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Tag Archives: West Virginia

When You Are Left in the Dark

Back in 1993, there was an opening for a counselor and teacher at a boarding school in West Virginia. After the interview, I was hired for the Spring Semester, April and May. The High Scope Institute for Ideas was held at a camp in the Monongahela National Forest. Upon my arrival to Camp Horseshoe, I was surrounded by mountains in the middle of no where. One of the strict rules involved no cable, cell phones or internet. In other words, I was unplugged for two months, left in the dark about what was going on in the rest of the world.

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being spiritually impassioned, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things about Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak boldly and fearlessly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained more accurately to him the way of God [and the full story of the life of Christ], Acts 18:25-26.

During the first century, a native of Alexandria was sheltered from the earthly ministry of Jesus. This man named Apollos simply shared what He learned from the Hebrews Scriptures, daily studying the Torah. Apparently, Apollos was familiar with the teaching of John the Baptist, but his spiritual knowledge was limited. Upon his visit to Ephesus, Apollos became spiritually impassioned, excited to tell others everything that he was learning. While listening one day, two assistants of the apostle Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, took Apollos aside to bring him up to date on the full story of the life of Jesus.

But they did not all pay attention to the good news [of salvation]; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ, Romans 10:16-17.

While writing a letter to members of the Church at Rome, Paul reveals the source of faith. During the first century, illiteracy prevented many church goers from personally reading letters sent by the apostle Paul. Thus, apostles, disciples and pastors read what was written out loud so that everyone could believe, not just the literate. Thus, faith is derived by hearing and believing the message concerning Christ. Although some people may feel like they have been left in the dark spiritually, you can fill in the blanks to what you have missed by daily reading and studying the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

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If You Only Knew

My favorite place to visit during a decade of teaching was the teachers lounge.  Although this seems like a strange answer, it’s one of the few places faculty could go without being bombarded by questions, distracted by a student or interrupted by an upset parent.  This was a setting where staff let their guard down, sharing various burdens on their hearts.  I truly enjoyed the meaningful conversations I engaged in during my first couple of years teaching.  After a while, I began to ask others teachers about certain students, seeing if they had similar concerns or issues in their class.  During one such exchange, my eyes were opened to a situation that I never knew about.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

One of my students was a goof ball, sarcastic and usually a distraction to my classroom.  However, I was enlightened to the reason behind her behavior one afternoon.  Evidently, her parents marriage was falling apart, often left alone some nights with her older sister playing the role as parent.  One of my peers eventually said to me, “It’s a miracle that these children get to school on time daily.”  If I only knew this upfront, I probably would have been more understanding.  Yet, sometimes inappropriate behavior is merely a reaction to what’s going on at home.  This pain held deep inside of hearts, minds and souls often comes out in the form of emotional outbursts.  This cry for help often get’s overlooked by most teachers.

Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security, Jeremiah 33:6.

The most challenging class I dealt with were junior high students in West Virginia.  These students were intelligent, but due to issues at home hampered their overall achievement in school.  Selected by a new boarding school entitled the High Scope Institute for Ideas, I was chosen to counsel and teach these candidates.  Using an active learning environment, students were engaged with seminars and workshops.  In the middle of the day, tutoring sessions were held for those falling behind followed by team building exercises to encourage leaders to come forward.  This semester holds a special place in my heart as I lived with these students like a camp counselor.  Yet, one student began to act up near the end of the school year.  After threatening to kill another student, I had a heated exchange with him, throwing his bunk bed across the room.  Like Jesus turning the tables of money changers in the temple, my reaction struck a nerve, resulting in a tearful confession.  If I only knew how bad his family life was, my methods would have changed.  In view of this, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Rather, take the time to listen so that you can help those waiting to be healed from the pain of their past.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Hanging of John Brown

Funerals and wakes are meant to celebrate someone’s life.  This time of reflection gives individuals a chance to say goodbye, paying respect to people whom may have touched your life.  Following the hanging of John Brown, a wide array of Americans paid homage to this abolitionist.  Poet Henry David Thoreau gave a speech simply entitled Remarks After the Hanging of John Brown where he referred to this man as the Soul’s Errand.  In a recent documentary produced by Ken Burns, John Brown is called the Meteor that ignited the Civil War.

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done, Psalm 78:4.

Historians remember John Brown as a failure in most aspects of his life.  Unsuccessful as a businessman, Brown felt compelled by God to help end slavery.  Following the sacking of Lawrence, Kansas by pro-slavery forces, Brown and his supporters fought back by killing five men in May of 1856.  However, three years later John Brown’s fortune would change.  During a raid on the federal armory in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, John Brown tried to form a resistance to set slaves free.  Yet, this attempt ended in the death of some men, desertion by others and his own conviction for treason by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Thus, John Brown was hung in public.

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, Matthew 6:20-21.

There are two certainties in life. First, you will die unless Jesus returns prior to your death. Second, the seeds that you sow in life will produce a legacy.  While speeches at memorials focus on the good that individuals accomplished in life, not everyone will paint a rosy picture of interactions with you.  In view of this fact, I hope that I can develop a sense of urgency to dedicate my life toward worthwhile causes.  Life is too short to give up before you taste success.  Therefore, seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness by setting your heart on eternal treasures; a fate that John Brown was wiling to die for.

by Jay Mankus

When Mistakes Last a Life Time

In the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on former NFL wide receiver Randy Moss entitled Rand University, this feature focuses on how hard it is for minorities to make it in professional sports.  Two high school teammates of Moss, Sam Singleton Jr. and Bobbie Howard refer to a generation curse, causing most talented athletes from Rand, West Virginia to end up drinking in the 7 Eleven parking lot every weekend wondering what might have been.  Whether its drugs, poverty or giving into temptation, sometimes poor choices result in mistakes that last a life time.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire, James 1:14.

While Sam Singleton Jr. received a football scholarship to Notre Dame and later went on to play a few seasons for the Chicago Bears, Sam is one of the exceptions to this Rand rule.  Bobbie Howard is more like the norm, unable to ditch his addiction to alcohol and pot.  After being drafted by a Major League Ball club, Bobbie was on his way to becoming a professional baseball player.  Unfortunately, despite showing great promise, one failed drug test sent him packing, released by an unnamed team.  At the conclusion of this film, Bobbie breaks down in tears, claiming his life is an example of when a mistake lasts a lifetime.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.

What people seek and what individuals often receive are usually 2 different things.  At some point, people can become their own worst enemy.  Like a prodigal in denial, life often takes a downward spiral, reaching a new bottom floor with each passing year.  Most don’t get a second chance like a teenage I knew at my first church as a youth pastor.  The first time he ever drove drunk was his last, dying instantly after colliding with a tree.  If only souls could break out of their spiritual funk before its too late?  Perhaps, the sad story of Bobbie Howard may serve as a wake up call or reality check before one more mistake lasts a lifetime.

by Jay Mankus

Prayer-vo-lution

The older I get, the more I realize that certain areas, places or regions are under some sort of spell.  Whether you’re easily agitated, frustrated or oppressed, demonic strongholds can elicit various emotions like a feeding frenzy.  The hardest part of diagnosing this situation is that its invisible, protected by an animus history.  Like an episode from Paranormal Survivor, these conditions call for a prayer-vo-lution.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia, Acts 16:6.

Christian historians have developed what is known as spiritual mapping.  Based upon previous leaders, residents or significant events, the spiritual atmosphere of territories can be altered.  For example, a church in Chicago once faced a string of bad luck.  These unusual occurrences continued for years until one member discovered their church was built in a neighborhood filled with witchcraft.  After a time of prayer-vo-lution, the curses were reversed, opening the door for blessings in the future.

And do not give the devil a foothold, Ephesians 4:27.

I’m not an expert in this field, but I have seen how prayer can transform an entire campus.  During my semester as a teacher in West Virginia, I felt a need to start praying in the building where I taught.  This took place for about a month, when a spiritual hunger developed within several students.  By the end of the school year, a prayer-vo-lution began to permeate the hearts and minds of teenagers.  If you appear to be facing a spirit of resistance, perhaps a prayer-vo-lution will remove the barriers currently blocking your way.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

When Winning Isn’t As Important

In the days following 9/11/01, many Americans used professional sporting events as a vehicle for healing.  In Major League Baseball, the singing of Talk Me Out to the Ball Game was replaced with God Bless America.  At the first Monday Night Football Game in the NFL, a sense of patriotism swept through the crowd, causing tears to flow from my eyes as a giant flag, shaped like the United States of America was stretched across the entire field.  During this period in time, winning wasn’t the only thing.  Rather, playing these games symbolized a sense of normalcy to proclaim to the world, “America will carry on.”

Meanwhile, another community experienced a similar tragedy, placing sports into its proper perspective.  The 2006 film We Are Marshall is based upon the death of 37 football players, 5 coaches, 25 boosters and other staff who perished in a plane crash near Huntington, West Virginia.  Despite wanting to remain competitive, winning had to be placed on the back burner.  To honor the memory of these people, the school president was nudged by students to field a team to fill the void left behind.  In a stirring scene, Matthew McConaughey, who plays head coach Jack Lengyel, redefines winning to include playing with all your heart for 60 minutes.  “If you do this, we can not lose!”

Today, competition has a wide scope from school districts who have banned keeping score to the hard core who keep score in everything they do.  For me, sports was a refuge, a place where I excelled.  The more success I tasted, the cockier I became.  Yet, like many things in life, athletic competition has a way of humbling the proud, bringing each star back down to earth.  However, when I finally gave up my pursuit of playing professional golf, only then did I understand winning isn;t everything.  Whether you have the talent or not, give your dream a shot and let the chips fall where they may.  In the end, winning isn’t as important as knowing that you did everything you could to maximize your God given talents.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Sunken Treasure

After viewing ESPN’s latest 30 for 30 presentation Rand University featuring Randy Moss, I was struck by the mentality possessed by citizens of Rand, West Virginia.  According to Sam Singleton Jr, dreams stop after high school for those who call Rand home.  Regardless of how gifted you are, few make it pass the 7 Eleven, the only convenience store in town, known as Rand University.  This is where shining stars become sunken treasures.

Although Randy Moss and Bobbie Howard did overcome the odds to make it to the National Football League, they are the exception to this rule.  Enrollment at Rand University begins with a few 6 packs here or a joint there.  Once blinded by addiction, apathy or both, the students in Rand become stuck, unable to escape the grips of invisible demonic forces.  Subsequently, dreams sink to the bottom of the ocean, where hope is nothing more than fool’s gold.

From a spiritual perspective, there are many towns like Rand, places where aspirations die.  If you pull back the third dimension, you will find generational curses and sins of the father blocking success, Exodus 20:3-5.  Unfortunately. Sam Singleton is merely a casualty of this spiritual war, Ephesians 6:12.  If you want to avoid becoming a sunken treasure of untapped potential, make sure you are prepared, Ephesians 6:13-20, with the armor of God to shield yourself from future attacks.

by Jay Mankus

 

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