The moment I woke last Tuesday morning I knew I was in a funk. I knew it. I went down a mental checklist list of things that I was grateful for, just as I do every day¹. But as I offered thanks for those things, I knew that I was going through the motions; my thanks weren’t really heartfelt. Undaunted, I flipped back the covers, and as always, just before my feet touched the floor, mentally proclaimed “Today is going to be an awesome day.”² But I have to tell you; there were serious doubts that the day would be awesome.
I made my way to the kitchen, took a seat in my “prayer chair”, and quite simply, asked God for help. I didn’t ask for help in a specific area, because I really didn’t know what was wrong. I don’t know about you, but there are times when I know exactly what is weighing heavily on my mind or on my heart. Then there are times when I’m burdened by something…..I can feel its weight…..but I just don’t know what it is. You ever have those days?
I don’t know why, but I want to share some of that prayer with you. I don’t know that I can recall it verbatim, but I can give you the gist of it….
Dear Lord, something is blocking the path between us. I don’t know what it is, but it is preventing me from being filled with Your Spirit. I can’t do this alone. I need Your help. I know that some tests are from the devil, while some are learning lessons from You. I ask that You give me help in overcoming this, or give me some clarity so that I may identify it and work my way through it. Please, please help me with this. I ask to be filled with the wisdom of the Father, the compassion of the Son, and the strength of the Holy Spirit.
I closed my prayer with a recital of The Lord’s Prayer, and then sat in meditation reflecting on my life, and the lives of my two cousins……
Charles and Josephine
My paternal cousin Charles died two weeks ago at the very young age of 57, the victim of a heart attack. Charles was an amazing guy….devoted husband, father, son, and family man. Great Christian. Gifted musician. Always, always, always had a kind word and a smile. What a tragedy.
His wife Josephine (my maternal cousin) has a smile and a personality that will light up any room, and a heart as soft as the day is long. Josephine and I were very, very close in high school but have drifted apart through the years….that “life gets in the way” thing, I guess.
At the visitation on Sunday evening, and then again at the funeral Monday morning, my heart was absolutely broken. I felt the sorrow of losing a cousin so full of life….a life cut far too short by an imperfect heart. The world will be short-changed by Charles’ death.
I felt Josephine’s pain as she bravely received the hundreds of mourners lined up in, around, and outside the church on Sunday evening, and again on Monday as she caught one last glimpse of Charles as they closed the lid on his coffin.
Tears pooled in my eyes as I grieved over both the loss of my cousin, and my cousin’s loss. Images and thoughts of the two of them stayed with me for the remainder of the day on Monday and occupied my thoughts as I drifted off to sleep that night.
I believe I had been in meditation and prayer for 20 minutes or so in the kitchen Tuesday morning when my reverie was broken by the timer on the coffee pot. I went to the bedroom to awaken Jackie (she tells me that she prefers a kiss on the cheek over an alarm clock!) then went back to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee for each of us.
Jackie walked into the kitchen, took one look at me, and asked “Are you okay?” Knowing that she can see right though me, and not even wanting to go through the hassle of hiding the truth, I flatly replied “No, not really.”
We sat there, in silence, in our own respective little worlds, sipping our coffee. My mind was on my cousin Charles, or more specifically, his life and death. I wondered if he took the time to savor the good in his life; knowing Charles, I believe that he did. I recalled some of my Dad’s “isms”: “Death comes life a thief in the night. We’re never promised tomorrow. You’ve got to live for today.” My Dad wasn’t a pessimist….he was a realist. And knowing that he wasn’t promised tomorrow, he lived each day to its fullest. I’ve always heeded his warnings, and tried to follow his lead. From his advice sprang one of my mottos, “Celebrate Today!”
I looked up at Jackie and posed a question that is usually reserved for a joke or sarcasm….. “Are we having fun yet?” She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind, so again, in a louder, almost pleading voice, I asked “Are we having fun yet?” Never blinking or looking away, Jackie returned my look and calmly replied “I know you’re not. Why don’t you take a break?”
I thought to myself “Because I don’t know how to take a break.” It’s true. I mean, I know when it’s time to rest and relax, but when it comes to setting goals and achieving them, I’m relentless. You see, for the first 53 years of my life I always settled for less, for various reasons….either I didn’t think I was capable, good enough, smart enough, or worthy of whatever it was. Curiously enough, my fear of falling short prevented me from reaching higher. Once it sunk into my hard head that “if you don’t reach for it you’ll never grab it” I made up my mind to reach as high as I can for whatever I want.
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
I believe this statement to be absolutely true. While I know that I can’t do everything, with God holding my hand I can do anything.
Several weeks ago I was having a conversation with Chris Hodges, the pastor of the Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham. I made a comment to Chris about his seemingly endless supply of energy. Without missing a beat, he looked at me and said “I want to do it all!” Later that same day I was reflecting on what Chris had said, and I had a bit of an epiphany.
I want to do it all too! I got a late start in life, and I’m driven to not only “do it all”, but to do it as best I can. I want to be the best person that I can be. I want to be successful. I want to be the co-owner of the best salon in Birmingham. I want to grow careers of young people. I want to talk to people about God whenever I can…to take The Seed of Hope wherever I can. I want to be not just a soldier of Christ, but one of His mightiest warriors….a light that shines for all to see. I want these things, all of them, and I’m willing to pay the price to make them a reality; no sacrifice is too great.
Therein lies the problem; actually, there are two problems with my “commitment”.
- I walk/run through life with my eyes so fixed on reaching the top that I don’t enjoy the fruits of my labor. I’m grateful and appreciative for all we have and all that we’ve accomplished, but I don’t take the time to savor the moment…any moment. And I don’t think that I take the time to really be appreciative of what God has done for me.
- When I try do to everything by myself (which is all the time) I may be preventing God from doing even more for me, and I’m putting a ton of added pressure on myself. I’ve been “swimming upstream”, trying to make things happen, instead of doing the best I can do, then letting God take me where He wants me to go.
I’m always urging people to “ask God, tell God, and then get out of His way and watch Him work.” Tuesday morning I asked God to give me some clarity; less than an hour later He had done exactly that! I guess that should practice more of what I preach, huh?
See you next Monday!
¹An Attitude of Gratitude. 3/23/2009
²…about being Awesome 12/1/2008
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 05/10/2009 at 10:56 PM | Categories:
There have been 32 posts made on The Seed of Hope since its launch date of October 31, 2008. In regards to content, meaning, and message, I have felt really, really good about the majority of those posts. There have been a few that I thought were mediocre, and a couple that I really had to struggle with, for reasons I won’t bother with right now.
Of those 32, there was only one that I questioned mere seconds after I hit the “enter” key on this laptop to launch that particular post into cyberspace. The one to which I am referring, It’s all in how you do it, was made just last Monday, April 27, 2009.
If you missed it, I’ll go ahead and tell you that it was about relationships, money, and faith. The theme of the post was that you had to make a true, all-out commitment in each of these facets of life in order to have abundance in all three. The thing is, sometimes, in spite of our best efforts in two of them, we don’t get the results that we hoped for.
Meaningful relationships, real relationships, are a two-way street. That is to say, both parties involved have to be willing to make concessions from time to time, to respect one another, to support one another, to value one another, to be committed to one another, and yes, to love one another.
Love in bloom is a beautiful thing! Life is good, anticipation is high, everything is just so right. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. But in a relationship, if only one side makes the concessions, respects, supports, values, and makes that all out commitment, love will die on the vine. If you are the one that is giving, and giving, and giving, OR, you are the one doing the taking, and taking, and taking, you need to know that without real change in this relationship, one of two things will most likely happen:
- The relationship won’t last.
- Someone is going to be miserable with his or her life, and everything in it.
Here’s the sad thing…..sometimes, in spite of an all–out commitment, and respect, and support, and value, and all of the good things that a person brings and gives, relationships fail.
I was talking to Jackie (my wife) about today’s post, and I told her that I was going to make mention of the adage “You reap what you sow.” Jackie quickly pointed out that this was not just an adage; she felt sure that it was in the Bible, but couldn’t name the book, chapter, or verse. I logged on to the internet, went to www.biblegateway.com, typed in “you reap what you sow”, and clicked on the search button. There were six references in the Bible, and the one that I selected to give to you is this:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
It’s easy to picture a criminal sitting behind bars for robbery, child abuse, or murder, and think “Well, he certainly got what he deserved.” Perhaps there is individual living in seclusion and loneliness because she didn’t respect anyone in her life. How about those convicted of murdering Jewish refugees in World War II? A man convicted for beating his wife?
All are classic examples of reaping what you sow, and easy to understand, right?
Now think about this…..there are thousands, millions, of people living in the world today that have never done wrong. They’ve lived clean lives, good lives, doing everything the “right” way. Honest people. Hard workers. Devoted husbands and wives. Dedicated parents. Christians “walking the walk.” Loving, caring, people. Good people.
Many of these same people are losing their jobs and their homes. People struggling to pay their bills, doing everything they can to provide for their children….doing everything they can to survive. People who in spite of their commitment, effort, and absolute dedication to moving forward in life, are finding themselves sliding backwards at an alarming rate. People who have worked for years with their sights fixed on retirement, only to see those retirement funds evaporate before their very eyes.
These are examples of reaping a crop that’s never been sown, and are not so easy to understand.
I’m going to offer you an analogy that has nothing to do with faith before I dive into this category. I don’t know that it is the most fitting of analogies, but it’s the best one I can think of at the moment!
Imagine driving home one night during a terrible storm. The wind is howling, thunder is clapping, and lightning is striking all around. It’s raining so hard that you can see no more than five feet ahead of you. You get the picture, right? It’s a really nasty night.
To make matters worse, you’re in an area that you’re not familiar with at all. Your friend that you were visiting suggested that you take the short cut to get home, assuring you that you’d have no problem finding the landmarks to look for at each turn. Besides, you have your GPS in the car, right?
So you’re driving home in this blinding storm, in an unfamiliar area, with no idea of where you are. You’re approaching a fork in the road and waiting for that irritating, yet comforting voice in your GPS to tell you which way to turn to get back home. And there’s no voice. Your GPS has quit working. The intersection is getting closer and closer. Make the right turn and you’re on your way to the comfort of home. Veer the wrong way and you move deeper into the storm.
There are a lot of mental “storms” in the world today. Relationships and careers (finances) are just two of a long list of problems that weigh on the minds of many of us. I chose these two topics because they are in direct relation to one another. If you’ve ever been in a struggling relationship, you know that is has a rippling effect on everything in your life, including your job. Likewise, if you’ve had career and/or money problems, you know what they can do to a relationship. If you are plagued by both at the same time, life can be a bit overwhelming.
I feel compelled to share something with you at this point. I speak from experience on both of these issues. Years ago I was in that one-way, hurtful relationship. And I’ve busted my tail all my life trying to make a buck, stuck in careers that gave me little or no satisfaction at all. The relationship made the job worse, and what I was earning certainly did nothing for the relationship I was in. One storm fueled the other. I often found myself wondering “Where do I go from here?” Do you find yourself asking the same question? Which way do you turn?
My humble advice for you today is the same as it was last week. Turn to Christ. Strengthen your relationship with God. You can visit last week’s post for a few suggestions on doing this.
Don’t just look to Christ. Don’t just walk towards Him. Run to Him, and ask Him to give you strength, wisdom, compassion, love, and all of the good that is in Him. He will give you all of that and more.
That GPS I was referring to earlier? It stands for the Global Positioning System, which is commonly used in automobiles for directions, a computerized road map if you will.
As your walk with God becomes stronger, your relationship with Him grows, and the spirituality within you awakens, you’ll recognize that you are guided by your own GPS; your God Positioning System. Just as in the storm I described for you earlier, there will be times in life that you will feel lost, alone, and uncertain as to where you should go next. You see, walking with Christ won’t protect you from the storms.
But you’ll come to understand and accept that God has you right where He wants you. There’s no need in questioning why you’re where you are, or how long you’ll be there. He knows the reason. Our limited vision can’t see what God has planned for us. His roadmap, His plan, is larger than anything we can comprehend. Have faith in Him; unwavering, unbending, unshakable faith. He will always help you to find your way home!
See you next Monday!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 05/03/2009 at 10:14 PM | Categories: