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Tag Archives: vacation

The Day that Changed My Life

Prior to October 14th, 1985, I was a struggling teenager, emotionally unstable and immature. I guess you can say I was mentally soft and weak, needing to toughen up so that I could reach my full potential as an athlete. After wasting my first two years of high school, somewhere between carefree, lazy and inconsistent, I was determined to be great. This desire resulted in working out for the first time in addition to running and swimming 3 to 5 days a week. While on vacation in Maine for a month, I trained in the mountains, pushing myself to the limits like a drill sergeant.

While being reviled and insulted, He did not revile or insult in return; while suffering, He made no threats [of vengeance], but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges fairly, 1 Peter 2:23.

On this particular Columbus Day, I was running in a cross country race at Banning Park, located between Newark and Wilmington, Delaware. Earlier in the month, I helped Concord’s team upset the #1 ranked team in the state. Since the course at Banning was only 2.1 miles at that time, I felt like this was my best chance to win a race. The only problem is four of my teammates went on to become high school all-Americans. I could keep up for 2 miles, but the final 1.1 miles or 5K I fell off the pace. At the mile mark, I was in the lead pack as we approached the woods. Fallen leaves covered the hole that twisted my ankle, shattered my dreams and ended my season.

He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross [willingly offering Himself on it, as on an altar of sacrifice], so that we might die to sin [becoming immune from the penalty and power of sin] and live for righteousness; for by His wounds you [who believe] have been healed. 25 For you were continually wandering like [so many] sheep, but now you have come back to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls, 1 Peter 2:24-25.

Following reconstruction surgery on my ankle, I watched from the sidelines as my teammates lost the state title to Sales by 7 points. I did everything in my power to return for my senior year and perhaps earn a state title, only to burn myself out, going out too fast. After surgery, my ankle was protected by a brace that I wore into college. During the first cross country season following surgery, I heavily taped my ankle as extreme pressure resulted in bleeding race after race. The bleeding stopped a year later, but my scar remains today. While October 14th, 1985 did change my life, the J-shaped scar on my ankle reminds me of the pain Jesus endured on the cross. Just as the prophet Isaiah once said, “by His wounds we are healed.”

by Jay Mankus

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Stopping to Take a Deep Breathe

The idiom “taking a deep breathe” refers to pausing for a moment to calm and compose yourself. If you work in a stressful environment like me, taking a personal day or vacation is essential to prevent emotional or physical burnout from occurring. Removing yourself from deadlines, hectic circumstances and pressure for a while is good for your own mental health.

“Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth,” Psalm 46:10.

One of the Psalms of the Bible is entitled God the Refuge His people. This chapter is dedicated to the chief musician. The sons of Korah wrote this song, Psalm 46, set to soprano voices. The end of this piece contains one of the most famous and quoted stanzas of the Bible. When disappointment, hardships or trials begin to stress you out, the Psalmist urges believers to slow down by being still before God.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower], Psalm 46:11.

No matter how many friends or relationships you may have, there will always be at least one moment in time where no one will know what to say to you. When comfort can not be found by human means, the Lord is always available. Thus, when you reach a point of despair, stop to take a deep breathe. As you do, pour out your heart to God in prayer so that Selah is achieved, a peace that surpasses all understanding.

by Jay Mankus

Busy, Bored or Busted?

During an episode of the Brady Bunch, I learned a good excuse for getting out of something you didn’t want to do. Barry Williams who played Greg on this show got out of a commitment by saying, “something suddenly came up.” In a sense, when you are busy priorities change as individuals get distracted, engaged or wrapped up in something unexpected. This involvement prioritizes one activity over another regardless of what you might have previously said or promised.

Then it happened in the spring, at the time when the kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all [the fighting men of] Israel, and they destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 11:1.

The opposite of busy is bored. Instead of being occupied, souls become aimless, idle, with plenty of time to kill. In the passage above, King David decides not to go to work, taking a vacation for a season. Like a teenager who doesn’t know how to stay out of trouble, it doesn’t take long for boredom to affect David. I guess you can say a mid-night stroll caused David’s mind to wander, lusting after a married woman. Instead of rejecting this desire, David used his power to indulge his sinful nature.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master’s house, and put your master’s wives into your [care and under your protection, and I gave you the house (royal dynasty) of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have given you much more! Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife. You have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites, 2 Samuel 12:7-9.

Just like the 1983 song One Thing Leads to Another by the Fixx, boredom takes David down a slippery slope. Adultery, conspiracy and murder isn’t what I call a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 16:7. These words once uttered by the prophet Samuel illustrate how quickly a godly person can fall from grace. Nonetheless, when the prophet Nathan busts David for his crime in the passage above, it’s an important lesson to learn. As soon as anyone wanders off track, adrift from God’s Spirit, boredom often results in full blown sin, James 1:13-15. May this testimony of David serve as a warning to stay busy by doing God’s work and fulfilling his will on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Weather or Not?

Whenever I go on vacation, I try to check weather forecasts prior to leaving.  Depending upon the site you choose, you can research temperature up to ten days or hour by hour.  Usually, this helps me know what clothes to pack.  Unfortunately, just because a network has the most sophisticated technology in the world doesn’t make their anchors weather experts.  Anyone with a weather radar channel or doppler program open can see weather systems approaching.  However, unless you understand what you seeing on a screen, the exact forecast will always be in doubt.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? – Psalm 56:3-4

This past weekend I had planned a family ski trip in the Poconos, two hours north in Pennsylvania.  The early projections called for heavy snow Saturday, causing me to alter my initial plans.  To make matters worse, the state of Pennsylvania issued a state of emergency at noon Saturday.  Two days of skiing at Camelback Mountain turned into one, but snow didn’t start falling until five in the afternoon.  Right on the ice/snow line, estimations ranged from three to twelve inches.  To a certain extent, my families plans were held hostage by an ever changing weather report.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love, 1 John 4:18.

In times of doubt and indecision, individuals are forced to rely on common sense.  When you aren’t able to decide which way to go or turn, the Bible introduces the concept of trusting God.  You may take the information provided like a weather forecast, but God’s Spirit, Galatians 5:25, can direct you like it did for the apostle Paul during the first century.  Perhaps, this explains why the translators of the King James Bible use the term Holy Ghost to describe the Holy Spirit.  This invisible force serves as a counselor, a guiding hand during times of darkness.  Whether or not forecasts are correct, trusting God can turn cloudy or foggy mornings into an ideal day on the slopes.  Sometimes the weather is merely a state of mind.  When trust is present, fear is replaced by a loving appreciation for God.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Voices from the Grave

After spending a long weekend enjoying the warmth of Florida, the remaining days of my family vacation served a different purpose.  My wife’s father bought a condo back in the 1990’s when her brother JD was pursuing a career as a professional golfer.  Following my marriage proposal to Leanne, I spent a winter living in Florida with JD to fulfill my own dream.  With the passing of Jim Wagner last fall, it was time to clean out everything that has accumulated over the past 25 years.  Before putting this property on the market, sorting through what was left behind was necessary and to my surprise like hearing voices from the grave.

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead, James 2:26.

When death separates the living from the deceased, one of the few things you have remaining are the memories of your time together on earth.  Two of my visits to Oldsmar, Florida were business trips, serving as a staff writer for Travel Golf Media.  One of the perks of this job was playing golf for free along with a photographer.  Thus, Jim and Leanne took turns helping me, saving several hundreds of dollars in greens fees in the process.  While going through a closest I found several hats, a golf shirt and score cards from these memorable rounds of golf.  Upon seeing these items, it was like hearing Jim’s voice again saying, “thanks for a great round!”

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead,” Matthew 8:22.

The hardest part about coping with death is letting go.  Some mourning individuals create a memorial in their homes with letters, pictures or clothing worn by this loved one.  Meanwhile, deadly accidents have crosses or wreaths to remind you of the fallen.  Yet, at some point you have to move on.  During a discussion with potential candidates, Jesus urged eager disciples to let the dead bury their own dead.  Jesus isn’t trying to be cruel or harsh.  Essentially, Jesus is commanding his followers to focus on the living, those near you who need your help.  Therefore, if you want to leave your own legacy take Jesus’ advice so that your actions may serve as voices from the grave after you are gone.

by Jay Mankus

 

Serenity

If you over hear a conversation at work, follow social media or watch the news, serenity is one of the last things you will find.  Perhaps, if you travel to the Caribbean, retreat to the mountains or go on vacation, signs of serenity will emerge.  Unfortunately, many people rush through life, becoming distracted by concerns, stress and worries.  These burdens make the possibility of experiencing a calming, peaceful and tranquil environment doubtful.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

When I was younger, I wanted to be older, able to freely roam the earth like the prodigal son.  Now that I am old, I wish I enjoyed and savored the days of my youth.  Besides going to school and playing sports, I had it made.  Sure, there are always periods or phases that you would like to forget, but the teenage years should have been the best.  Yet, puberty, self-esteem issues and giving into temptation often derails childhood dreams.  Meanwhile, the older you become, the more complicated life gets.  These negative influences make serenity a foreign concept.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you, Isaiah 26:3.

The Old Testament offers some advice to those who seek to find serenity.  First, Solomon implores individuals to place their trust in the Lord.  According to this former king, those who practice this by faith will receive insight as God straightens your path through life.  Second, the prophet Isaiah talks about developing a mindset.  Peace, a by product of serenity is obtained by fixing your mind on God.  If you feel overwhelmed by the chaos that exists daily, may these words inspire you to find a state of freedom from the storms and disturbances within this life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Final Round

My favorite day of any planned vacation is the first.  Whether you are traveling by air, boat, car or train, the initial day sets the scene for the entire trip.  Additionally, the first day on the beach, in the mountains or on a golf course tends to be the most relaxing.  If you have gone an extended period of time without resting, there is a greater appreciation for time away from work.  However, before you know it, time flies and the end is near.  Dreading the last hours that remain on your vacation, it’s hard to make the most of your final round.

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

About a decade about, my parents were in a major car accidents in the mountains of Pennsylvania.  Initially, my mom thought my dad was dead as a ski hit him in the back of his head as they slide off the interstate down the side of a hill.  In an instant, their lives were changed.  I wasn’t sure if I would see him again or get the chance to say goodbye.  During an extended rehab, my father made a full recovery.  Nearly a year later, we played a round of golf together at his club in southern Delaware.  Awakened to the possibilities, I treated this day like it was our final round together.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.

In most golf tournaments, there is a 36 hole cut over the first 2 days.  The final round takes place on Sunday where fans gather to see if their favorite player is victorious.  However, as you get older, nothing is guaranteed.  Thus, each time you tee if up, in the back of your mind you should think, “this may be my last.”  Unfortunately, I didn’t have this heightened awareness when I played with Leanne’s father 3 years ago in Florida.  Instead of savoring every last minute, I allowed how I was playing, poorly, to ruin my mood.  In view of Jim’s untimely death, from here on out, I will treat each day on the golf course like it’s my final round on earth.

by Jay Mankus

 

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