The Seed of Hope

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Viewing by month: December 2008

Reading the Bible Part II

Before I pick up where we left off last week there is something that I must make mention of….

 

I was amazed, after the fact, when I realized that in last week’s post I had actually quoted Scripture! That may not seem like a big deal to you, but believe me, for Jackie and those that have known me for some time it was monumental.

 

I want to tell you a little story…..

 

Perhaps you can relate to this: one of the reasons that I shied away from the Bible was the Thee, Thy, Thou, begat, etc. found in many versions. I mean, come on, just getting the message out of a passage was a challenge for me; trying to get through archaic wording made it even worse! I needed something a little more simple, something that I could relate too, something that would make it a bit easier to get past my still-present childhood fears that I couldn’t understand what I’d read.

 

I turned to our nephew Jamie for advice, and told him of my ‘hang-ups’ with conventional Bibles. Jamie recommended the NIV (New International Version) Bible, which has been translated into a version much easier to both read and comprehend.

 

Brimming with confidence, I headed to the bookstore to actually purchase a Bible! One look at the shelf containing all the Bibles, and the panic set in! I had expected to find a few different translations, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found; there were more versions of the Bible than, well, than I have pairs of socks!  There were study Bibles, reference Bibles, and one year Bibles. I saw Bibles for men, women, and even students. Good grief!

 

Just before I turned and bolted for the door I remembered that I was looking for one particular version, so there should be nothing to be worried about, right? So I scanned the shelves looking for the NIV. There it was. But wait! There are different versions of the NIV! Which one was the right one? Making sure that no one was looking, but not really knowing if someone was, I began leafing through the different versions, acting as if I knew what I was doing! I could have asked for help, but that would have been too easy (maybe it’s a guy thing), so I stood there for 5 or 10 minutes with no clue as to which one I should choose! 

 

Finally, aware of the fact that I could have stood there all day trying to make a decision, I put it in God’s hands. I closed my eyes and thought “Dear Lord, I have no idea as to which of these Bibles is best for me. I’m gonna stand right in front of these selected few, and I’m asking You to guide my hand to the one that I’m supposed to have.” And I did. And He did. And I went home with the GIANT print version of the NIV Bible.

 

I made one more purchase at the book store that day; for several months I questioned why I bought it, but I realize now that it was God’s way of making reading the Bible more fulfilling for me. It was a publication titled The One Year at HIS feet Devotional, and it gives the reader a suggested reading for each day of the year. This particular study guide cites chapters and verses from the New Testament, focusing mainly on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

 

As I said, there is a suggested reading for each day of the year. Here’s what I really like about it: There are two sections devoted to each day’s passage. The first section, In Word, explains what I’ve just read, in layman’s terms. The second section, In Deed, gives me suggestions for applying that day’s ‘message’ in my life. This book has proven to be an invaluable tool in making daily reading of the Bible a part of my life. In fact, each morning Jackie and I sit at the table in our kitchen where I’ll do the ‘reading of the day’ for both of us. You can keep your bacon and eggs, cereal, or bagels; give me a few minutes with my Bible and a hot cup of coffee and I’m good to go!

 

I’ll close today with a few thoughts:

 

If you’re looking to enrich your walk of faith, to deepen your spiritual life, to get closer to God, or to learn the teachings of Christ, then the Bible is a great place to look. Unlike myself, don’t let fear stand between yourself and what the Bible has to offer to you.

 

If you want to know more about the Bible, join a study group within your church community. Talk to a friend that’s well-versed in the Bible. If you want to go it alone, but don’t know where to start, pick up a daily devotional similar to at HIS feet.

 

I’d love to recommend a particular Bible to you, but I don’t think that I’m qualified to do so. I believe that there are so many different versions available because, well, because we’re all different, aren’t we? Seek some advice in finding the version that’s best for you; the pastor of your church can probably offer you some tips.

 

It is my humble opinion that you don’t have to know the Bible to know God, to be a Christian, to lead a good life, or to get to heaven. I know I’ve mentioned somewhere on this site that “…it’s not just about the destination; it’s about the journey.” I believe reading the Bible will only serve to make your journey better.

 

 

contact me: sam@theseedofhope.com

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 12/29/2008 at 7:08 AM | Categories: Faith -

Reading the Bible

I’ve confessed to you before that I didn’t start reading the Bible until just over a year ago; actually it was just after my 55th birthday. What I didn’t tell you was why it took me so long. I was afraid. I’ll say it again; I was afraid. Not of the Bible, but my interpretation of it. I’ll explain.

 

If you’re a new visitor, I’ll tell you that I’m a Roman Catholic (not that my being a Catholic really matters in regards to God; see the post on Faith, dated October 31, 2008). I was baptized in a Catholic Church, attended Catholic schools, went to Mass (church) every day before school, and had religion class in grade school and high school. I’m still a practicing member of the Catholic Church. You get it; I’m steeped in the Catholic Faith.

 

Funny thing about the Catholic Church; when I was young, reading the Bible was never a focal point in life. (I’m not trying to insult fellow Catholics; it’s just the way it was.) I mean, we didn’t have ‘Bible school’ for kids, and adults didn’t have ‘Bible study’ groups (not that I was aware of). I guess what I’m trying to say is that reading the Bible was never stressed as being a necessary ingredient in leading a Christian life, which is not what one would expect from the “one, true, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. So my ‘official’ reason for not reading the Bible all those years was that no one told me I needed to.

 

Now back to the real reason for my reluctance: FEAR.

 

When I was in, I don’t know, maybe the fourth or fifth grade, our assignment one night was to read a few selected chapters from the Bible and write a report on what we’d read. Well, I did exactly that, and when it was time for religion class I confidently pulled out my paper on what I’d learned in the Bible.

 

I got it all wrong! Before I continue, I need to explain something to you: back then, most of the teachers at Catholic schools were Benedictine Nuns (in full garb; robes, full head-pieces, Rosary beads hanging from a waist sash). My teachers in fourth and fifth grade were from Germany, I believe, and very strict. If you made a mistake, neither of them had a problem pointing it out to you. God bless them, looking back on it now, I realize that they were serving God and their students in the best way they knew how…..

 

So anyway, I was told in no uncertain terms that I had it all wrong; I had completely misunderstood the message and meaning of the selected readings. And the ‘wall’ went up in my mind. And I never read the Bible. Oh, I heard selected readings from the Bible in church every Sunday; in fact I was a lector for a few years, but I never paid attention to what I read. I always listened closely to the sermons, because quite often they centered on the reading of the day. That’s as close as I ever got to the Holy Bible.

 

Until…..

 

It was my good friend Ann that pointed me in the direction of the Bible. Not long after my epiphany (article posted November 24, 2008), I kept bumping into mental ‘ceilings’. That is to say, I had questions regarding my abilities, worthiness, and ‘purpose’ in life. I was in uncharted waters, so to speak, not only in my walk as a businessman, but more importantly, in my walk of faith. In the middle of all of the changes going on in my life, God put it on my heart to go out and share the result of these changes with others.

 

At a time when I should have been brimming with confidence, I was plagued by doubts that this so-called ‘message’ for others really was from God. I mean, why me? Why would He, why should He pick me to be one of His messengers? I certainly had never done anything that would qualify for that ‘position’.

 

I conveyed these doubts to Ann, and she told me to read Jeremiah 1:4-9 (Jeremiah Chapter 1, Verses 4-9).

 

The word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Sovereign LORD” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the LORD said to me “Do not say ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them for I AM with you, and will rescue you” declares the LORD.” Then the LORD reached out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me “I have put My words in your mouth.”

 

I’ll tell you; this did give me some comfort. (For the record, I’ve never considered myself to be a prophet; I’m just a guy with a message to share.) Still, the doubts lingered, and time after time Ann would direct me to a certain chapter and verse that would, well, that would give me rest (some peace of mind). And each time I would get a little closer to reading the Bible. Closer, but not there yet. Have you heard the term “going, kicking and screaming’? Well, I won’t say I was that reluctant, but I was certainly dragging my feet.

 

Finally, on September 28, 2007, the day after my birthday, I purchased my first Bible, the NIV version; and I began to read.

 

What really did it…

 

I awoke one morning with a dream still fresh on my mind. In this dream, I had seen John, a very close friend with whom I hadn’t spoken in years. I was so surprised to see John that I actually asked (in my dream), “John, what are you doing in my dream?” John’s reply was “38”. Again I asked the same question, and again John replied “38”. Nothing more; nothing less.

 

I got out of bed thinking John 38. John 38. John 38. Couldn’t get it off my mind….what did it mean? And then the light bulb turned on! Are you ready for this?

 

Sam Maniscalco, the 55 year old Catholic who had never read, studied, turned to, or thought of the Bible headed straight for it! I almost told you that I didn’t know what made me go for the Bible that morning, and I didn’t know at the time, but I know the reason now. I always say that sometimes God gives you subtle hints about things, and sometimes He drops a brick on your head to get your attention. This was God dropping a brick on my head; and He used a dream to do it!

 

Sorry, I got sidetracked.

 

I made my way to the kitchen, grabbed my Bible, and settled into my ‘prayer chair’ (more about my chair later). Like a child on Christmas morning opening a surprise gift, I nervously leafed through the Bible looking for John 38; I knew that I was going to find something meaningful. And there it was…..NOT.

 

For those of you not familiar with the Bible, there’s not a John 38. I was so disappointed. Just seconds earlier I had been overwhelmed with Joy that the Bible had become enough a part of me that I had automatically turned to its pages for enlightenment. No John 38. Couldn’t believe it; I had been so sure…..

 

But wait. How about John chapter 3, verse 8? Again, with trembling fingers, I delicately turned the pages of my Bible to see if God had indeed sent me a message. This is what I found:

 

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit.”

 

Why was this message so meaningful to me?

 

For days, weeks, months, I had been questioning God’s plans for me, how He would use me as His soldier, as one of His messengers, and where He would take me. His message for me, through John 3:8? Don’t worry about where you’re going. I’ll take you where I want you to go. Be still.

 

I’ve been reading ever since.

 

More on this topic next Monday.

 

contact me: sam@theseedofhope.com

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 12/22/2008 at 7:15 AM | Categories: Faith -

The Tattoo

Do you have a tattoo? If not, have you ever wanted to have one?

 

Since I was a kid I’ve always had a fascination with tattoos, for various reasons. My attention was drawn to some tats (slang) because they were works of art. Some tats have a clearly defined purpose as a memoriam or tribute to an individual, i.e. God, Mother, loved one, country, etc. Conversely, I could stare at some tattoos for hours trying to make some rhyme or reason for their existence!

 

My underlying question was “Why?” Why would someone want a tattoo? What could have enough significance to warrant the permanence, and the frequent ridicule that often comes with having a tat? Fashion statements, statements of defiance, and statements of life; all good reasons for getting a tattoo, I guess.

 

Truth be told, I’d always wanted a tattoo, but never got one. It wasn’t the anticipated pain. It wasn’t the price. It was the permanence of a tattoo, as in forever. I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to have on my body for the rest of my life!

 

Until August of 2006….it’s another of those days that I can remember as vividly as if it were yesterday; I just can’t remember the date (at 56, I can use the excuse of old age!).

 

Jackie and I were watching Miami Ink, which is a television series about, you guessed it, a tattoo parlor (I used to watch it every week; I told you that I had a fascination with tats!). So anyway, this guy and his son enter this parlor to get crosses tattooed on their back and arm, respectively. While I didn’t like the designs of the crosses that they chose, I liked the concept.

 

I looked at Jackie and matter-of-factly said “A lot of things may change in my life, but I will never stop being a Christian. I want a tattoo.”

 

The next day Jackie accompanied me to see a local tattoo artist that had been recommended by a friend. We put our heads together and came up with a potential design for a tattoo.

 

Two days later that potential design became a reality!

 

If you look closely, you will see:

 

 

 

His crown of thorns.

The wings of the Holy Spirit.

The sword of a warrior.

The letter "M" which stands for Maniscalco.

 

 

 

 

And oh-by-the-way, apart from the crown of thorns, this cross wasn't designed with any of the above in mind!

 

Okay, the fact that I got a tat doesn’t warrant an article on this website. A lot of people have tattoos, right? What’s the big deal?

 

This…..

 

That night Jackie and I were sitting in the kitchen admiring my new ‘work of art’ when I looked at Jackie and confidently said “It’s official. I’m officially a soldier of Christ. I’m here to do His bidding.”

 

Jackie sat there in stunned silence as the last of the sentence came out of my mouth. I can only imagine how I may have appeared to her; to say that I was merely stunned would be a huge understatement! I had never even formed a thought like that in my mind, much less say it out loud…..to a person!

 

Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed about what I’d said; I was actually, amazingly, filled with a sense of pride, and emboldened by a new found courage! I did feel like a soldier of Christ, and I was indeed ready to go out and do His bidding. Obviously, I still feel that way…..

 

I’m sure that you’ve heard the phrase ‘born again’ used in religious circles. I was never really fond of the saying. I mean, if someone already knew who God was, how could he be ‘reborn’, as faith applies?

 

Okay, okay, all of you guys that are really steeped in the bible and theology-----CALM DOWN! I know that the term means being born in and of the spirit of Christ; I know because several of you have told me. I neither disagree nor agree with you, but I would rather use a term that I think is more in keeping with what I believe happened to me on that day in August.

 

I was awakened to recognize the spirituality of God that was already in me! I offer you this line of thought:

 

I believe in the omnipresence of God; He is everywhere and in everything. There is no place that He is not. If you are having a hard time wrapping your mind around this belief, stick with me on this journey and you will come to know what I mean. I will continue under the assumption that you agree with me on this. 

 

If you believe that God is omnipresent, that He is everywhere, then you should understand that He is in all of us. Yes, that means you too! Still with me?

 

If God is in us, so too is His spirit, and all that it encompasses. Which leads me to believe that I was not ‘born again’ unto Christ; I was awakened to His presence within me!

 

I’ll offer more insight on being ‘born again’ in the future; promise.

 

You can say that I was ‘born again’ the day I got my tat; I won’t disagree with you. Or you can say that my tattoo day was the day that I woke up. Either way, that day, that moment, would prove to be a huge turning point in my life.

 

God heard my proclamation. And I believe that He knew my intentions to be pure. You see, I didn’t make that vow to stand up for Him expecting something in return. What I said aloud to Jackie, and to myself, was what I felt in my heart, pure and simple. What He has seen fit to bestow upon me since that day is, well, is beyond any fairy tale that I could have written for myself.

 

 

contact me: sam@theseedofhope.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 12/15/2008 at 8:07 AM | Categories: Outside The Box -

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