Viewing by month: May 2009
Earlier this week I was having a conversation with my good friend Ann Mincey about the economy in general, the salon industry, and more specifically my salon, Salon M². The economic downturns plaguing our nation have resulted in many salons struggling to keep their doors open. In fact many salons are closing across the nation at an alarming rate. Yet in the midst of these turbulent times, our salon continues to prosper. 2009 may prove to be our biggest year ever.
A senior executive with Redken (the hair care people), Ann was questioning me as to why our salon, against the odds, was continuing to grow. My initial response, which should come as no surprise to anyone, was to give the credit to God. His hand is in everything that I do.
Knowing that this wasn’t really the answer that Ann was looking for, I quickly gave the credit to people that I had been fortunate enough to meet in the business arena during the past three years. These people (the list is far too long; you know who you are) led me to great programs and business plans that we integrated into our daily operations. Those factors, coupled with the dedication that my wife Jackie and I have for our business, have been the primary reasons for our success.
Together, Ann and I were wondering why many salon owners aren’t taking advantage of those same programs and plans, many of which are available at no cost. Reflecting on my first 16 years in the salon industry, I immediately knew the answer: FEAR of CHANGE. I won’t go into details about this; if you want to know our story, go to the page titled A Seed Was Planted. I told Ann that before salon owners would embrace wide sweeping change, they would have to be willing to take the first step in a new direction. Just one, small, first step.
Small steps become huge strides
I’ll set the stage for today’s message by telling you that I’ve been a practicing Catholic for the majority of my 56 years…
I had been invited to attend a one-day leadership conference featuring John Maxwell, a noted speaker and author. This conference was held at The Church of The Highlands, a non-denominational church here in Birmingham.
Several members of our staff in the salon attend this church, and they had been telling me for the last year or so that I should “check it out.” Many of our clients attend Highlands, and coincidentally, the pastor of the church, Chris Hodges, and his wife Tammy are guests in our salon. Suffice it to say that though I’d never attended a service at Church of The Highlands, I had certainly heard a lot of good things about it. A couple of times I had even considered “checking it out”, but after all, I was a Catholic, had been all my life, and wasn’t really looking to change churches. In other words, I was comfortable in my “church box.”
There’s something that I think bears mentioning at this point….
A few months ago, not long after The Seed of Hope had been launched, Pastor Hodges was in the salon, and I asked if I could have a couple of minutes of his time before he left. Granting my request, we took a seat in a quiet corner of the salon, and I gave him the condensed version of my life prior to 2005, and the chain of events that have occurred since.
I told him that my faith in God was deeper, that my love for God was stronger, that God was always with me, that I had been blessed by Him in countless ways, and that talking about God was my favorite topic, with whoever would listen. I asked him if he would take a few minutes to visit The Seed of Hope, not to impress him with what I’d written, but to see if he had any suggestions for making the site better.
I shared one more thought with Chris that day. I told him that I was puzzled, because in spite of my love for God, and all the good, and all the blessings, and all the gratitude, and all the sharing, and having found my “purpose” in life, something was missing. There was still a void, a dead zone, a part of my heart that was still seeking…something.
So I attended this leadership seminar with my friend Steve to hear this John Maxwell, this leadership guru, this one time pastor of his own church, this really strong Christian…and I loved what I heard! So much so that I was gonna bring Jackie back to the church on Sunday to hear a portion of his message that he himself was going to share with the congregation. And…
It would give me an opportunity (an excuse) to “check out” the service at The Church of The Highlands!
Jackie and I were going to attend the 8:00 A.M. service, because we usually attend church early on Sundays, and because I figured that with fewer people there the less likely the chance that I would be spotted by anyone that knew me! Laugh if you will, but I could hear my Catholic-Italian-Seventy-six year old Mom saying “Somebody told me that they saw you at that church. What were you doing there? Were you attending a funeral? Was this Jackie’s idea?” Go ahead, laugh, but I bet there are some things that you still hide from your Mom or Dad, aren’t there? Now who’s laughing?
It’s Sunday morning…
and Jackie are walking into the church. Well, we enter the main building and then head for the Sanctuary, which actually, above the doors, says “Auditorium”. This is already different. But I’m gonna attend this service with an open mind. I’ve been “talking the talk” for the past couple of years, and now it’s time for me to “walk the walk.” I’m actually going to take that first small step into a different church.
Keep an open mind Sam.
We enter the doors and instinctively I reach for the Holy Water font (found in Catholic churches) to bless myself. Whoops…forgot. The auditorium is HUGE, and we decide to sit near the front so as not to miss anything. We’re walking towards the stage, and as we’re doing so, my eyes are scanning the place, even though I’d been there just a couple of days before. Nothing has changed; no crosses, no statues, no altar…just this really large stage upon which is a wide array of musical instruments awaiting the arrival of the musicians that play them.
Keep an open mind Sam.
This stage is flanked by giant video screens mounted on the walls, I don’t know, maybe twenty feet above the floor. Huge speakers are suspended from the ceiling. Spot lights of various colors cast a soft glow on the stage. I feel as though I’m attending a rock concert.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND SAM!
The musicians walk out onto the stage, take their places with their instruments, and being to play. It’s loud. It’s contemporary. The congregation is singing. Though I’ve never attended a service in this church, and I’ve never heard any of the music, and yes, I know that I’m a Catholic but I also know that God put me in this church on this Sunday because something has been missing in my life and He wants me to find it because…all of this feels familiar…it feels comfortable…it feels right…tears are streaming down my face…God is here…my heart is full of Joy…I am home.
Since that Sunday
That “first” Sunday was on March 8, 2009, just short of three months ago. Jackie and I officially joined The Church of The Highlands two weeks later, and have taken an active role in the church, something that neither of us has ever done. I have learned so much more about myself, about the Bible, about God, and about my relationship with Him. In my opinion, that relationship is what religion and faith and church are about…or at least that’s what I feel they should be about.
So what do you think that I’m trying to tell you here today? That you shouldn’t be a Catholic? Or a Baptist? Or a Methodist? That you should immediately go out and “shop around” for a new church?
No, of course I’m not. I’m just trying to tell you that there’s always room for more…
Let me throw some questions at you, in no particular order of importance…
Do you attend church regularly? When you do attend church, is it because you feel obligated, or because you really want to be there? Are you excited to see Sunday roll around again because it’s time for church? Is faith merely a word in the dictionary, or is it something that you walk with every day? Do you feel as though your understanding of God has reached a plateau, or that your relationship with Christ has become “stale?” Is your heart filled with joy because of His love for you and your love for Him? Are you a Sunday Christian or an everyday Christian? And one last question…
When you walk into your church, do you feel like you’re at home?
If you’re not getting what you need in your church, or if you feel that something is missing, perhaps it’s time for you to take that first small step in a different direction. Go ahead; God is waiting for you.
See you next Monday.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 05/31/2009 at 9:53 PM | Categories:
There is an “art” that is fast becoming extinct in our society. It is an art that my Dad had mastered prior to his death, and one that I try to practice every day. It is the art of saying “hello”. Chuckle at the notion, if you will, but let me ask you a few questions: When was the last time that you acknowledged the presence of a passerby, either by way of a nod, or even a glimpse in their direction?
Let’s take it a step further. When was the last time that you said hello to a perfect stranger you may have encountered, say, in the supermarket, or in a parking lot? When you walk into Starbucks, a gas/food mart, or a department store, do you speak first, or do you wait for someone to speak to you? If you’re having a bit of difficulty recalling the last time that you did any of the above, don’t feel badly about it; you’re in the majority.
I want to tell you a little story. This took place 39 years ago, when I was a freshman at John Carroll High School in Birmingham…..
I was a member of the Cross Country track team. I loved football, but I was much too small to play, and quite frankly, I had the coordination of a new born water buffalo! This lack of athletic skill also ruled out basketball, baseball, tennis, and any other sport that required something more than putting one foot in front of the other. I was left with running track. Sorry…..back to the story.
We were hosting a cross county meet between our school and Ramsey High School, which was located less than a mile away. We were, quite naturally, bitter rivals. If you’re not familiar with a cross country meet, well, it’s exactly that; competitors run on streets, through fields and wooded areas, and in some cases, traverse creeks and streams. Our course began and ended on our track inside the football stadium; in between were the fields, roadways, etc.
I had reentered the stadium and gotten on the track for one final lap and a race to the finish line. And I was neck and neck with a guy from the opposing school. As we rounded the final turn for the home stretch, I glanced at my opponent and saw a fierce look of determination. That’s when I realized that I was “out of gas”! As much as I wanted to beat the guy, I didn’t think that I would be able to hold him off.
I was aware of a solitary voice coming from just inside the fence that surrounded the football field, calling out my name, encouraging me, and urging me on. I looked up to put a face with the voice, and in doing so I almost stopped dead in my tracks.
That “voice” belonged to Pat Sullivan, the quarterback and captain of the football team, the school hero. He was THE man, the guy that every football fan in the state of Alabama knew. Pat Sullivan had taken the time to acknowledge my presence, to pull for me. And he knew who I was. He knew my name! The guy I was racing with didn’t have a chance; I left him in a cloud of dust.
I can imagine that some of you may be wondering why that moment was so big for me. Granted, in the grand scheme of things, in the grand scheme of life, it was no big deal. Yet here I am, recalling the events of that day some 42 years later…
The movie, or more specifically Forrest, just popped into my consciousness. I know that the movie was critically acclaimed, won several Academy Awards, and has become a Classic. “Momma always said “Life is like a box of chocolates…”” is one of our most quotable quotes. I can still see Forrest runnin’ away from those bullies with his braces disintegrating and littering that country road! Lieutenant Dan. Fried Shrimp. Alabama Football. So many memorable moments. It was a great movie and enjoyed by almost everyone. Almost.
Forrest Gump was one of the most depressing movies I had ever seen.
During the entire movie I kept thinking “There really are Forrest Gumps in the world. People with few or no friends. Lonely people. People with no hope.” I’ve never forgotten how that movie made me feel. And not once, in the Lord only knows how many times it’s been on television since, have I watched it again. But I walk with that feeling every day.
Through the years I’ve made it a point to speak to strangers. Sometimes it’s nothing more than “Morning!”, or “Hi”. Quite often what I say and how I say it depends on who (gender-wise) I’m speaking to! But I do my best to speak to, or acknowledge everyone.
It’s not that I consider myself to be special or anything like that; I’m no Pat Sullivan. If you’re a regular visitor you know that I consider myself to be a guy with a message, nothing more. It’s not about me; it’s about others.
When I see a stranger, I can’t assume that they have a friend, or for that matter have spoken to anyone that day, or that week. Some of us live in absolute solitude, and for many, it’s not a choice. I feel for those people; if something as simple as a spoken word or gesture can make a difference, how can I not acknowledge their presence?
There’s another reason for speaking to everyone, and it is perhaps the most important reason for my doing so…
Every morning I ask God to put at least five people in my path that I may talk to about Him, enlighten, inspire, and if nothing else, put a smile on their faces. Five people. Every day. Sometimes God puts them right in front of me; sometimes I have to go out and find ‘em.
If we’re at the lake, or if it’s a rainy off day, I don’t get enough opportunities to interact with the five that I’m “looking” for, simply because I don’t see enough people. The rest of the time, everyone is fair game! The end result?
I’ve had some amazing conversations with people in all walks of life, covering a variety of subjects. Of course, my favorite subject hands-down is God, and when I’m fortunate to have a conversation about God with a complete stranger, it is, as they say on the television commercial, Priceless.
Here’s the thing:
You see, much like Momma’s box of chocolates, I never know when I’m gonna encounter a Forrest Gump. Or someone with no hope. Or some kid that’s ready to give up in a race just short of the finish line. Maybe, just maybe, I can make a difference.
See you next Monday.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 05/24/2009 at 8:20 PM | Categories:
When I first got the idea for The Seed of Hope, there was one thought that frightened me the most. Care to take a guess as to what it was? No, I wasn’t afraid to share my deepest thoughts. I had no problem opening my heart to others, admitting my fears and weaknesses, and being as transparent as a piece of glass. And I’m certainly not timid when it comes to professing my love for God, and what He has done in my life.
My biggest fear, my only fear, was that the day might come when I would run out of words to share with you. One morning, a few days prior to that first post on October 31, 2008, I was sitting in my prayer chair having a conversation with God. I have to add something here, a point of clarification regarding my “conversations” with God, which are actually prayers that I offer up to Him. I’d love to tell you that we have two-way conversations, but when He talks back, it’s usually through gentle nudges in the right direction, or through the gift of discernment (a topic for another day).
So during this conversation I said “God, in a couple of days I’m gonna launch The Seed of Hope, because I believe this is something that You want me to do. And I’m committed to doing this every week. Every week! I don’t know the Bible. I’m no theologian. I don’t know that I have enough in me to share something of value every week, but I’m gonna do this until the words run out, or until this fire that burns in my heart to spread Your word goes out. I pray that You will provide me with enough to share with others for a long time.”
That was just over six months ago, and each week since, God has given me a thought or thoughts to pass along to you. Until today.
It’s more than words.
Today was different. Oh, I still have a list of topics and ideas “on hold” that would carry The Seed for at least another six months, so that’s not the problem.
This week I started working on a post titled The Art of Saying Hello, which was to be today’s post. At this very moment, it remains unfinished. It will be completed, and it will be shared, but not on this day.
Today I learned that along with the words and the burning desire to keep this site going, I’ve got to have the spirit to write. Perhaps I should say that I’ve got to be in the spirit to write. And it’s just not there. The desire to write is, or I wouldn’t be sitting in front of this laptop. What happened?
The last few weeks have been very tough for me. Jackie’s Mom has had some health issues, which in turn has affected Jackie, which in turn has affected me. There have been challenges in the salon. I’ve had some personal issues that have been with me for quite a while that I needed to work through. There’s been no time to “unplug." Then there is....Look, I’m not gonna ask you to join me on my pitty-pot. I’m sure that my issues pale in comparison to what some of you may be going through. I’m very mindful of this. And I'm grateful that my problems aren't unsurmountable. But you take a lot of not-so-large problems and lump them together, and well, they become one huge obstacle.
Here’s the thing: I cannot in good conscience portray myself to you as something that I’m not. When I write, it’s about what is on my heart, and what is in my mind. At this moment, my heart hurts and my mind is weary, so my message to you today may not be as inspiring or uplifting as you might like to read. I don’t apologize for that. Like I’ve always told you, I’m just a guy with a message. Nothing more. Nothing less. God has blessed me in many ways. And He still gives me lessons in life to learn from.
It’s getting late, and I want to go to bed, but I believe that there is something else to be learned tonight…perhaps something for me, or for you, or for both of us. I’ll push on.
HE is here.
Right now, at this very moment, Christ is with me. I can feel His presence. And He will give me everything that I need to get through this…He always has…even when I didn’t know it. He always will…I know it.
There is one HUGE difference in my life today compared to the way it was just a few years ago….
A few years ago I would have wallowed around in a mild state of depression and resentment for several days, if not weeks. I would have just waited for things to get better, for the dark clouds to clear up. That was then…
I was talking to a group of salon owners last week, and I told them that for the first 53 years of my life I was without hope. I realize now that the biggest problem during those 53 years is that I was walking without God. It is from being in God’s presence each day that I draw strength, wisdom, compassion, love, and yes, HOPE for tomorrow.
Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow morning I will give thanks to God for giving me another day. I will thank Him for today, even though it was a tough one, because today I learned a little bit more about myself, and a little bit more about God. And as always, just before my feet touch the floor I will proclaim “Today is going to be an awesome day!”
You know what? I believe that He’s going to give me an awesome day; He’s that kind of God!
I’ll see you next Monday!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 05/17/2009 at 11:05 PM | Categories:
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