Viewing by month: May 2010
Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:9-10 NIV
Do you believe, as in the case of Jeremiah, that God can put words in your mouth? I’m not talking about putting thoughts in your head, but actually giving you something to say, and while you’re saying it, you’re wondering “Where did that come from?”
The first time this happened to me was in August of 2006, the day that I proclaimed myself to be a soldier of Christ. I believe with all that is in me that the Holy Spirit not only gave me the words to say, but the courage to say them. If you haven’t done so, I invite you to read The Tattoo, which was posted on 12/15/2008.
I most recently experienced this “God Phenomenon” again a couple of months ago, and that’s what I want to share with you today.
My wife Jackie and I own and operate Salon M², a hair salon, here in Birmingham. Since we opened our business in December of 2005, God has blessed us with financial success and surrounded us with an amazing group of people that work with us.
As it pertains to this story, it’s worth noting that during this period of time, our salon has become a ministry of sorts for me. I won’t even attempt to count the number of times that I’ve had the opportunity to share what God has done in my life, to offer counsel in areas that I’m qualified to do so, and of course, to pray for those in need.
Almost a year ago a restaurant adjacent to our salon went out of business for financial reasons. Several months passed and the space was still unoccupied when Jackie and I began entertaining the notion of enlarging the salon. Our team had grown to the point that we actually had more stylists (thirteen) than we did stations (ten) for them to work at. We were tripping all over each other, and scheduling had become a nightmare!
I got in touch with our landlords to discuss the possibility of taking a portion of the available space next door. We kicked a few ideas around but never got down to serious negotiations.
Several more months elapsed and the space was still available, I guess because of the economy and the fear that accompanied it. After all, this probably wasn’t the most opportune time for someone to open a new business. While Jackie and I would talk about expanding the salon every once in a while, I don’t believe that either of us was sold on the idea of spending the money for the build-out and equipment, or the idea of signing another five year lease. We’re both fifty-seven, and while that’s not really old, the fact remains that Jackie owned her first salon at the tender age of sixteen! And me? I began working in my family’s mom & pop neighborhood grocery when I was nine years old. You do the math; both of us joined the working ranks a long time ago.
That, combined with the fact that we lost a couple of our senior stylists right after the first of the year, pretty much ended any talk of expansion.
Still, the space remained vacant, and every once in a while, our conversation would turn to the possibility of enlarging the salon. After all, it was available, and it wouldn’t take that much money, and we should take advantage of the opportunity because once it was gone it would be gone, and we expected that God would continue to bless us with growth in the salon, and why shouldn’t we just go out on yet another limb and just do it? Huh?
Well, because we just weren’t sure. There were as many reasons to proceed with the expansion as there were to leave things as they were. We just didn’t know what to do.
We began to pray for some clarity. Every day, for weeks, while in prayer I would ask God for some direction as to what we should do. I would ask, and then I would listen. Ask, and then listen. No answers.
One night, as I was drifting off to sleep, my thoughts turned once more to the space next door. I remember saying, “Look, God. I’m not asking for much; just a little insight. This may not be the best time, and it’s a bit of money, and we want to do things according to Your will. Can’t You just give me a little message, or some kind of sign, as to what we should do? An answer would be great.”
The very next morning Jackie and I were sitting at the kitchen table having coffee. I had just finished reading some passages from my One Year Bible, and we were both reflecting on what I’d read.
A moment of silence had passed when Jackie looks me straight in the eyes and says “There’s something that I need to tell you, and you’re not really gonna want to hear it.”
Thinking that I’d done something wrong, my immediate response was “Well, then don’t tell me!”
Acting as if she’d never heard my protest, or having elected to ignore it, she continued. “Look, I know that God is first, and The Seed of Hope is your passion. I know that you want to go out and speak to people, and change the salon industry, and take God’s message around the world. And you know that I support you 100% in whatever you want to do for God.”
“And?” I questioned.
“But, our salon has a different feeling when you’re in it. A lot of our guests love speaking with you. And the people that work with us have more accountability when you’re there. It’s just different when you’re not around.”
“And?” I asked again, having no idea as to where Jackie was going with this.
“So, the way I see it, if we can figure out a way for you to do your “God thing” and keep you in the salon, that’s definitely what we should do.”
Not a moment passed when I looked at Jackie and said “That’s it! We’re gonna move forward with expanding the salon, and we’ll add the extra stations, and we’ll add the color bar and make-up counter, just like we talked about. And right up in the front, next to our lobby, where that extra door is located, I’m gonna have a small office, and on the outside of the door, facing the parking lot, it’s gonna say The Seed of Hope Ministries.”
Jackie gave me this questioning look, and anticipating what was coming next, I simply said, “Look, until this moment I hadn’t thought about any of this. I don’t know what it means. All I know is that I last night I was asking God to give me a message as to what we should do, and this morning He gave it to me. He gave me an answer. And He put the words in my mouth.”
It’s two months later, and I’m sitting in that office that God told me to build for Him. Well, there have been two small changes to my vision.
I’m sitting, not in an office, but in a room that was built for fellowship, mentoring, counsel, and of course, prayer. There will be a small desk in the corner to accommodate my laptop, and three or four chairs in the center of the room facing one another. That’s it. A room for Him. And it’s right in the middle of a hair salon. Go figure.
I pray that this room will be a safe haven, a sanctuary, and a place of spiritual nourishment for those in need. I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the right words to give to each person that sits in this room with me.
And the writing on the front door? It simply says:
The Seed of Hope
A Gift for Tomorrow
If you’re ever in the neighborhood, please stop in. I’m always up for coffee and conversation, about God, about living, and about life. What else is there?
See you next week!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 05/31/2010 at 7:18 AM | Categories:
A Dark Day
I’ve been sitting in front of this laptop for several hours searching for a topic to write about today. Well, it’s not that I don’t have anything to write about; there’s an ever-growing list of things that God has done in my life that I want to share with you.
But it won’t be today. Today is different. Today I’m hurting on the inside. Today I’m battling demons. Today the last thing that I want to do is write a post for The Seed of Hope, but I’m going to anyway. I need to. Not for you, but for me.
In the past, sharing my thoughts with you has given me new revelations about God, my faith, and myself. Writing has given me an outlet, a platform if you will, to express the joy of walking with God every day. Writing The Seed has helped me to grow spiritually, and it has always been my prayer that The Seed has helped you in your walk as well.
Today it is comfort and strength that I am seeking, and I believe that the Holy Spirit has already given both to me, but I’m just too blinded by my own eyes to see it. So please bear with me as I search…
Sleep was very elusive for me last night. I found myself looking at the clock every thirty minutes. And I found myself drowning in a sea of anxiety. I kept praying myself back to sleep, puzzled by the fact that the strength of my faith was nowhere to be found; which only served to make matters worse.
I’m gonna tell you the source of my problem in just a minute. There’s something that I need to tell you first; something that only compounded the situation:
I love writing The Seed of Hope. For me, it’s not a hobby, or something that’s done on a whim. It’s a part of my life, a part that consumes me. I believe that my writing is a gift from God. Funny thing is, I never asked Him for this gift, or the passion that comes with it. He just put it there, because, well, because it was part of His plan for me. Who am I to say, “Thanks, but no thanks, God. You can give it to someone else.”
So I’m lying in bed last night, knowing that I needed to finish today’s post, which was about spiritual gifts, but knowing that it wasn’t gonna happen because I was in this ever-widening sinkhole of helplessness, and I can’t tell you that “it’s all good” when it’s not. What was I gonna do? Would this be the first time in a year and a half that there wouldn’t be a post? Do I sit down and tell you about the times when it’s not all good, when I’m in the midst of it? Or do I wait until the storm has passed and then tell you about it?
Well, I guess I’m answering those questions right now, aren’t I?
The source of the problem…
I guess by now that most of you know that my wife Jackie and I are owners of a hair salon, Salon M², here in Birmingham. We’ve been in business together for almost twenty-one years. Jackie’s role in our business is that of a hair stylist, “behind the chair” as they say in our industry. I’ve worn a lot of hats in our salon during those years; salon manager, appointment maker, shampoo assistant, repair man, bottle washer, and any other job that has needed to be done.
My biggest challenge, my highest mountain to climb, has been to grow not only our salon, but more importantly, to grow the careers of those that work with us, and quite often to help them grow as individuals. I set lofty goals for all of them, and I will push, pull, tug, shove, and threaten them to reach those goals.
As they grow financially, of course, so does the salon.
Through the years, many have chosen to stay with us, while some have chosen to move on.
I was informed this weekend that one of our team had made a decision to move to another salon. I usually take these things in stride, but I’ve got to tell you, this one kind of took my legs out from under me, for several reasons.
This young lady is an awesome Christian, a kind-hearted soul, and a very talented individual. Her presence in our salon has been a blessing. I watched her grow so much, in so many ways, during her time with us. From a personal perspective, I hate to see her leave.
This young lady’s income has been on a gradual incline during her time with us, even during this economic turndown. She’s become a real factor in our financial “bottom line.” From a business perspective, I hate to see her leave.
My struggle since I learned of her decision has not been with her, but with myself. Or perhaps it’s the hand that I’ve been dealt.
I’m going to compare my efforts in our salon to pushing a huge ball…
For twenty-one years I’ve used all my resources to get this ball up the side of a mountain. I’ve pushed, pulled, tugged, threatened, and done whatever else I could think of to get this thing to the top. And every time I get this ball to a point where I can get a glimpse of the top of the mountain, something happens and it rolls back down the hill. Every time.
God, I know that You’re listening right now. I know that You’re always listening.
You were listening last week when I told a friend that God has a plan for us, that we must always remember that He knows what He’s doing when it comes to our finances and the paths that He takes us down.
You were listening last week when I told another friend that God has a plan for us, that we must always remember that He knows what He’s doing when it comes to struggles and personal challenges and the paths that He takes us down.
You were listening last week when I told both of them that You don’t expect us to be happy with the situations we find ourselves in, or the “kicks in the gut” that we take from time to time.
It’s those financial issues, struggles, and personal challenges that make us better people, that teach us many lessons that we’re supposed to learn, and that draw us ever closer to You.
I will never take my eyes off of You. I will never question what You give me, or why You give it to me. I will never question Your plans for me, and while I may not like what I’m going through, I will never be angry with You while I’m going through it.
I know that You are my comforter, and strength, my sustainer, my provision, and my salvation. I know that You will supply me with everything I need.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
If you made it to the end of this post, I want to thank you for allowing me to share a dark day with you, a day that already seems brighter.
I’ll see you next week.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 05/17/2010 at 9:26 AM | Categories:
Surrounded by Goodness
This past Friday I took the day off from work and headed up to our lake house, which is about forty minutes from our home here in Birmingham. I’ve had a lot “on my plate” the past few months, and I needed to unplug and get away, even if it was for only six or seven hours.
I was accompanied by Stephen, Brooke, and Joshua, three members of 24/7, a leadership development program for young adults offered by Church of the Highlands, where my wife Jackie and I are members. Jackie and I have served as home sponsors for Stephen since last August, and during that time he had heard all about our second home on the water, but had never gotten the opportunity to actually see it; our schedules never seemed to coincide.
Stephen will be leaving us in a few weeks and headed for a permanent position with a church in North Carolina, and his upcoming departure was a huge factor in my decision to play hooky.
We set out for the lake at nine o’clock that morning, and most of the conversation during the drive centered on God, faith, and callings in life. As I drove, and as we talked, I became increasingly aware of God’s presence in my vehicle with us. And I became increasingly aware of the fact that I was in the presence of three rather amazing young adults.
I also got the feeling that God had something waiting for me at the lake; perhaps it was just going to be a good day, but then again maybe He had a self-discovery, an “aha moment”, a revelation planned for me. Filled with anticipation, I found myself pushing my 4Runner a little faster, eager to arrive at our destination, and ever-so-curious as to what God had up His sleeve.
God could not have given us a more picture-perfect day! The sun was up, the sky was clear, and there was continuous breeze that reminded me of being on the beach. There’s something about being on the water that allows me to release all the mental “junk” that I’ve manage to accumulate, and this day was no exception. We hadn’t even gotten down to the floating dock, and I could already sense a bounce in my step that I hadn’t felt in weeks. This was indeed going to be a good day.
The four of us sat on the floating dock and picked up the conversation where we had left off when we arrived. This continued for, I don’t know, maybe 20 minutes or so, until each of us were lulled into a quiet rest, by the sun, the sounds of the wind, and the gentle rise and fall of the dock in the small waves that were created by that same wind.
I was laying flat on my back, eyes closed, lost in prayer and meditation, thanking God for all the goodness that He has seen fit to bless me with, for the change that He has brought into my life, for a loving, supportive wife, for a beautiful family, for being healthy, for igniting this fire in my heart that burns for Him, and for the presence of those gifted three young adults at that were with me. In other words, I was expressing my gratitude to God for anything and everything that I could think of!
But I think that above all else, it was the people in my life that I was most grateful for.
Since I began this walk of faith in 2006, God has seen fit to put the most incredible people in my life. Let me qualify something before I continue…
There were good people in my life prior to 2006, but they were few in number. At the top of the list was Jackie, followed by our families, and a very small circle of friends. And that was pretty much it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have friends. There just weren’t that many of them.
I committed my life to Christ.
From that moment forward, good people began “popping up” in front of me. Well, it was more than that. They were not only good people; they were people that crossed my path at precisely the right moment in time to give me exactly what I needed to move forward in life.
One of these people led me to the Bible, the book of life, which I had ignored for years. Another, with a spoken word, gave me a new-found confidence that changed the course of our business. Yet another suggested a small book that altered the way that I looked not only at the world, but at myself.
A friend that I hadn’t seen in years suddenly “reappeared” and led me to a new church. That church opened the door to a new level of spirituality and led me to an ever-growing circle of amazing people that enrich my life, and support me, and cover me with prayer, and make my life better simply by their presence.
So is it a coincidence that I’ve been in the right place, at the right time, to meet the right people?
Of course not.
It is God unfolding His plan for my life. It’s part of His provision for me, to help me grow as a person; to help me grow as a Christian. You see, when I made the commitment to be a soldier of Christ, to be a light that shines for Him, and to be all that I can be every day, God knew that I wasn’t ready. He knew that I had a lot to learn, and a lot of growing to do. And He knew that I couldn’t do it by myself; I needed help.
That help has come in the form of people. Chance encounters with strangers that have changed, and continue to change, the course of my life.
Many of us thank God for the obvious things. We offer thanks for our families and our homes. We thank Him for our cars, and our health, and money in the bank. In other words, I believe that many of us cover the bases for all that we should be thankful for; and this is a good thing.
But do we thank Him for people?
I look around, and everywhere I look, I see good people. In my home. In my business. In my church. In my life.
Thank You, Lord, for those You have placed in my path that have changed my life, and for those that I have yet to meet.
Thank You, for completely surrounding me in goodness.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 05/10/2010 at 8:16 AM | Categories:
< Previous Entries