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Upset: Dejection or Motivation?

When individuals do not experience a desired outcome, a wave of emotions come forth. As reality sets in, the finality of failure can be unsettling. In the context of sports, when the better team on paper with more talent loses, this is considered an upset. When players walk off a court or field staring defeat in the face, there are two logical options: dejection or motivation.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

Like any grieving process, souls initially become dejected. Depression, despair and unhappiness are like bumps in the road toward healing. However, if you don’t experience a moral victory or taste success soon, hearts can become heavy. Glimmers of hope are like rays of sunshine to help people realize that they are going to make it through another storm.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Anyone who hates to lose will find some sort of motivation to avoid a similar fate. After getting cut from his high school basketball team, Michael Jordan went on to earn a college scholarship, make the NBA and become one of the greatest players of all time. Instead of dwelling on self pity fueled by dejection, motivation can bring you out of desolation. Like Jesus said while talking to his disciples, “anything is possible with God.”

by Jay Mankus

Haunted by What Could Have Been

When the outcome what you were expecting does not become reality, hearts and minds tend to explore why.  There may be an obvious explanation like a more deserving person who received that which you desired.  However, there will be many outcomes that leave you scratching your head, dumbfounded by fate.  The persistent will not give up, working harder each day to alter their current course.  Others may press on a little longer just in case God changes his mind like Abraham’s prayer below.  Unfortunately, the deflated, tired and weak give up hope, haunted by what could have been.

Abraham approached [the Lord] and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous (those who do right) with the wicked (those who do evil)? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous [people] within the city; will You really sweep it away and not spare it for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing—to strike the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right [by executing just and righteous judgment]?” 26 So the Lord said, “If I find within the city of Sodom fifty righteous [people], then I will spare the entire place for their sake,” Genesis 18:23-26.

Judas Iscariot was a fortunate individual, chosen by the son of God to be one of 12 disciples.  Based upon a few details in each of the four gospels, this Judas was the treasurer of Jesus’ earthly ministry for 3 years.  Some translations refers to Judas overseeing the money bag, containing the collection of tithes by individuals blessed, healed and saved by Jesus.  According to the passage below, when a woman wasted an expensive bottle of perfume on Jesus, this set Judas off.  Perhaps, this was the last straw, convincing Judas to betray Jesus.  As religious leaders celebrated Jesus’ capture, Judas withdrew to the desert to hang himself.  Guilt, remorse and shame influenced Judas to commit suicide, missing out on starting the first century church.

Then Mary took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard, and she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, the one who was going to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and [the money] given to the poor?” Now he said this, not because he cared about the poor [for he had never cared about them], but because he was a thief; and since he had the money box [serving as treasurer for the twelve disciples], he used to pilfer what was put into it, John 12:3-6.

Last week a New Jersey woman went to complain at school after her daughter was cut from the cheerleading squad.  Instead of using this rejection as inspiration to work harder to make it next year, this defiant mother convinced the board of education to force the team to accept everyone who tries out.  What would have happened if Michael Jordan’s dad or mom forced his high school coach to not cut him?  America may not have been able to watch one of the greatest NBA players of all time.  Thus, instead of being haunted by what could have been.  Dig down deep into your soul, ask the Lord for resolve and give everything that you have so that God’s destiny for you will prevail.

by Jay Mankus

Life Could Be Worse…You Could Be a 76er Fan

Nobody likes to lose.  Although, some players and teams don’t have the talent to compete with the rest of their competitors, sooner or later a victory will arrive.  Unfortunately, fans of the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA might not see a win in 2014, 0-17 with little hope in sight.

The unemployed likely experience a similar feeling.  Despite perfecting resumes, nailing job interviews and becoming a finalist for a position, heart breaks come way too often.  The sad thing is when the offers do arrive, the pay is like a slap in the face.  In the end, job seekers wonder if they will ever get another job.

When things aren’t going your way, there needs to be something firm that you can trust in.  A refuge where you can find a peace that surpasses all understanding.  James 1:2-4 suggests losing builds character, leading to maturity over time.  If you can develop this mindset, perseverance can carry you until you taste success.  Therefore, whether you win, lose or draw, the Holy Spirit can transform your perspective to become a complete person in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Not in My House

As the NBA kicks off its pre-season, I am reminded of Dikembe Mutombo’s patented block celebration pointing his finger back and forth as if to say, “not in my house!”  Others may recall Tommy Lees Jones’ role in Man of the House, playing Texas Ranger Roland Sharp, laying down the law to University Texas cheerleaders as too what is modest dress and what is unacceptable attire.  While those who grew up in an authoritative household, learned quickly as to what was and was not acceptable behavior.

Playing the role as a father is much more difficult than I first thought.  I am careful not to be overbearing as my father was, using his experience in the military like a drill sergeant to rule the roost.  On the other hand, if I’m too relaxed, I may give the devil a foothold, enabling my children to stretch the boundaries between right and wrong.  Thus, I am learning that being a parent takes time, evolving with the times, remaining biblical, yet not exasperating my kids, Ephesians 6:4.  The best way to demonstrate a not in my house atmosphere is through consistent Christ-like actions.

After returning from a retreat with my daughter, I was immediately challenged to apply what I learn from the weekend.  One of my sons was about to play a video game not suitable for his age.  As this game was loading, I was shocked by the initial image on the screen.  Without raising my voice, I asked a simple question, “this doesn’t look like a game you should be playing?”  Following a slight pause, my son switched this to a football game.  Although, I ‘m not perfect and still have a long way to go as a dad, there’s still time to proclaim, “not in my house!” – Joshua 24:24

by Jay Mankus

A Team Without Players

The competitor inside of me yearns to win, doing what it takes to bring a team into the winners circle.  Yet, what do you do when you find yourself a part of a team without any players?  Sure, you might have some individuals who can make a play or two, but you can’t expect each teammate to be perfect when they don’t possess essential skills to succeed.  This is where I find myself this baseball season.

Like a high school student who can’t add, read or write, some where along the way young people get neglected, promoted and pushed ahead without meeting appropriate standards.  Currently, the NBA is seeing a similar dilemma as phenoms are great one on one players, but most don’t know how to move, set picks or space the floor when they don’t have the ball.  Whether this is rooted in a lack of discipline, poor coaching or selfishness, every sport is in jeopardy of becoming a team without players.

Patience is a vital attribute while you wait to experience victory for the first time all season.  Teachable pupils is also important to keep morale from slipping toward doubt, constantly correcting errors, mistakes and poor habits as they occur.  The best thing you can do is live out Colossians 3:17, maintaining a positive attitude like a beacon of hope for sad faces.  Until you taste the joy of victory, keep your head up as you make strides to develop players for the future.

What advice do you have for coaches who have inherited a team without players?

by Jay Mankus

 

Realigning the Stars

On the last night of the 3 Magi’s journey from the East, the star they had been following became stationary, hovering over the birth site of Jesus, Matthew 2:9-10.  One final night of glory, this unique star completed its purpose, gradually fizzling out like those created before it.  According to the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, they are 7 main types of stars based upon their color and luminosity.  The star which appeared in the sky above Bethlehem on that glorious night falls under the O or B classification, the rarest and brightest of all the stars in the universe.  Once a star depletes its hydrogen supply, they are downgraded and this declassification is a signal that their end is near.  In entertainment, Hollywood or professional sports, as one stars falls, another is in the background, ready to quickly steal their spotlight.

On March 14th, 1981, one such star destined for greatness was snuffed out.  Skip Dillard was a free throw away from becoming a top 10 pick in the NBA Draft, as his #1 ranked Depaul Blue Demons were on their way into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, referred to as March Madness today.  In the days of endless One and One’s, St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia kept fouling Depaul players late in the second half, who then began missing the front end, their first shot, allowing the Hawks to rebound the ball after only one free throw attempt.  As Depaul’s big lead shrunk to one in the closing seconds, all Skip had to do was make one shot at the line to secure a tie, prior to the existence of 3 pointers and two free throws to close out the game.  Called “Money in the Bank” by his teammates, Skip’s shot fell short, St. Joe’s rebounded the miss, got the ball quickly up court and made a shot at the buzzer to stun Depaul.  This nightmare became reality for Skip who responded to this setback by becoming addicted to cocaine and committed 15 armed robberies to support his habit, resulting in an 11 year prison sentence according to the Chicago Tribune.  College players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird stole Skip’s fame as the media realigned the stars for these 2 NBA Hall of Famers.

When you are young, thinking you are invincible is a common mindset.  As I watch college sports on television or listen to my youth baseball players chat before and after a game, many think too highly of themselves.  Instead of being a voice of reason, parents often add to their child’s delusion, believing their daughter or son is the best player on the team.  Maybe the thought that their child’s athletic career is a lottery ticket for life instills in many parents a glimmer of hope.  However, these same parents often baby and or spoil their children, not providing an atmosphere of discipline, mental toughness and work ethic necessary to make good athletes great and elite players, stars at the college level.  If you analyze any NFL draft, its clear that talent doesn’t always translate onto the professional  level.  Thus, the degree to which someone shines lies in the choices you make and in God’s grace, Deuteronomy 28:2.

Currently. my own stardom has faded with time as my attractiveness as a youth pastor left when I reached 30.  Meanwhile, a decade of teaching has aged me another 20 years, especially during my 5 year stint teaching middle school.  Despite the fact that employers may overlook me for positions due to being too old or in some cases over qualified, I cling to the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12-16.  Though I can’t control external forces, I do have authority over my personal world according to Dutch Sheets in his book Authority in Prayer.  Thus, I am aiming to shine like a star in the universe, providing spiritual light during these dark days in American History.  I am responsible for aligning my life toward God’s will, yet only God can realign the stars in the universe!

by Jay Mankus

Denied

     When I visualize the term deny, I can see an NBA center swatting away a lay up from a penetrating guard.  Or I picture a stout NFL defense stopping an elite running back on a fourth and goal from the 1 yard line.  However, never would I have imagined volunteers from Alabama sent to help turn on the power to the powerless after Hurricane Sandy be denied by unions in New Jersey and New York.
     Maybe these workers were fearful of lost hours, yet with all the helpless victims searching for food and progress, there are ample utility poles to raise and restore.  Galatians 6:9 calls believers to not become weary in doing good.  I guess even if you drive over 1,000 miles, filling up with gas along the way, you shouldn’t let a few cronies prevent you from serving others in the future, even on your way home.  The apostle Paul knew that severe circumstances often bring out the worst in others, influenced by unseen forces, Ephesians 6:12.
     In reality, everyone get’s denied from time to time.  Some may get denied a chance to prove their innocence, others may be stopped from achieving a life long dream and those living outside the United States are kept from truly understanding freedom.  The question is not have you been denied lately; it is how will you respond the next time you are denied?  Don’t give up, quit or sulk!  Rather, take a proactive approaching by living out Philippians 4:8-9.
by Jay Mankus

Personal Responsibility


Last night, I watched a re-airing of ESPN’s 30 for 30 special entitled Benji, the life and tragic death of Ben Wilson.  Since I got married in Cook County, lived in Chicago for 2 years, worked for Michael Jordan as the manager of his Michael Jordan Golf Shop at O’Hare International Airport and had a co-worker whose son was offered a full ride to play college ball at Illinois, I was intrigued by the previews of Benji.  Although I watched the premiere showing on Tuesday night, I was distracted by the Celtics/Heat game, flipping back and forth between each.  Thus, as I examined the whole episode, I discovered the moral of this biography was personal responsibility.

Similar to Michael Jordan’s growth spurt in high school, Ben Wilson grew several inches between his freshman and sophomore year at Simeon High, located on the south side of Chicago, reaching 6 feet 5 inches by the start of the basketball season.  After teammates convinced their coach to allow Benji to try out for the varsity squad, it wasn’t long before Ben Wilson became a fixture in the starting line-up.  As a junior, Benji led his team to the Chicago City Championship and eventually to the Illinois AA State Title.  Invited to the top summer basketball camp, full of the nation’s top senior prospects, Benji out shined every player, receiving the #1 rating as America’s number one college prospect.  Unfortunately, one day before the first game of Benji’s senior season, he was shot twice while taking a walk during lunch, dying 24 hours later.

Underneath all the glamour, glitter and future stardom, there was a dark cloud hanging over Benji’s life.  His father only attend 5 or 6 of Benji’s basketball games to his recollection, too distracted by crack cocaine, addicted to the highs he received.  Meanwhile, Benji was once suspended from school a week for striking a teacher in the hall, got his high school sweetheart pregnant and became overly possessive of her, which led to his death.  This cloud grew in size like Hurricane Sandy when William Moore and Omar Dixon decided to skip school one day.  With his uncle’s gun in his coat pocket, William Moore disregarded his uncle’s warning after Benji accidently bumped him.  Encouraged by Omar and fearful of Ben’s size, William choose to shoot Ben twice, fleeing the scene until the police knocked on his parents door later that evening.

Anyone can play Monday morning quarterback, yet if personal responsibility was taken by the party’s involved, Benji might be still playing in the National Basketball Association or finished a hall of fame career by now.  First, William Moore joined a local gang after his father died of cancer.  If William would have sought professional help or the advice of a local pastor, he might have turned to someone else and likely would not have skipped school on the day of the shooting.  On the other hand, if Benji would have demonstrated anger management, respect and self-control, this bumping incident would not have escalated into his murder.  Guns don’t kill people, people pull the trigger as their lives begin to fall apart.  A lack of leadership at home often pushes young people to their peers or even worse, to gangs where family values turn into self destructive habits.  These attitudes taught on the street shape a teenagers’ worldview, influences their behavior’s and leads to a life style which led to Ben Wilson’s murder.  May this story prevent future violence, discouraging today’s students from pulling the trigger.  Remember Benji!

by Jay Mankus

Playing Hurt

Jordan

By this time in the NFL season, no player is feeling 100 percent.  Every one is banged up, bruised or nicked on some part of their body.  Or maybe you feel like Michael Jordan during the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz, despite having the flu, he suited up and eventually hit the game winning shot.  If you are not an athlete, sometimes when you are under the weather, you have to play hurt, going to work anyway.

I have spent the last 3 hours laying in bed with a high fever.  Part of me wanted to bag today’s blog, yet the athletic in me wouldn’t let me.  According to Colossians 3:23, whatever you do, you should work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord.  Although illnesses come and go, sometimes in life you have to will yourself through a day, project or a difficult trial.  With the Lord’s help, all things are possible, Philippians 4:13.

As I was finishing up my last project today at work, I nearly passed out.  While the weather was a little warmer than usual, my body was telling me that I had nothing left to give.  There weren’t any cameras around nor did to I have Scottie Pippen to hold me up.  Rather, the Lord raised me up on wings like eagles, Isaiah 40:31, helping to me finish a day playing hurt.

by Jay Mankus

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