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Failure is Part of the Process

As the sun rises on a new day, human beings typically have one of three decisions to make. Do you play it safe to avoid embarrassing yourself? Is today the day you take a chance by risking failure? Or will you decide to embrace the status quo by holding off on making a decision until tomorrow? Whatever choice you finally make, just remember that failure is part of the process in life.

Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of [c]character (approved faith and [d]tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] [e]joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

If you are fortunate enough to have success early on in life, human nature has a tendency to relax, to rest upon past victories. When no one else challenges, threatens or usurps you as the best, you’re probably not around stiff competition. If you have never tasted defeat by winning over and over again, you’re either amazing, blessed or hardship has yet to introduce itself to you.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [c]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [[d]in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful [e]in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

In the two passages above, the apostle Paul suggests that failure is part of the process in life. Failure has a way of exposing all of your weaknesses. If you’re an athlete, being humiliated in front of family and friends can be demoralizing. Whether you’re a pitcher who is being shelled, a golfer who can’t hit it straight or a runner that finishes in last place, failure triggers that internal spark to drive competitive souls to learn and move on to live another day.

by Jay Mankus

Finding Fulfillment in Family

Like anyone on the wrong side of 50, I find myself attending more funerals the older I get. Last weekend, I paid my last respects to two members of the Hanson family. The matriarch, Aunt Peg, who lived more than a century and her son John who passed away suddenly in January. Death is never a reason to celebrate, but it does give family members a chance to come together, mourn and find a way to press on with the rest of their lives.

Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing. 12 Now also we beseech you, brethren, get to know those who labor among you [recognize them for what they are, acknowledge and appreciate and respect them all]—your leaders who are over you in the Lord and those who warn and kindly reprove and exhort you, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-12.

As a child, I was annoyed anytime I was forced to visit relatives at Thanksgiving and Christmas. As I became a teenager, I was skeptical about this annual tradition. Between the numbers of people cramped into one house and packed at a large dining room table, I found it hard to really get to know my cousins. Everything seemed so superficial and rushed, going through the motions without developing any permanent meaningful lasting relationships.

And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, 25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching, Hebrews 10:24-25.

Yet, this past weekend I found fulfillment in family. Instead of flying in for a funeral and flying out the next day, we spent four days in the mid-west. The first day was spent at Great America, the next golfing with lunch afterward, followed by golf and a series of meals out on the third with a relaxing final day. Each of these events provided one on one time with different individuals. Before the weekend ended, I felt like I became part of the Hanson family. This is what is possible when family time is stretched out instead of jamming everything into one or two days a year.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Become Despondent Through Fear

Living out a Christian faith can be oppressive, tedious, and seemingly without end of obstacles. Furthermore, when things don’t go the way you expect or think, it’s not uncommon to suffer from depression. When confidence is lost or hope slips away, fear can suck the joy out of life. Like a golfer who is all over the place during their round, there are many days where you have to grind everything out.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you, Ephesians 3:12-13.

Whatever optimistic message you have received about a new life in Christ, every day has a new set of challenges. If you let your guard down, become over confident or don’t have enough prayer cover, extreme discouragement may not be too far behind. Unpleasant emotions are a byproduct of fear, caused by a belief that someone or something is a threat. This is where faith must rise to the occasion, opening the door for boldness and courage to shine through.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. 10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:9-10.

Apparently, despondency was an issue in the first century as the apostle Paul writes a similar message to two different congregations. The context of the passage above refers to you reap what you sow. If your mind is constantly fixated on fear, you will become worn down by despondent thoughts. Therefore, if you want to rise above your circumstances, approach God with a humble heart, expecting blessings for those who belong to the household of faith.

by Jay Mankus

When Bad Things Start to Happen

According to C.S. Lewis, there are 2 theories which explain why bad things happen to good people: dualism and the Christian view.  Dualism believes there are 2 independent powers, one good and another bad that are in conflict with each other resulting in good or bad things.  The Christian view is based upon Galatians 5:16-18, detailing the cosmic battle between Lucifer and the Holy Spirit.  The X-Factor is freewill as whenever temptation results in a bad choice or decision, the lives of innocent bystanders are at risk.

For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do, Galatians 5:17.

As a former assistant and playing professional, I’ve seen a lot of bad things happen on golf courses.  To the average spectator, the final result is what matters.  However, the slightest gust of wind can ruin a great shot that only the player hitting a golf ball knows.  Meanwhile, an amateur, casual golfer or kid have hit foul balls that glance off a tree, bounce down a cart path and skip over a water hazard, ending up on the green.  Now, that’s a miracle!  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen many of these go my way on a golf course.

For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere, Ephesians 6:12.

One of the hardest parts of life is seeing a rising star’s life cut short due to cancer, a car accident or suicide.  To make matters worse is standing there at a funeral watching parents grieve, grasping to make sense of their loss.  At the end of one ceremony, a mother whispered into my ear, “I pray that the words you taught my daughter in Bible class were etched upon her heart.”  When bad things start to happen, the frailty of life is put into perspective, Job 34:15.  From dust man was created and to dust we will return.  All we can do now is enjoy each day the Lord gives us on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Leadership or Lack There of

Leadership can be a practical skill, a research area or a way of life for those who are driven to go against the flow. Natural born leaders are authoritative, direct and guide others around obstacles in life and orchestrate individuals to form groups to fulfill a higher calling. According to researchers, all great leaders share 3 common traits. Dynamic leaders are action oriented, eager to accept responsibility and see things through to completion. When you hear, listen to and watch how government officials behave during the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to distinguish the followers from the leaders.

Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity, 1 Timothy 4:12.

Earlier today, governor John Carney decided to close Delaware’s public schools for the remainder of the year. As of now, there are more than 920,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, approaching 52,000 deaths nationwide. The state of Delaware has a population of nearly one million people as of 2019. Delaware has 3,442 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus and just reached 100 deaths today. When you add math to these numbers, it comes out to one case for every 290 residents. Anyone can play Monday morning quarterback on governor Carney’s decision. Yet, Carney choose the easy way out. following states to the north, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, instead of being creative and innovative.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint, Galatians 6:9.

Whenever leaders fail to lead, innocent bystanders who are forced to endure the consequences. This leaves the senior class of 2020 without a prom, spring sports season and without celebrating a last day of school. For my son Daniel, his chance of earning a golf scholarship at an N.A.I.A. college is gone. After shooting 74 from the blue tees at Back Creek recently, Daniel’s shot at improving on last season’s 5th place conference tournament finish also disappears. Meanwhile, Lydia was the favorite to win the Blue Hen Conference Pole Vault title and likely shoe in to make All County as well. Although I can’t change what has already been done, I pray for new leaders to rise up out of the millennials so that leadership is a verb, not just a word.

by Jay Mankus

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

Some Days You Have It… Some Days You Don’t

Watching a sporting event can be like a television drama with unexpected twists and turns.  As this presentation enfolds, it won’t take long to determine who is playing up to their potential and who is having a rough night.  Baseball and golf events are prime examples as a hall of fame pitcher will have a night or two where it looks like there are throwing batting practice in a homerun derby.  Meanwhile, David Duval, a former British Open champion started his opening round of the 2019 British Open one under par through six holes.  Twelve holes and 20 over par later, a professional golfer shot 90 for 18 holes.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity, Proverbs 24:16.

You don’t have to play a sport to experience this strange phenomena.  As a former teacher, some days I was on a roll, coming up with amazing examples to highlight my lesson plan.  Then, out of the blue, I went through periods where I struggled to get my point across as students looked dazed and confused.  Although preparation is necessary for any type of teaching, more time spent planning doesn’t always translate into success.  While there isn’t a Bible verse that contains a direct link, all I can say to explain these occurrences is that “some days you have it and some days you don’t.”

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, Psalm 73:26.

Solomon and the Psalmist provide advice for individuals who experience failure on days where they don’t have it.  King Solomon states that the righteous keep getting back up no matter how many times they fail.  Meanwhile, the Psalmist points to trusting in God to help you overcome disappointment and failure.  King Solomon also encourages believers to learn from mistakes so that you don’t repeat epic failures from your past.  No one likes to fail, but when you do lean on the hope in relief of God’s mercy, Lamentations 3:21-23.

by Jay Mankus

Look Me in the Eye

Whenever an engaging conversation is taking place, eye contact is fixated on the other.  Although this may change slightly when individuals are walking and talking, there will be momentary pauses to maintain eye contact.  Unfortunately, the popularity of social media is changing how young people communicate.  Instead of looking at people in the eye, texts are sent, skype is used or images are exchanged via Snap Chat.

But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is how his name is translated) opposed them, trying to turn the proconsul away from accepting the faith. But ]Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit and led by Him, looked steadily at Elymas, Acts 13:8-9.

In the passage above, Paul felt compelled to confront a spiritual opponent.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul addresses Elymas, a sorcerer who tried to prevent a proconsul named Sergius Paulus from placing his faith in Jesus.  Thus, Paul does not shy away from confrontation, looking at Elymas in the eye and rebuking him publicly.  Paul uses the teaching of Jesus from John 8:44 to refer to Elymas as a son of the devil.  Finally, Paul asks how long will this interference continue?

And said, “You [Elymas] who are full of every [kind of] deceit, and every [kind of] fraud, you son of the devil, enemy of everything that is right and good, will you never stop perverting the straight paths of the Lord? – Acts 13:10

During my last year as a high school teacher, texting exploded in popularity.  During the golf season, some of my players would text me a message at practice, off on another hole.  Afraid of confrontation, some golfers would send bold texts, demanding more playing time.  When I addressed their concerns face to face, words were few, often shying away from reality.  Nearly ten years later, communication skills continue to decay.  Perhaps, it’s time for Christians to start keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, by looking at people in the eye.

by Jay Mankus

What Could Have Been and Has Come to Be

Eight teen years ago today, my wife and I welcomed our second child Daniel into this world.  As time passed, it became clear that our oldest James would be the student and that Daniel would become the athlete.  While James has been blessed with more God given talent, Daniel is more passionate about sports.  Whether it was baseball, golf or ultimate frisbee, Daniel always stood out, eventually becoming the best.  With one year left of high school, only God knows the chapters left to be written.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

However, as Paul Harvey shared on the radio for years, the rest of the story reveals what could have been.  At the height of his popularity, Daniel’s world came to a halt, almost losing his life to diabetes the summer before his freshman year of high school.  There were subtle signs looking back, but I ignored these as needing to hydrate during a hot humid summer.  The news of this diagnosis was shocking, especially for a young teenager.  As a parent, there is a helpless feeling, unable to undo these events or heal my son to ease his pain.  Despite the doctor’s visits, expensive treatments and uncertainty, I am thankful Daniel is alive and well today.

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

Unless you are diabetic, you can’t relate to the daily shots of insulin needed to stay alive.  As technology advances, perhaps someone will create a new device to help ease this burden.  Nonetheless, you can’t dwell on what could have been.  Rather, for now God is teaching me to focus on what has come to be, a man who is seeking to pursue higher education.  Exactly where is still a question mark, but if things proceed as planned, hopefully golf is part of God’s plan.  You see, Daniel’s middle name is Payne, in honor of my favorite golfer Payne Stewart.  Like a wise king once wrote, “many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose previals.”

by Jay Mankus

Starting a New Life

Perspective gives parents the right impression of what to expect in the future.  Unfortunately, the early years of any marriage is filled with trial and error.  As I look back on the first few years of raising my oldest son James, I was out of my element.  I don’t do well around crying babies.  After screaming for an hour or so in his crib, Leanne or I would drive around the block a few times until James fell back to sleep.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed or embarrassed, Genesis 2:24-25.

As the years passed, sports filled up much of out time, going to baseball games, cross country races, golf matches and track meets.  Through the years, I learned that James was motivated by awards, food and money.  After achieving an agreed upon goal, the entire family went out to dinner to celebrate this accomplishment.  This tradition continues today, often going to Buffalo Wild Wings and our favorite Chinese restaurant.  However, after tonight, James will start a new life with his wife to be Emma.

Husbands, love your wives [seek the highest good for her and surround her with a caring, unselfish love], just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify the church, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [of God], 27 so that [in turn] He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy [set apart for God] and blameless. 28 Even so husbands should and are morally obligated to love their own wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself, Ephesians 5:25-28.

The covenant of marriage was first introduced to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the church at Ephesus.  Men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  In a letter to Corinth, Paul uses the term charity.  The only way human beings can love one another is through the Holy Spirit.  This spiritual presence is only available to those who enter into a personal relationship with God.  Thus, if any of you are considering starting a new life, don’t forget to invite Jesus along the way.

by Jay Mankus

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