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When Winning Isn’t As Important

In the days following 9/11/01, many Americans used professional sporting events as a vehicle for healing.  In Major League Baseball, the singing of Talk Me Out to the Ball Game was replaced with God Bless America.  At the first Monday Night Football Game in the NFL, a sense of patriotism swept through the crowd, causing tears to flow from my eyes as a giant flag, shaped like the United States of America was stretched across the entire field.  During this period in time, winning wasn’t the only thing.  Rather, playing these games symbolized a sense of normalcy to proclaim to the world, “America will carry on.”

Meanwhile, another community experienced a similar tragedy, placing sports into its proper perspective.  The 2006 film We Are Marshall is based upon the death of 37 football players, 5 coaches, 25 boosters and other staff who perished in a plane crash near Huntington, West Virginia.  Despite wanting to remain competitive, winning had to be placed on the back burner.  To honor the memory of these people, the school president was nudged by students to field a team to fill the void left behind.  In a stirring scene, Matthew McConaughey, who plays head coach Jack Lengyel, redefines winning to include playing with all your heart for 60 minutes.  “If you do this, we can not lose!”

Today, competition has a wide scope from school districts who have banned keeping score to the hard core who keep score in everything they do.  For me, sports was a refuge, a place where I excelled.  The more success I tasted, the cockier I became.  Yet, like many things in life, athletic competition has a way of humbling the proud, bringing each star back down to earth.  However, when I finally gave up my pursuit of playing professional golf, only then did I understand winning isn;t everything.  Whether you have the talent or not, give your dream a shot and let the chips fall where they may.  In the end, winning isn’t as important as knowing that you did everything you could to maximize your God given talents.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Don’t Be So Koi; Unleash Your Potential

Koi fish, also known as nishikigoi in Japan, are domesticated carp kept for decorative purposes, usually in water gardens.  However, koi have an unique characteristic, growing only as large as their environment allows.  Thus, if you have a small fish tank, their size will be stunted to a few inches.  When given the opportunity, koi can grow to nearly 4 feet in size, but only in the right conditions like a large pond or lake.

In life, many individuals are afraid of the unknown, the areas beyond their comfort zones.  Subsequently, most people limit their potential, scared to take a chance or risk embarrassment outside in the big sea.  Instead of blossoming, souls tend to settle for mediocre lives, secure in the safety of their normal surroundings.  Unfortunately, this is not the plan God called his disciples to follow, Mark 16:15-18.

Today, Christians leave this responsibility for pastors, preachers and teachers, excluding themselves from Jesus’ command.  Although the harvest is still ripe for the picking, Matthew 9:35-38, the sidelines are flooded, me included, with believers too self-absorbed with life to get into the game.  In view of this unsettling truth, break away from patterns of idleness.  Don’t be so koi; rather unleash your potential by fanning into flame the gifts you have t offer, Romans 12:3-8.

by Jay Mankus

Obscuring the Truth

 

In 1987, Def Leppard ‘s album Hysteria introduced the dark side to falling in love.  The lyrics of Love Bites examines the emotional side of love as described in the final 2 stanzas below.  While several songs in the past have written about God’s agape or brotherly love, Def Leppard touches on the scars, wounds to the soul inflicted by intimate relationships that fall apart when feelings fade.

Love bites love bleeds – it’s bringin’ me to my knees
Love lives, love dies
Love bites love bleeds – it’s bringin’ me to my knees
Love lives love dies – it’s no surprise
Love begs love pleads – it’s what I need

If you’ve got love in your sights
Watch out, love bites

Modern commercials, sitcoms and television programming are some of the biggest offenders of obscuring truth.  The images portrayed on the screens inside of American homes glorify temptation while minimizing any after affects.  This hyperreality conceals the reality that actions and words do have consequences.  Thus, when an individual carries out a similar act or behavior in life, the words of Def Leppard often rings true, “love bites!”

 

When Jesus receives the news that one of his close friends is dead, he wept, John 11:32-35.  This wasn’t a movie scene; these were genuine tears brought on the pain one feels expressed by Def Leppard’s song.  As soon as a human being opens their heart, becoming connected to another soul, their are taking at risk at love.  Although happy endings do occur on occasion, don’t be afraid to take a chance, especially on the One who sacrificed His only son for you and for me, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

Sink or Swim?

I believe God has blessed each person born onto this earth with various gifts and talents.  Some of these are obvious while others take time to develop before you see the fruits of your labor.  Since I stuttered from birth, God endowed me with a competitive spirit, physical abilities and a love for all sports.  However, I only tasted failure in one sport, basketball.  After being one of only 2 white players to make my 6th grade elementary team in inner city Wilmington, I was cut twice in Junior High.  Afraid of rejection for a 3rd consecutive year, I decided to skip tryouts, too scared to find out if I could sink or swim?

If there is one thing you could say about the disciple Peter, he certainty was a character.  God blessed Simon with personality, probably the loudest and most out-spoken of the 12 disciples based upon the 4 accounts of the gospels.  This strong will led Peter to try things that the other disciples were either terrified of or unwilling to the take risk.  Such is the case in Matthew 14:25-33 as Jesus walks on water toward a boat filled with disciples.  Peter trusted Jesus enough to speak up, get out of the boat and for a moment actually walk on water. However, as soon as he began to take his eyes off Christ, focusing on a gust of wind, he quickly sank into the rough waters.

Its only fitting that I tried out for my high school swim team as a sophomore.  Though I had experience swimming, I was only proficient in breast stroke.  Since free style was the main stroke stressed in practices, I never completed a full practice all season.  I spent more time sucking wind, choking on water I kept accidently swallowing and gasping for air after the warm up, let alone all the sprints.  Despite the initial embarrassment, by the time I graduated I swam in nearly every high school event.  In fact, my senior season I actually won a 100 yard butterfly race.   Like Peter, I overcame my fears to get out of the boat and try something new.

C.S. Lewis devotes 2 chapters to faith in Book 3 of Mere Christianity, emphasizing proper Christian Behavior.  Chapter 11 defines faith and chapter 12 illustrates practicing faith.  Lewis uses an analogy of a child learning to swim to help visualize genuine faith.  First, beginners need to see other children actually swim.  This affirms within them, “hey, I can do this.”  Second, learning how to swim takes practice by developing the key fundamentals to float and guide through the water.  Finally, faith comes into play, believing that once your instructor lets go of you, you will swim and not sink.  In life, the Holy Spirit is our spiritual swim coach, counseling our heart when we sink and sending angels to lift us above the wake left by trials.  Each new day is like being on the starting block, waiting for the alarm to go off.  Don’t be like the other disciples; get out of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith for Jesus!  Sink or swim; the important thing is being obedient to God’s calling.  Let me know how it goes.

by Jay Mankus

Just for laughs, I thought I would include my best but slow swimming times.

200 Individual Medley, 2:39 (somehow I won)

100 Free, 58 seconds (in practice)

100 Back, 1:09 (I don’t think I even placed)

100 Fly, 1:11 (I think the leader got DQ’ed to allow me to win)

100 Breast, 1:12 (This is the only event I qualified as an individual for states)

I swam 33 seconds for 50 breast, my leg of the 200 IM Relay which finished 3rd in states.

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