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Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Transitioning from Summer Camp Back to Reality

Ten years ago my wife and kids persuaded me to become a summer camp counselor for a week at Cedarbrook.  This decision enabled my youngest Lydia to attend, a year younger than the accepted age.  This week just happened to be during a heat wave in the high 90’s every day.  To make matters worse I stayed in the only cabin without air conditioning.  Between the heat, humidity and lack of sleep, I was sick the rest of the summer.  This experience caused me to never return, retiring after my first and only year.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” Joshua 1:9.

Over the past decade, my two oldest boys transitioned from campers to counselors in training.  Teenagers go through a three year process before a bird name is selected and earn the right to become an official camp counselor.  James, my oldest, graduated and spent two summers as a counselor.  Meanwhile, Daniel completed his counselor in training last summer and is currently a cabin leader this week at camp.  Finally, my daughter Lydia has begun year one of training to follow in her brother’s footsteps.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

One of my favorite traditions is going out to lunch after Cedarbrook’s closing ceremonies.  This meal allows my children to share their experience from the week.  While they may be complaining and frustration, I redirect the topic toward their favorite or most memorable moments of camp.  As I listen, this conversation provides a transition from summer camp back to reality.  Often, my kids talk about what they would do differently to improve things for next year.  This debriefing session gives my wife and I the opportunity to share our perspectives and hopefully promote spiritually growth during this upcoming school year.  May this year’s experience inspire souls to follow Christ daily.

by Jay Mankus

 

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The Jesus Check List

For the past 25 years, Thanksgiving serves as a dual purpose for my family.  The first is obvious, to reconnect, reflect and share how the past year has gone, either good, bad or indifferent.  The second is a precursor to Christmas, exchanging gift wish lists.  Thanks to Amazon, most of this is done online to avoiding writing down the same list several times on a piece of paper.  Nonetheless, as Christmas Day approaches, there is an internal list with decorations, gift wrapping and preparations that need to completed before you can actually enjoy Jesus’ birthday.

For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations],” Romans 10:10-11.

A 2007 film starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman introduced another kind of list.  The Bucket List involves two men who have been each diagnosed with terminal cancer.  After meeting in the hospital for the first time, the billionaire hospital magnate Edward Cole played by Nicholson finances a series of trips before each man dies.  In a race against the clock, these men invest their energy doing the things in life they always wanted to do, but never took the time.  Since the initial release of the Bucket List, several # movements have transformed others on the verge of death to pursue their own check list of dreams and goals to accomplish.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:1-2.

My favorite list is one that gets little attention, but results in eternal rewards, the Jesus Check List.  Instead of going through life focusing on the things you want to experience, the Jesus Check List is based upon fulfilling God’s will for your life.  Before you can start this list, you need to join Jesus’ team as described by the apostle Paul in Romans 10:10-11.  The moment you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you gain access to the Holy Spirit.  C.S. Lewis refers to this as theological virtues in Mere Christianity, enabling new converts to obtain charity, faith and hope as you progress down Jesus’ Check List.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God [which represents all that Jesus Christ is and does], so that you will know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that you [already] have eternal life. 14 This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us, 1 John 5:13-14.

As individuals begin to daily prayer, read the Bible and begin to worship God throughout the week, not just on Sunday’s, lives can be radically changed if you stick with the Jesus Check List.  The apostle Paul refers to this as a process, offering up your life each day as a living sacrifice to God.  This involves asking God a series of questions in the form of a prayer.  What do you want me to do today?  Where do you need me to go to help others?  Who needs to be encouraged, give me eyes to see?  How can I reach the lost; using the God given talents you have blessed me with?  If you take this blog to heart, you will be well on your way, certain of the eternal rewards awaiting you in heaven with each day you commit to serving Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Past Due

The phrase past due is an accounting term that refers to past the date on which a payment should have been made.  Those notices appear in the mail or as an email to warn customers of their violation.  This reminder is like a courtesy call, a method to encourage individuals to immediately pay the amount owed.  Yet, money is not the only that is past due.

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng, Psalm 109:30.

The most obvious past due response is thanks.  While American’s celebrate Thanksgiving every November, I often forget to thank the people who have helped me along the way.  Giving thanks shouldn’t be just an annual event.  Rather, thanksgiving should be a daily practice, slowing down enough to verbally share how much you appreciate your friends, family and co-workers.  Similar to Billy Joel’s song Honesty, thanksgiving can be such a lonely word.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name, Hebrews 13:15.

The second response that is past due is praise.  The Psalmist suggests that human beings were created to praise God, Psalm 150.  Prior to entering into a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10, I was selfish and self-seeking.  Yet, when Jesus came into my life, I began to see the connection between blessings and God, James 1:17.  The earthly brother of Jesus wrote about this claiming that every good and perfect thing on earth comes down from heaven.  Although money may get the most attention in life, don’t forget to praise and thank God this holiday season.

by Jay Mankus

 

Not the Thanksgiving I Invisioned

A routine physical earlier this week has turned my life upside down.  Standing on a scale revealed my heaviest weight ever, not a good way to start this check up.  Before my primary care doctor entered the room, I took a brief depression survey, confident in my responses.  However, after my blood pressure was sky high, a series of comments from my doctor sucked the joy out of my soul, wanting to go back to change my previous answers.

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:20.

Like a warning from God, I listened to all the possible conditions that might be wrong with me.  This internal alarm resulted in a series of tests on my heart, kidney and thyroid.  The past 48 hours has been like a whirlwind, hooked up to machines, placed on new medicine and forced to endure another series of examinations and tests next week.  This wasn’t the way I expected to spend the week of Thanksgiving.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

As I began to embrace self pity, a whisper from God via the Holy Spirit has put my circumstances into it’s proper perspective.  “At least you’re alive.  What about the residents of Paradise, California, losing their city, homes and loved ones?”  While I still don’t know what’s exactly wrong with me beside being overweight, Thanksgiving has a new meaning to me.  Although there will be aches and pains throughout life, staying positive, hopeful and thankful is what get’s you through the tough times.  God uses trials like mine to remind people to place their trust in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Is It Really That Simple?

In the past year, a couple of comedians from Hollywood have referred to individuals who pray to God as being mentally ill.  While children have a tendency to have make believe friends, adults who talk out loud to an invisible God seems strange.  Although non-believers may refer to this sight as a sign of mental illness, this spiritual practice is an act of faith.  One day Jesus’ disciples were floundering as novice prayers, asking the son of God for help, to teach them how to pray effectively.

“So I say to you, ask and keep on asking, and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking, and you will find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you,” Luke 11:9.

In the beginning of Luke chapter 11, Jesus gives his disciples an outline for praying known as the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father.  This is similar to modern day acronyms like ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication or PRAY: petition God, repent, adoration for God and your own needs.  After receiving this basic format, perhaps one of the disciples pondered, is it really that simple?  In the passage above and below Jesus responds with the attitude, desire and will necessary to develop a powerful prayer life.

For everyone who keeps on asking [persistently], receives; and he who keeps on seeking [persistently], finds; and to him who keeps on knocking [persistently], the door will be opened, Luke 11:10.

First, don’t be afraid to ask God.  Since the Lord is all knowing, just verbalize any desire on your heart and thought on your mind.  However, when you do pray, be diligent, eager to hear and see the power of prayer at work in your life.  If any prayer is denied, in limbo or unclear, demonstrate persistence like the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8.  Jesus doesn’t want passive prayers.  Rather, keep on knocking, wrestling with God in prayer as you seek answers to prayer in the context of God’s will.  For those who seek a deeper relationship with God, may you come to a point when you can honestly say, prayer really is this simple.

by Jay Mankus

Pray at Lunchtime for the United States

The origin of praying for a meal has ties to the Old Testament and New Testament.  In the days of Israel, cup bearers were similar to modern day secret service agents.  Instead of serving as an armed guard, these men tested the food and wine for poisons.  If no one died, this meal was safe for the king to enjoy.  One of the most famous cup bearers is Nehemiah, who God used as a vessel to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  In the first century, the apostles gave thanks for each meal the Lord provided.  While the passage below does not detail the words spoken, praying before eating was a form of thanksgiving.

Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all, and he broke it and began to eat, Acts 27:35.

Today, Christians continue this practice, folding their hands, closing their eyes and either silently or verbally expressing thanks to God for daily bread.  Just as Moses gave thanks for manna from heaven and quail via God, saying grace is an act of appreciation for the little things in life.  Unfortunately, praying at lunch has made national news recently for the wrong reason.  Brigadier General John Teichert who has a blog encouraging individuals to pray at lunchtime for the United States is being threatened by a lawsuit.  Attorney Michael Weinstein who trolls Christians on military bases recently said, “General Teichert should be doing time behind prison bars, not commanding a Wing wearing a general’s stars,”

Then all of them were encouraged and their spirits improved, and they also ate some food, Acts 27:36.

Luke provides the benefits of praying before a meal in the passage above.  Based upon the words used by Luke, saying grace can be moving as people pour out their hearts to God.  This specific prayer encouraged everyone in attendance as well as uplifting their spirits.  If public prayer for a meal could have this impact on a group of people, why is this attorney be so upset?  If prayer can inspire souls to act, what’s the big deal?  How is prayer hurting military bases and the men and women who serve this country?  Perhaps, if atheists, critics and skeptics begin to pray, this world would become a better place.  May the readers of this blog keep General Teichert in your prayers so that the power of prayer will continue to thrive in this country and throughout the world.

by Jay Mankus

I Wouldn’t Trade Things For the World

My wife’s oldest living relative is ninety nine.  Up until six years ago, Aunt Peg hosted a Thanksgiving Day celebration at her home in Kewanee, Illinois.  Every other Thanksgiving served as a reunion for the Hanson and Wagner families in southwestern, Illinois.  Days prior to my wedding twenty two years ago, I was introduced to ninety strangers who would soon become relatives.  While at times this was more of an interrogation, I played along trying to remember as many faces and names as I could for our reception.  Marrying into a large extended family can be overwhelming, yet I have grown to appreciate the special personalities within Leanne’s family.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me,” Matthew 4:8-9.

Working for Amazon the past five years hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to travel out to Chicago for this festive event.  Like a prodigal son, I felt compelled to make the effort this year, especially with the passing of Leanne’s father.  Flying out after work one morning, I was able to reconnect with Leanne’s side of the family.  Following a typical Thanksgiving meal, the Hansons usually puts on a talent show aptly named the Hanson Family Theater.  However, this year each attendee was asked to give a thirty second infomercial, a synopsis of their current life.  While I was dreading the idea of fifty people standing up one after another,  I was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of enduring boredom, I appreciated the commonality exhibited by almost everyone.  Faith, family and God is the bond that has kept this tradition alive for half a century.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.

As Leanne and I inch closer to the half century mark in age, I had a revelation last night.  Actually, this was more of an insight to where I am in life.  As much as I complain about my current job, I see the hidden blessing of only working four nights a week.  Despite missing out on any type of social life, I have been able to attend nearly all of my kids sporting events.  I have been there to rejoice in victories, comfort after defeat and explain from a coaching perspective why things played out as they did.  My resume isn’t exciting; nor is my income self-sufficient.  Nonetheless, I have embraced my role as a father, raising my children to the best of my ability.  Sure, I have several flaws, imperfections and weaknesses, but I have reached a state of contentment.   I still have bigger dreams and goals that I would like to fulfill, but I wouldn’t trade things for the world.

by Jay Mankus

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