and guide your feet.  While I am anxious about my upcoming eye surgery the last week in November, I do have the promises within the Bible to keep me hopeful.  As I struggle with the possibility of being devoid of human light, seeing, I know my heavenly father has a plan for me to get me through this period of darkness.

by Jay Mankus

You Have to Experience the Bad Days Before You Can Appreciate the Good Ones

Today, I had another visit to my eye doctor.  This is my tenth appointment in the past 12 months.  The file on both of my eyes could be made into a book, going back more than twenty years.  While this monthly adventure has taken me on a wild ride of emotions, I have learned a valuable lesson along the way.  You have to experience the bad days before you can appreciate the good ones.

“He feels only the pain of his own body, and he mourns only for himself,” Job 14:22.

For someone hoping to turn a hobby into a full time screen writing career, vision is essential.  Yet, some days I wake up to blurred and watery eyes.  This usually puts a halt to any thoughts of writing a blog or reading books on character development to enhance my latest project.  These fruitless days make me appreciate the gift of sight, something that I have taken for granted for most of my life.

Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail? – Jeremiah 15:18

My most recent diagnosis includes cataracts in each eye.  The new one in my left eye is a minor concern.  Yet, the one in my surgically repaired eye has clouded my vision, unable to see anything at the moment.  Thus, another surgery will be eminent in the next year or so.  Despite this obvious obstacle, the Lord has given me peace of mind.  I haven’t suffered like Job nor have I been given the bad news Jeremiah regularly received.  All I can do is take things one day at a time, appreciating the good things in life that God has allowed me to see.

by Jay Mankus

Are We Almost There?

As an aspiring screen writer, I know the pain of being close, but not quite there.  Every spring thousands of like minded individuals register one to three scripts in the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screening Contest.  This international competition brings the best and brightest amateur writers hoping for their big break each year.  Depending upon how my current edit goes of my first film, Express Yourself, I should find out in July if I have arrived or I’m not quite there yet.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, Philippians 3:13.

In the mean time, the best path to take toward achieving your goals and dreams in life is through a steady grind.  Sure, most people wake up tired, weary and uninspired.  Yet, the ones who fight through the temptation to become lazy to stay focused pass those who are more talented but less committed.  Like anything in life, you have to really want it and be willing to overcome countless failures to get where you want to be.  Unfortunately, some never make the compromises necessary to reach their full potential.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:14.

There is an old expression, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”  Well, this may be true to some extent, pressing on toward your goal in life will ultimately shape the final outcome.  While I do know my current limitations, I do believe writing is part of God’s plan for my life.  Although I’m not sure if I’m currently on the right track, I press on in faith so that almost home will become finally there in the near future.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Days Don’t End Like You Hoped

The endings of Hollywood movies have ingrained in American minds that life should conclude in a certain way.  Unfortunately, film and reality are miles apart.  Subsequently, more and more individuals feel the crippling effects of sleepless nights caused by days which end far from what each expected.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

After losing my teaching position 5 years ago, I transitioned into screen writing based upon the advice of a former co-worker.  Three complete scripts later my initial goal is to sell one my these scripts before I reach 55; then write a script a year in retirement.  Despite my desires, an unexpected eye condition may put my own plan on hold or cancel it completely.

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

When things don’t go your way or days end in heart break, there’s only one place to turn.  Carrying around all your burdens, pain and worry will wear you out.  Therefore, do let trials suck out your joy for life.  Instead, go to the Lord in prayer so that Jesus will replace your burden with peace.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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