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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

 

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The One that Got Away

One of the certainties in life is that you will experience disappointment at some point in time.  Despite having an ideal or perfect day, there will be outcomes that surprise you.  These twists and turns having lasting effects, especially when you are so close to victory.  Thus, everyone has a story, as painful as it may be about the one that got away.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, 1 Peter 1:6.

As a student in high school, I was one dimensional.  Although I eventually improved my grade point average, my sole concern was with sports.  I guess you can say I lived and died with each victory and loss.  While I was blessed to be apart of many great teams, I never won a state championship, finishing second in cross country, third in a swimming relay and fourth in golf.  If only I was healthy, stronger or I could putt, the ending may have been different.  Since there is no time travel device or vehicle to go back, all I can do is think about what might have been.

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed, 1 Peter 1:7.

Each of these failures digs up a certain degree of anguish.  As a junior I watched my cross country team lose by 7 points as I sat on the sidelines after reconstructive ankle surgery.  This was excruciating, but losing the state golf championship as a senior probably stings more, letting a first round lead slip away, clawing back to within one on the back nine, only to fade down the stretch.  Exactly why God allows individuals to endure heartbreak is hard to say.  Yet, in every defeat, there is a life lesson, something to learn from so you can overcome the one that got away.

by Jay Mankus

 

Living Off the Grid, Unplugged for a Week

Prior to the advent of cell phones and internet, conversational skills were an important part of life.  While technological advances often enhance society, these two inventions are killing intimate relationships.  These modern devices are distracting individuals from bonding with other human beings whom they share a lot in common with, but haven’t taken the time to find out.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom, Psalm 90:12.

During a vacation over Spring Break, I spent a week without wi-fi.  Thus, posting my blogs was a difficult challenge as even some of the restaurants I ate at did not offer free access to the internet.  Despite this challenge, I survived, spending more time with my family and children than normal.  Swimming in the day and playing pool at night provided a healthy climate for communication.

Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil, Ephesians 5:16.

Although you probably won’t find me on a reality show like Survivor, living off the grid and unplugged for a week was a blessing.  Since I’ve always been a doer, with a drive to experience the outdoors, visiting new places this past week has given me a new appreciation for life.  Sure, you do need money to travel, but if you limit your access to the social media, you will discipline yourself to make the effort to go and do things you have always talked about, but never done.  Seize each new day while it lasts!

by Jay Mankus

Take Out the Trash… so that You Don’t Stink

Up until my senior year of high school, I spent the month of August in Maine.  After working countless hours throughout the year, my dad felt compelled to spent time with the family each summer fishing, golfing and swimming.  However, there wasn’t trash pick up so whenever the can was full its was time to go to the local dump.  Leaving any trash outside attracted bears, so each week I endured the gagging odor of the county’s waste center.

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you,” Joshua 3:5.

Although technological has come along way, it still doesn’t take long to stink up a kitchen.  Whether you’ve enjoying crabs, fish or some other messy meal, the discarded pieces can create an offensive smell in a matter of hours.  One careless, forgetful or lazy act will leave a stench behind throughout an entire house.  Therefore, the sooner you take out the trash, the less likely you will be from needing an entire household of air fresheners.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account, Hebrews 4:13.

In real life, you don’t have to be labeled trailer trash to stink.  Rather, anyone who allows sin to linger in their lives will eventually give off a foul spiritual odor.  While some will hide addictions and bad habits better than others, God lays bear every sinful act.  Subsequently, the only way to come clean is through confession and prayer, Jude 1:20.  Consecrate yourself today for God is waiting to do amazing things through you, but only after you acknowledge your shortcomings.

by Jay Mankus

 

One Shining Moment

As the 2014 Winter Olympics begin Friday, February 7th in Sochi, Russia, I am reminded of the drama previous events have delivered.  Whether it’s a human interest story, someone rising to the challenge of stiff competition or the 1980 United States Hockey Team who came out of no where to defeat the U.S.S.R. and earn a gold medal one game later.  Thus, as viewers tune in from all over the world to watch next weekend, who will be the next star, who shocks their fellow competitors with one shining moment of gold.

Looking back on my not so allustrious athletic career, most of the sports I played in high school were held off sight in a relatively obscure locations like local golf courses and State Parks.  The only sport I participated in with bleachers was swimming, my weakest talent by far.  Yes, my 200 Individual Medal Relay did earn a bronze medal at the 1986 State Meet held at the University of Delaware’s pool, but my lack of speed cost us the gold.  Yet, in one of my last high school races as a senior, God moved me to swim faster than I ever had before.  Despite dabbling in butterfly, back and free style, the 100 yard breast was my strongest stroke and race.

Leading our arch rival Brandywine by a point heading into the final 2 events, I was facing a cross town swimmer who was 1 second faster on average throughout the season.  Typically, the number 1 swimmer swam the inside lanes, a little faster than the 2 outside lanes due to the wake splashing back into swimmers.  However, just before stepping on the starting block, their top breast stroker switched lanes to shadow me in lane 1.  After 25 yards I was slightly behind, pulling even by the halfway mark.  Since the bleachers were right on top of lane 1, I began to hear a roar from lane 2 as I approached the final turn.  The noise of the crowd, filled me adrenaline, causing me to go faster and faster as I touched the final wall, finish line.  As I looked up, the noise was deafening as members of the final relay applauded my victory by 4 seconds, shattering my PR by 3 seconds.  In addition, our other swimmer passed both of Brandywine’s breast strokers in the final 5 yards to earn second and mathematically clinch the win.

As great as this experience felt, there is only one other shining moment that compares.  While in college I was asked to help out at a lock-in by my high school swim coach who had become a youth pastor.  During the festivities, I was drawn to a kid who was called Satan by his peers.  Yeah, he had a mean streak inside of him that was pure evil, but the Holy Spirit moved me to minister to him.  Layer by layer, like peeling an onion, God began to show me the defense mechanism that he had created to prevent his heart from being broken again.  During an altar call late in the night, I led this young man to invite Jesus into his heart, Romans 10:9-10.  Able to fulfill the words of James 5:19-20, I sensed another round of applause, this time from heaven.  “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who do not repent,” Luke 15:7.  May you experience multiple spiritual shining moments in not just during the Olympics, but throughout life.

by Jay Mankus

Thirsting for the Wrong Things

I spent the first half of my life trying to gain weight, always shiny and frail.  Exercising was a way of life, running 5 miles and swimming 3 miles a day at my physical peak, resulting in only a 4 percent body fat.  However, once I stopped running a year after I got married, my weight ballooned for the first time in my life as I began to thirst for the wrong things.  Although I survived a near death experience of alcohol poisoning at a friend’s wedding after college, my gut now contains a 12 pack of soda.

 
Unfortunately, the days of burning off calories for me have subsided as my waist size is running out out belt loops.  Forced to a diet during my running and swimming days, the only time I pigged out was the spring, able to walk off any weight gain on the golf course.  Today, if I don’t limit my intake of snacks, soda or treats, my scale gives me the bad news at the end of the day.  While the message of Luke 12:19 sounds good, “take life easy, eat, drink and be mercy,” the context refers to a rich fool.  Thus, I am either looking in the wrong place for answers or I’ve lost my former discipline to abstain from things harmful to my body.

The 4th chapter of John records the longest conversation Jesus encountered in the Bible.  Like most modern struggles, a Samaritan woman began to thirst for the wrong things in life.  This unhealthy desire led to an unfilled life, chasing after love, never to be found in the 6 relationships she sought, John 4:15-18.  Unaware of who she was talking to, Jesus offered a cure to her dilemma, John 4:10-14.  Something inside of this woman’s heart spurred her on to tell others, John 4:28-30.  This hunger for the truth led this Samaritan and several others to believe, John 4:39-42.  Taste and see that the Lord is good, Psalm 34:8.

by Jay Mankus

Heavenly Dwelling

Come as you are to the Most High Place

Where an invisible shield will provide a refuge

Safety and security serve as a blanket of protection

With angels waiting in the wings, ready to act on a moment’s notice.

Like a force field, harm and predators bounce out without leaving a mark

The life guard on duty relies on love as a weapon of defense

Whenever a swimmer cries out for help, afraid of incoming breakers

The giver of life will come to your aid in a twinkling of an eye.

Delivering you from the waves of circumstances, situations and trials

As long as you remain in the presence of the Lord Most High

Long life, salvation and satisfaction will accompany you the rest of your days

Why wait any longer, since an open pew is awaiting for your arrival!

by Jay Mankus

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