Viewing by month: June 2009
Some of the more important discoveries I've had about myself and my life have occurred while sharing my thoughts on this site. As I reach for words to describe an experience or a feeling, I often uncover a realization about myself that I wasn’t aware of. And every time I have one of those moments, I sit here almost dumbfounded that I have “found” another facet of myself!
I’ve had other epiphanies while having a conversation with others, either in answering a question or in sharing my faith. I had one of those just a few days ago…
Earlier this week I got a call from our youngest son Christian, asking if I had time for a cup of coffee and some conversation. I figured that something was up, because he and I haven’t sat down to have a “conversation” since his marriage to his wife Amber seven years ago. We agreed to meet early the next day at Starbuck’s. I wasn’t wrong; something was up.
Christian and I talked about a lot of things that morning, but one topic sticks out in my mind, because it lead to one of those moments of discovery for me…
In so many words Christian was wondering why I had pretty much dropped off the radar screen, in the sense of my being around as a father, and more importantly, as a grandfather. Actually, he was fairly upset about it, and I guess rightly so. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my commitments to work, church, and The Seed of Hope have stripped me of a lot of family time. Well, I guess that Christian had just had enough, and he wanted to let me know it!
As Christian began to speak, I realized that he was calling me on the carpet, “dressing me down”, as they say. And you know what? I respected him for doing it…I did the same thing to my Dad several years ago, and I know how hard it was for him to get everything off his chest. It’s not an easy thing for a son to tell his father what he needs to hear, and Christian was doing exactly that.
What could be more important than my family?
In answering this question I have to take a moment to talk about a word found in the dictionary: passion. No, I’m not gonna give you the textbook definition; I’m gonna give you my definitions of the word as I knew it in various stages of my life. First as a child, then as a young adult, and finally, what I perceive passion to be at the age of fifty-six.
As a child “passion” meant something that was reserved for grown-ups. I knew that it had something to do with sex, which was something that I wasn’t supposed to know about, because if it was about sex, it was dirty!
In my late teens I went through the “rite of passage” involving sex, and while I knew that I wasn’t truly an adult, I quickly developed a passion for passion, so I figured that I was old enough!
From where I’m looking right now, I consider passion to be a driving force in one’s life that is an all-consuming, never-waning, ever-present, almost blinding desire that has NOTHING to do with sex.
I’m not talking about something that you “like to do”, or enjoy when you have the time. I’m talking about something that is with you every waking moment, or at least it seems to be. It is something that you would put aside everything else for. Do you have one of those? Are you filled with passion for doing something?
So in answering Christian’s question I came to realize that God is my passion in life. I live to serve Him. I live to love Him. His presence consumes me. I seek to spread His name and the news of His goodness, without hesitation, reservation, or fear. While I know that I will never fully understand Him, that doesn’t keep my simple mind from wanting to know more about Him. I offer each day of my life to Him. God is first. All else, all else is second.
Funny thing is, I already knew that God was my passion. I knew it! There’s just something about making an affirmation of a belief to someone else that, I don’t know, makes it official. As I was talking, Christian heard what I was saying, I heard what I was saying, and God heard what I was saying. And as of this very moment, you have heard it too.
I have to add something else about my passion, something that just occurred to me. And on this point, I can only speak for myself; I’ve never spoken to anyone about his or her particular passion in life in this regard: “Is your passion something that you asked for or sought after?”
I didn’t ask for this passion, this all-consuming love for God. As a matter of fact, for the longest time, I tried to deny it. I mean, in many circles, being “all about God” ain’t cool, and talking openly about Him in public places, or even amongst friends, has certainly earned me my share of stares. Doesn’t matter. The absolute joy I experience in my relationship with Christ, in walking with Him each day, makes it all worth it. Besides, I've learned that there's no denying passion when you have it.
If you’ve read our business “story” you know that I didn’t grow up with aspirations of being co-owner of a hair salon. Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: I also didn’t grow up with my sights set on evangelism…yet here I am, contemplating taking part in a four-semester ministry program. Go figure…
Some thoughts about God…He wants us to be passionate about Him! God wants each of us to live in abundance, to be fulfilled in our “journey”, and to receive His many blessings along the way. He wants a true relationship with each one of us, a relationship more satisfying than any we could dream of having. But here’s the thing, the “qualifier”, the condition, if you will, to that relationship: we have to come to Him. He’s waiting there with open arms for us, but we have to run to Him.
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV)
Love Him with a passion.
See you next Monday.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 06/28/2009 at 11:38 PM | Categories:
Jackie and I were in church this morning with our four year old grandson Stephen. As it was his first visit to our church, we had opted to let him sit with us during the service rather than put him in child care.
Ten minutes in and he was fidgeting in his seat. Five minutes later he had to go to the “potty.” Thirty minutes in and he was wondering when we were going back to the lake. At forty-five minutes he was complaining that we had been there “for a really long time.” I could only shake my head in frustration and agree with him; the service with him there felt like an eternity!
With all of the distractions I was having a hard time focusing on the message of the day, which was about the attributes of God as our Father. A fitting topic, as today is Father’s Day. I was taking notes, but my mind kept drifting back to one particular Sunday when I was a child. My younger brother Ronnie and I had really been misbehaving in church, and afterwards my Dad put a belt on both of us!
Which led to thoughts about the Sunday that I did that very same thing with my two sons, Brian and Christian. I still think about that Sunday from time to time. I think, looking back on that day, that they probably got a little more than they deserved. Oh, I didn’t draw blood or anything, but I left a few welts on their rear ends. I’ve always been a firm believer in “spare the rod and spoil the child”. It’s the way that Mom and Dad raised me, and I guess I turned out okay…
It wasn’t necessarily their behavior in church that Sunday that resulted in their “whipping”, as much as it was their overall behavior leading up to that Sunday. They had been pushing the envelope for weeks, pushing me for weeks, seeing just how much they could get away with. That, coupled with the fact that I was a young man in a difficult marriage with a lot of financial responsibility, certainly didn’t help matters much.
Where’s the book?
I've always been puzzled by the fact kids don’t come with an owner’s manual! It would make life so much easier. Maybe yours came with an instruction book, but mine didn’t…
I remember the first time that I kept Brian by myself at home for a couple of hours. At one point his whimpering became crying, then sobbing, then screaming! And that’s when panic set in (for me!); “What’s wrong? Is he sick? Hungry? Wet? Why won’t he stop crying? What am I doing wrong?” I just wasn’t sure of what to do next….
It never got any easier…parenthood, that is. Rewarding, yes. Easy, no.
As an infant, your child can’t tell you what’s wrong. As a toddler, they can tell you that they don’t feel good, but only in general terms. Through the pre-teen years, they can be very specific about what is wrong with them, and what you can do to make them feel better. As teens and young adults, they can be very specific about what is wrong with you, and the only thing that will make them feel better is for you to go away!
Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but you know what I mean.
Here’s what was the most frustrating part for me…I tried to instill right and wrong, fair play, morality, character, and all the other qualities I thought my sons would need in life. I tried to impart to both of them the best advice I could give them, all the while knowing that it was only advice. I always tried to steer them in the right direction. I guess that what I’m trying to say here is that I did the best I could at being a father, or at least what I thought a father should be. I’d never been a father, didn’t have the latest edition of “You Too Can Be a Good Father!” (If there is such a thing), and was too proud to ask for help. Typical man, right?
There is a book…
Years later I come to find out that there is a book, and it is full of fatherly advice to pass along to our children. Contained in this book are suggestions for all the qualities that I tried to instill…right and wrong, fair play, morality, character, love, and all those other “good things” that should be present in our lives. There are also references to things we should be aware of, things that would harm us.
It is a book that has been around for years and years, for ages, but I have only recently become aware of its importance. It is an absolute guideline for living a life filled with abundance and happiness. I wonder how I made it this far in life without what is written on its pages.
It is a gift from my Father, through His Son, and my only regret is that it didn’t play a larger part in my role as a father to sons Brian and Christian.
It is, of course the Bible. The owner’s manual for raising children. The instruction manual for improving yourself. The “how-to” for life. Our Father’s gift to all of us.
Read it. Study it. Live it.
See you next week!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 06/21/2009 at 10:58 PM | Categories:
A “mulligan” is a term used in golf to describe a do-over, another shot, a chance to make up for a bad shot or club selection. Mulligans are usually reserved for a round of golf involving friends, unless one the friends too competitive to grant his counterpart’s request for a mulligan. There was group of guys that I used to play golf with, and one of them, Donny, would never ask if he could take a mulligan. Immediately after hitting a bad shot, while the ball was still in the air, he would shout “I’m takin’ a mulligan!” And he would do exactly that. During one round of golf in Florida Donny took FIVE mulligans…on the same hole!
Now before some of you make a decision to take up the sport of golf because you can take mulligans until you learn how to swing a club, I have to warn you that mulligans are not a part of the professional game! Believe me, Tiger Woods has never followed a bad shot in the Masters Golf Tournament with “I’m sorry, but I didn’t particularly like that last shot. Can I get a mulligan on that one?” Just doesn’t work that way.
Looking back your life have you wished that at some point you could’ve taken a mulligan on one bad choice that you made? One questionable decision? How about the whole thing? Do you just wish that you could just start over?
There was a time when all I did was look back…
Growing up I had always dreamed of being an attorney. I didn’t know what kind of attorney I wanted to be. I don’t think that I was even aware that there were different types of attorneys, i.e. Corporate, Criminal, Defense, Civil, etc. I just knew that I wanted to be a lawyer, just like my older cousin Gerald Topazi (who would later become a judge). A lawyer. Yep, that’s what I was going to be.
To use the old cliché, “A funny thing happened along the way.”
When I graduated from John Carroll High School in 1970 I enrolled at The University of Alabama (in Tuscaloosa) to pursue my dream. The problem was that I was more prepared to party than I was to study. I joined a fraternity, became a weekend alcoholic, and skipped far too many classes. I moved back to Birmingham at the end of my freshman year and enrolled at the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB) for the Fall Semester of 1971.
The next few years were a blur…dropped out of college, got a job selling women’s shoes, went to work in my parent’s grocery store, got married in 1974, became a father in 1976, and again in 1979.
On my twenty-seventh birthday I was married, with two children (Brian and Christian), a house note, a car note, and a stay at home wife. Oh, and by the way, I was bringing home the whopping total of $200 per week. It all happened so fast that I wasn’t sure just how it happened…I woke up one morning and I was old, or at least I felt like it! The idea of being an attorney was nothing more than a fleeting memory.
Fast forward to my thirty-seventh birthday; I was divorced and remarried (to Jackie, my wife and best friend), with two children (the same ones!), a house note, a car note, and a wife that worked as hard as I did. I was the co-owner of a beauty shop (that I didn’t want to own), and for the first couple of years bringing home $200 per week would have seemed like a lot of money! Thank God that Jackie was making money behind the chair; we would have starved. The idea of being an attorney wasn’t even a memory.
Throughout all of those years, I blamed everyone else for the fact that I was where I was, doing what I was doing. But deep down inside, I knew that I was to blame for my shortcomings. No one was holding a gun to my head, making me party too much, drop out of school, and get married at the tender age of twenty-one. I was the reason that I wasn’t an attorney or a corporate exec, wearing a suit, driving a fancy car, making the big bucks. Quite honestly, I wasn’t envious of the suits, or the cars, or the money.
What was it?
These people, the execs, attorneys, doctors, and white-collar professionals of the world had done something that I had failed to do…they had used what God had given them to get a college degree and chase their dreams. I had settled for less. What really chapped my behind was that while I may not have been the brightest light bulb in a room, I certainly wasn’t the dimmest. I knew that I was wasting my most precious gift; my mind. As I was approaching the intersection of college and the rest of my life, I had taken the short cut to the rest of my life; wrong choice. I never beat myself up over it, but I did wish that I had been a bit wiser.
And while I never asked for a mulligan, never even wished for one, I often wondered what my life would have been like if I had stayed the course and finished law school. I didn’t spend too much time dwelling on it, though. What good what it have done to keep looking back?
Today there’s no looking back.
As I anticipate celebrating my fifty-seventh birthday in September, things have certainly changed. I never look back; I’m too busy looking forward. I’m happily married. The boys are now men. Jackie and I still owe for a couple of things, but that’s the American way, right? Still not makin’ a ton of money, but if you’ve visited before, you know that for me, it’s not about the money. And, I still don’t have that law degree. That’s okay. I’m happy, and I’m proud of who I am.
What happened? On November 5, 2006, the anniversary of my personal epiphany ( see The Epiphany), I made a commitment to be the best person I could be, never again settling for less, using all the gifts and talents that God had given me.
The result? I have been blessed with a period of personal growth and enlightenment beyond my comprehension. Our salon has soared to heights that have amazed industry experts. And perhaps most importantly, my relationship with God has become the driving force in my life.
And that mulligan? Today I wouldn’t take a mulligan on any decision that I’ve made in life. You see, every decision that I’ve ever made, every choice that I’ve opted for, and every step I’ve taken has made me the person that I am today. It was all part of God’s perfect plan for me. If I had done one thing differently, just one thing, Jackie may not be my wife, and I may not have two great sons. I may not be in a business that allows me to grow the careers of others, and offers me a platform to share my faith with those who will listen. I may not be sitting at this laptop at this very moment, writing The Seed of Hope and telling you how blessed and fortunate I am.
How about you?
Are you looking at the past, instead of the future? Still regretting a decision that you made years ago? Wishing that you had turned left instead of right? Do you spend a lot of time wondering what you might have been and what you may have been doing? Are you wishing for a mulligan, a chance to do things over?
Please, please, don’t make the same mistake that I did; let go of the past. I spent so many years looking over my shoulder that I couldn’t see the fulfilling life that waited just ahead.
We can’t undo the past, but we can make the most of each day that we are given. Make a commitment to yourself to be all that you can be. Make a commitment to God to take advantage of every talent that He has blessed you with. Plant the seed in your mind that you have everything in life to do whatever you want to do.
Don’t think that you have any “gifts”? Make that commitment, to yourself and to God. Get ready for the harvest!
See you next Monday.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 06/14/2009 at 10:04 PM | Categories:
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