The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: December 2010

Making a difference...

This past Sunday night my wife Jackie and I were attending a program for small group of salon owners from around the Southeast. The event was hosted by Redken, the hair care manufacturer, and all of the invitees were their customers.

At one point in the evening, Jackie and I were recognized as being the first Redken Elite Salon owners in the state of Alabama. In fact, our salon, Salon M², is one of only two hundred and twenty-five Elite Salons in the country, which makes what our salon has accomplished in our brief history quite remarkable. (Sunday marked the 5th Anniversary of our salon’s opening. We attained Elite status during our second year of operation.)

As we were being introduced and asked to stand, several thoughts flashed through my mind…

·         I was filled with an enormous sense of pride in what our team of remarkable people has accomplished during the five years that we’ve been in existence, and in the fact that our salon has bucked the industry trend of declining numbers with continued growth.

·         I was humbled and a bit embarrassed with the recognition because there are thousands of dedicated, hard working salon owners in this country who have never come close to living out the dreams of success that they had when they opened their doors for business.

·         I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I reflected on all that God has done for us since our business “journey” began in 2005.

I was surprised by one realization that superseded all the others:

While I’m proud of our Elite status for Jackie, our team, and our guests, it really doesn’t mean much to me. It’s just not important. In order for you to appreciate the significance of this statement, I need to turn back the hands of time a few years, to February 10, 2007…

Our salon had experienced an amazing amount of success in the fourteen months that we’d been open, and I had been invited by Redken to talk to a group of distributor sales consultants here in Birmingham. The plan was for me to give a brief presentation on ways in which we were implementing the Redken website in our salon to grow our business, and to share a bit of our “story” with them.

God had other plans…

I had actually completed my presentation and was preparing to thank those in attendance for allowing me to share our story with them when I heard myself saying “And now I want to tell you why I’m really here!”

For months following that night I told people that for the next few minutes I “went into a zone.” That is, until a good friend of mine informed me that the “zone” I kept talking about was actually the Holy Spirit coming through me….

I was aware of the fact that I was speaking, but, for lack of a better description, it was almost as if I was taking a back seat to what was coming out of my mouth! I remember talking about my life, and Jackie, and our journey, and change. And God! As I was trying to listen to what I was saying, a little voice inside of me was screaming “Don’t do this! This is a business presentation, for a huge company! You’re making a mistake! Have you lost your mind? Don’t talk about God!”

Well, I didn’t stop talking. Recalling that moment, I don’t believe that I could’ve stopped, even if I’d wanted to. Everything was a blur, and I was fighting back my emotions and tears, and the words just continued to spill out of my mouth.

And then it was done. Whatever it was that had happened to me was over, almost as quickly as it began. (Later that night Jackie informed me that I had spoken, not for a few minutes, but for an hour!) I was a bit disoriented, but at least I had control of what I was saying. I mumbled a few words of thanks as men and women that I didn’t even know thanked me for sharing my heart with them, and for being so bold about God. 

That was all it took.

That night God put a fire in my belly to go out and share the news of what He’d done in my life with anyone that would listen. It’s a fire that obviously continues rage in me to this day.

The problem back then was that I believed that Redken was my only vehicle for sharing that message, and that the salon industry was my only target. God had given us this amazing story to share with others. It was a success story about change, in life and in business, and about setting goals, and about defying the odds, and about life, and yes, it was about God. And the main character in this story was a guy from Alabama who had never believed in himself, or for that matter, liked himself.

It was a “feel good” story that I believed would help others in our industry if they heard it, and I was more than willing to tell it!

Over the course of the next several months I had several more opportunities to make presentations for Redken, and judging from the response of those in attendance, they were all well-received. This, of course, only served to add fuel to the fire to make a difference in our industry. I believed then, as I still believe today, that I could indeed make a difference. I was consumed by the desire to go out and plant hope where there was none, to let salon owners and stylists know that they could change their lives by believing in themselves, in their God-given talents, and in Him. I was ready to go!

There was one small problem. Either because of the downturn in the economy, or because of my insistence on including my faith in my presentations, or both, Redken wasn’t ready for me to ride their train.

The invitations to speak came less frequently and I’ll be honest in telling you that it was huge disappointment for me. I knew that I could make a difference, and I was willing to go anywhere at a moment’s notice. What’s more was that I wasn’t charging Redken for my time! Oh, they covered my travel expenses, but that was it. You see, I just wanted to do whatever I could to improve the quality of life of those struggling in the salon industry. I didn’t really care about being paid for it.  

Every day, I would check my phone and my computer for an invitation to speak. Neither the call nor the e-mail ever came. This went on for several months, and with the passing of each one I became more and more frustrated. What was wrong? What was I missing? What had I overlooked?

God’s Plan.

I’ll never forget the moment. I was standing in the shower, mentally reliving for yet another day the frustration that had been dogging me for months, when it hit me like a bolt of lightning.

I realized that while God was at the center of my universe, and that everything revolved around Him, and that I included Him in my business presentations, and that my intentions were good and true, and that I truly wanted to help people, and that I was doing everything that I could to get Redken’s attention, and that I couldn’t figure out why He wasn’t helping me was because I was trying to do it by myself!

You see, I wasn’t really sure that it was part of God’s plan for me to be a “mouthpiece” for Redken, but it was something that I really wanted, so I hadn’t really included Him in the process. I don’t know…I guess I was gonna circumvent Him or something. (Back then, I didn’t realize that the true path runs through Him, not around Him.)

At that very moment I gave it all to Him. All of it. I figured that if He wanted me to reach people, and to share the news of what He’d done in my life, and to be a Crusader for Him, then He could figure out how to do it. I didn’t have to have the perfect plan. All that I had to have was the willingness to do it. Standing in the shower, I laid it all down. I gave it to Him.

Three weeks later The Seed of Hope was born, and the ways in which God has seen fit to use me since has been at times a bit overwhelming.

When Jackie and I were asked to stand in recognition on Sunday night, I realized that in His own way, and according to His plans, God was using a little salon owner from Birmingham to reach an audience much bigger than the Redken world. And that Elite status? Well, don’t get me wrong. It’s nice, but it just doesn’t matter. You see, I realize that I don’t have to have it to make a difference in His Kingdom. All I need is Him.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 12/09/2010 at 11:18 AM | Categories: Life -

Not even divorce.

As I was driving to Church of The Highlands this Sunday morning I made the comment to my wife Jackie that “I still don’t have a topic for The Seed of Hope this week. I wonder what God is gonna lay on my heart, and when He’s gonna do it?”

Pastor Steve Blair’s message was titled More than Just Surviving, and it focused on the mental states of many of us as we enter this Holiday Season. It has been documented that more suicides and attempted suicides occur during the month of December than in any other month. It’s so ironic and even more tragic that during a period of preparing for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, many of us are preparing to end our own lives.

At one point during his message, Pastor Steve was talking about our relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves. It was during his emphasis on working out relational problems in marriages, and our need to save our marriages, even the worst ones, at all costs, that God gave me the topic for today’s post…

Divorce

My initial was response to God was, “You are kidding, right? This pastor is pouring his heart out in the need for us to save our marriages, and You’re telling me to write about divorce? Really?

Yes, really.

To be honest with you, I’ve wanted to write about divorce for a long time, but I haven’t, because the subject is very controversial. Many people, (including pastors and members of the congregation) believe that divorce is simply not an option, regardless of the circumstances.

…better or worse, for rich and for poorer, in sickness and in health….

Yeah, I know those wedding vows. I recited them when I got married in 1974. I recited them again some fifteen years later when I got married for the second time.

You see, I am a casualty of a marriage that didn’t work. I am a victim of divorce.

Right or Wrong

So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Matthew 19:6 NIV 

I’m not here today to tell you that divorce is right or wrong, or if it is justifiable, or if it’s okay in the eyes of God. According to Biblical principles, divorce is not right. But then, neither is stealing, or envy, or taking the Lord’s Name in vain, or any of the remaining Commandments that God gave us.

I am saying that, just as those Commandments are broken every day, divorce happens.

And because of experience, I know that divorce marks the death of a dream. Divorce is painful. Divorce touches not only the man and wife, but their children, and their families, and their friends. Divorce leaves painful scars that, in the hearts and minds of many, never go away. Divorce is ugly. Divorce, in and of itself, is quite simply, not a good thing.

Yet divorce happens. Every day.

Again, my message today isn’t about the right or wrong of divorce. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions on that one. In fact, you’re probably already standing on one side of the fence or the other, and that’s fine with me.

I believe that my message is for those of us who have already been through the trials and tribulations of divorce, and in part, for those of you who may want to condemn “us”…

There’s another relationship that is quite often a casualty of divorce, and that’s the one between us and God. The worst part is that at a time when we need Him the most, we turn away from Him in shame. That was certainly the case with me….

In my mind, it didn’t matter that the love had been gone for years, or that my sons were being raised in a terrible environment, or that our home was a battleground, or that there was verbal and physical abuse, or that my way of coping was in turning, not to God, but to cocaine. In the eyes of the judicial system, ours was a classic case of “irreconcilable differences.” In the eyes of the church, it was divorce. I was so consumed by guilt that I quit going to church for a while.

I eventually returned to church, but that guilt would linger in the back of my mind for years, even after Jackie and I had gotten married. It was an obstacle in my relationship with God, and that barrier that I put up between us was of my doing, not His. Because of my beliefs, I had a hard time believing that God could ever truly forgive me for getting a divorce. Oh, I believed that He’d forgive a liar or a thief. I even believed that God would forgive a murderer, if he was filled with regret and sorrow for his actions. But for some reason, He’d have a hard time with forgiving me for a divorce.

The Truth

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

It has only been within the past year, and many years after my divorce, that I’ve come to realize yet another truth…

By His crucifixion Jesus paid the price for the sin of Adam and Eve, for all the sins of man before He lived here on earth, for all the sins of man committed since His death, and for all the sins of man that have yet to be committed. All of ‘em.

As with all offenses, if you’ll stand before God with sorrow in your heart and ask for His forgiveness, you will receive it.   

You see, there is nothing that we can do that will separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Not theft. Not cursing. Not adultery. Not murder. Not even divorce.

Amen and Amen.

 

There’s something else that I want to add before I close today, and it’s for those of us who question the validity or sanctity of second marriages.

Jackie and I will celebrate our Twenty-Second Anniversary in April, and I’m sitting here reflecting on what God has done in our lives, on what He has done in me, and how He has positioned us to serve others in our church, in our business, and in our home. As I do so, I can’t help but think that our marriage was made in heaven, that it’s full of His blessings, and that it was part of His plan for us.

Amen.

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 12/01/2010 at 7:01 AM | Categories: Life -

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