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A Source of Joy

Perfectionist’s refuse to accept any standard short of perfection. In context of psychology, perfectionism is a broad personality style characterized by a person’s concern with striving for flawlessness. For those of you who possess this mentality, perfection is accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations. Until perfection is achieved, there is no time to celebrate, express joy or satisfaction.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope, Romans 15:13.

As a former athlete who was consumed with perfection, joy was rare. Despite a successful high school and college intramural career, I never enjoyed the victories like I should have, Instead of embracing the chance to compete, I got distracted by wins and losses. While winning felt good, if I made some mistakes or didn’t live up to my own expectations, I walked off the court, course or field feeling miserable.

And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them], Philippians 4:7-8.

After having kids, I came back to the athletic field with a new appreciation. I spent 5 years in a competitive men’s softball league. Each time I ran out to center field or stepped up to the plate, I took on a Philippians 4:8 mindset, savoring each opportunity to play. The last 2 years I joined a Friday night volleyball team to play aside my daughter Lydia. Although our playoff runs ended quickly, I found a source of joy. While our record wasn’t as good as I hoped, the joy of Christ is replacing my old perfectionist nature.

by Jay Mankus

Prepare Your Children for God

I spent a decade of my life teaching at a Christian Academy in the state of Delaware. My initial years at this school were eye opening. I just assumed that parents and students who attended were Bible believing and practicing Christians. After listening to conversations from my junior high students prior to homeroom, my soul was troubled by the secularization of these teenagers. After taking over as their Bible teacher in the middle of the school year, less than half could not pass a basic 10 question Bible quiz.

For the unbelieving husband is set apart (separated, withdrawn from heathen contamination, and affiliated with the Christian people) by union with his consecrated (set-apart) wife, and the unbelieving wife is set apart and separated through union with her consecrated husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean (unblessed heathen, outside the Christian covenant), but as it is they are prepared for God [pure and clean], 1 Corinthians 7:14.

Looking back now, these young people didn’t have the Christian friends, mentors and youth group that I was nurtured by and strengthened. My favorite night of the week was Sunday. This wasn’t because of sports or Sunday Night Football. Rather, I longed to attend a local Methodist youth group which had as many as 50 high school students there each week. In the summer, the MAYNE Event brought hundreds of students every Wednesday night from other churches to play volleyball and hear a short message. These experiences prepared me to follow God after graduating high school.

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 22:6.

According to the apostle Paul and King Solomon, parents are responsible for preparing their children to meet God. This call for parents begins by being set apart, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, consecrated and dedicated to a life of purity. Jesus sets a high standard in his Sermon on the Mount, aiming for perfection, Matthew 5:48. When you do stumble and fall, confession and prayer is a vehicle to get right with God, James 5:16. When parents live out their faith at home, spiritual seeds are sown for God to water via the Holy Spirit. For current and expecting parents, may this blog inspire you to prepare your children for a personal relationship with God.

by Jay Mankus

The Joy of Parenting

As a parent with 3 children over the age of 15, my days of having a full house are nearing an end. This reality has prompted me to make my two younger children a weekly priority. When I came home from work earlier this week, there was a sticky note for me from my son Daniel. Hoping to play frisbee golf after class, I made arrangements to have lunch and play afterwards. While neither of us played that well, spending a couple hours together brought joy to my heart.

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist, 1 Corinthians 8:6.

When I got back home, I remembered that my daughter Lydia had a volleyball at 3:45. Despite an urge to be lazy, I jumped in the shower, got dressed for work and rushed out the door. Despite some traffic, I arrived as the first serve was being struck. I’ve seen better performances, yet being able to watch Lydia play the sport she loves was worth the 30 minute drive. The team had some good stretches of play, but watching Lydia set the match winning spike was priceless.

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? – Malachi 2:10.

My efforts to be a good parent was just one day. The God of the Bible does this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, keeping watch over his spiritual children on earth. Rarely, do I comprehend the joy that comes from being a parent. Since we live in a society and world that is becoming more and more negative, hearing a positive story is a rarity. Yet, I feel compelled to write this blog today to proclaim parenting is not dead. It’s not easy, but as parents study the Bible to train children in the way they should go, the joy of parenting is experienced.

by Jay Mankus

The Final Season

In 1983 I was an incoming high school freshman eager to participate in a fall sport.  At 100 pounds and five feet tall, I was too small for football.  Concord’s soccer team had just won a state title so nearly one hundred boys tried out to make this team.  Fortunately, our paper boy was a runner, making the sports section of Wilmington’s News Journal after each race.  When I found out the cross country team didn’t cut anyone, I started my first of what I thought would be four seasons.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

While running 5-8 miles a day in the heat wasn’t initially appealing, the individuals on Concord High’s cross country team welcomed me like I was joining a new family.  The aches and pains of running were soothed by loving teammates who accepted me despite my size and stuttering.  As the youngest child of three whose sisters were both in college as I entered high school, cross country quickly became my extended family, caring for one another before and after each race.  What other sport do you find complete strangers hugging one another after a race or holding someone up after collapsing at the finish line so they don’t cramp up.

Someone said to Him, “Look! Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside asking to speak to You.” 48 But Jesus replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples [and all His other followers], He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven [by believing in Me, and following Me] is My brother and sister and mother,” Matthew 12:48-50.

This encouraging environment has made me an advocate for cross country.  While serving as a youth pastor in Indiana, I spent Saturday’s cheering on teenagers from my church.  As a former runner, I was able to counsel the disappointed and motivate others to continue to improve.  Running distances from 2.1 to 3.1 miles requires trial and error, going out at various paces to determine the best strategy for each course.  The elite often use large invitationals as throw away races to see how fast they can go out before they die, falling way off the pace.  While watching the Corinthian Games, similar to the Olympics, the apostle Paul writes about mental toughness, pushing your body to the limit to reach your full potential in the passage below.

Now every athlete who [goes into training and] competes in the games is disciplined and exercises self-control in all things. They do it to win a crown that withers, but we [do it to receive] an imperishable [crown that cannot wither]. 26 Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.

In my final year of teaching, I was fortunate enough to coach my two boys at Red Lion.  The previous coach set up a running club three days a week for elementary students to go along with coaching the junior high team.  This allowed Daniel to run with his older brother James., creating a competitive atmosphere.  Recognizing where I was as a runner at this age, I implemented fun days to keep the casual runner interested, giving 8th graders input to choose a fun practice each week.  Meanwhile, I pushed eager runners toward qualifying for the Yes Athletics National Championships as the East Regional was held an hour south of our school.  Over a 3 year period, I drove runners to nationals at Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.  This experience enabled students to compete against the best runners in the country.

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, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

Over the past 7 years, I have been a cross country parent, watching my two sons run for St. George’s.  Since my daughter Lydia has fallen in love with volleyball, Daniel’s senior year will be my final season attending Cross Country races.  Before I become a volleyball groupie, the reality of saying goodbye to cross country will be sad.  However, I do have a unique opportunity to run in a 5K prior to this fall’s county race known as the Old Timers Race.  Unfortunately, this requires getting into shape and running in the heat.  I haven’t started training yet, but as Daniel’s first race approaches this week, running to various mile marks with serve as  a warm up.  There is an old saying that states “Father Time remains undefeated.”  Yet, God has given me one final season to seize each day that I am blessed to watch my son Daniel complete.

by Jay Mankus

 

Finding Answers in a Loss

At the end of last year, my daughter and I joined a volleyball league. Every Friday night until April, I am able to compete for an hour. While the initial reason for participating was to allow my daughter to sharpen her skills during the offseason, I find myself outclassed by much younger and athletic individuals. The ultimate purpose of any sport is to determine who is the best. Thus, when you lose more than you win, human nature begins to search for answers to explain why your team lost.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.,” Matthew 5:4.

In her 2017 song Can’t Live Without, Hollyn sings about someone who doesn’t know what they are chasing after. Using the context of a person driving in rush hour, sometimes you are so busy that lose sight of where you are actually going. Near the end of the lyrics, there is a transition which struck a nerve, ” Some people gotta lose it all to find out what they really want.” Progress, success and victory doesn’t require any need for reflection as positive momentum breeds confidence. Yet, embarrassment, failure and losing leads souls to ponder why.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me., 2 Corinthians 12:9

As a former professional athlete, I hate to lose, even if it’s playing a board game with my family at home. However, my desire to win takes joy away from competing. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis states if you get rid of competition, you eliminate pride. Thus, if you take your focus off of winning and turn it toward savoring the opportunity, it doesn’t matter what the final outcome or scoreboard reads. Thanks to Hollyn’s song, I am now able to see the big picture, a father who is able to spend quality time with his daughter. While our team’s record may be mediocre, I have found an answer in a loss.

by Jay Mankus

Never Me… Always We

I have always appreciated creative minds.  Whether it’s an amusing advertisement, catchy commercial or funny bumper sticker, I enjoy unique themes.  While watching my daughter Lydia’s volleyball game, I sat behind the opposition’s varsity team as new T-shirts arrived.  On the back, a powerful message was displayed about what it means to be a great teammate, “Never Me Always We.”

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Galatians 2:20.

This motto got me thinking about my own Christian faith.  Sadly, I find my own life resembling another T-Shirt design.  However, this one reads “Always Me, Occasionally Thee.”  Some where along the way I have discarded a servant’s heart for selfish reasons.  Unfortunately, I have forgotten one of the apostle Paul’s life’s verse, dying to self.  This is the way these students can proclaim “Never Me Always We.”

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me, Luke 9:23.

Before accepting individuals as disciples, Jesus had three expectations for each one to follow.  There were no exceptions to these standards, turning away many who were not willing to submit.  First, you needed to deny yourself, to become part of God’s team.  Second, join this crusade, to make fishers of men by saving souls.  Finally, commit to following God’s will wherever this may lead you.  If you are willing to submit to these requirements, you too can say with confidence Never Me God Always Thee.

by Jay Mankus

Brain Washed, Deceived or Set Free?

When I was in high school, theology was not something I addressed with people from different religious backgrounds.  Thus, I hung out in the Mormon Church playing volleyball, went to a Methodist youth group and was a member of a Roman Catholic church.  Unfortunately, this atmosphere changed as I entered college.  Religious leaders often went out of their way exposing the flaws and shortcomings of each faith.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15.

This climate leads to one of three responses.  Those who change their beliefs are either brain washed, deceived by false teachers or set free.  This commonly held mindset ended several relationships I had with individuals from different faiths.  On one occasion, I discovered I was placed on the do not talk to list by one cult, afraid I might convince members to leave this church.  In a quest to prove whose God is true, division often ruins friendships.

Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander, 1 Peter 3:16.

I’m assuming the context of the 2 passages above refer to a similar situation.  Peter understood that when you are debating or discussing differences in religions that you must be respectful.  Any type of arrogance, pride or smugness will offend those you are trying to convince to come over to your side of an issue.  Perhaps, individuals should follow in the footsteps of God who offers free will, not forcing anyone to believe.  Regardless of how passionate you may be, remember to talk to others who you disagree with gentleness and respect.  This honors the Lord and helps others keep an open mind in the future.

by Jay Mankus

 

When Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter

The moment a student enters the work force something happens internally.  I’m not sure if its related to specific occupations, but mindsets begin to change.  As soon as individuals get comfortable, there’s a common practice to think ahead like “I’m going to do this or that.”  However, every once in a while you’re confronted with a situation that makes you realize tomorrow doesn’t matter.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money,” James 4:13.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, it felt like a normal day.  I checked on my son before picking up my daughter from volleyball camp.  Upon my return, my son was in tears, insisting on wanting to go to the hospital.  Usually able to shake off pain, something inside of Daniel knew things weren’t right.  Twenty four hours later, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes, James 4:14.

One of Jesus’ earthly brothers writes about one of his regrets in life.  For nearly thirty years, his big brother was the son of God, yet he never believed until after the resurrection.  Subsequently, James came to the conclusion that tomorrow doesn’t matter as long as today is present.  Therefore, despite the grief and uncertainty I am currently enduring, there is still plenty of time to grow, learn and be thankful before the sun sets.

by Jay Mankus

 

Those Were the Days

Over the weekend, I got off the Exit called Reflection.  Trying to avoid an eat, sleep, work and repeat the same cycle over again mentality, I pulled off to take a breather, camping in the mountains with my daughter.  Subsequently, I was able to slow down enough to take my spiritual pulse.  Laying back in the wilderness, thoughts began to flood my mind.

Healed from most of the scars from losing my teaching position to a new management group, God allowed me to see positive images from my past.  Similar to the theme song from All in the Family, the Lord brought to recall memories that made me think, those were the days.  Skipping my planning period to partake in a gym class with juniors and seniors, participating in school fundraisers like Donkey Basketball, Dodgeball, Golf Megaathon & Volleyball and developing an Ultimate Frisbee class will always hold a special place in my heart.

Although, you and I may not be exactly where we want to be currently, there’s still time to change course.  Perhaps you need to pull over, take a break or spend time reflecting.  You can start by reading Philippians 4:8; then apply this principle like a scene from Polyanna, playing the good game.  If this exercise can become a habit or daily routine, you may reach a point in time when you can honesty say, “those were the days!”

by Jay Mankus

King of the Court

Being honored as part of the home coming court would have been nice, but I didn’t even make the ballot.  Although becoming king of a basketball court was a dream, this white man’s got no game.  However, there was one place where I did shine for a season.  Believe it or not, I was king of the sand volleyball court.

During my final 2 summers of college, I teamed up with a wrestler from Cleveland State University, Eddy Z.  Whenever I wasn’t working at the country club or playing golf, I spent most of my free time on the old sand volleyball court at Geaugua Lake, now called Geaugua Lake’s Wildwater Kingdom.  Sure, I had other hobbies like singing karaoke at Rick’s Cafe, dancing at one of the night clubs on the Flats in downtown Cleveland and traveling, yet sand volleyball became my passion.

After taking a volleyball class at the University of Delaware, I was able to rebuild strength in my surgically repaired ankle and extend my vertical jump beyond 30 inches.  This knowledge was utilized as I played Wallyball in the winter, winning an intramural title on a coed team with Doug, Liz and Rosie; later losing to the men’s and women’s volleyball team in the finals of a co-ed March Madness style 32 team field.   Despite having several flaws in my techniques, my will to win overcame these deficiencies.

Eddy was quick like lightning, able to dig or get to any ball in the fenced in arena, developed an amazing skyball serve and set the ball as good as anyone I have ever known.  Meanwhile, I perfected a windmill serve, causing a fast downward motion, cupping my hand to create a knuckle ball affect.  In the end, Eddy and I probably lost 3 matches in 2 years, beating teams from Ohio State, Miami of Ohio and Kent State on a regular basis.  On 1 summer day, we played 8 straight hours, only stopping to drink water before dispatching the next team.  Though we shared the court with other season pass members and visitors to Geaugua Lake, whenever I entered the gate, I felt like I was king of the court.

Now, old, mostly bald and grey, all I have are the memories of the music, the wave pool crashing next door and the cheers from the crowd after another point won.  However, today, there is a new king.  While, not exactly new, yet new to those who choose to follow Him.  Despite the gifts or talents you have been given, without this king life is incomplete, John 10:10.  May you come to know the true King of the Court, awestruck by his glory and wonder, Psalm 19:1-6.

by Jay Mankus

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