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What People Do to Become Accepted

Beside my accolades as an athlete, I spent most of high school living in relative obscurity. When I became a Christian in the middle of my sophomore year, a majority of my friends were members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. During a conversion with one of my coaches as a senior, I discovered that several of my peers labeled me as a freak, holy roller and loner who didn’t know how to have fun. Perhaps, this perception inspired me to become accepted once I entered college at the University of Delaware.

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Matthew 26:41.

During a summer vacation to Tampa, Florida, I bought a socially acceptable muscle shirt. While this tank top was white, there was a character with shades and cigarette in one hand. The caption on this shirt was Too Cool. By wearing this on the day I moved into my dorm, I received several positive comments. Although the message on this shirt contradicted everything that I believed in at this time, I cared more about being accepted than serving as a light for Christ. This is what I did to become accepted.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

My plan worked as became one of the four horseman. My nickname was derived from my tank top, J.L. Cool. I guess you can say I made the most of my first semester in college, getting special invites to several parties even some to fraternities that I didn’t belong to or join. This was a wild ride, indulging in deeds of darkness while my lure and popularity spread across campus. When the second semester began, nearly half of my floor in Lane flunked out. Consumed by dread, guilt and shame, a winter retreat provided an opportunity for me to get my life right with God. While my testimony has a happy ending, only God knows the blessings that I missed out on by wanting to become socially accepted.

by Jay Mankus

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My Grand Father’s Rocking Chair

Prior to the breakdown of traditional families in America, my parents generation were committed to maintaining relationships with their extended family.  Despite living four hours away, I visited grand parents on each side of my family 3-4 times per year.  I didn’t need ancestry.com to know who my relatives were.  Rather, I grew up sitting around a large kitchen table listening to stories for a minimum of 30 minutes per meal.  My earliest recollections of my mom’s father, a resident of Hershey, Pennsylvania was sitting on his lap eating chocolate kisses.  While this chair rocked, it is considered a glider, green leather upholstery with stained wooden arm rests.  As I grew up, Grandpa Kautz and I developed a special bond, the love for golf.  After retiring, my grandfather became a starter at Hershey Country Club, able to play golf for free after work.  Prior to his death, my wife Leanne and I were able to play 18 holes with him on this course.  Although none of us played well, I still cherish the memories of this day.  Following his death, my grandfather left me 2 possessions, his golf clubs and his rocking chair/glider.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, Psalm 119:105.

Last spring, my wife and I traveled down to Tampa, Florida to clear out her father’s condo.  Jim Wagner was an avid golfer who visited this place a few times each winter to avoid harsh Chicago winters.  After 25 years of vacations, the condo was sold following Jim’s death in 2017.  It’s amazing how many possessions you can accumulate and fit into a two bedroom condo over a quarter of a century.  Sorting through each closet was emotional for my wife, a 3 day chore that resulted in several piles: donations, keep and trash.  One of the items that was headed for the dumpster was a tall lamp made out of driftwood.  At first glance, I agreed to throw this out.  However, this piece of furniture grew on me, especially with the brightness, illuminating one side of the master bedroom.  Thus, I couldn’t part with this light, driving it back to Delaware.  Prior to this trip, my grandfather’s chair was collecting dust in the corner of my bedroom.  Due to a lack of light, I wasn’t able to see so I kept finding another place to read.  As strange as it may be, it seems that this glider was waiting for my driftwood lamp to make an unusual partnership.  Now, a day doesn’t go by without turning on this lamp  before sitting down to read, write or watch television.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left [the house], and went out to a secluded place, and was praying there, Mark 1:35.

Jesus made a practice of finding a secluded place to spend time with his heavenly father each day.  The passage above doesn’t provide a specific location like a desert, mountainside or the wilderness.  On another occasion, Jesus encourages an audience to go find an empty room, close the door behind you before praying.  Prayer, study and worship isn’t meant to be public act to bring attention to yourself.  Rather, God wants individuals to locate an intimate setting so that there is nothing to distract you.  As for me, my grandfather’s glider and driftwood lamp has become like an inner sanctuary.  As I open up the Bible, study these pages and pour my heart out to God in prayer, I connect with God.  To a certain extent, this chair has become my Cave of Abdullah, 1 Samuel 22.  This place in my house now serves as a refuge, where I can retreat from the troubles and worries of life.  While I could always do better, become more committed and focused on the Lord, I continue to withdraw each day as God waits in eager expectation for me to turn on my lamp and recline in this chair.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

This chair has become an

Cash or Credit?

The concept of using a credit card began in the United States during the booming 1920’s.  John Bigging of the Flatbush National Bank of Brooklyn in New York invented the first bank associated credit card in 1946.  A few years later Frank McNamara introduced the first nationally used credit card.  The Diner’s Card was created to help families pay restaurant bills as a recent study has suggested individuals paying by credit will spend 47% more than those paying cash.  Thus, over the past 70 years shoppers continue to hear cashiers say “cash or credit?”

A man lacking common sense gives a pledge and becomes guarantor [for the debt of another] in the presence of his neighbor, Proverbs 17:18.

This consumer shift from cash to credit has altered business and marketing practices.  For example, a brief comment in the 1910 Sears Catalog stated “using credit to purchase merchandise is folly.”  This is a complete paradigm shift from modern advertisements.  American Express used Roger Daltrey in 1985 to convince future shoppers, “don’t leave home with out it.”  Other credit card companies offer cash back bonuses for spending X amount of dollars per year.  The only problem is that over 100 million Americans do not pay back their monthly balances leading to a debt epidemic enslaving families with bills they aren’t able to pay back.

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender, Proverbs 22:7.

When my wife and I take our family on vacation, we usually withdraw cash, two to three hundreds each.  The only time we use credit cards is for gas and restaurants.  A few years ago, we spent a week down in Clearwater, Florida.  With the Phillies in town for Spring Training, my wife wanted to get nice seats.  After $5 for parking, $27 per seat and a couple of snacks, it was painful to blow almost $200 cash in one day.  As Dave Ramsey says is his financial peace university classes, when you use cash instead of credit cards, you can feel the pain of wasting hard spent money.  May this blog challenge you to rethink your spending habits so that you don’t become of slave to debt.

by Jay Mankus

 

Going a Little Fargo Than Before

In the last 48 hours, there have been two school shootings.  The first was thwarted by a retired police officer on campus who immediately took out the shooter.  This heroic story from Dixon, Illinois was buried by most newspapers and omitted by the majority of cable news outlets on Thursday.  Meanwhile, today’s massacre at Santa Fe High School in Texas has left ten dead.  If recent campus shootings with fatalities tend to dominate national news, then expect this coverage in Texas to go a little further than the Parkland, Florida frenzy from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence, Psalm 11:5.

Twenty two years ago, the film Fargo debuted in theaters.  At the beginning of this movie, there is a disclaimer stating this is based upon a true story, changing the names to protect the victims and survivors.  However, a recent article entitled Fargo: True Story or Work of Fiction calls into question the brutal nature of these crimes and murders.  In 2014, FX created a television series based upon Fargo starring Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman and Colin Hanks.  Just from my initial observations, the violence in this series devalues life and as well promoting individuals to seek revenge.

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed, Isaiah 53:5.

Instead of solely blaming guns on these recent school shootings, perhaps its time to expand the suspect list to include movies, music and video games that exhibit violence.  Several of these tragic events are premeditated, inspired by years of bullying.  Others are demonically influenced after evil thoughts are sown and conceived into human minds.  According to recent investigations into murders by MS 13 gang members, Satanic worship is also to blame.  I don’t have all the answers to these growing number of school shootings, but I pray that the media doesn’t use survivors as pawns to repeal the second amendment.  May God’s angels surround the families and parents who will go asleep tonight without their children.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Voices from the Grave

After spending a long weekend enjoying the warmth of Florida, the remaining days of my family vacation served a different purpose.  My wife’s father bought a condo back in the 1990’s when her brother JD was pursuing a career as a professional golfer.  Following my marriage proposal to Leanne, I spent a winter living in Florida with JD to fulfill my own dream.  With the passing of Jim Wagner last fall, it was time to clean out everything that has accumulated over the past 25 years.  Before putting this property on the market, sorting through what was left behind was necessary and to my surprise like hearing voices from the grave.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead, James 2:26.

When death separates the living from the deceased, one of the few things you have remaining are the memories of your time together on earth.  Two of my visits to Oldsmar, Florida were business trips, serving as a staff writer for Travel Golf Media.  One of the perks of this job was playing golf for free along with a photographer.  Thus, Jim and Leanne took turns helping me, saving several hundreds of dollars in greens fees in the process.  While going through a closest I found several hats, a golf shirt and score cards from these memorable rounds of golf.  Upon seeing these items, it was like hearing Jim’s voice again saying, “thanks for a great round!”

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead,” Matthew 8:22.

The hardest part about coping with death is letting go.  Some mourning individuals create a memorial in their homes with letters, pictures or clothing worn by this loved one.  Meanwhile, deadly accidents have crosses or wreaths to remind you of the fallen.  Yet, at some point you have to move on.  During a discussion with potential candidates, Jesus urged eager disciples to let the dead bury their own dead.  Jesus isn’t trying to be cruel or harsh.  Essentially, Jesus is commanding his followers to focus on the living, those near you who need your help.  Therefore, if you want to leave your own legacy take Jesus’ advice so that your actions may serve as voices from the grave after you are gone.

by Jay Mankus

 

Proud or Ashamed?

Before adulthood tends to complicate life, children can wear their emotions on their sleeves.  Young people celebrate achievements with exuberance and gleeful satisfaction.  Unfortunately, at some point while growing up, minds become convinced that certain activities, beliefs and faiths are inappropriate.  Thus, peer pressure may cause something you were once proud of to be replaced with shame.

For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world [with all its pleasures], and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul and eternal life [in God’s kingdom]? – Mark 8:36-37.

Prior to the mass shooting that took the lives of 17 victims, students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida weren’t experts on gun control.  Yet, in the days that have followed this tragic event, teenagers have been regularly used on cable news networks to ban, limit or repeal the second amendment.  Instead of correcting the flaws in their school safety policy or address the failure of school security guards to react, guns continue to be demonized along with those who own or use a gun.

For whoever is ashamed [here and now] of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels,” Mark 8:38.

This persecution of gun owners relates to Jesus’ words above.  How you respond to the Bible, faith and Jesus in public will influence how God treats you.  Those who disown their faith amidst criticism, pressure to conform or progressive views will be shunned by God.  Thus, you can’t be halfway, its either all or nothing.  Will you be ashamed due to what others think or will a zeal for the Lord reveal pride for God?  May the passage above serve as inspiration to strengthen your faith so that your choice is clear.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Final Round

My favorite day of any planned vacation is the first.  Whether you are traveling by air, boat, car or train, the initial day sets the scene for the entire trip.  Additionally, the first day on the beach, in the mountains or on a golf course tends to be the most relaxing.  If you have gone an extended period of time without resting, there is a greater appreciation for time away from work.  However, before you know it, time flies and the end is near.  Dreading the last hours that remain on your vacation, it’s hard to make the most of your final round.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom, Psalm 90:12.

About a decade about, my parents were in a major car accidents in the mountains of Pennsylvania.  Initially, my mom thought my dad was dead as a ski hit him in the back of his head as they slide off the interstate down the side of a hill.  In an instant, their lives were changed.  I wasn’t sure if I would see him again or get the chance to say goodbye.  During an extended rehab, my father made a full recovery.  Nearly a year later, we played a round of golf together at his club in southern Delaware.  Awakened to the possibilities, I treated this day like it was our final round together.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

In most golf tournaments, there is a 36 hole cut over the first 2 days.  The final round takes place on Sunday where fans gather to see if their favorite player is victorious.  However, as you get older, nothing is guaranteed.  Thus, each time you tee if up, in the back of your mind you should think, “this may be my last.”  Unfortunately, I didn’t have this heightened awareness when I played with Leanne’s father 3 years ago in Florida.  Instead of savoring every last minute, I allowed how I was playing, poorly, to ruin my mood.  In view of Jim’s untimely death, from here on out, I will treat each day on the golf course like it’s my final round on earth.

by Jay Mankus

 

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