Viewing by month: August 2009
I’ve received several e-mails asking where I got the idea to launch The Seed of Hope, and why I did it. I guess it’s time for me to tell you this story…
This past September I was in a bit of a funk. Business in our hair salon was a bit off, we’d just found out that our son Brian and his wife Christina wouldn’t be making the trip from Virginia to be at home for Christmas, and I hadn’t received any invitations to do presentations for Redken (the hair care people). And most importantly, I was passing up opportunities to share my faith with others (which I rarely do). I remember thinking “This must be what quicksand is like; the more I try to get out, the deeper I get.” I wasn’t depressed, but the spirit and passion that are my constant companions were nowhere to be found.
Jackie and I planned on spending a long weekend at our lake house (about forty-five minutes from our home in Birmingham), and I hoped that the time away would get me back on track. Before leaving, I quickly scanned my collection of books, looking for one that may give me some insight. My eyes settled on Don’t Leave God Alone, a book that a friend had given me months earlier. I’d never taken the time to read it, because I spend time with God every day in prayer, so I didn’t really think that I needed it.
We were at the lake house from Friday evening through Sunday evening, and I had a lot of time for prayer, meditation, and soul searching. Unfortunately, none of it worked, and I came home as bad, if not worse, than before we left.
Our salon is closed on Mondays, so I was able to spend the next morning and a majority of that day in my “prayer chair”, still searching for answers. Late in the afternoon my thoughts turned to the book, the one that I still hadn’t read; it was still in my travel bag. I retrieved it, sat down, offered a quick prayer asking for clarity, and began reading…
Thirty pages in, and I had already gotten the message (actually two of them) that this book held for me:
God wants to have a daily relationship with us.
No, I’m not talking about daily prayer, which I think is essential in keeping us connected to God. I’m talking about the kind of relationship that you have with a friend, which includes conversation, fellowship, sharing, and laughter (yes, laughter). It is through that kind of relationship with Him that we come to understand who He is, what He is, and what He can do for us; we come to know Him.
There are times when you just have to tell God the way it is!
Okay, stay with me on this one. The book cited the instance of Moses on Mount Sinai with the burning bush waiting to get his copy of the Ten Commandments. From this point on I’m gonna use the movie (of the same name, which I’m going to assume that you have seen) as a reference point. And I’ll warn you that I’m going to paraphrase a bit.
So Moses (Charleston Heston) is on this mountain, and those following him (the Israelites) were at the base of the mountain having a party…I mean, they were par-ty-ing…a false idol (a golden calf), drunkenness, and adultery…all the wrong stuff!
God gets really mad! And He tells Moses, “I’m going to destroy these people and build you a fine city.”
To which Moses responds, “Come on God, You can’t do that. These people love You. They’re Your followers. They’ve been wandering through the desert waiting for You to show them the Promised Land. They just got a little off course. Have mercy on them.”
Well, we know the rest of the story; God did indeed have mercy on the Israelites, and they did indeed eventually reach the Promised Land. Moses pretty much changed God’s mind about the fate of the Israelites. Or was that part of God’s plan?
Tuesday morning; 5:00
I rolled out of bed and headed straight for the kitchen and my “prayer chair.” I don’t know how long I had been in prayer when I thought about Don’t Leave God Alone.
The next thing I know I pacing in the kitchen, having one of those conversations with God. It went something like this:
“Look God, two and a half years ago I made a commitment to being a soldier of Christ, to do Your bidding, to boldly share what You have done in my life with others, and to walk through any door that You open for me. Well, You’ve opened some doors, and I’ve walked through them, and I appreciate what You’ve done, but I tell You, they’re not opening fast enough, and I’m tired of waiting! I’ve been knockin’ on Your door every day for over two years, and I’m not gonna knock anymore! I’m gonna BANG on Your door! Everyday! I’m not goin’ away! I’m gonna be the fly in Your ointment, a pain in Your side! You put this fire in me, and I can’t control it! So would you give me some clarity as to what I should do, or would You teach me what else I need to learn, or give me a platform from which to speak, or would You point me in the direction of another door, or would You just drop a car on my head and let me forget this silly notion of taking Your message to all nations?”
I realized that I had been on a rant, that it had been directed at God, and that I had actually lost my temper…with God!
Embarrassed and ashamed, I lowered my head and went back to my prayer chair. Just before I sat down I raised my eyes to the heavens and added “I’m sorry I lost my temper, but I meant every word of it.”
Tuesday morning; 11:00
I had an appointment with Jason Fill, the guy that designed and set up the website for our salon. I wanted to get his opinion on some ideas that I had for making the site more attractive and user friendly.
I opened the document folder in my laptop…this laptop…positioned the cursor (arrow) over my proposed changes, and tapped the Enter key.
Oops…wrong document! I had mistakenly opened a journal that I began when this spiritual journey began. I turned to Jason with a look of amazement and said “Dude, I need a website!” Looking at me as if I had lost it, Jason replied “You already have a website.” Shaking my head in disagreement, I explained, “No, I need a website for God.”
Wednesday morning; 6:00
The first thing I did on Wednesday was go to my laptop, log on to the Internet, and with trembling fingers, typed www.theseedofhope.com . Lo and behold, there was a temporary banner announcing The Seed of Hope! Less than 24 hours after my rant, God had opened a door!
How about you?
Is there something that you’ve been asking God for, something that you’re still asking for? Keep asking Him…consistently…persistently…and boldly! If it’s consistent with what He has planned for you, and you keep on bangin’, who knows? He may just be waiting to be sure that it’s what you really want! Maybe that’s part of His plan for you.
The Seed of Hope launched on October 31, 2008. I haven’t checked in a couple of months, but the last time I did there had been close to 2,000 visitors from all over the world. And you know what? I’m still bangin’ on God’s door every morning, asking Him to open new doors for me! Not gonna stop either; not while there are people who don’t know Him.
See you next Monday!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/31/2009 at 6:00 AM | Categories:
A couple of weeks ago I was in the process of filling out an application for 20:20, a ministry program offered through Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham. No, I don’t know that I want to be a Pastor…but then again, I’m not sure that I don’t want to be one, either! I’ve felt for some time now that if nothing else, this program would better prepare me to serve others, so I thought “Why not?”
Is there anything in your life that might come up as a questionable issue? If yes, please explain.
That was the first question on the application of any consequence. (Those prior to this one dealt with basic information, church history, and work history.) I quickly rifled through the first fifty-six years of my life…no murders, thefts, expulsions, or felonies. Not even a misdemeanor! As I moved the cursor on my laptop to the box marked NO, I paused for a moment, then checked the box marked YES, and explained…
At the age of 21 I made an error in judgment and asked the wrong person to spend her life with me. Fifteen years and two children later, the marriage ended in divorce. Does that fall within the realm of “questionable”?
Do you or have you ever smoked? If yes, please explain.
Yes. But by the grace of God I quit smoking six years ago.
Do you or have you ever consumed alcoholic beverages? If yes, please explain.
Yes. In college I was a heavy drinker. Now, I’ll have a drink or two in social settings.
Do you or have you ever used any illegal drugs? If yes, please explain.
Yes. I was in high school and college in the late 60’s and early 70’s (the Stone-d Age in Birmingham). In my late teens and as a young adult I dabbled in several illegal drugs, but it’s been years since I’ve done anything.
Have you ever been convicted of a felony? If yes, please explain.
NO! Thank God. I finally get to respond NO! I’m not a felon!
Okay, I have to admit that this really wasn’t my answer…I mean, I’m not a felon, and I’m glad of that. It’s just that I was embarrassed about all the yes responses, and by that point I was grateful to be able to say no to anything!
My euphoria quickly turned to sadness when I realized that my answers may preclude my enrollment in the 20:20 program.
A different perspective…
Being the eternal optimist, I closed my eyes and mentally searched for one nugget of “awesome” amidst the pile of rubble…because I believe that something good comes from every bad situation. I needed to take a step back and to the right, and look at my application with a fresh set of eyes. If I looked hard enough, I’d find that nugget.
I found TWO!
God has been with me through all the crap that I’ve waded through in my life. I’m reminded of the poem “Footprints in The Sand”…you know, the one about the guy that complained to God that there had many times in his life when he felt that God had left his side? That he had been alone on his journey because his footsteps were the only ones on the beach, only to realize that the single footprints were of God carrying him? If you haven’t read it, I strongly urge you to do so; it’ll be worth your while.
What I’m trying to say is this: It’s no coincidence that I survived smoking, alcohol, drugs, and a failed marriage. And if you’ve read our “story” (see the page A Seed Was Planted), you know that it was no coincidence that I was able to change the dynamics in my life in August of 2005. I survived, and persevered, and changed because that was God’s plan for me. And all those times when that I didn’t have the “right stuff”, He just picked me up in His arms and carried me! He still does on those occasions when I’m too weak to do it on my own.
I’ve come to realize that while I may not be qualified to be a Pastor, I can offer counsel to others in broken relationships, smoking, alcohol, and drugs. I can be an example of what you can accomplish in your life if you will make a commitment to change, using your God-given talents. I can be a channel of His peace, a carrier of His Word, and a source of His light, simply by sharing the news of what He has done for me. And I can be a witness to God’s almighty power, the grace given to us by His Son Jesus, and the amazing gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit!
The Bottom Line…
Here’s the thing…we all have things that we’ve done in the past, things that we may be ashamed of. What’s most important is not that we made mistakes, but that we learned from those mistakes. And that we pass what we’ve learned along to our kids, friends, colleagues, and anyone else that may benefit from our experiences. I believe that this too is part of God’s plan for us. Don’t walk in shame because of what is in your past. Walk instead in gratitude that He carried you through those tough times, that you learned from your mistakes, and that your past is exactly that!
See you next week!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/23/2009 at 9:34 PM | Categories:
“But” is such a simple word, in that it’s only three letters long, one syllable, and quite easy to pronounce. At this moment you may be thinking “Why would you want to devote an entire article to this word?” Okay, I admit it; that’s a legitimate question. At first glance, this would be a ridiculous topic, but…
It’s not the simplicity, length, or ease of pronunciation that I want to talk to you about; I want to address the impact that the word has on our lives.
“But”, in many instances, puts limitations on everything. It makes exceptions for everything. It gives us excuses for everything. In essence, that little word gives us an “out” for everything…
I would have applied for that job, BUT…
I wouldn’t have lied to you, BUT…
I would’ve had more money, BUT…
I would have tried harder, BUT…
I would have come to your party, BUT…
I love you, BUT…
You get what I’m trying to tell you here? “But” lets us off the hook, right?
I feel that “but” lulls us into the false belief that we may offend others…that it’s okay for us to settle for less in life…that we can simply ignore some of the important choices that we need to make in life…that we can take the easy way out of many situations.
Here’s a wake-up call for you.
It’s not okay to offend others, or settle for less, or ignore the important stuff, or take the easy way out. What we may not realize is that in doing all of the above, we are actually hurting ourselves. How so?
Our relationships suffer. Our self-confidence suffers. Our integrity suffers. Our self-esteem suffers. Our personal growth suffers. And I don’t know about you, but when I let someone down, or let myself down, or tell a lie (which many “buts” are), my heart suffers.
How about God?
How many times has “but” gotten between you and God?
I was gonna go to church this morning, but I wanted to sleep in.
I didn’t plan on taking Your name in vain, but I lost my temper.
I didn’t want to tell that lie, but it would have been too hard to tell the truth.
I want to put my trust in You, but I’m afraid to let go of this problem.
I wanted to “turn the other cheek”, but I just couldn’t do it.
I want to be a better Christian, but I don’t want to give up certain things in my life.
I want to receive the Holy Spirit, but I’m afraid of things I don’t understand.
I want to be bold with my faith, but I’m afraid of what others may think of me.
I want to be closer to You, God, but I’ve done so much wrong in my life.
Okay, before you think that I’m shooting arrows at you, you should know that all of the “buts” listed above have been mine at some time or another. And to be honest with you, my list probably could’ve been longer.
What if God had a “but” list?
Can you even imagine God saying…?
Geez, I’d love to help you with your problem, but I don’t really have the time.
Yeah, I know that you’ve been praying, but I’ll tell you, I’m just tired of listening.
I know that you came to see me at church this morning, but I needed a day off.
I’d really like to provide you with what you need, but these other people got in line to see me before you did.
God’s list could go on and on too…if He had one. BUT, I know that He doesn’t have one. He’s always “on call”, ready to help us with our problems and provide us with everything that we need. Always has been; always will be. There for us.
I urge you to lose the “but” in your life; when it comes to relationships, decisions, the truth, your actions, and especially in your relationship with God. Do not let your ego, fear, guilt, confidence, or anything else stand in your way. You cannot imagine what you will receive in a full relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/16/2009 at 9:31 PM | Categories:
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