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When You Don’t Have It

Depending upon the day, energy level, focus, inspiration and motivation, results will vary, often drastically. Some days you wake up feeling great, get into a groove early on and finish with a great sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately, these productive days can come and go, disappearing quickly. Then, there are weeks where you just don’t have it. For one reason or another, your normal degree of success drops, far from your normal self.

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

If you have ever competed in a competition or sporting event, you understand the concept of days when you don’t have it. A series of factors can cause a skilled individual to look like a beginner from time to time. While I’ve spent most of my life playing golf at a high level, I am currently in one of my worst funks in over a decade. Although I have only played four times this year, three of the four rounds have been dreadful. Despite concentrating and focusing, I feel lost, forgetting to apply the core principles which led me to play professionally more than 2 decades ago.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, Romans 15:4.

This same mental struggle can affect Christians as well. Depending upon your daily Bible Study, prayer life and worship, it doesn’t take much to start slip sliding away from God. If your life is void of accountability or a mentor, this spiritual slippage may continue for months, a year or longer. According to the apostle Paul, hope can be regained by reading the Bible. I’ve had enough spiritual slides over the last 40 years that I know once your spiritual momentum is broken, it takes twice as long to regain. Yet, the good news is that Jesus came to seek to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

by Jay Mankus

Coronavirus Choices

Prior to March 12th, 2020, most Americans were carrying on with their normal routines. Yet, when breaking news reported Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had contracted the Coronavirus, sports lovers were in for a rude awakening. The National Basketball Association immediately suspended their season. This initial decision inspired the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer to suspend their seasons as well. By the end of this week, more dominoes fell as the NCAA’s March Madness Basketball Tournament, the Player’s Championship and two Nascar Races were cancelled.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

With most sporting events put on hold for a minimum of 2 weeks, possibly a month, the Coronavirus has altered the lives of sports enthusiasts. Instead of lounging around at home to watch a game, going to a sports bar with friends to enjoy college basketball or catching highlights on ESPN, new habits will have to be formed. Whether you are stuck at home watching your children, under a self imposed quarantine or forced to find something else to do when your initial plans were cancelled, perhaps the Coronavirus pandemic is a blessing in disguise.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

After binge watching a series on Amazon Prime with my wife early this weekend, I felt compelled to go outside and do something. Bored out of my mind, I took my kids golfing Saturday morning. Despite a beautiful day, the COVID-19 scare kept most golfers off this course, Their loss was my gain, playing 18 holes in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes. Although Americans have been infected, placed under quarantine or lost their lives, the Coronavirus is changing the way people live their lives. What I call Coronavirus Choices is forcing individuals to re-think their diet, sleep habits and sanitary rituals. While only God knows how long this pandemic will last, may you use your new free time at home to make better choices daily.

by Jay Mankus

Perhaps It’s Time to Sober Up?

I have what medical professionals refer to as an addictive personality. An addictive personality is a hypothesized set of personality traits that make an individual predisposed to developing addictions. I can’t just have one drink; everything I do is to the extreme. Whether it’s playing golf every day in high school, running 6 miles for fun in college or playing sand volleyball up to 8 hours a day each summer that I lived in Ohio, my motto for life is all or nothing. This aspect of my DNA puts me at risk of becoming an alcoholic.

Wine is a mocker, strong drink a riotous brawler; and whoever errs or reels because of it is not wise, Proverbs 20:1.

When it comes to alcohol, I was a quick learner. Sure, there was a temptation in college to act cool by drinking. Yet. after one semester of partying, I grew out of this stage by sobering up. While I still went clubbing along the Flats in Cleveland, Ohio each summer, I usually went as the designated driver. From time to time, I let my guard down by drinking to excess. Following a severe hangover that last 2 days and an alcohol poisoning scare at a wedding reception, my drinking days ended.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:8-9.

The Bible uses sober in a different context. While sober can refer to the practice of abstinence, one of Jesus’ disciples writes about becoming alert, clear-headed and spiritually awake. In this context, alcohol isn’t the enemy. Rather, the Devil possesses angelic powers, roaming the earth like a predator eager to pounce on the unprepared. Although quitting drinking can be extremely difficult, demonic influences and oppression seek to keep the powerless addicted. In view of this, it’s to sober up by joining Jesus, teaming up through a personal relationship so that freedom and victory is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Amazing the Difference One Day Makes

If you do a search of “what a difference a day makes,” you will find a series of sermons on this topic.  Some use examples of extreme events such as the dropping of the first atomic bomb, experiencing a natural disaster or witnessing a terrorist attack like September 11th, 2001.  These devastating days are compared to the silence of an aftermath, where time seems to stand still.  Whenever trials arise, individuals are forced to confront change, trusting God one day at a time.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

For any of you who have played golf before, a typical round is similar to the quote from Forrest Gump, “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know which one you will get.”  Unlike any other sport, practicing doesn’t mean you will improve.  The more you play golf, the easier it becomes to pick up bad habits.  Thus, a bad swing, chip or putt can unlock demons of doubt that will haunt you throughout the rest of your round.  This is what my daughter Lydia endured during his first round of this years Girls Delaware Junior Golf Championship.

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, Hebrews 12:1.

Following the first round, my daughter wanted to quit golf.  Twenty four hours later, Lydia figured something out on the range prior to her round and everything clicked.  Beside a few holes, she was either chipping or putting for birdie.  Despite a few three putts, Lydia played the round of her life consistently hitting her driver over 200 yards.  There are certain things in life that don’t make any sense.  Yet, when attitudes awake to a new day and confidence returns, it’s amazing the difference one day makes.

by Jay Mankus

Catching Your Dreams

As a former athlete, I understand the concept of setting goals.  At the beginning of each season, I would use a notecard to write down my expectations.  Whether I was running, swimming or playing golf, I tried to raise the bar higher and higher each time I set a personal record.  The only hard part about setting a score or time to beat, eventually you reach a saturation point.  For example, I haven’t bested 69 for 18 holes in golf since my junior year of high school.  Meanwhile, I never came close to breaking 17 minutes for a 5K race after doing it once as a senior.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up, Galatians 6:9.

I guess what I am trying to say is that as an adult, I spend most of my time chasing dreams instead of actually catching them.  There is an old saying that refers to being close.  This idiom claims that being close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  If you want to be the best, losing over and over again to someone slightly better is frustrating.  When you get closer and closer to catching a dream, hope is conceived, turning doubters into believers.  Yet, if progress is never achieved, chasing dreams can become like a dog attempting to catch their own tail.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.

The other night I watched the film I Can Only Imagined.  Bart Millard grew up in a dysfunctional family made worse when his mother refused to take Bart with her after moving out.  Left to his abusive father, Bart wanted to chase and catch dreams.  However, the negativity spewed by Bart’s dad bombarded his mind, leaving behind emotional, physical and spiritual scars.  Despite these obstacles, Bart traveled the country with a Christian group called Mercy Me attempting to follow in the footsteps of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant.  Yet, it took cancer to inflict his father and redemption to transform his heart before the Lord gave Bart the words to I can only image.  Upon releasing this single on a 1999 album, the Worship Project, Bart finally caught his dream.  May Bart Millard‘s perseverance inspire you to catch your own dreams.

by Jay Mankus


Under a Full Moon

Whether you are star gazing, taking a midnight stroll or finishing a round of golf at twilight, a full moon provides a special aura in the air.  Occurring once a month or every 29.53 days, full moons form on the 14th or 15th day of the lunar calendar.  Well before the days of Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, the gravitational forces of the moon’s orbit tends to bring out the worst in people, leaving a history of bizarre stories.

Coincidence or not, the term lunatic is derived from the Latin word Luna.  Subsequently, beliefs have formed which attempt to explain unusual behavior under the canopy of a full moon.  Its no wonder that horror movies continue to be inspired by legends of this monthly event.  Although there is no conclusive evidence, hospitals see a rise in accidents, women go into labor at an alarming rate and police departments have their hands full all because of a full moon.

In his book More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell examines the life of Jesus.  Dedicating a chapter to one of his theories, McDowell suggests that there are only 3 logical conclusions one can make about his life.  Either Jesus is a crazed lunatic, a habitual liar or the Lord of all?  As another full moon rises above a summer sky, may Josh’s question bring you to ponder the meaning of life, John 10:10.  While secular music embraces the dark side of the moon, come into the light by trusting in Jesus, 1 John 2:6.

by Jay Mankus

Stuck on the Sidelines

When I competed in sports, I never realized what a parent goes through until I became one.  Sure, I remember having butterflies on the first tee, throwing the first pitch or standing on the starting block, but after a while these nervous feelings become part of the game.  From the sidelines, I’m helpless, just a voice of encouragement, biting my nails, pacing around and hoping my child doesn’t embarrass themselves.

As my oldest son James sets out to play in his second consecutive state golf tournament, there isn’t anyone else to blame.  There are no umpires who can miss a call.  No referees to influence the outcome of the game.  In golf, you are the team and when you mess up its obvious.  Well, let’s see…  You can hit a house, a spectator, visit the beach or take a dive in an adjacent waterway.  When you’re stuck on the sidelines as a golf parent, every shot is a gut wrenching adventure.

During the game of life, the Lord doesn’t abandon you.  According to Hebrews 12:1, a great crowd of witnesses is sitting in the grandstands called heaven.  Saints, past and present are sending out prayers to help each participant to cross the finish line.  Although you may be lost in the woods or stuck in a hazard, God sends angels to set you free from these precarious situations, Psalm 30:1-3.  If you’re stuck on the sidelines like me, remember the promise of Philippians 4:6-7 to get you through each day.

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

The Last Gift
Since my father’s dad and mother’s mom died prior to my birth, I only knew 2 grandparents.  While my grandmother spoiled me with donuts and money, Grandpa Kautz and I developed a special bond through golf.  In his retirement, he worked part time at Hershey Country Club as a marshal and starter, able to play golf with his friends after each shift.  Before his health quickly faded, my wife and I were invited up for the day to play 18 holes on the East Course, a cherished memory I keep to this day.  A month following his funeral, my Aunt Marcia pulled me aside saying, “Paul wanted you to have this”, pointing to his set of Tommy Armour 845 irons.   Only a few years old, he knew I would appreciate them more than any other relative.  This was the last gift I received.

Beginning in John 12:20-36, Jesus pulled his disciples aside, revealing God’s plan for his life.  Trying to comfort their souls, Jesus conveys a message of hope, promising the Holy Spirit in John 14:15-31.  Jesus refers to a counselor who serves as a spirit of truth.  Continuing, Jesus makes a comparison to an orphan, vowing to provide relief to those who miss Jesus, John 14:18-19.  This promise became reality in Acts 2:1-4, as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostle.  The man whom weeks earlier denied Jesus, afraid of being arrested or possibly meeting the same fate of Jesus, Peter is transformed by the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:14-39.  Jesus’ last gift provided a confidence his followers did not possess until after his ascension.

As time passed, some began to wonder if a Pentecost like Spirit was still possible.  The apostle Paul addresses this concern in Ephesians 19:1-6.  Verse 2 implies some believers had not even heard of the Holy Spirit.  However, when examining the original Greek text, the verse actually refers to receiving confirmation, a word from the Lord, on whether or not the Holy Ghost has ceased or continues to move as in the days of Pentecost.  Although this debate continues today, with most theologians clinging to the ceasing side, Joel 2:28 promises a mighty conclusion.  This prophet suggests that God’s last gift, will be poured out upon all people.  May you experience the presence of God like 2 Peter 1:3-4.

by Jay Mankus

No Bull

In an age of excuses, lies and a lack of personal responsibility ability, its refreshing to hear a professional athlete be honest and forthright.  During an interview with David Feherty on the Golf Channel‘s show Feherty, John Daly addressed questions about his alcohol addiction and circus act life on the PGA tour.  When asked about his failed 3 marriages, numerous stints in and out of rehab and Jerry Springer Show like meltdowns, John didn’t dodge any question.  Instead, he faced the facts and simply stated, “its the poor decisions that I’ve made in life!”

As a former mini-tour player and Canadian PGA Qualifying School participate, the game of golf can drive even a sane person over the edge.  One awful day on a golf course can stir emotions resulting in flying clubs, f-bombs or a jerkish attitude that no one wants to be around.  I am not minimizing the mistakes John has made; rather I am merely expressing the impact competition, stress and failed expectations have on someone’s behavior.  Like the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 3:23, to say you have never lost control or made a mistake is another way of telling a group of people you are full of it!

Unfortunately, too many people have these façades, walls they built to hide their imperfections.  Instead of letting those who love them see their flaws, fear prevents many individuals from opening up to others.  I’d rather meet an honest liar than someone who is living a lie.  Although John Daly continues to live a troubled life, at least what you see is what you get, a genuine human being in need of a Savior.  May these words strike a cord with your heart so that the truth in God’s word will set you free from any lie you are living, John 8:31-32.

by Jay Mankus

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