The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: February 2010

After You've Jumped

After You’ve Jumped…

This week’s post is a follow-up to last week’s That Holy Jumping-Off Place. I couldn’t include everything that I wanted to tell you last week for two reasons. First of all, I could write an entire book on completely putting your life in God’s hands, and I couldn’t assume that you’d want to read a book on the subject; at least, not one written by yours truly! Secondly, and perhaps the main reason for “cutting it short”, was that I had a really hard time focusing on the task at hand.  As a matter of fact, the post came close to not happening at all! You see, it is my honest belief that last week I was under attack from Satan.

That’s what I want to talk about first, and I’m going to recall a thought that I offered to you two weeks ago in Did Jesus Know?

When life is dealing you fits is when Satan is working his hardest! When our attention is on our situation at work, or on our finances, or raising our children, or on a spat that we may have had with our spouse, Satan comes in to plant the seeds of doubt, anger, hatred, or any other negative and evil thoughts that are his trademarks!

I had some kind of stomach virus in the wee hours of Sunday morning before last Monday’s post. Having survived whatever it was, Jackie and I went to breakfast and then to church with some of our closest friends. After church, and still not feeling all that great, I returned home to work on The Seed of Hope. I had a small window of time in which to write, and I was hoping to complete the post before our family arrived for dinner that evening.

Didn’t happen…

I had been writing for about ten minutes, really getting into the flow of the post and liking where it was going; and the phone rang. After a short conversation with my mom, I went back to writing; and the phone rang. Jackie was visiting with her mom, and thought that she’d touch base with me. Back to writing, and you guessed it: the phone rang. That’s pretty much the way it went for the next hour or so. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a crack at writing, but it’s hard for me to stay focused when there’s one interruption after the other; I was getting really frustrated.

To make matters even worse, I suddenly realized that my foot was killing me. I was having an acute attack of Gout! (Gout is a severe inflammation of a joint that comes with no advance warning. A lady once told me that her Gout attacks were more painful than giving birth to her son!) The Gout, quite obviously, only added to my level of frustration.

And just when I thought that nothing else could possibly happen to distract me even more, our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren arrive for dinner an hour-and-a-half early for dinner! Our grandchildren were gonna spend the night with us, so I closed my laptop for the day. I would have plenty of time to finish the post early the next morning.

I went to bed later that night with a stomach still tender from the night before, a foot that was absolutely throbbing, and a little frustrated from the way the afternoon had played out. The only saving grace was the presence of my wife Jackie, and our two heart-stealing grandchildren, Stephen and Isabella. I prayed for the next day to be better.

Monday morning I rolled out of bed at five forty-five and hobbled into the kitchen to sit in my favorite chair, my “prayer chair”, to finish the post. Hopefully, I would have at least forty-five minutes of quiet time before our home came to life.

As always, I offered a prayer asking God to give me the words to reach you, then turned on my laptop, waiting for inspiration. And I waited. And waited. Nothing. Only leftover mental “junk” from the previous day. Before I knew it, thirty minutes had elapsed and the house was a buzzing with activity. I was frustrated. I felt helpless. And I was mad. I slammed my laptop shut, went on a rant, and…

Jackie was the recipient. “I’m not gonna write The Seed of Hope any more. It’s not fair for me to have to start and stop all the time. I don’t have a built in On-Off switch. It’s not like I’m writing jokes…I’m tryin’ to lead people to Jesus, or at least make them think about Him more often. I’m done. I can’t do this. If God wants me to write for Him, then He’s gotta give me the time to do it. The Seed of Hope is over!”

Jackie sat in silence as I finished my tirade. I was stunned by my outburst. I was mad, and hurting, and curiously enough, embarrassed by my remarks. I believe that Jackie sensed what I was feeling, and she suggested that I take my laptop and my Bible to the sitting room upstairs, away from everyone.

Which was exactly what I did. Several prayers and an hour later the post was finished. I wasn’t really happy with it, but I was both relieved and thankful that it was done. It was on the site a little after nine o’clock, which was much later than usual, but I figured that it was better later than not at all.

Why did I want to share this with you?

Look, less than a year ago I was standing at that “Holy Jumping-Off Place.” And I made a commitment to jump. Realizing that “my way” was getting me nowhere, and quite honestly hadn’t for fifty-six years, I just gave it all to God. He’s doing the driving; I’m doing the riding. And I tell you, I have never felt closer to God, or surrounded by His presence.

BUT, that doesn’t mean that my life is always easy, or that I don’t have to work on my faith daily, or that Satan has to leave me alone!

Quite the contrary, especially when it comes to Satan. He seems to come after even more, especially when I’m writin’ for Jesus, or when I’m not feeling well, or when I’m distracted. He is a powerful, deceptive, and worthy adversary indeed, and there’s nothing that he would like more than for me to stop writing. But guess what?

IT’S NOT GONNA HAPPEN! I’M STILL HERE, AND I’M STILL WRITING!

What I’m trying to tell you is this:

Don’t think that life becomes a cake-walk when you make that jump. I’m not trying to scare you, but things may actually get harder. You see, Satan doesn’t like losing, and as long as he thinks that he has a chance of “reclaiming” you, he will be relentless in his efforts to do exactly that!

At first, you may have to jump again, and again, and again. Believe me, it’s worth the effort.

In next week’s post, which will be the last installment of this “series” (I feel like I’m at Church of The Highlands), I’m gonna share a short story about what happens when you make that jump from “That Holy Jumping-Off Place” a permanent one.

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 02/22/2010 at 7:00 AM | Categories:

That "Holy Jumping-Off Place"

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with a long-time friend about God, faith, and life, which, if you haven’t already figured out, are three of my favorite topics.

So this friend, (I’ll call her Lucy) called to ask me for some advice. She told me that she attends church every Sunday, asking God to help her in relationships, and for solutions in a few situations in her life…

“I’m in church every Sunday, and I pray to God for help all the time, but nothing is getting better. Sometimes it seems as if things are actually worse. Why isn’t He listening, Sam? Why isn’t He answering my prayers? Why can’t I be happy? Am I doing something wrong?”

Fear!

No, that wasn’t my answer to Lucy’s questions! Fear was what I was feeling as Lucy was asking me for some insight into her petitions, and into God.

You see, I’m always telling people to give all their problems to God…to turn to Him in times of trouble…to ask Him for help and then let Him work. Look to Him for compassion, strength, understanding, and wisdom; all those things, and more. Ask Him!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

So I’m listening to Lucy pour her heart out to me, voice trembling as she fought back tears. And all the while, I’m praying, “God please give me the right words for her. Give me some insight, please. Holy Spirit, please give me counsel that I might help this friend who has turned to me for guidance. Show me what I am missing, that I might help her in some small way. Please.”

We continued talking, and for the next five or ten minutes I hit Lucy with a barrage of questions, trying to find some small clue as to why she continued to be so miserable with her life and with herself.

And then it hit me…

Lucy hadn’t come to that “Holy Jumping-off Place!”

What’s that? Never heard of it before? Wondering where it is? Before I answer your questions, let me share a couple of thoughts with you.

Have you attended a camp or seminar that included an exercise that would build your trust in other people? The exercise goes something like this:

You team up with one or two individuals. When it’s your turn, you stand with your arms folded across your chest. Next, you close your eyes, take a deep breath and, keeping your legs straight, lean backwards until you begin to fall. Eyes still closed, arms still crossed, you brace for the impact of your body slamming against the floor; but it never comes. The person standing behind you catches you before your fall comes to an abrupt halt.

I can easily recall the doubt and fear that swept through my mind the first time I tried this, even though I was with my best friend! And you know, looking back on that day I don’t think that it would have mattered who was standing behind me; it could have been my Momma or my Daddy, and I still wouldn’t have trusted either of them completely to catch me!  

I remember the first time that I walked up to the South rim of the Grand Canyon. I was fifty years old, and I had dreamed about the day since I was a child. As I stood at the edge, taking in the splendor and awesome beauty of God’s handiwork, I was overcome with emotion.

And I was overcome with absolute panic! I just knew that, despite having been there for hundreds, if not thousands of years, that my weight was gonna cause the rock ledge that I was standing on to crash down to the canyon floor, hundreds of feet below me! Fighting back the urge to turn and run, I remained where I was; partially because I wanted to overcome my fears, and partially because I was scared stiff! I just couldn’t get my feet to cooperate with my brain! And I couldn’t imagine falling that far…

The Holy Jumping-Off Place is scarier than the edge of the Grand Canyon or a trust-building exercise could ever be. It’s more than the fear of falling, or a fear of heights, or a fear of trusting someone to catch you. It’s not found in a church, though I guess that it could be. It’s not found in a prayer or a petition for a relationship, or a job, or a material possession.

The holy jumping-off place is in our minds, and in our hearts.

It’s a place that we come to in our walk with Jesus. It’s a crossroad, an intersection, a “Y” in the road. It’s not only standing at the rim of that canyon, but allowing ourselves to fall, knowing that God is gonna catch us. It’s a point in our lives when we make the decision to completely put ourselves in God’s hands, not necessarily because we want to, but because we realize that we have to.

Here’s the thing: we’re always gonna make bad decisions, and make mistakes. We’re gonna have doubts. We’re gonna stumble and fall. We’re gonna have struggles. We’re gonna hit bumps in the road of life. We’re gonna have rough spots in relationships. We’re gonna be tempted by Satan. We’re gonna have health issues. And in the end, we’re gonna die.

Why?

Well, because we’re human. And because, contrary to what most of us would like to think, we are weak; even the strongest of us.

It’s when we accept our weaknesses, our flaws, our human frailties, and turn to God for all that we are, and all that we do, and all that we hope for, that we receive His strength!

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

When we stand at that holy jumping-off place, and jump into God’s waiting arms, we find…happiness, joy, love, strength, wisdom, and knowledge. And we find the one thing that I believe is the most elusive for all of us: peace of mind.

If you’ve “been there and done that”, you’ve already tasted the sweetness of the reward that comes from putting your life in His hands.

If you haven’t given your life to Him, I urge you to do so. Your life will change in ways that you cannot even imagine. Yeah, I know that the notion of giving control of your life to God can be a scary thought, but that is fear talking to you!

Starting today, starting right now, give control of your life to God. Yes, you can do it; it will only be as hard for you as you allow it to be. Need some courage? Ask the Holy Spirit for it. Don’t want to go it alone? Ask Jesus to hold your hand. Seek God’s face in prayer, admit your weakness to Him, and receive His strength.

You’re at that place right now. What are you waiting for?

JUMP!

He’ll be there to catch you.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 02/15/2010 at 9:09 AM | Categories:

Did Jesus know?

Did Jesus know?

Early yesterday morning I was sitting in my “prayer chair” in our kitchen, reading a few passages from my Bible as a prelude to meditation and prayer, both of which I try to do every day. Ten minutes in, and I was still trying to get focused enough to do either of them. It seems that my mind was taking me down a different path; one that I really didn’t want to follow, because it was all negative…

A couple of months ago Joshua Canizaro, one of the Pastors at the Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham cautioned me that as our walk with God becomes stronger, and as we do more to serve Him, we get this invisible “target” on our backs. This target, of course, serves as an invitation to receive “…all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:15

Well, I’m gonna tell you, the last couple of weeks I’ve felt as if that target on my back had somehow morphed into a full body suit! We had some personnel issues and changes in our salon. We had recently agreed with our landlord to expand the salon at a time when, well, let’s just say that the timing could have been better. I had to have a discussion with a member of our family that I didn’t want to have. I had a couple of friends that were going through some trying times. I had…

What I’m trying to say is that life was dealing me a whole lot of crap all at the same time! You know what I’m talking, don’t you? Surely you’ve had those kinds of weeks before; it’s one thing, after another, after another! Perhaps you’re going through one of those periods right now. Just know that you’re not alone! The world didn’t single you out as its only victim.

You should also know this…

When life is dealing you fits is when Satan is working his hardest! When our attention is on our situation at work, or on our finances, or raising our children, or on a spat that we may have had with our spouse, Satan comes in to plant the seeds of doubt, anger, hatred, or any other negative and evil thoughts that are his trademarks!

And you should also know that God is gonna give you everything that you need to overcome every obstacle that life, and Satan deals you, if you will only ask Him for help.

And all those situations that I was facing the last couple of weeks? I prayed my way through them! “God give me strength. God give me patience. God give me wisdom, and understanding, and knowledge. God get me through this.”

Guess what? He got me through all of it…every trial, every tribulation, every doubt…all of it. That’s the good part. The bad part was that I had to go through it at all!

And that’s what I was thinking about yesterday morning…not just what we have to go through, but Satan’s role in it…his relentless attacks on us, not only when we’re working for God, but when we’re at our weakest.

Did HE know?

I started turning a couple of questions over and over in my mind. They were questions that I’d never considered before, and I had certainly had no idea as to the answers. When my wife Jackie joined me in the kitchen I posed the questions to her…

Do you think that, as a child, Jesus knew that he was the Messiah, the Son of God? I mean, did he know that he was the Word Incarnate? Was he born knowing this, or did it come to him as he got older?

Well, Jackie wasn’t really sure of the answers either. Sensing that I might pose this question to you today, she cautioned me that doing so may result in receiving more answers than I was prepared to handle! Besides, what difference did it really make if he knew or not?

By that time I was like a bloodhound on the scent of a criminal’s trail! Like Sherlock Holmes seeking a clue! Like Indiana Jones looking for the Ark of the Covenant! Did he know?

When I got to church, I posed my questions to Pastors Canizaro and Cory Hardesty. Both felt that Jesus knew early on that he had a calling to the Lord. As far as knowing, it is recorded in Luke that Jesus was twelve years old when he became separated from his parents for three days as they were returning from the Feast of the Passover. After frantically searching for him, they found him in the temple courts…

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49

Pryor to that time in history, God had never been referred to as Father. For Jesus to refer to God as his Father, he had to have known that he was indeed the Son!

You may be wondering why it was so important for me to know if Jesus knew?

Buckle up and hang on; this may get a little deep, because the answer to that question leads to more questions, for which I have no concrete answers.

If he knew, was he more prepared to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one?

We know that Satan tempted Jesus when was he was in the desert for forty days, and Jesus rebuked him. How about all the years that we don’t know about? I’m talking about the years when he was an adolescent…in his late teens…his early twenties. What do know we about those all-important formative years?

Jesus was God made flesh. He was not half man and half God, but fully God and fully man. And as a man, he experienced the same things that we do; i.e., trials, tribulations, anger, hurt, and ultimately, death.

Did being the Son of God isolate, or insulate, Jesus from the ways of the world?

Did Jesus have to contend with problems in his world relative to the problems that we deal with today? Financial stress? Moral corruption? Crumbling family values? Health care?

Knowing that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, did Satan attack or tempt Jesus even more than he would you or me? Or did he only go so far in his temptations, knowing that God could crush him like a bug?

Do you think that Jesus ever just got tired of it all?

Before you get even more upset with me for asking some of these questions, let me tell you what I think…

I believe that, in addition to saving us from the sin of Adam and Eve, Jesus was sent here so that he might experience everything that we experience. Yeah, he was the Word made Flesh, but he was also a man. And as a man, he felt everything that we feel.

When we go through a rough day, or week, or month, we do so with the anticipation, with the hope, that life will get better. As Christians, as followers, we believe that God will take care of us, that He will lift us up, that He will ease our burdens and heal our hurts.

Yeah, I believe that Jesus knew…I believe that he knew that his ultimate reward for being one of “us” for thirty-three years was a death marked by betrayal, humiliation, and unimaginable suffering. Yet he did it anyway. And I have to believe that he spent a lot less time grumbling walking his path than I do as I walk mine.

It has been said that the mark of a good leader is one who leads by example. That being said, perhaps Jesus was more than our Savior…perhaps he was the greatest leader that we have ever known. You see, in his birth, in his life, and in his death, he leads us to God.

He knew.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 02/08/2010 at 6:57 AM | Categories:

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