The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Category: Life

...about visions.

In the past few months I’ve been given several opportunities to give presentations to individuals from various walks in the salon industry. I guess that technically, what I’m doing is teaching a class, because everyone is given a handout that they fill out either during our time together, or afterwards when they’ve had some time to think about what they heard. I don’t know that I’m comfortable with using the term “teaching,” because what I really do is share.

 

That being said, I’ve titled this class/teaching/sharing opportunity,

 

Vision Casting.

Remembering and reclaiming the visions you once had for your life… 

 

If you’re thinking that what I’m talking about is dreaming, you’re right, or at least kind of…

 

I associate dreams with states of unconsciousness, such as sleeping or daydreaming. When you’re sleeping, you have no control (or at least I don’t) over the subject of your dreams. They just happen. When you daydream, you just kind of drift off into Lala Land, and your imagination runs wild. There’s no specificity in what you’re dreaming of.

 

Conversely, I believe that when we cast a vision for something, it is done with definition and intentionality. Out thoughts aren’t scattered, but clearly focused on the subject of that vision.

 

Let me offer you an example of what I’m talking about. 

 

Would you agree that most, if not all of us, are encouraged to cast visions at a very young age? Not sure about that? Check this out…

 

Think back as far as you can to recall the very first time that you were asked,

 

“What do you want Santa Claus to bring you for Christmas this year?”

 

So what did you do? You thought about what you wanted! You cast a vision, with definition, about that bicycle, or that doll, or that BB gun. You could see it, and feel it, and if you weren’t careful, be filled with the excitement of having it even though you didn’t have it yet!

 

This “vision casting” was repeated every year for Christmas, and perhaps even for birthdays, wasn’t it? You thought about, wished for, and dreamed of that thing, whatever it was, that you really wanted.

 

The beginning…

 

Casting those visions as a child “set the table,” so to speak, for years to come. At some point, you were asked, “So, what are you going to be when you grow up?” And you began to cast a vision for what you were going to be.

 

That was the beginning, wasn’t it?

 

You began to cast visions for everything in your life, and especially the big things. In addition to your career, you may have cast a vision for what your spouse would look like, what kind of home you’d live in, what kind of car you’d drive, how many kids you'd have, and even how you’d look when you reached a certain age.

 

In essence, you cast a vision for your life, didn’t you? I know that I did, and I remember that with each passing year, I was giving up on,  letting go of, or trying to bury the memories of all the visions that I’d had when I was younger, because it hurt too much to accept that for a variety or reasons they weren’t coming to fruition, which only served in making me feel worse.

 

WAIT.

 

Today is October 31, 2012. Today marks the Fourth Anniversary of The Seed of Hope, and on this day I’m going to do something that I’ve rarely, if ever done, in the one hundred and eighty-three posts that preceded today's:

 

I’m going to stop in the middle of this one.

 

I want to give you some time to think. Between now and the time that I make another post, which hopefully will be no more than one week, I’m going to ask you to do something for me…

 

I’d like for you to set aside an hour or so in your schedule to find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed (if that is at all possible). I’d like for you to think about the visions that you cast for your life years ago. Then I’d like for you to take a real look at your life today, at the way that your life turned out. Do the two align with one another? If not, would you like to do something about it? Really? Even if it took a bit of effort and hurt a little to do so?

 

Next week I’ll share the visions that I cast for my life with you, tell you which ones (almost all) never became a reality, why they didn’t, and what I did to do something about it.

 

Hopefully, my humble offerings will help you to remember and reclaim the visions you once had for your life, and you’ll be willing to take some steps to make them a reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 10/31/2012 at 3:57 PM | Categories: Life -

ONE thing.

Ever feel as if you’re being crushed by the weight of your world, by the responsibilities that you have, and by issues pressing on your mind so heavily that if you added one more thing you’d be completely overwhelmed, because you already feel like you’re one step away from dropping everything and being flat on your face? Perhaps you’re there right now…

 

Years ago, when I was a teenager, I was at a neighbor’s house lifting weights. Actually we were on the second floor of a two story wooden garage. My friend’s parents had finished out the space for their sons to have a room of their own. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was theirs. It was like the Cadillac of clubhouses!

 

I had just successfully completed a set of presses (where one stands and “presses” the bar holding the weights above his head) when my friend suggested that I do another set with a little more weight. Actually, he dared me to try, and back then I’d never been one to walk away from a dare. Realizing that I was already close to my weight limit, I consented, but under the condition that we only add a one-pound weight to each end of the bar.

 

I lifted the bar up to chest level, and readied myself to press the weights above my head. With a sudden burst, I exhaled, pushing the air from my lungs and tightening my stomach muscles as I called on whatever strength I had to thrust the bar above my head, “locking out” my arms to keep the bar there.

 

I did it!

 

I stood there in triumph, with a huge grin on my face, as I my now trembling arms held the weights above my head!

 

For about five seconds. What happened next was a blur. I couldn’t hold the bar up for another second, and somehow I had gone a bit past vertical with it, and it was falling and pulling me with it, not in front of me but behind me. Feeling as if I were about to snap, I let go of the weights, flushed with embarrassment even before they crashed to the floor.

 

To my utter dismay and horror, when I spun around to pick up the weights I discovered that one end of the bar had actually punctured the wooden floor, which only served to make me feel even worse.

 

Adding a seemingly insignificant two pounds to that bar was more than I could handle. Two pounds. Thirty-two ounces. I can lift that with one finger. Two pounds. I was completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t take the load.

 

What’s the point?

 

Why did I go through the trouble of telling you something that happened to me years ago? Well, it ties in neatly with what’s on my heart today…

 

Last week my friend Whitney stopped by to hang out with me in the prayer room that my wife Jackie and I have in our hair salon. The moment that Whit walked in the door I knew that something was wrong. She looked as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, and the heaviness that was on her heart was palpable.

 

Knowing that I was going to ask what was going on, Whit matter-of-factly said, “I’m tired and I’m frustrated. I don’t seem to have any time for me anymore. I’m just not happy. I’m miserable, and I don’t know what to do about it. Prayer isn’t even working. Nothing is.”

 

We spent a few minutes reflecting on Whit’s life. She has a job that she really doesn’t like, a shallow relationship with her dad, a relationship with a man that’s on slippery footing at best, a commitment that requires her to spend all of every Sunday serving at church, some hurts from the past that she’s still carrying around on her heart, and she’s enrolled in an evening ministry program, where she is leading a small group of other students!

 

Tears spilling from her eyes, Whit looked at me, and in what seemed to be more of a plea than a question, blurted out “What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? Why am I always on the bottom? What can I do about this?”

 

“Take one thing off your plate,” was my reply to Whit. Not missing a beat, I continued, “Take a look at your life Whitney. You have an obligation, or a source of hurt, or strife, or disappointment, or strained relationships for every day of the week. You stopped at seven and there’s probably more. You don’t feel like you have enough time for you because you don’t. Truth be told, you don’t want to slow down because if you did, you’d have time to take a good look at the sources of hurt in your life, past and present, and you don’t want to do that either. You’ve reaching the tipping point, and consequently, everything in your life is out of balance. Your plate is too full, and the remedy for that is to take something off of it. Just one thing.”

 

We talked for a bit longer, finished up in prayer, and I encouraged Whit to stay in touch, assuring her that I’d be praying for her to let go of at least one thing.

 

I never cease to be amazed by the power of prayer.

 

I talked to Whit yesterday afternoon. Since we met last week she has begun looking for a new job, had a conversation with some people at church to share some things that have been on her heart, changed the dynamics of the relationship, and has had some major revelations from her past. She sounded like a new woman. She also confided that she’s been walking with a confidence and boldness that’s been missing for some time. All of this change in one week. I couldn’t be more proud for her and of her.

 

So what do my childhood memories and a friend’s full plate have to do with you?

 

Well, take a look at your own life. Can you relate to the overflow of Whitney’s heart, not necessarily in the particulars but in the sum of all the parts? I’ll be honest with you in telling you that there have been times when I was right where Whitney was, and not necessarily years ago. In fact, the most recent time was just over a year ago.

 

And here’s the funny thing: My marriage to Jackie was rock solid, my family was healthy, our business was prospering, and God was giving me more and more opportunities to connect with people and to serve Him. My life had, in fact, never been better.

 

So what happened? Quite simply, I had too much on my plate. I hadn’t learned that it’s okay to say “no” to some invitations, even if they were to do worthwhile things. I was “yessing” myself to the point of exhaustion. That sad thing was that being stretched so thin robbed me of the joy of doing things that I loved to do, both in my life and in my ministry. Everything suffered.

 

I backed away from a couple of things and created some “space,” and the difference was amazing.

 

Change one thing.

 

I once heard that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing the same way every day and expecting different results.” What a simple and yet profound statement. It’s so easy to fall into that trap, isn’t it? You wake up one morning and much like Whitney, you feel like you’re on the bottom of everything gasping for air.

 

What’s the solution? Change one thing. Take something off your plate. Take a step in a different direction. Do something that will lighten your load.

 

What’s that? You say that you can’t take anything away? Then add something. Find a window of time to spend with God every day. Carve out some time somewhere, some way, somehow, to be still and reflect, not on the things that you can’t change, but on the things that you can. Pray for doors of change, in your world and in your heart, to be opened. And be ready to move when they do.

 

Perhaps, as in Whit’s case, the simple of act of stepping back to take a look at your life to find one thing that you can change in it will cause a chain reaction that will change not only your walk in life, but your heart as well.

 

Perhaps…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 10/18/2012 at 10:29 AM | Categories: Life -

Suiting Up

 

Several weeks ago I was having a conversation with a young man that I’d met this summer while attending a small group for men at our church. This young man, recently "born again," is on fire for the Lord, and has visions of a ministry that God has put on his heart. This young man (Charlie) is also an active member of our country’s military.

Charlie had reached out to me because he felt…make that, he knew that he was under spiritual attack on all fronts, and needed someone to talk to. In his words, "I don’t know what happened. Everything was going fine, and then all hell seemed to break loose; at work, at home, and wherever I happen to be. What do I do?"

We talked for a while, and of course, we prayed. Nothing breaks spiritual attacks like prayer and proclaiming in Jesus’ name that Satan must flee! The secret lies in believing in what you’re praying for and the power of proclaiming Jesus’ name.

I warned Charlie that unlike an enemy of war, who once shot and killed will live to fight no more, Satan will never cease in his attacks. You vanquish him today, and you can rest assured that he’ll be back tomorrow. He is relentless. He’s always on the prowl. Always looking to steal, kill, and destroy.

I suggested that Charlie recite Ephesians 6:10-18 each and every day, putting on the armor that God has given us to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks. I cautioned that when it comes to the enemy, there are no days off, no furloughs, and no time off for good behavior. "Charlie, you have to suit up every day for this battle. Every day."

 

Minnesota

Early the next morning my wife Jackie and I caught an early flight to Minneapolis, Minnesota. We were going there to attend the wedding of a young ministry student who had spent the better part of the last two years living with us here in Birmingham. Brooke had become like a member of our family, and we were eagerly anticipating not only her wedding, but also meeting members of her family that we’d heard so much about but had never actually met!

The next several days were what I can only describe as a "whirlwind tour of blessings."

The outdoors wedding that evening was held at an orchard an hour or so north of Minneapolis. The setting was beautiful. Rows of chairs were neatly arranged facing the area where Brooke and her fiancé Cam would exchange their promises

to one another, in what Brooke dubbed as a "church with no walls." Two glass windows were hanging from the limbs of a huge oak tree and gently swaying in the breeze, and a few partition screens served as a backdrop. So simple, and yet so perfect. God’s presence was everywhere, and we were grateful to have been among those in attendance.

Saturday included spending the day with another set of friends, and dinner that evening with Brooke and Cam’s families at the home of one of Brooke’s aunts and uncles, Jodie and Darnell. Again, God’s presence was so strong that it was almost palpable.I remember thanking God for the day time and time again as it unfolded, and when I lay my head on the pillow that night, thinking, "This was really a great day. Thank You!"

Early Sunday morning found us following Brooke’s mom and several members of her family to Winona, a city of 27,000 located two hours southeast of Minneapolis. After attending church, we went to the home of yet another of Brooke’s aunt and uncles, Becky and Sonny, where we had lunch and spent the balance of the day talking about God, life, and "callings." Brooke’s parents, Dan and Mary were there, along with her brother and sister, and Becky and Sonny’s children. What a great afternoon and evening! Again, God’s presence, and more specifically, that of the Holy Spirit, abounded everywhere and were so palpable that I could feel it.

The plans were for us to spend the night at Becky and Sonny’s, and as I lay my head on my pillow that night I reflected on the previous three days, and how perfectly anointed each of them had been, and how fortunate and blessed Jackie and I were to have been surrounded by an amazing family and friends. The weekend had already surpassed any expectations that we may have had for a "weekend getaway" and was proving to be an unexpected windfall of grace and blessings.

Monday was our day to return to Birmingham, and the plan was for all of us to go out on Sonny and Becky’s boat for a short day on the Mississippi river, before Jackie and I had to drive back to the airport in Minnesota in our rental car. That day marked a "first" for me: it was the first time in my fifty-nine years that I’d swam in the Mississippi, and while it was a ton of fun, I can tell you that the water in Minnesota is cold, even in July!

At any rate, we had a blast on the water, and at the appointed time, Jackie and I said our goodbyes and hopped in the car to make our way back to Minneapolis. Jackie slept for much of the way, and I listened to worship music and reflected on our amazing weekend. God had blessed us with an unbelievable weekend surrounded by one incredible family!

BAM!

We were 10 minutes away from the airport when "it" hit. Jackie was asking me a question and I was fighting five o’clock traffic and looking for my exit which I couldn’t afford to miss because we were gonna be cutting it close on time anyway, and I was just aggravated in general because I just don’t do well in traffic in an area that I’m not familiar with.

So she asks me a question, and in what I’m sure was anything but a civil tone of voice I responded, "I don’t have time to be looking around or answering your questions! I’m trying to get us to the airport!" Which led to her making a remark, which led to me making a remark, which led to a barrage of verbal bantering, which led to stone cold silence. By then I had apologized, but the damage was done.

The flight home was marked by that same silence, as well as during the drive from the airport to our home. We went to bed that night without saying goodnight, and the next day, a day that we had taken off from work, was just about as uncomfortable as you can imagine. We spoke to each other only when we had to, and dinner was punctuated by an eerie and most uncomfortable silence. Again, we went to bed without saying goodnight.

I hate the silence of "cold war." Hate it. I went to sleep that night wondering what had happened? How did it start, and when would it end?

Wednesday

The next day, day three of the cold war, began just like the previous one. We had coffee at the kitchen table, marked by the maddening silence. You could feel the iciness between the two of us. I wasn’t budging, and neither was Jackie.

We went to work and I had decided that we were gonna put an end to this when we took our lunch break. Something had to give. I even had two of my good friends praying for a resolution to our differences.

I was wrong. My initial question of "Can we try to figure out what happened and get past this?" quickly escalated to verbal shots worse than all of the others. We were both mad as hell and out of control and returned to our business without even having eaten, much less having resolved our issue.

Jackie went to the back of our hair salon, and I went to have a seat in my prayer room. Yes, we have a prayer room in a hair salon.

In prayer, I said, "Lord, please help us to resolve this. Give me clarity to see what went wrong, or better yet, how to fix it. Please help us to get past this. Please tell me what to do."

In an instant,

 

I knew what had gone wrong, and I knew what I needed to do about it. I found Jackie sitting at her styling station, grabbed her by the hand, and drug her into the prayer room. Once there, I closed the door, held Jackie close and began to pray, not for me, or for her, but for us! I prayed for God to stand in the middle of our circle, and I prayed, in Jesus’ name that the spirit of divisiveness and pride and anger that had engulfed us for three days be broken!

And you know what? "It" ended, right then and there. It was done. Peace was restored. I’d love to tell you that the hurt totally went away at that moment, but it took a couple of days for us to get back to where we usually are. Still, the healing process had begun.

So what happened?

The answer is quite simple. You see, I didn’t follow the advice that I’d given my friend Charlie before we left on our trip. We had gotten busy, and we were around amazing people, and our days were filled with fellowship, and fun, and food, and good times, and prayer. And I hadn’t taken the few minutes that I take every day to "suit up," to put on the armor of God to guard against the attacks of the enemy. I had gotten comfortable and complacent. And I had left the door open for the enemy to sneak in.

I’m not saying that reciting this passage from scripture is a magic shield of protection. I do believe that by reciting it each day, I remind myself that God has indeed given us weapons for spiritual warfare. And I believe that it’s the awareness that I need to cover myself each day that helps to protect me indeed.

You could call it "coincidence" that Jackie and I just happened to get into a huge argument when I wasn’t covering us in God’s armor. For the record, I don’t believe in coincidences.

A Fight to The Finish

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the

help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Ephesians 6:10-18 The Message

Suit up.

Every day. Without fail. You can’t afford not to.

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/30/2012 at 2:15 PM | Categories: Faith - Life -

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