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The Making of a Prodigy or A Waste of Time?

Prodigy’s are especially young individuals, endowed with exceptional abilities, talents and qualities.  When coaches, parents or teachers discover this gift, young people are often pushed to see how good or great they can be.  In some cases adults use these special children as pawns, attempting to live their lives through them.  If an endeavor results in a full college scholarship after years of dedication, practice and persistent is rewarded.  Yet; if these prodigy’s get burned out, lose interest or start to hate the sport they once loved, perhaps these years were a waste of time.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established, Proverbs 16:3.

As a former coach, I have seen my share of amazing athletes.  After spending three consecutive years at cross country nationals, I began to see key ingredients in becoming an elite runner.  Through conversations with other coaches and parents, most of the national champions joined a local running club early, some starting at the age of 6.  Meanwhile, as a high school golf coach, a similar connection can be made.  Competition, dedication to practice and a swing coach has resulted in one of the strongest classes of female golfers to come out of the state of Delaware.  I won’t be surprised if a few of these young women end playing on the LPGA tour after college.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, Colossians 3:23.

After I moved back to Delaware two decades ago, a friend gave me the phone number of Max Lucado’s editor.  I spent nearly thirty minutes asking a series of question, wanting to know what it takes to become a professor writer.  After sharing a brief summary of his road to success, one comment stuck out during our conversation.  “If you are going to take this seriously, you need to write full time for seven years to have any chance at getting recognized.”  This year marks my 7th year as an amateur screen writer.  After I submit my two scripts for the 2019 Nicholls Contest by the May 1st deadline, I won’t hear the results until July.  Nonetheless, I have taken a chance, invested hundreds of hours and have become vulnerable to rejection to pursue another dream.  Only time will tell if my attempt at becoming a prodigy writer will result in success or failure.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Your Mission or Are You Missing Inaction?

In the 2005 film Pacifier, Vin Diesel plays disgraced Navy Seal Shane Wolfe.  Upon the failure of his previous mission, Shane is reassigned to protect a family whose dead father created a secret weapon known as Ghost.  While government officials seek to locate this device, Shane’s new mission is to protect this family at all cost while examining the home for any clues.  Despite a series of set backs, Shane risks his life to complete this mission.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Matthew 28:18-20.

Prior to his ascension into heaven, Jesus gave his disciples what is now known as the great commission.  This mission was laid out in three stages.  First, begin in Jerusalem, explaining what has happened to the Jews.  When phase one is complete, move on to Judea and Samaria, spreading the good news to surrounding towns and villages.  Finally, go into all the world to share the hope of salvation found in the words of John 3:16-17.

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” Acts 1:7-8.

Nearly two thousand years later, God is waiting for you to fulfill a new mission.  Depending upon your personality, talents and spiritual gifts, instructions will vary.  Yet, unless you enlist by beginning your own spiritual journey, Romans 10:9-10, your mission will be unknown.  Lack of clarity helps explain why many are unproductive in this life.  However, as the Holy Spirit begins to reveal to you God’s plan, Galatians 5:25, success is possible.  May the season of Lent awaken souls to see the reality of the mission the Lord wants you to complete while on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Discovering Talents Within

Few people know that I wanted to be an artist in 9th grade.  Earlier on in high school, my electives were drawing courses to see if I had potential to pursue this desire.  Unfortunately, the older I became, my artistic gift vanished.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them, 1 Corinthians 12:4.

While doing yard work today I had an epiphany.  The artist within still exists, just in an unlikely form.  Although I may be one of the worst Pictionary drawers of all time, landscaping has become my new tapestry.  Thus, I have turned my back yard into a nine hole par 3 course with 6 different pin locations.  After re-sculpting a pot bunker, I can enjoy this with my children all summer long.

To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,1 Corinthians 12:8.

According to the apostle Paul, each individual possesses talents within.  However, the Holy Spirit is the vessel that helps people reveal these hidden gifts.  Time, trials and a willing heart will eventually bring spiritual gifts to the surface.  Therefore, if you’re growing impatient or feel like the Lord can’t use you, pray for insight to discover your talents within.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Places Where Dreams Die

According to the 1993 film, Rudy Ruettiger was an average athlete and middle of the road student with dreams that seemed far fetched.  Thus, Rudy took a job at a local Steel Mill, buying some time.  When his best friend Pete dies in an accident at the mill, Rudy finds himself at a crossroads.  During the funeral Rudy comes to the realization, “if I don’t leave now my dream will never happen,” dying at a dead end job.  Standing at a Greyhound Bus Station, Rudy’s father shares a series of ungodly beliefs, filled with negativity, hoping his son stays.  Deep down Rudy Ruettiger sensed that remaining in his hometown was another place where dreams can die.

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear, Ecclesiastes 5:7.

Meanwhile, Homer Hickam faced his own set of struggles illustrated in the 1999 movie October Sky.  Playing the role of the younger brother, Homer could never escape the shadow of big brother Jim, a football star destined for a college scholarship.  Despite his efforts, Homer was unable to compete with his brother’s popularity or talents.  After his father’s work related injury, Homer drops out of high school to become a coal miner attempting to follow in the footsteps of his dad. Yet, Homer’s new job couldn’t quench a passion for rockets.  Fueled by his teacher Miss Riley, Homer leaves the occupation where his dream would have died in the mine to participate in a science fair that altered the course of his life.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, Ephesians 3:20.

Unfortunately, most people fail to become famous, rich or successful, ending up in a place where their dreams disappear.  Some are forced by financial constrains to keep multiple jobs just to survive, fighting a losing battle with debt throughout life.  Others endure destructive relationships that often end with another mouth to feed, divorce or years of regret.  Within all these distractions, time flies by causing dreams to be altered, downgraded or pushed back until nothing is achieved.  If you have ever reached this point like me, you need an inspirational friend like Pete who speaks words of encouragement.  Or a mentor like Miss Riley who will uplift your spirits, challenge you and instill in you perseverance to press on through places where dreams die until you taste the abundant life Jesus promises, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

 

Your Best… Your Very Best

In the film Facing the Giants, coach Grant Taylor played by Alex Kendrick, is stuck in a rut.  Staring at another mediocre season and concerned about getting fired, Grant turns to the Lord, praying for a possible solution.  After a sleepless night, this coach receives a revelation from God.  This answer reveals a new team motto, giving God your very best.

They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?- Mark 12:14

Prior to his crucifixion, Jesus faced an onslaught of questions from religious leaders.  Their goal was to trick Jesus with a series of hypothetical scenarios to publicly stump him.  This leads me to Jesus’ response to whether or not Jews should pay taxes.  The answer is priceless; not a Master Card commercial.  Rather, these words of wisdom speak to a greater truth.  Dedicating your life to the One who has instilled within you special gifts and talents.

They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.  Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him, Mark 12:16-17.

In a society that loves to keep score, sometimes your best is overshadowed by the winner or winners.  In fact, some may get discouraged, starting to think that you’re efforts are worthless or a failure.  Despite what others may do or say, Coach Taylor’s message to his team applies today to everyone.  Don’t let a lack of recognition stop your quest of discovering God’s will.  Instead, be still, mediate on the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to spur you on to give God your best, your very best.

by Jay Mankus

The Cry of the Ungrateful

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard,” Matthew 20:1

Any time you get your hopes up, there is always the possibility for disappointment.   Expectations can be a dangerous thing, especially when this breeds impure motives.  Whenever you bring an earthly mindset into an untimely trial, the cry of the ungrateful is conceived.

So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.  When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner, Matthew 20:10-11.

In the parable of the workers in the Vineyard, Jesus addresses the cry of the ungrateful.  Human nature leads one to believe that those who work harder or longer will receive more than newcomers.  However, Jesus dismisses this comparison of those by using the analogy of heaven.  Though the apostle Paul does refer to eternal crowns, receiving  the gift of eternal life should lead to a thankful heart.

“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you,” Matthew 20:13-14.

As difficult as it was for some of these workers to get over the fact that each was paid the some wage despite the amount of hours in the vineyard, there is a truth to embrace.  The solution to overcoming an ungrateful spirit is developing a heart like Barnabas.  Despite his reputation of an encourager, Acts 4:36-37, the apostle Paul possessed far greater God given talents.  Instead of blocking his way, Barnabas moved aside so that Paul’s gifts could be fanned into flame.  Therefore, don’t allow jealousy to give birth to an ungrateful heart.  Rather, in humility consider others more important than yourself.

by Jay Mankus

 

He’s Not One of Us

In this age of multiculturalism, you might assume communities, groups and schools would be welcoming to outsiders.  However, cliques tend to form quickly like a defense mechanism, afraid of trusting a stranger until they prove their loyalty.  Thus, classmates, co-workers and transients tend to judge a person like a book, by the outside cover.

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us,” Mark 9:38.

The disciples were no different.  Perhaps jealousy played a role in their actions, fearful another individual’s gifts might impress Jesus more than their own talents.  Insecure, at least a few of the disciples thought someone was trying to move in on their turf.  Correcting their flawed mindset, Jesus encourages his followers to get behind others who fight and stand for the same cause.

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us, Mark 9:39-40.”

As a son of an immigrant, I remember the stories my father shared about coming to this country, learning English and embracing America as a melting pot.  Unfortunately, I run into people daily who come to this country without ever integrating, keeping to themselves and speaking their native language daily.  Without any sense of unity, this trend will continue to form a great divide as foreign cultures profess, “they’re not one of us!”  Don’t give into this mindset.  Rather, support those who make a stand for a worthy cause, especially soldiers of the cross.

by Jay Mankus

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