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Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

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

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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

One Year Later

A few days before Thanksgiving, an annual eye check up revealed a serious condition.  Unsettled by these dangerous symptoms, I was sent to an eye specialist the following week.  During this visit, the pressure in my right eye skyrocketed to eighty, fifteen is considered to be normal.  Afraid glaucoma might cause me to lose vision in my eye, this doctor called his friend, the top surgeon at Wills Eye Center in Philadelphia to schedule an emergency surgery.  This is a glimpse of the emotions that I endured just one year ago today.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:9.

Following a successful surgery, I looked like someone from a senior center, forced to wear those big wrap around sun glasses with dark lenses to protect my right eye.  To make a full recovery, I made routine trips back and forth from Philadelphia.  Initially, I took four different kinds of eye drops until I was slowly whittled off all of them.  Since I was taking one of these drops for nearly twenty years to battle iritis of the eye, my eye sight suffered, gradually becoming worse.  When I went to renew my driver’s license over the summer, I failed the eye test, unable to drive lawfully until this condition was resolved.  This stressful situation brought me back to the start, forced to rely solely on God for healing.

But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious, 1 Peter 3:4.

To the average person, December 4th is just another day on the calendar unless it’s your anniversary or birthday.  However, for me two life changing events transpired.  After hearing Skip Wilkins share his testimony at a Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Speakout in high school, I dedicated my life to God in 1984 during an altar call.  I refer to December 4th as my spiritual birthday.  Thirty two years later, I trusted the Lord that my doctor would use his God given gifts to bring restoration to my worn out eyes.  Sure, it would be great to possess the 20/10 vision of my youth, but these life altering moments have drawn me closer to God.  One year later, I am thankful to be alive, to drive, see and write one blog a day until the Lord takes me home.

by Jay Mankus

Developing An Attitude of Gratitude

As Christmas Day draws near yet again, it appears the Grinch Who Stole Christmas isn’t just a Dr. Suess classic.  Rather, a lack of thanksgiving is turning hearts once full of joy into Ebenezer Scrooge.  While 24 hours of Christmas music attempts to put people into the Christmas spirit, demons whispering Bah Humbug are drowning out carolers in the streets.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,  Ephesians 5:17-18.

I’m not sure the initial reason, but a song writer felt called to create a piece entitled the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Perhaps, modern times need a composition to prepare souls to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God with us.  If Thanksgiving Day is used properly, this celebration could kick start the 12 Days of Thanksgiving, enabling a spirit of thanks to be transformed into an attitude of gratitude.

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:19-20.

The apostle Paul provides a blue print for this evolution in a letter to the church at Ephesus.  The ungrateful tend to drown their sorrows in alcohol.  Meanwhile, the expense of gift giving can steal your joy for this special season.  To avoid this common fate, turn bitterness into praise by humming Christmas classics.  As this is practiced daily, perspectives slowly change from self-gratification toward a heart of service.  If you want to change for the better, start keeping a journal of reasons to be thankful.  When healthy practices become a habit, an attitude of gratitude will be established.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of Thanksgiving

The Hebrew word for thanksgiving is ydh, referring to a public acknowledgement.  Greek uses the term efcharisto meaning the sense of appreciation, inspiring an expression of gratitude.  When a spirit of thanksgiving is verbalized to the down trodden, hurting and needy, affirmations can uplift anyone feeling down in the dumps.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! – Psalm 106:1

Unfortunately, there is a negative force at work in the world, breeding critics, complaining and condemnation.  Whenever human beings give into the sinful nature, acts of the flesh come forth, usually in a cruel and harsh manner.  This mental barrier prevents individuals from doing the right thing as the apostle Paul describes in Romans 7.  The only way to break free from this addictive habit is through Jesus Christ.

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

As a former professional golfer, my mind always got in the way, preventing me from reaching my full potential on the golf course.  Yet, the mind also hampers those off the course, in real life, whispering doubts, failure and ungodly beliefs into your head.  Unless you confront this battle with spiritual weapons, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, victories will be few and far between.  Despite this troubling reality, with God all things are possible.  Therefore, if you want to make a difference this holiday season, unleash the power of Thanksgiving by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond Tradition

In order to keep with tradition, individuals will travel across the country if necessary to be with their family.  American minds have been programmed to gather for Thanksgiving and Christmas annually, getting stressed out and becoming broke in the process.  Is this cycle really worth repeating or has the meaning of these special holidays become lost in translation from one generation to the next?  Perhaps the meaning lies somewhere beyond tradition.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, Philippians 4:6.

As a former teacher,  I know Thanksgiving has become commercialized and stripped of its original meaning to avoid becoming politically incorrect.  Yet, if you search hard enough, you will find what really happened to celebrate this occasson.  Early on the Pilgrims initially tried communism, sharing the land and it’s harvests for the common good of the community.  However, when hard working individuals realized there was no reward for going above and beyond what was expected, production declined making that first winter difficult to survive.  Recognizing this flawed system, the following year families were allowed to keep any excess harvest, bartering and trading with Indians.  When the concept of this free market system took off, the Pilgrims and Indians came together after the fall harvest to thank God for providing enough food to get families through the winter.

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High, Psalm 7:17.

Unless you are homeless or poor, it’s hard to appreciate the effort necessary to collect, gather and store food for several months without a refrigerator or modern applicances.  Some nights, families went to bed starving, not knowing when or if another meal will be provided.  This desperate environment forces you to either work tiredlessly for food or develop a complete trust that God will somehow supernaturally provide.  Today, Americans have so much more than the Pilgrims ever did that many become spoiled, complaining about superficial aspects of life.  Sure, it would be great to be rich, buy family members lavish Christmas gifts and not have to worry about making a car or house payment.  Yet, it’s time to go beyond the tradition of Thanksgiving and Christmas to see life for what it is, a gift from God.  Don’t let earthly demands for these holidays steal your joy.  Rather, each time you wake up, look around at the blessings you have been given so that a spirit of gratitude will reign despite what others may do or say this holiday season.

by Jay Mankus

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