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What Would Have Become of Me?

Some of the Psalms of David are like entries in a personal diary. Whether in the fields tending sheep, leading the Israeli army into battle or living in isolation during the last few years of King Saul’s reign, David spoke straight from the heart. Despite his numerous flaws, the Lord referred to David as a man after God’s own heart. However, what would have become of David if he never repented of his adultery and murder of Bathsheba’s husband?

Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, [even then] in this will I be confident, Psalm 27:3.

According to an Old Testament prophet, the spirit of the Lord departed from King Saul shortly after David was anointed to become the next king, 1 Samuel 16:12-14. When individuals begin to make up the rules as they go, straying from the commands in the Bible, God’s favor is lost. King Saul drifted so far away from the Lord that he sought the advice of the witch of Endor, looking for answers that only God could provide. Saul is not alone as everyone experiences a breaking point, standing at crossroads in life.

[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! – Psalm 27:13

For me, this occurred prior to my senior year of college. Just before going back to school, I broke my ankle, laying in bed for my final days of summer. Spiritually lukewarm to the core, God was about to spit me out. I was grasping both sides of the fence, a hypocritical Christian, living in the world and of the world. After a couple days of reflection, I decided to follow Jesus with all my heart, soul and mind. Sometimes I wonder, what would have become of me if I choose the broad path, Matthew 7:13-15? I probably would have spent most of life pursuing some sort of career in golf. Yet, just as David pondered the same question, I would have missed out on all of God’s blessings like the attached song. May this blog help you see through life’s storms to recognize God’s blessings in disguise.

by Jay Mankus

Letters of Love

Prior to 10th grade, I hated the English language. Perhaps, this explains why I took 4 years of French and 2 years of Spanish in high school. As a shy stuttering student who was afraid of embarrassing myself, two English teachers laid a foundation for letters of love to express what I was unable to say out loud. Mrs. Ehrig and Mrs. Harker instilled in me a desire to write.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

This ability didn’t come naturally until I fully grasped key elements of English like grammar and spelling. This progress coincided with the coming out of my shell to let others in. Following high school graduation, I wanted to find a way to maintain these newly formed friendships. This desire gave birth to a passion for writing letters. Each year of college I devoted more and more time for letter writing to share my appreciation to those individuals who blessed and enriched my life.

Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us, Romans 5:7-8.

While I still enjoy writing, there is another letter of love that surpasses all understanding. The Bible is God’s letter of love revealing His willingness to give up His one and only son to die for our sins. The passages above illustrate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, Colossians 2:13-15, willing to be nailed to a cross to pardon the sins of the past, present and future. May this act of love and the attached song by the Kry remind you of God’s letter of love.

by Jay Mankus

Drifting Back Into Church

For a decade I stood in front of teenagers as a Bible teacher informing students of the importance of attending church. At the time, one of my close friends was a famous author who wrote books on Church Growth and Spiritual Gifts. When I was able to teach a couple of elective courses, I began to implement this material into my curriculum. Thus, I challenged juniors and seniors to ascertain their spiritual gifts. Once discovered students were encouraged to apply these talents within a local congregation or youth group.

But sin, finding an opportunity through the commandment [to express itself] produced in me every kind of coveting and selfish desire. For without the Law sin is dead [the recognition of sin is inactive]. I was once alive without [knowledge of] the Law; but when the commandment came [and I understood its meaning], sin became alive and I died [since the Law sentenced me to death]. 10 And the very commandment which was intended to bring life, actually proved to bring death for me, Romans 7:8-10.

As Easter Sunday approaches I find myself in an awkward predicament. Due to a strange sleep schedule, working nights, my body has become lazy, like the sluggard described by Solomon in the book of Proverbs. After attending church in January, other priorities have replaced church resulting in a three month absence. A rationalizing mind hides behind the two movie scripts I have been working on due May 1st. Despite pulling all nighters writing each weekend, there is no excuse for abandoning a body of believers. Thus, I find myself as a casual attender, like the Christmas and Easter crowd who will flock to mass this weekend.

Because of the surpassing greatness and extraordinary nature of the revelations [which I received from God], for this reason, to keep me from thinking of myself as important, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan, to torment and harass me—to keep me from exalting myself! – 2 Corinthians 12:7.

Within two chapters of the Bible, the apostle reveals some sort of secret sin that haunted him. Romans 7 hints to times in life when Paul wanted to do right, but the sinful nature caused him to do that what he despised. Every Saturday night I have intentions to go to church on Sunday, but my flesh has become too weak snuffing out the presence of the Holy Spirit. In the passage above, Paul reveals a physical ailment that hindered his daily life. This pain was a messenger of Satan attempting to steal Paul’s joy. If everything goes as planned, I will be drifting back into church Sunday. However, unless I tame my flesh like 1 Corinthians 9:26-27, I won’t become the man of God the Lord desires.

by Jay Mankus

From Heaven or Earth?

When my father was forced to transfer to Cleveland, Ohio to keep his job, I was introduced to cocktail parties.  If you want to move from the middle to upper class, I learned that these social events were a necessary evil.  These house parties enabled my parents to make new friends.  This group called New Clevelanders encouraged parents to bring their own college children to these functions as a way to network as families started over in a new town.  I quickly realized that colleges, degrees and majors provided surface level discussions.  If you wanted to fit in, going clubbing, drinking and partying were code names into this elite club.  I went along with the crowd for a while until conviction made it clear that I was living a lie.

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you a question. You tell Me: The baptism of John [the Baptist]—was it from heaven [that is, ordained by God] or from men?” – Luke 20:3-4

During the first century, Jesus began to debate religious scholars.  Raised in elite and wealthy families, these men were schooled by the best and brightest minds.  Meanwhile, Jesus who spent most of his life as a carpenter, void of any formal educational, drew much larger crowds.  Thus, resentment manifested in the hearts of these men, jealous of Jesus’ popularity.  This culminated in the passage above as Jesus uses John the Baptist to illustrate that authority can come from heaven, not just through earthly institutions.  Certain aspects, knowledge and qualities can only be explained as ordained by God despite what earthly wisdom may suggest.

They discussed and debated it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are firmly convinced that John was a prophet,” Luke 20:5-6.

During a breakfast I had with a friend in December, he marveled at my ability to come up with thousands of ideas for my blogs.  From an earthly point of view, my only credentials for writing involve teaching poetry at a boarding school.  This tangible experience ignited a passion for writing.  Nothing in my past pointed to a career in writing.  My English grades, grammar and vocabulary were average at best.  Yet, just as John the Baptist received a special anointing from God, the Lord has given me the gift of writing in the Spirit.  The more in tune with God I become, the deeper my blogs tend to be.  However, on occasion, I become unplugged, relying on earthly knowledge, struggling to come up with material for a week.  These phases are natural, a by product of human nature.  Nonetheless, while earthly credentials do lead to successful writers, I credit my heavenly father for Express Yourself 4Him.

by Jay Mankus

 

Operation Going Dark

Going dark is military lingo for the sudden termination of communication.  This decision is designed to prevent enemies from detecting chatter or revealing the location of a squad or unit.  While communication appears to have ceased, in reality contact has moved from a public channel to a private communication channel to avoid eavesdropping from opposition forces..

Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life,” John 8:12.

While military operations have code names, physical operations focus on a specific part of the human body.  As for me, I will be having cataract surgery on my right eye to improve my vision.  Initially, I will be going dark, forced to stop writing until the healing process enables me.  Starting next Friday, this site may not post a blog every day.  I’m not sure what the future holds, but God willing daily devotions will resume in His time.

The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it], John 1:5.

The third example of going dark is the least pleasant option.  Whether through curiosity, disobedience or rebellion, some people will turn their back on God.  This decision blocks the light of truth, distorting right from wrong.  The longer individuals remain separated from God, going dark becomes a lifestyle not just a term.  May this blog serve as a warning to urge wanderers to turn back toward God’s light.

by Jay Mankus

Bouncing Back from Defeat

Winston Churchill once defined success as going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.  I wish I was familiar with this quote during my final two seasons as a youth baseball coach.  I can’t remember how many games my team lost as defeat became of way of life.  Since these 2 teams only won 4 games, just one in my final season, celebrations were few and far between.  This likely explains Churchill’s emphasis on enthusiasm, learning from each failed attempt to ensure the same mistakes of the past aren’t repeated in future battles.

For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory, Deuteronomy 20:4.

In my first and only season as a head basketball coach, my players never experienced defeat, going 13-0.  The only time this team trailed at the half was in the city championship game, down by 10 points.  Clawing back in the second half, these players fought hard to send the game into overtime.  On the final play in overtime, my sixth man collected a weak side rebound, tipping the ball in at the buzzer.  When perfection is achieved, enthusiasm comes naturally.  Yet, as a coach, sometimes failure serves as a wake up call.  If a team despises losing, the fear of defeat motivates players to do everything in their power to ensure victory.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

Last Friday I received news that Hollywood rejected my latest screen play.  While this news should have been devastating, my soul was comforted by a Winston Churchill quote I heard on the radio.  C.S. Lewis defined success as the process of arriving in Mere Christianity.  A century earlier, Thomas Edison discovered 2000 ways how not to produce electricity before finally inventing the incandescent lightbulb.  If you can learn one thing from history it is that failure is a necessary evil to spur souls on to reach their ultimate goal.  As for me, I’m not sure if I will ever write a successful movie that is bought or produced by Hollywood.  Nonetheless, if I turn to Christ who strengthens me, my enthusiasm for writing will return so that my dream of writing one screen play per year in retirement may soon become a reality.  This is how I plan to bounce back from defeat.

by Jay Mankus

 

Friends Along the Way

As a child, there was nothing like a sleep over, especially if it meant going away with a friend or neighbor’s family.  High school brought class trips, spending a day or weekend on a field trip.  College introduced the concept of road trips, going some where at the spur of a moment, chilling and hanging with buddies.  For those who marry, weddings result in Honeymoons and if kids arrive, family vacations in the future.  Ultimately, as you go through life alone or with a significant other, each day serves as an opportunity to become friends along the way.

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, Luke 8:1.

If you use the Bible as a source, Jesus lived in relative obscurity, serving as a carpenter in Nazareth.  Single and living with his mother, Jesus wasn’t searching for a woman or seeking to build his business.  Rather, Jesus was waiting until the Holy Spirit revealed the ideal time to begin his earthly ministry.  When this moment arrived, Jesus spent a majority of his time on the road, traveling from town to town with his twelve disciples.  As people began to receive healing, experience miracles and transform their lives, a bond developed between Jesus and his followers.  I guess you can say Jesus was a model for finding friends along the way in life.

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told the parable of the Sower, Luke 8:4.

As I look back on the past 6 years of my writing, there is only one earthly person I can credit for my progress.  Spencer Saints who has his own travel blog entitled Friends Along the Way, Friendsalongtheway.org, is the person who encouraged me to pursue a writing career.  Through the years, Spencer introduced me to a writer’s group, started his own and steered me in the right direction as I began to write movie scripts.  We all meet friends along the way in life, but few express how they feel before they are gone.  May this blog inspire you to reach out to those who have helped you along the way, especially during the bleak moments in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

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