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Five Stones and a Slingshot

According to Rick Hess, a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Common Core standards have roots in President George W. Bush’ No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. Like so many education reform initiatives that seem to arise out of nowhere, Common Core Curriculum is another example of invisible human beings endowed with inordinate power to impose their ideas on public education. If case you were wondering, you can thank the National Governors Association for Common Core Standards. This attempt to re-invent the wheel for public education has left states and students well behind. When you add new curriculum such as the 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory, and White Privilege, America’s history is being erased before our very eyes.

David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of this Philistine; your servant will go out and fight with him. 33 And Saul said to David, You are not able to go to fight against this Philistine. You are only an adolescent, and he has been a warrior from his youth. 34 And David said to Saul, Your servant kept his father’s sheep. And when there came a lion or again a bear and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and smote it and delivered the lamb out of its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard and smote it and killed it, 1 Samuel 18:32-35.

As people and societies evolve, moments arise often via technology to find a faster, more efficient and quicker way of doing things. Instead of focusing on the basics: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, those in charge want to place their own stamp on how things are done. Take for example the passage below as the king and military leader is trying to instruct a shepherd boy on how defeat a giant. Initially, David appeases King Saul, trying on a heavy suit of armor. After moving around, this equipment was too bulky, preventing David from using his agility and quickness. Although the conversation between these two is brief, it appears that David convinces King Saul to let him use what he’s good at. While the odds were against him, David trades in a suit of armor for five stones and a slingshot.

David said, The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Go, and the Lord be with you! 38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 And David girded his sword over his armor. Then he tried to go, but could not, for he was not used to it. And David said to Saul, I cannot go with these, for I am not used to them. And David took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones out of the brook and put them in his shepherd’s [lunch] bag [a whole kid’s skin slung from his shoulder], in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand, and he drew near the Philistine, 1 Samuel 17:37-40.

In 1993, the Christian artist Wes King released the Robe, one of his best albums. While other songs from this collection receive most of the attention, one struck a chord with my soul. The lyrics of Second String begins with an 8th grade football player whose girl friend is a cheerleader. The only problem is this individual rides the bench, praying to get into the game. The second stanza fast forwards to high school to an embarrassing moment on his first date. The third and final stanza refers back to David’s battle with Goliath. Like a tee ball player who is being over coached by every parent in the crowd, David stops listening to everyone else by turning an attentive ear to God. When push comes to shove, you have to trust in your God given gifts and talents. Although you may be tempted to try something outside your comfort zones, five stones and a slingshot led a shepherd boy into the king’s castle.

by Jay Mankus

Songs to Get You Through the Storms in Life

When radio was in it’s prime, I spent summer days as a teenager hanging out on my back deck with friends listening to music.  Except for all request lunch hours, you could guess which dozens songs were played on an hourly loop until the next set of singles were released.  The only thing comparable from this era that remains today is Delilah Radio.  One of the few DJ’s to survive advances in technology, Delilah’s nightly show plays songs to get it’s listeners through the storms of life.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you,” Deuteronomy 31:6.

Like the various genres that exist, my tastes in music has evolved over time.  Early on, I turned to songs from Air Supply, Chicago and REO Speedwagon to get me through trying times.  Unfortunately, some of these songs made me more depressed, especially ballads by Chicago.  Thus, I began searching for something more meaningful.  Lyrics with encouraging, positive and uplifting messages.  My good friend Mindy introduced me to a new sound, inviting me to my first Christian concert.  My swim coach Ken Horne who also served as the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s school huddle leader, furthered my knowledge of this brand of wholesome music.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:23-27

These two individual inspired a life long quest to uncover hidden gems.  This lead me to discover a huge Christian warehouse where I could listen to music before buying it.  Meanwhile, Jackie, the former owner of the Sonshine House was my guide to find my favorite songs played a new local Christian station.  When I didn’t have anyone to ask, I developed a successful system based upon album covers.  Those artists who spent a little extra money on design and graphics usually produced solid tunes.  Sure, I bought plenty of duds void of any decent songs, yet I pressed on to share my passion with others.

Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him., 1 Samuel 16:23.
On this journey, I came across Christians who practiced legalism, referring to any secular form of music as being inspired by the Devil.  Years later I read a quote from Wes King in an article on the difference between Christian and secular music.  King’s opinion struck a cord with me that I have adopted.  “There are two types of music, that which glorifies God and those that glorify self.”  Depending upon your preference, you need to make sure you don’t get caught up judging the opposing side.  Rather, it’s best to seek and tell others about those songs which help you overcome the storms in life.  Below is a list of artists and topics that have helped me endure various hardships in life.
Crying Out for Help: Breathe on Me by Jennifer Knapp
Coping with Suicide: For Annie by Petra
Finding Answers: Is There Anybody Out There by Secondhand Serenade
Finding New Life: The Lost Get Found (remix) by Britt Nicole
God’s Presence: Hold On by Stellar Kart
Holding on to Hope: The Anchor Holds by Ray Boltz
Loneliness: He Won’t Let You Go by The Kry
Long Distance Friendships: Somewhere Somehow by Amy Grant & Michael W. Smith
Overcoming Addiction: Pull by Curious Fools
Perseverance: For Those Who Wait by Firefight
Starting Over: A Father’s Love by Billy Crockett
Seeking Forgiveness: When God Ran by Benny Hester
Starting Over: Back to the Start by Esterlyn
Struggling with Integrity: Get it Right by Silverline
Struggling with Problems in Life: Therapy by Reliant K
The Fullness of God: The Love of Christ by Wes King
Overcoming Failure: Perfect Love by David & the Giants
Overcoming Self-Esteem Issue: Mirror by Barlow Girl
When You’re About to Quit: Six Candles by FM Static
When You’re Losing Faith: Faith Like That by Jonah 33
by Jay Mankus

A Prayer for the Verbally Assaulted

Canadian born Rock Star Bryan Adams was right when he sang “love cuts like a knife.”  Lesser known contemporary singer Wes King added to this concept, focusing on Sticks and Stones which wound human souls.  Whether you hear it through the grapevine, feel it through dirty looks or experience harsh words first hand, no one likes to be verbally assaulted.

Save me, LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues, Psalm 120:2.

When gossip spreads, innuendos fly and rumors begin to sway people against you, helplessness can consume your heart.  Thus, if no one has your back to set the record straight, a supernaturally intervention is often necessary.  Although the context may be different, desperate individuals cry out to the heavens asking for a shell of protection against the flaming arrows of evil spewed from the mouths of bitter people.

Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.  I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war. – Psalm 120:6-7

Although verbal attacks will continue throughout your lifetime, make sure you don’t lower yourself to others’ standards or begin to stoop to a level of pettiness.  Rather, as the curses come forth, place your trust in God above, leaning on the Lord in times of distress, Psalm 120:1.  The moment you sense an urge to retaliate, make sure you choose your words wisely.  As difficult as it may be, follow the Golden Rule, doing unto others as you want others to do unto you.  If successful, your act of kindness will fulfill the words of Proverbs 25:22, heaping coals on the heads of those you verbally assault you.

by Jay Mankus

Take the High Road

Wes King crafted his song Sticks and Stones to unravel the childhood saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”  While the originator of this expression was likely attempting to encourage young people to develop “thick skin” toward words, King uses a biblical approach to form his lyrics.  Quoting James 3:1-12, this skilled writer exposes the dangers words can have on your soul.  The group Fan Mail take words one step further in their song Messed Up, claiming “we all get away with murder, the things that we say could kill!”

Whether you agree with these artists or not, words just don’t roll off people’s shoulders, dropping to the ground void of any damage, harm or pain.  In fact, like a feeding frenzy, words can cause an adrenaline rush in which you can get caught up in.  The urge to throw someone under the bus, gossip about someone you don’t like or trash someone with the rest of your friends is difficult to resist.  At a recent party, God convicted me of the very thing that I despise, taking the easy road with cheap and low blows by opening my mouth.

The term class is dying breed, a lost art in this age of Facebook, Twitter and instant messages.  Instead of following the Matthew 18:15-20 principle, most wimp out, hanging their dirty language out in the open for all to see.  Whether you like Andy Reid or not, former NFL head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 seasons, he consistently protected his players during post-game press conferences even if some played like dogs.  Thus, its time for me and others in the body of Christ to grow up spiritually.  Join me in my quest during 2013 to take the high road, declining to focus on the negative by dwelling on wholesome words which are helpful in building up others, Ephesians 4:29-30.

by Jay Mankus

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