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3 Days in Paradise

As Christmas quickly approaches, Thanksgiving get’s the short end of the stick.  A mere blip on the radar screen as retailers transition from Halloween to Christmas overnight, often bypassing Thanksgiving completely.  If you don’t believe me, malls, outlets and retail shops are now open Thanksgiving night to start Black Friday shopping early.  To avoid complaining anymore on this day of thanks, I want to share about 3 special days in paradise.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change, James 1:17.

Since my mind tends to wonder, I write down everything I learn from reading the Bible, recording these thoughts in a journal.  At the beginning of October, the journal that was suppose to last for the year was completely full.  Without any cash on hand, I sorted through some old journals to see if there was any room to record a few days or weeks.  This search led me to stumble upon an old day timer from 2001.  This book recorded a brief history of my days as a staff writer for Travel Golf Media.  The 3 days that stick out are March 12-14th.

http://www.saddlebrook.com/tampa-golf/

Unfortunately, the same day I uncovered this day timer, my wife informed me that her father had passed away from complications of a car accident a week earlier.  As I celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I believe God wanted me to remember these 3 days.  Prior to my kids Spring Break, I spent several hours contacting golf courses in Florida ahead of this family vacation.  Leanne’s parents Jim and Barb flew down while my family drove down the 12 plus hour drive to Tampa.  While I didn’t have enough time to play golf every day, I was able to schedule 72 holes in 3 days.

http://www.belleviewbiltmore.com

My wife and I were initially suppose to play day one, 36 holes at Saddlebrook Resort and Spa, an hour north of Tampa Bay.  Since Leanne was sick, her father Jim stepped in as my photographer for the day.  We teed off at 8:07 on the Champonship Saddlebrook course, had lunch with the Director of Golf on the cabana and went off at 1:30 in the afternoon on the Palmer Course.  Since this resort is the world headquarters for the Arnold Palmer School of Golf, the pro paired us with a father and son who attended this week long golf clinic.  This is probably the only day I made my father in law feel like a king.

http://www.golfchannel.com/video/places-play-and-stay/tampa-bay/

On Tuesday, Leanne, Jim and I played Biltmore Golf Course, south of Clearwater, about a mile from the Gulf of Mexico.  This Donald Ross original is a classic tree lined course with plenty of character.  The final round was in Lutz, Florida at the TPC of Tampa Bay, teeing off at 11:14.  Host of one of the Senior PGA tours most popular stops, this course is challenging but fair if you hit it straight, not one of my strong points.  While I only had one good round out of four, the weather was beautiful and the company great.  As I celebrate Thanksgiving 2017, I will always remember my 3 days in paradise playing golf.

by Jay Mankus

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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

 

When Your Let Your Body Go

If once active adolescents become inactive as adults, gaining weight is almost a certainty.  When I was a senior in high school, I was five feet eleven inches tall and one hundred and forty pounds.  A year later, I decided to not run cross country in college, gaining the freshman 25 immediately.  Playing intramurals the next four years kept my weight stable, give or take five pounds.  Over the next decade, I gained another ten pounds, but remained active as a teacher, youth director and assistant golf professional.

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. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Unfortunately, I gained another 20 pounds the first year I was married.  However, it’s not what you think.  Since I lived in the country, neighbors didn’t keep their dogs on leashes.  Thus, as I attempted to run a few times a week, dogs chased me for a half mile at a time.  After sprinting on and off, I finally gave up as the setting was safe enough to run.  Using my life as a case study, our bodies get use to a specific schedule.  Whether this is running, training or working out, this exercise stabilizes our weight.  Yet, when people like me alter routines without a substitute to take it’s place, it’s easy to lose control of your body.

For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:8.

Recently, I have come to the conclusion that I am fighting a losing battle as each time I lose weight, it returns within a month.  While I am not giving up, perhaps I need to change my perspective.  Exercise is a healthy habit to practice, but godliness has value in every aspect in life.  Therefore, I need to let go of my frustrations for a body out of shape and switch my concentration toward my soul.  Just as body builders draw the attention of those in fitness centers, Christians should elicit the same response to strangers in public.  Those who develop a daily time of Bible Study, prayer and worship start to become spiritually pumped up.  These habits often fuel a desire to become more like Jesus.  While I would love to physically return to the body I once possessed, it’s better to demonstrate the light of God’s love through random acts of kindness.

by Jay Mankus

When Confidence Fades Away

There was a time in my life when I believed that I could do anything.  A few months after graduating from the University of Delaware, I felt like I was missing something.  This emptiness led me to pursue a leadership trade school in Minnesota called Tentmakers.  Following my completion of this youth ministry training in March of 1993, I was equipped with the tools I was previously missing.  This training propelled me to new levels of confidence.  Unfortunately, beginning in 1994 this confidence faded away, never to fully recapture again.

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.

During my fifteen years of coaching, I’ve seen similar situations occur on the athletic field.  Golf is probably the one sport where confidence is essential.  One day golfers may flirt with shooting par and the next can’t break 50 for 9 holes.  Meanwhile, I’ve seen dominant pitchers be unhittable one day and the next can’t find the strike zone.  Confidence is like fuel that drives individuals.  When it runs out its easy for people to become lost, a shell of who they once were.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

There is a term which refers to someone floundering, flopping back and forth without any sense of direction.  This state is often a by product of confidence that fades away.  If you have ever reached this point in life like me, Solomon encourages people to lean on God.  While you may not regain the heights you once obtained, the Lord promises to restore hope to those who have endured the pain of lost confidence.

by Jay Mankus

The Role of Failure in Life

Within a 48 hour period, my son Daniel experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  Last Saturday he placed 5th in the state in Pole Vault earning St. Georges four points.  After the final event, his school won the state track title by three points.  On Monday, playing in an qualifier for the state golf tournament, Daniel fell 7 shots short.  A few bad holes led to his demise.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us, Romans 5:3-5.

The apostle Paul writes about the role of failure in life.  Disappointment serves as teachable moments.  Failure allows suffering to change your perspective on life.  If you deal with this in a mature manner, character is developed.  If not fits of rage will likely follow.  Each failure you endure allows growth to take shape.  However, it only depends upon how you respond.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever, Psalm 73:26.

No matter what you tell a younger generation, sometimes you have to let people learn the hard way.  You can only hold someone’s hand so long.  Eventually, you have to let the people you love sink or swim.  Shielding children from failure will only hurt in the long run.  Therefore, let go and let God use trials to strengthen the people you love.

by Jay Mankus

When Golf Dropped the Ball

The term archaic refers to ancient, bygone and primitive.  If you analyzed the evolution of rules within professional sports, golf likely has rulings which make the least sense.  This was on full display last Sunday when Lexi Thompson was assessed a 4 stroke penalty in the middle of her final round of the LPGA’s first major this season.  Upon hearing the news that a 3 shot lead just became a 1 stroke deficit she replied,”this is a joke, right?”  Unfortunately, Lexi this wasn’t a joke, merely the day when golf dropped the ball.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil, 2 Corinthians 5:10.

Unlike a typical sport, golf has a different official for each group.  These individuals are responsible for making sure players tee up behind the markers, take proper drops and carefully observe to make sure no one breaks a rule during competition.  Although I haven’t read anything, it appears that the official in Lexi’s group was distracted or simply wasn’t paying attention.  This ruling and subsequent playoff loss for Thompson has tarnished the game of golf by stealing a tournament she should have won by 1 if assessed just a 2 shot penalty for remarking her ball incorrectly.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; Romans 14:10.

In a letter to the church of Corinth, the apostle Paul refers to the bema seat, the place where track officials judge competitors.  The context of this reference is aimed toward participants who strive to win but do so within the rules of play.  In recent years, some sporting events have been altered by referees whose egos got in the way.  This selfish act often ruins the viewing pleasure of others, turning joy into frustration.  On the flip slide, there are governing bodies like golf that can be stubborn to change with the times.  The end result comes in the form of a zealous individual set on altering the final score of championship.  Perhaps, golf will evolve quickly.  Yet, for now Lexi Thompson is a victim of when golf dropped the ball.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Stress Reliever

One of the most stressful things for me as a parent is watching my kids participate in sports.  Although some my debate on which is the most grueling to observe, golf must be in the top 3.  There aren’t any time outs, teammates to blame or walls to keep your ball in play.  When you start to fall apart in a stroke play event, there’s no place to hide.  This tension can consume any parent, filling the calmest individual with stress.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved, Psalm 55:22.

While I am usually laid back, this past week I found myself in the middle of an anxiety attack.  I guess it didn’t help that youngest son decided to finish his last 5 holes with 2 quadruple bogeys and 2 double bogeys.  Nonetheless, I should have had a better plan to cope with stress.  Some sort of stress reliever to ease the anguish within my soul.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, Philippians 4:6.

Yesterday, a light bulb went off in my mind.  Why am I worrying myself to death when I can lift up individual prayers to God.  Since this revelation, I have turned moments of tension into a stress reliever, praying for the helpless situations that I encounter.  If parents turn to the Lord with their troubles, then you too can begin practicing the stress reliever called prayer.

by Jay Mankus