The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: June 2010

Where Did It Go?

Where’d it go?

For the past several weeks I’ve sat in front of this laptop to write a post for The Seed of Hope and thought “Where’d it go?”

A couple of weeks ago, Shane, a guy that had worked in our salon for years put in his last day with us, and I let him leave without saying goodbye and wishing him well. Later that night I found myself wondering “Where’d it go?”

I’ve walked into our salon each morning asking “Where’d it go?”

I’ve reached for my iPhone to text several of my closest friends, only to put it back in my pocket, and pondered “Where did it go?”

Morning after morning, day after day, in my prayer chair in our kitchen, I’ve questioned “Where’d it go?”

Last Wednesday night at church, standing amongst a couple of thousand hungry for God, soul searching Christians during the worship portion (singing) of the service, which is usually my favorite part, I was bewildered and near the point of shouting to the heavens “Where’d it go, God? Where’d it go?

What did I lose?

Well, I lost my lust for life.

Before you go associating my lust with anything sexual, I want to share a definition found in the dictionary:

lust: a : an intense longing: CRAVING <a lust to succeed> b : ENTHUSIASM, EAGERNESS <admired his lust for life>

So when I tell you that I lost my lust for life, what I’m saying is that I lost my enthusiasm for writing, and for our salon. I lost my compassion for people; to be with them, and to love on ‘em. I lost the need for prayer.

Worst of all, and I mean the worst of all, was that I lost my craving for God. Perhaps that’s why, of all the words in the English language, I chose the word lust. You see, I don’t have just a desire to know Him, or to walk with Him, or to be filled with His Spirit. I don’t just seek His face, or want His presence. It’s like this: the more I get of Him, the more I want of Him. Enough is never enough. It’s just that simple. When that lust was gone, I knew that something was wrong.

So, what happened? Where’d it go?

Burnt Out

You ever used that term to describe the way you felt at a particular time in your life? Not tired, beat, done, or exhausted, but burnt out.

I did a little research on the subject, and this is an excerpt of what I found at www.Time-Management-Guide.com:

          Are you at risk of burnout syndrome?

Burnout is a chronic condition that happens when your body or mind can no longer cope with overwhelmingly high demands. You are trapped in a state of emotional exhaustion, and it is hard to get out of the state. You stop caring about what you do, even though you may feel guilty about the fact. Even if you still continue working, it seems hard to make progress. You hardly accomplish anything significant, and just go through the motions.

Sound familiar?

The burnout syndrome referenced above was actually about job related burnout, but in this instance I’d rather apply it to life in general. There are so many things in the world, and in our personal lives that cause burnout.

Careers, relationships, raising our kids, finances, dwindling retirement accounts, peer pressure, health issues, oil spills, commitments that we don’t need, and trying to make people happy are just a few challenges in our lives. The list goes on and on and on. I’m not trying to overwhelm you with negatives here, but to let you know that you’re not the only one with a lot of “junk” to deal with.

As that junk accumulates, and as our proverbial “plates” get more and more full, our perspective towards the things that are most important to us changes. And our minds trick us into believing that our hearts have changed.

I want to use the tongue as an analogy. Yep, that’s what I said; the tongue.

Or better yet, let’s talk about taste buds for a minute. You make wake up tomorrow morning to find that you detest the taste of a vegetable, or meat, or soft drink that you’ve liked since you were a kid. It’s happened to me before. How about you? What happened? Well, your taste buds changed.

Pardon my Southern slang, but there’s a whole lotta difference between our hearts and our taste buds. You don’t just wake up one morning to find that affairs of the heart, like love and compassion for others, or what you do in and with your life, or the things that you hold most dear, or especially your passion for God, have taken a back seat to other issues. Or that they just don’t matter much anymore. It just doesn’t happen that way.

It seems as though I have fallen prey to burnout syndrome, and to be quite honest with you, it caught up with me when I wasn’t looking. As I sit here and reflect on things, I shouldn’t really be surprised at all…

“Life comes at you fast.”

If you’ve missed it, that quote is a tagline for a major insurance company. Truer words were never spoken. Life does indeed come at you fast, and quite often it comes at you hard. If you turn away for a minute (at least it seems like just a minute), you turn back to face what’s in front of you and it has grown exponentially! The pile of “life stuff” that’s composed of what you’ve done and what you still have to do is so completely intimidating and overwhelming that it, well, it changes your heart. And it steals the joy out of the good things in life.

Today marks the beginning of a ten day vacation for my wife Jackie and me. As it has done so often in the past, time just slipped away from us. We haven’t had a vacation in two years.

When I finish this post, I’m gonna step away from this laptop, and my ambitions, and all of the stuff that’s piled up on my plate.

I’m gonna go spend some time with Jackie (she’s still my best friend after 21+ years of marriage), and I’m gonna get back in touch with my heart. I’m gonna get back in touch with God, and I know that when I do, I’m gonna find the joy, contentment, and peace that’s been missing for the last several weeks.

Then I’ll be back and ready to go, better than ever.

Until I “see” you again, be safe, be well, and may God bless you.

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 06/25/2010 at 9:28 PM | Categories: Life -

Inviting Him in...

Inviting Him in…

Wouldn’t you agree that it’s common courtesy to welcome an invited guest into our homes when they arrive for dinner, or maybe a party? I mean, after all, we invited them, right? It all began with an invitation to join us.

I wonder how many of us do the same thing with God. We invite Him into our lives, and into our hearts, and we long to feel His presence in us. How about our homes? Do we invite Him in?

Danna’s text.

A couple of weeks ago I received a text message from Danna, a good friend and awesome Christian that just so happens to be a member of Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham, which also just happens to be the same church that my wife Jackie and I attend!

Danna’s text read:

Hi! I have a problem!!! It’s a good problem, but a problem nonetheless! I’ve had to get the church to take my summer group off of the list because it’s wayyyy past full! ….I have 18 participants and only a 2 br condo in the Narrows! I’m having serious space constraints! Any chance you or anyone you know in the area would be willing to open your home to us for the first two sessions until we can get a feel for how many will actually come????

My first reaction to Danna’s text was to pretend that I’d never gotten it!

You see, for the previous ten months Jackie and I had been home sponsors to a ministry student from North Carolina, and I had served as the co-leader of the Hospitality Team at one of our satellite church campuses. I had recently given up my position at the church a couple of weeks earlier, and our ministry student had moved back to North Carolina just two days before I received Danna’s text message! Jackie and I were ready to be empty-nesters for a few months, and I was ready to have a Sunday with no “commitments”.

Then I get this text message from Danna! I told her that we’d pray on it, and at the same time search for someone that could host her small group for six weeks. Truth be told, Jackie and I had already made the decision not to host our own small group because of the time, preparation, and commitment that accompanied it.

True to my word, Jackie and I prayed for clarity. Strangely enough, I don’t know that we actually talked about what we should do. We’ve been married for over twenty-one years, and we’re so closely linked that at times one of knows what the other is thinking!

The time for a decision was drawing near (the first meeting was two days away). Jackie and I were in the bathroom getting ready for work, and it was one of those moments when I was gonna ask her a question, and she knew what it was gonna be and had the answer ready before the last word passed over my lips….

“So, are we gonna tell Danna that….”

“Of course we’re gonna have it here. But make it clear that it’s just for this one time.”

“Awesome!” I replied.

I sent a text to Danna and informed her of our decision to open our home “to a bunch of God-seeking Christians….” And I emphasized that the offer was just for one week. We didn’t want any more commitments.

In Prayer…

Everyone was invited to show up at our home at 5:30 on Saturday evening. The plan was to have thirty minutes of introductions and fellowship, which would be followed by dinner. Brian, another member of our group, would lead us in worship (song), and then we were going to watch a 10 minute video on discipleship. This would be followed by a group discussion on the topic. We’d close the evening out in prayer.

Danna arrived around 4:30 with the food. We spent a few minutes setting things up, and then the three of us (Jackie, Danna, and me) sat down at the kitchen table to offer prayers for the needs of our group, and to ask God to help us as leaders.

I remember inviting God into our home, asking that His presence fill every square inch of it…to make it a sanctuary for those seeking Him, for those in need of Him. I asked Him to make our home worthy of Him…

Our guests began arriving at the appointed time…

Let me just get to the point here.

It was an amazing evening. It was a powerful evening. God showed up! I could feel His presence. I could sense the Holy Spirit touching lives, opening eyes and ears, and softening hearts. There was an anointing in our home; the presence of God was so strong that it was palpable.

I was so humbled and grateful that God had come into our home to touch the lives of those seeking Him. And I sat there, tears welling up in my hearts as a lump formed in my throat, thinking about the path that God had lead me down, and all the changes that had taken place in my life, that allowed me to even consider our home to be worthy of His presence.

Why hadn’t I invited Him in sooner?

Fear.

Foolish fear. Unfounded fear.

Every day I invite God into my life, into my heart, and into my mind. Why wouldn’t I invite Him into our home? Did I really think that He might see something that He didn’t already know was there? Or that inviting Him into our home would be an invasion of our privacy? If I invited Him in would I have to be more accountable for my every thought, word, and deed while I was at home?

It’s my belief that you already know the answer to those questions. Besides, why would He need an invitation anyway? Isn’t He everywhere?

Yes, He’s everywhere. He is our Omni-Present God. There’s no place that He’s not!

Let me ask you something…

Have you found yourself in the position of being an uninvited guest? Perhaps you tagged along with a friend to a party that you weren’t invited to attend. Or been in a group where you felt like the proverbial “fifth wheel”? Or hung out with some people where you just really didn’t fit in? You can relate to at least one of these, can’t you? In each of those situations, you just wanted to feel welcomed, right?

Maybe, just maybe, God is waiting for you to invite Him in. Perhaps he doesn’t want to feel like the unwelcomed guest.

Every heart is worthy of His presence. So is every mind. And so is every home.

Invite Him in. I promise you that He’ll show up!

See you next week.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you.

As you may or may not know, every day I ask God to allow me to be a light that shines for Him. Every day.

I’ve come to realize that a shining light is wasted if there’s no one there to see it. Before the end of that very first night, Jackie and I made the decision to open up our home to our small group for the remaining five weeks. And of course, we invited God to come too. J

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 06/21/2010 at 4:37 PM | Categories:

In a Box

In a Box

It’s five o’clock in the morning and I’ve hauled myself out of my warm, toasty, comfortable, bed, and the company of my wife Jackie to sit in front of this laptop and write this post for The Seed of Hope.

I’m a little aggravated because I’ve been trying to write this thing all week long and I’ve had neither the time nor the inspiration to do so. Oh, I’ve had the desire to write, because, as I’ve said before, I love sharing what God has done in my life. Be that as it may, until this point, it’s just not been there; nothing.

There is something that I want to tell you about, something that’s really good, but I feel as though I should “set the table” for it, and in order to do that I must first talk about something that’s a bit uncomfortable.

It’s what I often refer to as the “box of life”, and it contains many smaller boxes of various shapes and sizes. The thing about these boxes is that, much like life itself, they are a mixture of easy and difficult, bad and good, bitter and sweet.

Boxes

There’s the box of “conventional thinking”, and it controls many of the decisions that we make in life. This box is usually representative of our parent’s ways of thinking, the values that they instilled in us as children, and a bit of our own personalities.

There’s the “family box”, which includes spouses, children, and parents. This box contains relationships built on and surrounded by love. It is because of that love that when problems arise (and they do), this box also holds the most amount of hurt.

There’s the “job box”, which includes the careers we’ve chosen, and all the responsibilities (and quite often headaches) that come with it.

The “box of limitations” is a good one. It’s the box we dwell in that tells us that we have limitations, that we’re not good enough, that we’re not capable of doing something, or not worthy of it. I spent years in this box.

Then there’s the “how did I get myself in this situation?” box. It contains things that we agreed to do for others, situations that we’ve put ourselves in, and responsibilities that we’ve agreed to take on. I find myself in this box quite frequently. As a matter of fact, as I was getting out of bed this morning to write this post I came to the realization that in making a promise to myself to write a post every Monday morning, I had unconsciously put myself in yet another box!

I’m sure that there are many more boxes that I’ve failed to mention. You can probably relate in some way to all of those that I’ve listed, and even add to that list. Like I mentioned earlier, what I was trying to do was set the table for the next box that I want to talk about, and it’s definitely my favorite. It is….

The God box.

I know, I know, that term sounds almost sacrilegious, doesn’t it? I could’ve called it “the religion box”, because it does contain religion, or what I consider my faith to be as it pertains to religion. But that’s the thing.

It’s not about religion at all. It’s about God. And yes, there is a difference between religion and God, just as there is a difference between religion and spirituality.

You see, I spent years in the God box. In this box with me was everything that I’d learned in twelve years of religion class, in a church that was steeped in tradition. I knew what I should do, and what I shouldn’t do, and when I should do it, and when I shouldn’t.

I didn’t know the Bible, but I knew what was in it. I knew about Adam and Eve, their fall from grace, and that Jesus came to restore that grace. I knew right from wrong. I knew the Ten Commandments. I could recite the Lord’s Prayer frontwards and backwards.

I knew what faith was because it was taught to me. Got a problem? Pray to God. Need something? Go see God. Want a miracle? Get on your knees. Want to go to heaven? Be a good boy.

Do you get what I’m saying here? I knew all the right stuff. And I knew most of the answers to most of the questions.

Questions.

I want to ask you a few questions….

Do you believe that you can have a real relationship with a living God?

Do you believe that God is all-forgiving; that there is nothing that you can’t be forgiven for?

Do you believe that God will provide you with everything you need?

Do you feel the Joy of God’s presence in your life every day?

Do you look forward to going to church, or do you attend out of obligation or fear?

Do you believe that with God, all things are possible?

There’s so many more questions that I could pose to you right now. Here’s the thing: If you can’t truthfully answer yes to all of those questions, there’s something missing in your relationship with God. Believe me, I’ve been there, done that, and walked that walk for too many years.

Get out of the box!

Do whatever you have to do!

Work towards having a relationship with God. Go after Him every day! Invite Him into your life!

Talk to him, just as you would your father. Don’t be afraid to ask Him questions, or to share what’s on your heart with Him. Don’t you think that He already knows what’s on your mind?

Believe that He is a mighty God, and that He wants to do mighty things in your life.

You want to know all there is about God, and who He is, and His plan for us? Look in the Bible. Everything else, and I mean everything else, that you’ve been taught about God or religion, or what you should or shouldn’t do, are things written by men for men.

Try a different church. It’ll be scary, but you’ll get over it. You never know what you may find.

Get out of your religion box. It won’t be easy. It’s hard to set aside certain things that have been ingrained in our minds since we were children. Ask God for his help in allowing you to see, think, and feel what’s most important to Him, and what will become most important to you.

When you do get out of that box, and it’s both my prayer and belief that you will, you’re gonna realize something that has eluded you for years: God will be there with you in all those other boxes, helping you in all of them.

Oh, and there’s one more thing that you’ll discover, and it’s the best one of all…

God is not in that box at all. He’s in your heart.

See you next week.

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 06/14/2010 at 7:58 AM | Categories:

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