Viewing by month: August 2010
War and Peace
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14
I’ll go ahead and tell you that this week’s post is in some ways a continuation of last week’s, Working Through an Issue.
I’ve been in the midst of a battle, a war, and it’s one that I’ve been in since we opened a prayer room, The Seed of Hope room, in our hair salon a few months ago. There has been nothing but confusion and chaos in the salon since that time. It has weighed on my mind so heavily this week that today’s post was gonna be an announcement that The Seed of Hope was finished for a while. I’m tired of writing about (and you’re probably tired of reading about) my trials and tribulations. Yet I press on, because I believe that for whatever reason, it’s what God has called me to do.
When my wife Jackie agreed with my proposal to add the prayer room, we knew that we’d be met with spiritual resistance. We figured that Satan wouldn’t be very happy about a prayer room being built in the middle of a business, and in an industry that most people consider to be, well, “not very high in moral standards.”
What we didn’t plan on was the amount of resistance that we’d face. Gossip. Lies. Deception. Theft. Unrest. It’s been non-stop; there’s been one thing after the other. So much so that during a recent twenty-one day period of corporate prayer at Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham, my petition to God for our business wasn’t for prosperity, but for His Peace.
My petitions…my pleas to Him for peace in our salon have been answered in part, but we still have a ways to go. I believe that there’s something that I have yet to learn, and the lesson isn’t about the actions of other people, but about my reaction to their actions. I also believe that the key to the peace that I so desperately want for our team is hidden away in that lesson.
Curiously enough, the battle that I’ve been in these past few weeks has been, not against others, but against me. It has been an epic battle of Me vs. Me.
There’s the Christian in me, which tells me to forgive those who may have offended me. I look back on all the times that God has forgiven me for things that I’ve done that just weren’t right, and know that I must forgive others. I think about what Jesus endured so that we all may forgiven, and know that I must forgive others. I can’t recount the number of times that I’ve recited The Lord’s Prayer, the first prayer that I learned as a child and the one that is probably the best-known prayer in Christianity. It reads And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. What I’m saying is that as a God-fearing, seeking-His-face, trying-to-walk-the-way-of-Jesus Christian, I know that I must find forgiveness in my heart for others.
Then there’s the “other” side of me, the one that’s just a man, and nothing more. I want to return hurt when I’ve been hurt, lash out in anger when I’m mad, and get even! And quite simply, I’m tired of the crap. I go out of my way not to offend anyone.
Why can’t I get the same in return?
I didn’t know how to let you know that I was interrupting the flow of this post, which is exactly what I’m doing!
I just took a look at my last statement, Why can’t I get the same in return?
Sounds kind of self-centered, doesn’t it? As a matter of fact, I’m a bit ashamed that I actually wrote it. You see, I’d like to think that I’m an exemplary Christian, that I never do anything wrong, and that I never offend anyone. It’s always my intent to aim for perfection in thought, word, and deed each and every day.
Be that as it may, I’m sure that there are many days that I fall short of those intentions. I think that many of us have a tendency to think that there’s a “severity of the offense” exemption that applies to us in the way that we treat others. For example, that going back on our word isn’t as bad as lying, or that wishing ill upon a person isn’t as bad as hitting them, or that completely ignoring a down-and-out person is somehow more justifiable than offering them help.
Yeah, there are days when I fall short….
Back to the original subject…
Okay, so here’s the deal: I’ve been in a war for several weeks, and my enemy has been me. And you know what?
Though there seems to be no end in sight, I’m gonna win this war.
You see, I’ve known for quite some time now that I can’t change people, and that I can neither control nor be responsible for what they think, say, or do. That’s a battle that knows no end.
I can however control the way that I react to the actions of other people, and I believe that the key to that control lies in keeping God in my heart at all times. That’s how I’m gonna win this war.
How can I sound so sure that I’m gonna win?
You see, I’ve already made a lot of progress. I’ve come to realize during these past few weeks of chaos that there has been something in me that has been absent in previous battles during my first fifty-six years; God’s Peace. That peace has allowed me to remain calm through the storm that’s been raging around me. I believe with all that’s in me that if I remain still, as we’re instructed to do in Exodus, that the Lord will not only fight for me, but fill me with His Peace.
I want to leave you with a verse from a song, I Will Rise, that’s written and performed by Chris Tomlin:
There’s a peace I’ve come to know, though my heart and flesh may fail; there’s an anchor for my soul; I can sing, It is well.
May God’s Peace be with you and in your heart.
See you next week.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/31/2010 at 11:33 AM | Categories:
Working Through an Issue
A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with Andy, a friend and customer, about faith in the workplace. Our discussion was taking place in the midst of my workplace, which is the hair salon that my wife Jackie and I own and operate, and it came on the heels of a tour that I had given Andy of our recently completed expansion.
At one point in our conversation, Andy told me that he’d like to be as open as I am about God, and my faith, but he just couldn’t do it. When I pressed him for a reason as to why he couldn’t, he looked straight into my eyes and said “Because you’re a blatant Christian, Sam. You share your faith and love for God, wherever you are, with no fear of the consequences.”
For a brief moment I almost took offense to Andy’s remark, because the term blatant is most always associated with offensive behavior. But just as quickly I realized that Andy was paying me a compliment. Brazen, bold, or outspoken may have been more fitting descriptions about my sharing of God’s goodness, but I’d certainly accept blatant.
I’m certainly not bashful when it comes to sharing my love of God and my beliefs with others, no matter where, no matter when.
To be honest with you, it’s my openness and transparency about what I believe and who I am that is prompting this post.
I’m a Christian…
a blatant Christian, according to my friend Andy. I share my heart with people because, well because I love ‘em, and because that’s what Christians are supposed to do. I share my love for God with people, because that’s what I’m supposed to do, as in “being a light that shines” for Him.
Look, before I continue I’ve gotta tell you that I’m working through a couple of issues right now, and they have to do with being a Christian. Well, what I’m struggling with is the result of being a blatant Christian, and I have to get through this, and I guess that if you hang around, you’re gonna work through it with me.
And I’m gonna tell you a couple of things right up front. First of all, I’m not looking for pity. I don’t own a “pity pot” for you to sit on with me, and I certainly don’t want one. Secondly, if it seems as though I’m frustrated, it’s because I am, and it’s been building up in me for weeks.
And apparently it’s part of God’s plan for me to share this with you because I can’t find a way over, under, or around it! Today’s post was gonna be For Him, and it’s 80% complete, and it’s really good, but for the life of me I couldn’t finish it because this is in the way…
Yep, I’m a blatant Christian.
I wouldn’t be anything else.
Sometimes I wonder if being an open book Christian is an invitation for others to treat me in whatever manner they see fit. Does it give them license to lie to me, or to steal from me, or to take advantage of my giving nature? And why is it seemingly so easy for some to renege on a spoken agreement? Is it because I’m a Christian, and that makes everything okay? Do they think that I won’t mind?
Well, it doesn’t make it okay, and I do mind, and that in itself is giving me problems for reasons other than the most obvious ones.
Everyone is looking.
And they’re waiting to see what my reaction to certain situations is gonna be. I think that some are waiting for me to show that I’m not the Christian that I say I am, that this thing about God is just a sham. Perhaps they find it hard to believe that a man can be born again and completely devote his life to God. Perhaps they’re just waiting for that one last thing that pushes me over the edge, the one that makes me show my true colors.
Well guess what?
These are my true colors. Oh sure, I get hurt. And I get frustrated. And I wish that these things wouldn’t happen, but they do. And when they do, I can only turn to God and to prayer.
You see, it’s the blatant Christian in me that will not allow me to get angry, or to seek vengeance, or try to get even. I just can’t do that.
I’ve actually come to a point in my life that I actually pray for those who’ve offended me. This is due, partly in fact to who I am, and partly because of the man that I used to be. The “old me” was short-tempered, vindictive, greedy, and very angry. I cannot go back to being that man. Besides, I’m so filled with God’s love and presence that there’s no room for that man.
Yep, I’m a blatant Christian.
And I’m just a regular guy. I suspect that I’m gonna struggle with this in the future. I’m not foolish enough to think that it’s gonna go away because I’ve written about it today. And I’m quite sure that I’m not gonna change who I am, what I do, or how I do it.
This afternoon I was sharing my frustration with Brooke, a young ministry student visiting from Minnesota who will spend the next ten months living in our home. Sensing the anguish that was on my heart, Brooke suggested that I read the following verse from the Bible.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:18-20
What a perfect verse for me today. Thank you, Brooke, for your wisdom, and for your caring.
I leave you with one final verse. I don’t know that it “fits” here, but I’m gonna include it because it always gives me comfort and strength when there is seemingly none to be found.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary,
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not grow faint. Isaiah 40:28-31
Amen and Amen.
See you next week.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/23/2010 at 10:16 PM | Categories:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3
These two Bible verses are, without a doubt, among my favorites. It’s funny that of all the verses, and of all the subjects that are covered in the written Word, two of my favorites have to do with plans.
But that’s where the similarities end. You see, the book of Jeremiah reveals God’s plans for us, whereas Proverbs addresses our plans.
“…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
What a powerful statement this is. It reveals God’s intentions for me. For you. For all of us. When we can truly wrap our minds around this message that’s meant for us, and believe in it, our faith in God changes. Our relationship with Him changes. And our lives change.
One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was “Live for today.” He would always say that, especially if he and my Mom, or he and I, were in a heated exchange about life, finances, personal challenges, or anything beyond that moment in time. I think that he believed in what he was saying; to a degree. But I also think that he used it as a cop-out, as if to say “Okay, I’ve made my proclamation, so that’s the end of this discussion. Let’s move on to something else.” To be honest with you, it used to irritate me to no end. You can’t just end a discussion by uttering some self-proclaimed nugget of wisdom and then move on the next topic. Well, I guess you can, because he did it all the time, and got away with it!
Still, it bothered me, because my Dad did indeed live for today, but he also planned for tomorrow. And don’t we all? It’s why we have all kinds of insurance, and retirement accounts, and day planners. We plan for tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. It’s part of our nature to do so. In fact, it’s that planning that gives birth to hope. Have you ever noticed that on this site, The Seed of Hope is followed by A Gift for Tomorrow?
It’s easy for us to believe that God has the perfect plan for us when things are good. If we’re blessed with good health, and prosperity, and good times, we know that God’s plan for us is just right! And we trust in Him completely.
It’s when the worm turns, or the wind changes direction, or things head south, that we begin to question not only God’s plan for us, but also His love. We want to cry out “How can You love me God, and let this happen to me?”
I think the reason for the verse from Jeremiah being so meaningful to me is that when I accepted it as the truth, my faith in God hit a new level. I feel that, for me anyway, the absolute belief that God has my best interest and welfare in mind all the time was a HUGE turning point for me. It allowed me to change the way that I live my life.
I no longer walk in fear.
Strong statement. True statement. You see, I believe, without a doubt, that God has the perfect plan for me.
Look, since I was born again four years ago, and committed my life to Christ, life hasn’t always been a bed of roses. Life, in and of itself, isn’t easy. And as you may have figured out already, life as a Christian may be even harder.
But I have to tell you, even with the rough stuff, God’s plan for me has been so much better than any plan that I may have devised for myself. I couldn’t have imagined the changes that have taken place in and around me, and the blessings that would come with those changes.
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
Okay, so like you, I plan for tomorrow. But what are my real plans?
Well, I plan on being the best that I can be in everything that I do. I plan on being as good a Christian as I can possibly be. I plan on dedicating every day of my life to God. I plan on being, not just a light, but a beacon of light that shines for Him. I plan on running through every door that He opens for me to reach others. I plan on sharing the good news of God, and what He’s done in my life, with all who will give me an ear.
And when my time on this earth is up, and it’s time for me to stand before my Father, I plan on hearing Him say,
“Well done, good and faithful servant!…Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21
See you next week!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/17/2010 at 10:43 AM | Categories:
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