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Somewhere Between Desperation and Exasperation

My wife Leanne and I attended a new parent class at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware 23 years ago. This month long class took place shortly before the birth of our oldest son, James. Besides knowing what to expect along the way, these sessions helped us develop a plan as first time parents. Setting goals is a good place to start, but once your child comes home for the hospital and your extended family leaves, most parents go through what I call somewhere between desperation and exasperation.

Thorns and snares are in the way of the obstinate and willful; he who guards himself will be far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:5-6.

If one of the wisest individuals in the Bible struggled to be a father, imagine how hard it is to raise a child without some sort of support group. According to 1 Kings 11:3, King Solomon married 700 women and had an additional 300 concubines. If you have ever stayed at a hotel where one or two children keep running down the hall without their parents, think of Solomon’s castle full of disgruntled women and undisciplined children. Perhaps, this led Solomon to write the passage above, learning by trial and error to steer his offspring in the right direction.

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

As James’ 23rd birthday approaches, it’s still just as difficult now for me to be a godly parent. While my two boys have moved on to college and grad school, raising a daughter has been a challenge. Being out of my comfort zone in 2021, I have to watch what I say and how I say it or I exasperate Lydia. The past few months have helped me realize that John Gray was correct: Men are from Mars. Woman are from Venus. As I find myself somewhere between desperation and exasperation, I am leaning on the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, so that I can fulfill Proverbs 22:6 before my daughter graduates high school next spring.

by Jay Mankus

Live Purposefully

While attending a seminar in college, I was first introduced to the concept of planning. One of the speakers proclaimed, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This message is consistent with the words of an Old Testament prophet, Hosea 4:6. When your life is void of goals, without a clear vision for where you want to go, failure is in your future. Thus, if you want to live purposefully, this journey begins by discovering your place in this world.

Therefore He says, Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light. 15 Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Ephesians 5:14-15.

Near the end of his letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul provides a pep talk for those individuals going through life without any sense of direction. Paul uses the analogy of sleep walking, spiritual dead or numb to God’s calling. Instead of going through life like a zombie from the Walking Dead, people need to become alive, inspired by the light of Christ. Until this spiritual hunger is conceived, people will continue to wander aimlessly through life.

Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is, Ephesians 5:16-17.

The Roman poet Horace recorded the Latin saying Carpe Diem in his work Odes, 25 years before Christ was born. As a Roman citizen, Paul likely knew of Horace’s work and may have referenced this in the passage above. If you truly want to seize each day, grasping God’s will for your life is the first step. As this comes into focus, uncovering your spiritual gifts and talents is crucial, 1 Corinthians 12:1-12. When these are put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6, living with purpose is possible, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

So You Think That You are in Control?

As a struggling perfectionist, I like to think that I can accomplish whatever I set my heart and mind on. Although I am blessed to have succeeded in achieving many of my goals in life, the older I become, the more I seem to experience failure. With defeat comes doubt, making the idea of victory a foreign concept. Meanwhile, just when I think I am heading in the right direction, God throws me a curve. While fasting and praying this week, it’s safe to say that I am not in control.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul uses a sports analogy, referencing the Corinthians Games, a famous Track & Field competition. The only problem with athletics is the finality of it all as there is only one winner. Everyone else who falls short ends up a loser, often disappointed by the outcome. In a world of over 7 billion inhabitants, there is always some better than you, eventually taking your championship, crown or title. No matter how hard you train, you can’t control the determination of someone else who wants it more than you.

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Boxers and runners daily seek to push their bodies to the limits. This desire enables the world’s greatest athletes to break records every year. Yet, you can only go so far as the human flesh has it’s breaking point. In the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual element to this discussion. This comes to a climax in another letter, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where Paul realizes, “in my weakness Christ is strongest.” Therefore, as the spiritually mature acknowledge that they are not in control, God’s power will fall upon you.

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

 

When Children Think Dad is No Longer Cool

When I became a first time parent 19 years ago, I began to ask elders from church about parenting.  Although each shared different principles to apply, one common message was passed on.  At some point, kids will reach a stage in life when hanging out with dad is no longer cool.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

As teenagers begin to develop a social life, priorities change.  At some point parents have to let go and allow their children to grow up.  When kids are still young, Solomon encourages fathers to demonstrate, emulate and model godliness.  Raising children with character is only effective if fathers live out what they believe.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

Instead of taking things personal, fathers with older children need to re-direct their attention.  This involves setting goals, developing vision and start thinking about what life will be like when your nest is empty.  On this father’s day, don’t exasperate your children.  Rather, ask the Lord for direction in prayer when kids reach the stage in life when dad is no longer cool to hang out with.

by Jay Mankus

 

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

No matter how blessed, gifted or talented you are, everyone will reach their summit, taking you as high as you can go.  While you may enjoy the view of accomplishments, success and victory, a time will come to reset by evaluating future dreams and goals in life.  The older you become, there’s one nugget of truth that will rise to the surface: what got you here won’t get you there.

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.

The world refers to this as coming to a crossroads in life.  The confused may not know which path to take.  The exhausted need a break, a period of rest before starting a new journey.  Meanwhile, the aged have developed minor restrictions which make some directions impossible to achieve alone.  Subsequently, someone, something or divine intervention is necessary to climb the largest mountain you have ever faced.

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent, Exodus 14:14.

Deep inside my soul, God has placed upon me a desire to remain optimistic about the future despite whatever cliff I have to climb.  Yet, I know my limitations, lacking the energy of my youth.  Trying to ascend to the top would be foolish.  Rather, without faith in the God above and the power of the Holy Spirit, success is impossible.  However, in my weakness I firmly believe that God will be able to take me where I have previously been unable to get.  May the Lord use the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-12 as a source of inspiration to reach new spiritual heights.

by Jay Mankus

Knowing When to Say When

I have noticed a pattern within three popular cable television shows.  Whether you are talking about Discovery Channels Gold Rush and Treasure Quest or History Channels The Curse of Oak Island, each ask the same question.  If you are trying to unearth gold or searching for a secret treasure, its important to know when to say when.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you, Psalm 32:8.

This same concept applies to setting goals.  Some will be attainable, a natural progression or the next logical step.  However, others will take years or even decades to obtain.  If you are not making progress or simply do not possess what it takes to arrive at a desired destination, perhaps you should walk away before its too late.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come, John 16:13.

Too many gold miners chased after the mother load only to go broke or die before stumbling upon riches.  Meanwhile, dreamers often run after some sort of white rabbit that simply can’t be caught with mere human effort.  Subsequently, individuals must either give up the fight or seek a higher power to cross the threshold.  Since every situation is different, there is not a cookie cutter answer to knowing when to say when.  Nonetheless, if the Holy Spirit is your guide, you should be able to keep in step with God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

Right Back Where I Started

About a year ago, I stood on a scale for the first time in a while.  Not believing the first number that appeared, I stepped off to reset it and tried once again.  Unfortunately, my weight remained the same, the heaviest I have ever been.  After the initial shock wore off, I vowed to dedicate 2016 to improving my overall health and fitness.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls, Proverbs 25:28.

In January I lost 20 pounds, ecstatic by this early progress.  However, life is a marathon, not a sprint.  Perhaps, a little over confidence started subtle compromises, a regression back into bad habits.  I can’t identify the exact time when this downward spiral began, but my goals for the year faded from my memory.  Subsequently, I now find myself right back where I started.

Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, Titus 2:12.

Those fighting this losing battle are encouraged by the apostle Paul to renounce this vicious cycle.  Solomon compared a person without self-control to a broken city, vulnerable to outside attacks.  As the new year approaches, I have to pick myself up off the mat to turn my current health around.  I’m not sure how my daily routine will change, but I hope a clear vision appears as I prepare to fast for the month of January.  Until then, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness to avoid giving into temptation.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Reruns, Rewind and Revive

The summer tends to be a season for reruns.  As students and teachers take a break until the fall semester begins, there is time for late night binge watching.  While most use On Demand, Netflix or DVR’ed programs, the older generation still rely on television guides to plan their viewing pleasures.  Classic movies have a way of grabbing your attention.  Although you know the story, desires from within carry you away for hours at a time as a distraction from the stress and worries in life.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, Philippians 2:3.

For those of you who don’t spend much time watching television, perhaps you prefer reflection.  Either during a jog, walk or while doing yard work, its nice to rewind, taking an inventory of where you’ve been, where you are or where you want to go.  This practice is like setting goals in your mind, providing direction for the future.  One of the things I enjoy pondering about are those things in life which bring me the most joy.  Listening to music, playing sports, writing and working on projects around the house fill me with a sense of accomplish along with purpose and meaning in life.

Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others, Philippians 2:4.

One of the final activities I engage in involves food for the soul.  Beyond a dose of daily Bible reading and prayer, hearts and minds need to be revived and refreshed to make it in life.  Thus, I have days where I soak in music while I rest.  Sometime I find a book on a topic that interests me, giving me a broader perspective on life.  Although I waste just as much time as the average American lounging around on a couch or sofa, I experience peace that surpasses understanding when I rewind my direction and revive my soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

You’ll Never Know Unless You Try

When I was younger, I thought I was better than I actually was.  I would talk smack, emotionally annoy opponents and wouldn’t back down from a confrontation.  Over time I have mellowed, learned the importance of humility and found contentment in my retirement from sports.  Yet, I’m thankful that I wasn’t afraid to fail as a professional golfer.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

As I step away from competition, my son James faces a similar dilemma.  Despite being a state champion pole vaulter and 3 time all conference golfer, playing division one sports in college is a whole new ball game.  Thus, he has to decide do I risk embarrassment, humiliation or do I play it safe by avoiding disappointment?  My message to him is you’ll never know unless you try.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12.

In my first golf mini-tour event, I shot 48 on the front nine, shaking so badly it was hard to swing a club.  I could have hung my head, quit or withdrawn from this competition.  Yet, I battled, birdieing the 10th, finding my rhythm on the back nine.  I never made any money nor did I reach the P.G.A. tour, but I walked away from this game knowing I did everything in my power to succeed.  Thus, whether you are my son, a friend or a stranger I meet along the road called life, you’ll never know your ultimate destiny unless you try by utilizing your God given talents.

by Jay Mankus

 

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