Advertisements
RSS Feed

Tag Archives: football

The Final Season

In 1983 I was an incoming high school freshman eager to participate in a fall sport.  At 100 pounds and five feet tall, I was too small for football.  Concord’s soccer team had just won a state title so nearly one hundred boys tried out to make this team.  Fortunately, our paper boy was a runner, making the sports section of Wilmington’s News Journal after each race.  When I found out the cross country team didn’t cut anyone, I started my first of what I thought would be four seasons.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

While running 5-8 miles a day in the heat wasn’t initially appealing, the individuals on Concord High’s cross country team welcomed me like I was joining a new family.  The aches and pains of running were soothed by loving teammates who accepted me despite my size and stuttering.  As the youngest child of three whose sisters were both in college as I entered high school, cross country quickly became my extended family, caring for one another before and after each race.  What other sport do you find complete strangers hugging one another after a race or holding someone up after collapsing at the finish line so they don’t cramp up.

Someone said to Him, “Look! Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside asking to speak to You.” 48 But Jesus replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples [and all His other followers], He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven [by believing in Me, and following Me] is My brother and sister and mother,” Matthew 12:48-50.

This encouraging environment has made me an advocate for cross country.  While serving as a youth pastor in Indiana, I spent Saturday’s cheering on teenagers from my church.  As a former runner, I was able to counsel the disappointed and motivate others to continue to improve.  Running distances from 2.1 to 3.1 miles requires trial and error, going out at various paces to determine the best strategy for each course.  The elite often use large invitationals as throw away races to see how fast they can go out before they die, falling way off the pace.  While watching the Corinthian Games, similar to the Olympics, the apostle Paul writes about mental toughness, pushing your body to the limit to reach your full potential in the passage below.

Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. 26 Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.

In my final year of teaching, I was fortunate enough to coach my two boys at Red Lion.  The previous coach set up a running club three days a week for elementary students to go along with coaching the junior high team.  This allowed Daniel to run with his older brother James., creating a competitive atmosphere.  Recognizing where I was as a runner at this age, I implemented fun days to keep the casual runner interested, giving 8th graders input to choose a fun practice each week.  Meanwhile, I pushed eager runners toward qualifying for the Yes Athletics National Championships as the East Regional was held an hour south of our school.  Over a 3 year period, I drove runners to nationals at Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.  This experience enabled students to compete against the best runners in the country.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

Over the past 7 years, I have been a cross country parent, watching my two sons run for St. George’s.  Since my daughter Lydia has fallen in love with volleyball, Daniel’s senior year will be my final season attending Cross Country races.  Before I become a volleyball groupie, the reality of saying goodbye to cross country will be sad.  However, I do have a unique opportunity to run in a 5K prior to this fall’s county race known as the Old Timers Race.  Unfortunately, this requires getting into shape and running in the heat.  I haven’t started training yet, but as Daniel’s first race approaches this week, running to various mile marks with serve as  a warm up.  There is an old saying that states “Father Time remains undefeated.”  Yet, God has given me one final season to seize each day that I am blessed to watch my son Daniel complete.

by Jay Mankus

 

Advertisements

Being Open to God Calling an Audible In Your Life

In the context of sports, an audible occurs when a quarterback changes an offensive play at the line of scrimmage. When a quarterback reads the defensive scheme on the field, if the designed play is destined to fail, an audible serves as a backup plan. Audibles put players in a more favorable position to succeed if coaches allow players to improvise. However, if this freedom is not permitted by coordinators or the head coach, stubbornness will lead to failure.

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them, Proverbs 16:9.

This same principle applies to the spiritual realm. According to an Old Testament prophet, God has a plan and purpose for every human life, Jeremiah 29:11. However, if individuals aren’t teachable, open to God’s will for their life, minds often take human beings in a different direction. This fact inspired King Solomon to refer to God’s audibles, using trials and tribulations to alter human steps back into the right direction. This is how God’s Spirit realigns and reconnects mankind back toward the Creator.

If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit], Galatians 5:25.

The apostle Paul adds to this concept in a chapter about the fruits of the Holy Spirit. While the sinful nature, human desires, pull people in the opposite direction of God, the Holy Spirit calls audibles day after day. As followers of Christ begin to discern, listen and understand whispers from God, you can keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I find myself too busy, distracted and pre-occupied with my own life to listen. If I would only be open to daily audibles called by God, blessings, success and victories would follow. May this blog inspire you to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Marching Band on the Run?

There aren’t that many positive news stories that come out of high schools today.  Encouraging news is suppressed, replaced by the outlandish to grab the attention of busy people going through life.  While young sports enthusiast often travel weekends to compete in athletic competitions, music lovers do the same if they are part of a marching band.  The leader of each band is known as a drum major, usually held by a senior.  These events are held on Friday and Saturday nights and occasionally on Saturday afternoon after football season.  Judging has evolved over time as music and presentation is now open to a creative frenzy with props, running and unusual formations.  This lowering the bar from merely sound quality has caused some choreographers to go off the deep end.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things, Philippians 4:8.

According to several news reports, a Mississippi High School Band Director took his band’s halftime show to a new low.  Last Saturday in Forest Hill, Mississippi high school band members were given several props.  These plastic rifles were used to promote social justice with students holding four boys dressed up as police officers hostage at gun point.  This might have been funny if part of some sort of Saturday Night Live skit, but after two Mississippi police officers were recently shot and killed, this display was unacceptable.  Forest Hill was playing Brookhaven, the hometown of these dead officers.  Immediately following this halftime show, social media was set ablaze, reacting to this insensitive dramatization.  As of earlier today, the band director was suspended without pay until the school investigates this matter leaving band members in limbo.

A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left, Ecclesiastes 10:2.

Does anyone think this punishment fits the crime?  Were school officials too harsh or not strict enough?  If you remember a couple months ago, a high school football coach was fired after kneeling and praying with his team after a game.  This act was deemed unforgivable, something that required an immediate dismissal.  Perhaps, if this man just waited until the National Anthem and then kneeled, that would have been okay, right?  However, the moment you add prayer to kneeling, that’s it.  According to public officials, this is the line that you can’t cross.  The double standards and hypocrisy that exists today in public education is undeniable.  If you take the right stance, liberal or progressive, you might have to go away for a while, but you can keep your job.  Anyone who supports the Bible, prayer or Trump, you will be shamed like a band on the run.  What do you think about this most recent event?

by Jay Mankus

 

Taking as Many People with You as Possible

During a visit to the city of Corinth, the apostle Paul discovered a passionate group of sports fans.  Instead of modern sports like basketball or football, Corinthians embraced Track and Field as host of a Summer Olympics type of annual event.  Thus, Paul felt compelled to use words in one of his letters that appealed to this culture.  Within 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul compares evangelism with a race, hoping to win as many people as possible to Jesus Christ.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Years earlier, Jesus reveals an interesting concept to his disciples in the passage above.  While speaking about persecution, Jesus provides a heavenly perspective to a common event followers of Christ will encounter.  Human nature tends to make individuals fearful of what other people think of you.  However, Jesus warns the disciples about worrying about the wrong thing.  Rather, be on guard against the Devil, the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, who uses temptation to ensnare souls toward a life in hell, eternally separated from God.

Who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time, 1 Timothy 2:6.

The Bible is filled with promises about life and the future.  John 3:16-17 reveals why God the Father sent his son Jesus to earth.  Upon completing God’s will for his life on earth, Jesus gave himself up as a ransom, paying the price for the sins of mankind.  This selfless act made it possible for fallen creatures to have a place in heaven, John 14:1-4.  Thus, anyone who makes their eternal reservation, 1 John 5:13, should want to take as many people with you as possible.  May the hope of a new year inspire souls to fulfill the great commission, Mark 16:15-16 so that the afterlife will serve as a great big family reunion in the sky.

by Jay Mankus

Forgetting to Thank the One Providing the Blessings

The expression “you don’t know what you had until its gone” often hits home over the holidays.  Each year death takes away someone or something special from our lives.  Unfortunately, when life is going well, people forget to be grateful.  Take for example the Israelites, freed from 400 years of oppression and slavery.  Yet, this wasn’t enough as hungry stomachs led to complaining and grumbling.  When God answered their prayers in the form of manna, bread from heaven, the magic of this miracle soon wore off, craving more.  As quail arrived, sent by the Lord, the Israelites forgot to thank the One providing the blessings.

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD‘s hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death,” Exodus 16:3.

Doctors tend to notice certain details that most individuals miss.  In the case of Luke, a first century physician, his version of the Healing of 10 Lepers mentions an unique observation.  Leprosy attacks the vocal cords, limiting one’s ability to project their voices.  One of the ten healed by Jesus was overcome by emotion, crying out at the top of his lungs for the first time in years.  While Jesus is disappointed that only one person came back to thank him, Luke highlights the immediate healing experienced by this man.  The other nine took their speech for granted, yet one man did not miss the opportunity to thank the One who performed this blessing.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” – Luke 17:15-18

On Thanksgiving Day, hearts and minds tend to be fixed on cooking, football or shopping.  Instead of slowing down to enjoy life, the pursuit of happiness causes souls to search for self-gratification.  This exercise usually leads to disappointment or emptiness.  Therefore, this year on this sacred day, make sure you take the time to thank the good Lord above for all the blessings in this life.  If you don’t, you will miss a golden opportunity to prepare your heart to catch the spirit of Christmas, with good tidings and great joy to all!

by Jay Mankus

My Dad

Since 1964, there have been several memorable songs in America and throughout the world.  One of the most popular, My Girl, was the first Temptation single to feature David Ruffin, the voice which transformed this group’s popularity.  However, on Father’s Day, I wonder why there hasn’t there been a similar song to honor dads, something like “My Dad.”  Although I will leave this up to professional song writers, I do think its vital to remember my own dad on this day.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him, Psalm 103:13.

My father was six feet tall as a twelve year old, a size that probably saved his life as the Russians began to invade his native Lithuania.  Fleeing his homeland and hiding in the Black Forest for weeks, my dad came to America with the clothes on his back.  Nothing was given to him as he earned a second language English, devoted himself to education and fell in love with the game of football, playing for the University of Pennsylvania before moving on to the Wharton School of Business.  From here, my dad went on to live the American dream, working his way up the corporate ladder before retiring after thirty years of service with the same company.

Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation, Psalm 68:5.

Today, I wish I had the same financial resources which my father provided, yet a different calling took me in another direction.  Though I dabbled with a career in golf as an architect and P.G.A. professional, the Holy Spirit nudged me toward youth ministry.  Weaving in coaching, teaching and writing, I’m not sure what the ending of my story on earth will look like.  Nonetheless, I am grateful for a wonderful father, encouraging family and a faith that steers me near the narrow road.  From here, all I can do is honor my father and mother, provide for my wife and children and only hope that I can have as much as an impact as my own father had on me.  Happy Father’s Day to all of you dad’s!

by Jay Mankus

The Grand Illusion

As the 2015 NFL Draft approaches, Sports Networks are creating programming to feed the anticipation of football fans.  While channel surfing the other night, I stumbled across an interesting conversation on ESPN.  A pastor from California was talking to Jameis Winston, the projected first pick in the draft about temptation  Tainted by two seasons of off the field troubles, quarterback Jameis Winston has been a victim of the grand illusion, falling prey to the deception of temptation.

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. – Proverbs 10:9

Known as the great deceiver, Satan has a way of making things look better than they really are.  Thus, the curious, unprepared and weak have a tendency to become repeat customers of the grand illusion.  Although the media will tend to label, make fun of and trash an individual for making poor decisions, there is a spiritual element that the addicted can’t cure on their own.  Similar to wearing beer goggles, sinful minds have a habit of justifying wrong actions, causing common sense to fade.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.- James 1:22

On the outside looking in, its hard to comprehend why some struggle to get control of their lives.  Bad influences, stubborn hearts and wandering souls can spend numerous years under the grasp of the grand illusion.  Those held captive often cry out to the heavens, searching for improvement from their condition.  Depending upon the severity of one’s situation, regaining control may take a while.  However, if you lean on the Lord’s power, Philippians 4:13, freedom is possible with Jesus’ help.  May this blog motivate you to remain patience until healing is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: