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Tag Archives: Christmas

You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask

December is the season for watching Christmas classics.  Every year networks have some sort of X number of days, re-airing animations, children and hallmark Christmas shows.  Recently, I sat down while my wife and son were watching Home Alone.  I can’t remember the last time I saw this film, but one scene got my attention.  Attending a Christmas Eve service, Macaulay Culkin is talking to his neighbor in the back of the church.  This discussion reveals a broken relationship between a father and son without any communication for years.  After this man gives Macaulay advice, Macaulay turns the tables, “you’ll never know unless you ask your son?”

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive, Colossians 3:13.

Throughout this country, previous disagreements create tension over holidays spent together.  When maturity is present, differences can be overcome.  Unfortunately, when arrogance, bitterness or pride enters the equation, relations turn cold.  As a former teacher and youth pastor, I have listened to a number of heart breaking stories of families falling apart.  Emotions tend to make individuals say things that they often regret.  A few careless words in the heat of the moment can divide the closest of friends.  After cooling off, if you want to make amends, you’ll never know until you ask.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses, Mark 11:25.

One of the hardest parts of uniting two people who are convinced that the other is at fault lies in the principle of forgiveness.  According to Jesus, prayer should incorporate reflection, thinking about anyone that you are holding a grudge against.  The purpose of this practice is to reconcile, making right previous wrongs done by you or approaching others whom you haven’t forgiven for a past transgression.  The apostle Paul builds upon Jesus’ words, adding the concept of bearing with each other.  In the final scene of Scrooged, Bill Murray proclaims it’s never too late to find forgiveness.  Therefore, if you are alone and afraid this Christmas, wondering if reconciliation is possible, you’ll never know unless you ask.

by Jay Mankus

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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

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

3 Days in Paradise

As Christmas quickly approaches, Thanksgiving get’s the short end of the stick.  A mere blip on the radar screen as retailers transition from Halloween to Christmas overnight, often bypassing Thanksgiving completely.  If you don’t believe me, malls, outlets and retail shops are now open Thanksgiving night to start Black Friday shopping early.  To avoid complaining anymore on this day of thanks, I want to share about 3 special days in paradise.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change, James 1:17.

Since my mind tends to wonder, I write down everything I learn from reading the Bible, recording these thoughts in a journal.  At the beginning of October, the journal that was suppose to last for the year was completely full.  Without any cash on hand, I sorted through some old journals to see if there was any room to record a few days or weeks.  This search led me to stumble upon an old day timer from 2001.  This book recorded a brief history of my days as a staff writer for Travel Golf Media.  The 3 days that stick out are March 12-14th.

http://www.saddlebrook.com/tampa-golf/

Unfortunately, the same day I uncovered this day timer, my wife informed me that her father had passed away from complications of a car accident a week earlier.  As I celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I believe God wanted me to remember these 3 days.  Prior to my kids Spring Break, I spent several hours contacting golf courses in Florida ahead of this family vacation.  Leanne’s parents Jim and Barb flew down while my family drove down the 12 plus hour drive to Tampa.  While I didn’t have enough time to play golf every day, I was able to schedule 72 holes in 3 days.

http://www.belleviewbiltmore.com

My wife and I were initially suppose to play day one, 36 holes at Saddlebrook Resort and Spa, an hour north of Tampa Bay.  Since Leanne was sick, her father Jim stepped in as my photographer for the day.  We teed off at 8:07 on the Champonship Saddlebrook course, had lunch with the Director of Golf on the cabana and went off at 1:30 in the afternoon on the Palmer Course.  Since this resort is the world headquarters for the Arnold Palmer School of Golf, the pro paired us with a father and son who attended this week long golf clinic.  This is probably the only day I made my father in law feel like a king.

http://www.golfchannel.com/video/places-play-and-stay/tampa-bay/

On Tuesday, Leanne, Jim and I played Biltmore Golf Course, south of Clearwater, about a mile from the Gulf of Mexico.  This Donald Ross original is a classic tree lined course with plenty of character.  The final round was in Lutz, Florida at the TPC of Tampa Bay, teeing off at 11:14.  Host of one of the Senior PGA tours most popular stops, this course is challenging but fair if you hit it straight, not one of my strong points.  While I only had one good round out of four, the weather was beautiful and the company great.  As I celebrate Thanksgiving 2017, I will always remember my 3 days in paradise playing golf.

by Jay Mankus

When Hope Hurts

I was watching a documentary last weekend on the Christmas Day tsunami in 2010.  This event took many tourists in Indonesia by surprise, unaware of the signs of impending doom that was about to strike.  Just when eyewitnesses of this tragedy thought it was safe, another powerful wave appeared, stronger than the previous one.  Those who found a secure location above the carnage, watched helplessly, hoping for the best.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, Romans 12:12.

With family, friends and sightseers separated from their loved ones, the waiting began.  Due to the extreme currents of these rivers of debris, the topography of these resorts were unrecognized after this tsunami.  These condition made it difficult to find those carried away.  Shortly afterward, missing persons bulletin boards and internet sites began to emerge.  Hoping for good news, thousands waited for days, unsure of the fate of their children, parents and spouses.  This is when hope hurts.

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you, Psalm 39:7.

As someone who recently received a phone call bearing bad news, this can be devastating.  Whether it’s an accident, cancer or a rare illness, waiting to hear the condition of a loved one produces a heavy heart.  The permanence of death is a tough pill to swallow.  Sure, from time to time, there will be miracles that defy science, but the grave is the final resting place for everyone.  Therefore, as you endure moments in time when hope hurts, place your trust in the Lord.  By doing this, healing comes in the morning, Lamentations 3:23.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Prayer of Jesus

When Jesus is mentioned in the context of prayer, the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father comes to mind.  Yet, I recently heard a pastor give a sermon on Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible.  The point he was trying to make is if you take the words of Psalm 119 and apply them as a prayer, this is what God desires for you.

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?  By living according to your word, Psalm 119:9.

The Lord’s Prayer teaches individuals to begin prayer by acknowledging and praising the God of heaven and earth.  Prayer is meant to draw you toward God’s will; not a Christmas wish list to seek selfish desires.  The Psalmist compliments prayer, revealing the path to purity.  Anyone who strives to live according to the Bible moves closer to fulfilling the prayer of Jesus.

Give us today our daily bread, Matthew 6:11.

One of the most overlooked passages in the Sermon on the Mount is the verse above.  While it’s simplistic in nature, Jesus stresses one vital aspect about prayer, take life one day at a time as tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.  The World Health Organization proves this point as 153,424 die each day.  If you want to know and follow God’s will, read, study and meditate upon Psalm 119.  As individuals turn their attention to biblical principles, the prayer of Jesus will transform your life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Hope verses Heart-break

Anticipation, day dreaming and utopia are synonyms for hope.  Like an anxious child eager to open presents on Christmas morning, hope is like a promise waiting to be unwrapped.  The only problem is sometimes the hype doesn’t live up to your own expectations.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer, Romans 12:12.

When desires are unfulfilled, a wave of agony, dire and sadness replace inner joy.  In these moments of disappointment, its easy to overreact.  However, if you are not careful, heart-break can lead to depression.  If healing does not occur, hope can fade like the setting sun.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18.

If this blog finds you down in the dumps or recovering from a broken heart, the Bible provides two words of encouragement.  The first urges individuals to rely on prayer in times of trouble.  Prayer serves as a source of hope.  Meanwhile, if your spirit has been crushed by a relationship, tragedy or uncertainty don’t lose hope.  God promises to surround you with either angels, friends or strangers to get you through the tough times in life.

by Jay Mankus