Viewing by month: September 2010
For You and You alone
Awake my soul, awake my soul and sing
For the world You love
Your will be done, let Your will be done in me
In Your presence, in Your power
For this moment, for this hour
Like the rising sun that shines
From the darkness comes a light
I hear Your voice and this is my
Awakening ©Chris Tomlin
Yesterday was my fifty-eighth birthday. Fifty-eight. Wow. It seems like it was only couple of years ago that my wife Jackie threw a surprise Fiftieth Birthday Party for me. Yet it seems like it was a lifetime ago. Come to think of it, everything that came before my spiritual awakening a few years ago seems like a lifetime ago. Perhaps that’s because I was a different man, living a different life.
I hadn’t been born again eight years ago, when Jackie surprised me with that gathering of my family and close friends. I didn’t know God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit back then. Oh, I knew who they were, but I certainly didn’t know them, didn’t know them at all. I didn’t know how very different my life could be, how different it would be, with God at the center of my universe.
I spent the better part of the yesterday reflecting on many of the days, weeks, and months, that were the components of my first fifty-eight years. I revisited many of the “Kodak Moments” that have been burned indelibly into my mind’s eye. Most of them were good, but of course, many of them were painful to recall.
I found myself reflecting on the two lives that I’ve lived. My first life obviously began with my birth, on September 27, 1952. My second life began on August 9, 2006, which was the day that I committed my life to being a soldier of Christ.
It was during my reflections on my second life that I found myself completely overwhelmed by God’s presence, and by what He has done in me, and with me, since that day in August. Each time that I made an attempt to write this post, I was overcome with emotions, not because of the way my life used to be, but because of the life that I’m living today. I’m not too proud to tell you that I spent most of the day in tears, overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s goodness, and overwhelmed with my life.
My awakening began, not on the day that I was born again in August of 2006, but one year earlier, in August of 2005. God had given me the courage to make some major changes in our lives (See A Seed was Planted on the home page), and Jackie had graciously agreed to go along with my plans.
At the time, I didn’t realize that my courage was a gift from God. I figured that my commitment to change was the result having been miserable in our business for sixteen years, and that my actions were the direct result of years of desperation and a life with no hope for a better tomorrow. I didn’t know where my newly found bravery came from, but I was glad to have it.
During the course of the next few months I became increasingly aware of the fact that God was the source of my courage, and of my strength, and that He had been all along. It had been God, and not Sam Maniscalco, that had gotten me through alcohol, and cocaine, and smoking, and a broken marriage. I had never given Him the credit for what He’d carried me through. What’s worse was that I’d never really thanked Him for it.
My prayers took on a new purpose. No longer was I praying to God simply for Him to supply me with my needs. I found myself offering prayers of gratitude for all that He’d done. And I found myself inviting Him into not only my heart, but into my life. And that’s all it took. I gave Him (this) much space in my heart, and He moved in.
It’s kind of funny, the way that He worked in me. No sooner had I come to the realization that He was my provider that was I filled with both the desire and the courage to share the news with anyone who would listen!
Looking back on it now, I realize that by the time that I was born again several months later, I was already on fire for God. I couldn’t know enough about Him, or get enough of Him, or feel enough of His presence. Still can’t. I pray that I never will, or that I’ll ever want to.
Yesterday I received a call from Susie, a dear friend, an amazing Christian woman, and fellow blogger. Susie was calling to extend birthday greetings and to get “caught up” (it had been a while since we’d spoken).
Well, wouldn’t you just know it? I started bawling right in the middle of our conversation! I tried to explain to Susie that I was crying, not because something was wrong, but because everything was so right! I also informed her of my futile attempts to get beyond my tears and emotions so that I might write this post. Through my tears, I laughingly told Susie that while I had an idea of what I wanted to write about, I didn’t know how to express what I wanted to say. I mean, how do you write something meaningful about being overcome with emotion? I remember saying to Susie, “I don’t know if I’m writing this one for everyone else, or just for me.”
We ended our chat, and as I hung up the phone I thought about the selfishness and self-centeredness of the statement that I’d made to Susie. I actually regretted having said it.
You see, I never write for myself. I write for God. And I write with the hope and prayer that something I share with you will make even a small difference in your life.
I’m gonna close this post with my birthday prayer of gratitude.
Father, I thank You for giving me not only this day, but for blessing me with such an amazing life. I thank You for taking me, a man battered, broken, and without hope, and lifting me up to heights that I never dreamed possible. I thank You for giving me a devoted wife, for surrounding me with an incredible group of family and friends. I thank You for allowing me to serve You, and for giving me the opportunity to share what’s on my heart with others. I thank You for every one of my fifty-eight birthdays, none of which has been better than this one; not because of gifts, or possessions, or anything other than Your overwhelming presence in my life. I thank You for the gifts of Your Spirit, which You supply me with daily. I thank You for my salvation, which was made possible by the gift of Your Son. I thank You for being the amazing, life-giving God that You are. I thank you for loving me. I thank You for allowing me to be.
In Jesus' name I pray. Amen and Amen.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/28/2010 at 11:19 AM | Categories:
Yesterday morning I had the absolute honor of speaking to a group of ministry students at Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham. These amazing young people, ranging in age eighteen to twenty-four, are on fire for God, and many of them will go on to be Christian leaders in churches and private organizations throughout the country, or perhaps the world. It’s always been a blessing for me to be in their presence, and to be given the opportunity to share my heart with them made it even better.
I met with Hayes Kearbey (one of the directors of the program) on Sunday to discuss his expectations for my presentation. Ideally, I would have about forty-five minutes to share my “God story” with them. This would include the first fifty-two years of my life before I was born again, and of course, the amazing things that God has done in my life during the five years since.
Hayes also wanted me to give them a “life-lesson,” that is, something that each of them could use to make their walk with God a little better.
was my initial reaction to Hayes’ request. Of course I didn’t tell him that! I was nodding my head in agreement, but that little voice in the back of my mind was screaming “He wants you to teach them something! He’s asking you to be a teacher! You’re no teacher! Back out now, while you can, you fool!”
Well, I obviously didn’t back out. You see there, was another little voice in the back of my mind, offering me encouragement and assuring me that everything would be okay. “You know that God is gonna give you a message for those kids. He’s given you over a hundred ideas for The Seed of Hope in the last couple of years. Why would you possibly think that you can’t do this, or that you won’t have anything to say? Trust in Him.”
I agreed to be at church the next morning at eight o’clock for thirty minutes of praise and worship. When that was done, I would talk to the group.
I woke up yesterday morning with an uncanny sense of calmness. I knew that everything was gonna be fine, because God had given me this opportunity for a reason. It was part of His plan for me to be in front of the group of young adults, and I was filled with gratitude and peace. And I knew what I was going to say…
I already knew my story of salvation. I’ve shared it more times than I can remember, and though it’s always the same, it’s always a little different. You see, each time that I recount what God has done in my life, I realize some truth, some “nugget,” that I’ve never thought of before. And in doing so, I find yet another reason to be grateful to God.
I also knew my message as a teacher; what I would give to the students to take with them long after my voice fell silent. God had given that to me as well, in epiphanies, in “aha moments,” that I’ve had in the last couple of years. They’re not profound insights. I feel quite sure that someone has previously written or spoken about each of them at some point in time. In fact, I’ve written about each and every one of them at various times on this page, but not as a compilation of what I do each day to stay in touch with God, and to serve Him.
I humbly submit to you six of my personal “nuggets.” I didn’t really plan it this way, but in what has become a Church of The Highlands trademark, each of them begins with the same letter.
· Start your day with God. The very first thing that I do when come to consciousness each morning is thank God for giving me another day. His Name is the first thought that enters my mind every morning.
· Spend time with Him and in His Word. I cannot stress enough the need to spend at least a few minutes a day alone with God in prayer or in meditation. Your outlook on your daily life and on yourself will change if you’ll try this. Also try to spend a few minutes each day reading the Bible. Look, until a few years ago I never read the Bible at all. As a matter of fact, I’d run from the Bible and/or anyone quoting or carrying one. At the suggestion of a very good friend (thanks Annie) I began turning to the Word for guidance, and as source of knowledge about God and His teachings. When the Bible becomes, not just a book, but the living Word of God to you (and it will), everything changes.
· Stand before God in judgment every day. Every day. I don’t care what you may have done wrong. You stand before Him each day, and ask for His forgiveness for your transgressions (if you have any) and your walk with Him will change. You see, something in our past that causes too much shame to face Him becomes a barrier between us and God. Let those sources of shame pile up, and the result is complete estrangement from Him.
· Stay focused on God. He is our ultimate destination. There’s an insurance commercial that touts “Life comes at you fast.” How true is that statement? Life does come at you fast, and it comes with hardships, headaches, and heartbreak. In dealing with life and its “junk” many of us take our eyes off of God. We kind of put Him on the back burner, for just a minute, while we work on our problems. Those minutes turn into days, or weeks, or perhaps even months, and when we look up, God is nowhere to be found. Seek Him every day.
· Submit yourself to God and to His plan for you. I shared my thoughts with you on this subject a few weeks ago, so I won’t go there again. I’ll just say this: God’s plans for us are bigger than our dreams. Trust Him. He has the perfect plan for you.
· Share what’s on your heart with others. This actually applies in two different areas:
I encourage you to share what God had done in your life with someone else. You may question why you should share the good news of God with others. You may think that what you have to share about God in your life doesn’t amount to much, but you have no idea as the number of people in the world that don’t know God at all, much less the provision, and comfort, and strength, and love, and wisdom (must I continue?) that He gives us every day. The question then becomes “How can you not share your knowledge of God and His goodness with others?”
Secondly, I encourage you to share the hurt that may be on your heart with a friend. There’s so much to gained, not only from “unloading” every once in a while, but also from the insights that you may receive from someone else. Many of us are more than mildly surprised to learn that we’re not the only ones with problems, but also that many of us have the very same problems.
There you have it; my six “S” nuggets. They’re all quite simple in nature, but I think that quite often in our quest to become better people, or perhaps I should say better Christians, we have a tendency to overlook the simple things. If you already knew ‘em, I thank you thank for taking the time to visit. If you received at least one nugget from this post, then it’s a blessing received by me.
I pray that you have an amazingly abundant week, filled with God’s grace and goodness!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/21/2010 at 1:55 PM | Categories:
Until a few years ago I was what many may have considered to be the consummate conservative. I was conservative in my political views, in our investments, and in the way I dressed. I was conservative in my ambitions and in setting my goals in life. I was conservative in making life-altering choices. Looking back on it now, I realize that I was even conservative in my faith in God.
I don’t know that I ever made a conscious decision to be a conservative. I just was. Perhaps, like so many of us, I was just a product of my environment. My parents were conservative in most every way, just as were my grandparents. I gravitated towards their way of thinking because it was what I had become accustomed to, and because it felt comfortable. Perhaps, more than anything else, I was conservative because it was safe, and playing it safe greatly reduced my potential for failure, or at least that’s the way that I saw it.
Being conservative meant that every decision that I made in life had to make sense! There had to be a logical reason for everything that I did, regardless of the size or importance of the decision to be made and how it would affect our lives.
If we bought a new car, it was because it made sense to do so (and of course, we made the sensible choice). The same could be said for building a new home, or making business decisions, or deciding where to invest our hard-earned dollars. Everything had to make sense. You get what I’m saying, don’t you? Saying that I played it “close-to-the-vest” was an understatement.
It was five years ago last month that God started working in my life, calling on me to make decisions that made no sense at all…
It made no sense in August of 2005 for me to convince my wife Jackie that we should just “abandon” a profitable hair salon that we’d owned for sixteen years to open a new salon, with a new name, a new phone number, and a new team, thirteen miles away. (It also made no sense that during its first year our new business, Salon M², would grow more quickly than we could ever have imagined, surpassing any and all success we’d had in our old salon.)
It made no sense that in August of 2006, at the not-so-tender age of fifty-three, I would make the outlandish decision to get a cross tattooed on my arm, and then later that night to brazenly declare myself to be “soldier of Christ.”
It made no sense that three months later I would make a commitment to change who I was, what I was, and what I did in life by giving control of my life to God.
It made no sense that in January of 2007, during a business presentation for Redken (a global hair care company), I would openly talk about God and all that He had done in my life.
It made no sense that God became the center of my universe, or that I was consumed with knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him.
It made no sense that a fifty-four year old man who had always run from the Bible would not only begin to read it, but would come to view it as being the living Word of the living God.
It made no sense that in October of 2008, The Seed of Hope would be launched with the intentions of taking the good news of God, and what He had done in my life around the world (I stopped counting when the number of countries topped thirty).
It made no sense that on March 9, 2009, I would walk into the Church of The Highlands, a Christian Non-Denominational church here in Birmingham, with Jackie, and never return to a church of which I had been a part of all my life.
It made no sense when, in August of 2009, I was Baptized again, not as a Catholic, or as a Baptist, or as a Methodist, but quite simply, as a Christian.
It made no sense that during that same month, Jackie and I would, after eight years as “empty-nesters”, open our home to a twenty-seven year old ministry student from North Carolina, and again this August to a young lady from Minnesota.
And finally, it made no sense for us to put a prayer room, The Seed of Hope room, in the middle of our hair salon a couple of months ago, but that’s exactly what we did.
None of the things that I just listed made sense to me at the time, and I’m fairly sure that they didn’t make sense to the people in my life, or to casual observers. But they made sense to God.
I always talk about God’s plans for us, and how His plans are much better than any we may devise for ourselves. My life is a classic example of this point. You see, for God to get me from Point A (where I was in 2005) to Point B (where I am today), I had to do all these things that, for the most part, defied logic, and well, made no sense.
I feel the need to mention something here…
I realize that for the past few weeks the posts have centered more on my struggles than on, let’s say, “lighter” subjects. Life has indeed been a challenge for Jackie and me the last couple of months, to be sure. But there’s one thing that I need to emphasize here…
I have never been happier, or more filled with God’s peace and love than I am today. What I’m trying to say here is that I wouldn’t change a thing, even if I had the opportunity. It’s that good. God is that good.
God is calling you to do something that just doesn’t make sense at all. There may be no logic, or rhyme, or reason behind it, but you know that it’s there. And it won’t go away. Here’s the thing: if it has anything to do with Him, or His people, or His Kingdom, it doesn’t have to make sense to you. The important thing to remember is that it makes sense to Him, and that makes plenty of sense.
I want to leave you with a verse from Matthew 19. It’s short in length, but HUGE in what it implies. It’s not about whether we believe in God, but more about what we believe about God.
26Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Even when it makes no sense.
See you next week.
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/14/2010 at 12:28 PM | Categories:
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