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Perfect No More

As a youth pastor living in Columbus, Indiana, I spent many hours of my free time attending high school sporting events.  To support members of my youth group, I often traveled to cross country invitationals, cheering on the girls team of Columbus North which was usually perfect leading up to the state meet.  Unfortunately, Kokomo’s team, just east of Indianapolis seemed to have their number, falling a few places short of perfection.  Across town, Ashley was on the fast track to make the Olympics, never losing a high meet until the state finals her junior year, swimming for Columbus East.  Winning all of her qualifying races, Ashley was invincible until 1 bad flip turn cost her, staring at the scoreboard revealed a 3rd place finish, heart broken and perfect no more.

Several years later, I had the pleasure to coach high school golf for 10 seasons.  My first crop of athletes were destined for greatness as one is now a P.G.A. professional and the other is flirting with the mini-tours.  Experiencing growing pains my first 2 seasons, one of my golfers didn’t taste defeat until his senior season.  Sure, John had lost to other golfers in AJGA events, yet he was undefeated in match play.  Playing as an 8th grader, John regularly shocked and surprised seniors.  Strangely enough, John lost his final 2 matches 5 years later, as Goliath was beaten and perfect no more.

The average athlete tastes defeat every season, forced to cope with losing.  Regardless of the level or sport, only 1 team or individual is crowned a champion, leaving every one else a loser.  When trials come, one of 2 outcomes occur: individuals become mentally tough or visibly shaken as confidence and the memory of victory fades.  While perfection is unattainable on earth, Jesus urges his followers to set lofty goals, Matthew 5:48.  The words of the apostle Paul are a good starting point for those looking to pick up the pieces of their ego, Philippians 3:13.  Since you can’t change or control past results, “forget what is behind and look forward to that which is ahead!”

by Jay Mankus


Whole in One

I witnessed a hole in one for the first time as a caddy at Concord Country Club in Pennsylvania while in high school.  As a player, I came close several times, hitting the pin, lipping out and hanging on the edge of the cup without falling.  Finally, during my 10 year coaching career, I reached this dream during my team’s 4 day seeding tournament in 2006.  On the 3rd hole at Frog Hollow, a short par 3 playing about 135 yards, I hit a pitching wedge 3 days in a row.  Playing as a marker to insure no cheating took place, I hit the pin on one bounce, ricocheting 20 feet away during the first  round, making par.  On day 2, I hit a 3/4 wedge that landed just short, hula hooped around the hole, staying out, 2 feet away for an easy birdie.  The next day, I hit nearly the identical shot, but this one to my amazement dropped in for an ace.  The only draw back is I had to buy drinks, soda, for every member of my team and a few parent drivers.  Five years later, playing disc golf with all 3 of my children, I experienced another hole in one on the 18th hole at White Clay Creek State Park, buying slurpees for the family.

To be whole means to stay in one piece, unbroken or undamaged by people, obstacles or trials in life.  Synonyms of whole include complete, entire, intact and unabridged.  Though the thrill one receives from accomplishing a hole in one is exhilarating, this feeling quickly fades, especially when you hit your next bad shot.  On the day I had my one and only golf hole in one, I made double bogeys on 3 of the last 4 holes to shoot 40.  After a topsy-turvy round of golf, you get to start fresh with a brand new scorecard the next time you play.  Unfortunately, in life once you’ve become broken, scars remain deep within your soul.  These memories can haunt individuals like nightmares, serving as a barrier to prevent someone from becoming whole again.  When a sin or sins enters life as an impulse, one of the hardest things to do is to forgive yourself once you’ve indulged.  When the aftermath of 2 Samuel 11 is exposed by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-17, King David had to pick of the pieces to his life and reputation.
The words of Psalm 103:1-13 unveil a series of lessons God taught David on his journey to become whole again.  Beginning in verse 8, God’s nature is filled with compassion, grace and love.  Rather, than treat us as we deserve, God’s memory is erased of our wrong doing, fading into infinity.  All God asks is for those who seek his name is to fear Him, with reverence.  The apostle Paul shares a similar message in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, detailing the attributes of God, encapsulated by an agape love.  If you have tried on your own without success, like the woman in Matthew 9:20-22, cries out to Jesus, He is the only one who can make you whole.  Learn to let go like David did after committing adultery and murder, as you allow the giver of life to restore you back to where you belong, James 1:18, made whole in One God.

by Jay Mankus

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