The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: January 2011

Jeanette

Two weeks ago my wife Jackie and I, along with two other stylists from our salon, flew to Las Vegas for Symposium, a salon industry event attended by hair stylists and salon owners from around the world. (Don’t let the location, or any preconceived notions that you may have about the salon industry fool you. Symposium is a first-rate, no-expense-spared, professional event packed with two days of some of the best educational programs, artists, and educators in the world.)

The night before we left, Jackie and I were having a conversation about why we taking the time off and spending the money to go at all. Neither of us was really excited about the trip. I think more than anything else, it was the opportunity to catch up with many friends from various parts of the country that we hadn’t seen in a long time.

During the flight the next day, I was listening to worship music on my iPod and wondering what the weekend had in store for us. I remember asking God if there was something that He had in store for me other than what I was expecting, because He has a habit of doing that.

Grand Opening

The Grand Opening of Symposium was a spectacle of lights, pulsating music, and visual effects that set the tone of the weekend for the thousands in attendance. The charge of electricity coursing through the arena was palpable; I couldn’t help but get caught up in it, as did everyone sitting around us.

At one point in the program, a handful of salons were recognized for various awards. As the salon owners were being introduced to the audience for their respective awards, Shawna, one of our stylists that made the trip with us, asked “Why can’t we win one of those awards?”

Shawna’s question was like a punch in the gut. I sat there thinking about the fact that just a few years ago, our salon had been on the list of those that were being nominated for awards. Our meteoric rise to success with Redken had caught the attention of people throughout the corporation. In some circles, we were the “talk of the town”, as they say. But that was before…

God called.

When God first called on me to serve Him in 2007, I’ll admit that I resisted His call. You see, our still relatively new salon was something that I’d always dreamed of owning; a dream that I believed would never come true.

We had only been open for thirteen months when He began tugging on my heart. I loved God, and I loved sharing His message with others, but I loved our salon as well. And I actually tried to convince myself that I could serve Him and our salon with all that was in me. Quite honestly, I believe that I did a fairly decent job of serving both equally for quite a while. But I have to tell you that it was a real tug of war. And it wreaked havoc with any semblance of peace of mind that I had. It became obvious to me that the adage “You can’t serve two masters” is a true nugget of wisdom. I’m guessing that it’s obvious to you that God won the tug of war and I’m so grateful that He did, and that He didn’t give up on me.

The next morning Jackie and I were talking about the previous night, and Shawna’s question. At some point in our conversation Jackie looked at me and said, “Why can’t we win one of those awards? What’s missing?”

“The answer is simple.” I replied. “The truth is that one of our salon’s owners isn’t as dedicated to its success as he used to be. He’d rather serve God than chase dollars and awards. I’m sorry.”

Fighting back tears, and stepping up to me, Jackie said, “I’m so proud of you for how much you’ve changed, and who you’ve become, and what you do.” For the next few moments we just stood there and held on to each other. I knew that I didn’t have to be sorry. But…

The tug of war was on again.

For the next two days I toyed with the idea of once again trying to serve God and our salon with equal fervor. I figured that I had done it before with a moderate amount of success, so why shouldn’t I be able to do it again?

There was something growing in me that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. It was envy, and it was rearing its ugly head. I would speak to other very successful salon owners, and wonder “They’re good people. Why can’t I have what they have?”

The next thing I knew, “sugar-plum fairies” disguised as dollar bills were dancing in my head! I wanted the sweet taste of financial success, and all that came with it. I was calculating ways in which I could allot my time so that I might be all that I should be for God, my family, my church, my ministry (At the urging of several friends I’ve accepted the fact that The Seed of Hope, the prayer room in our hair salon, and my efforts to share God’s love with others has evolved into a ministry.), and our salon. I mean, serving God didn’t have to be the center of my life, did it? After all, we’re fifty-eight years old and are nowhere near having enough money to retire on and live comfortably. I kept telling myself that “I’m just gonna have to change what I do, and when I do it. God will understand. This tug of war is over.”

God was listening.

It was the last night of our stay in Vegas, and we decided to have dinner at a restaurant that was farther than we cared to walk from our hotel. We hailed a taxi, and when it pulled up, Jackie, Shawna, and Katie (the fourth member of our party) piled into the back seat. I took a seat in the front with the driver.

The first thing I noticed was that our cabbie was a woman. (I mention this only because I’ve never had a female taxi driver.) The next thing was that she had long dark hair, a dark complexion, and an accent that sounded as if she were from the Middle East. She was wearing a big smile. And she liked to talk. Her name was Jeanette.

After answering Jeanette’s questions about where we were from, what we did for a living, what brought us to Las Vegas, and how we were enjoying our trip, she turned to me and asked, “So, how are you doing?”

My usual response is “I’m awesome!” and that’s almost what I said. But I didn’t. Something told me not to. Instead, I replied “I’m blessed. God gave me another day.”

“You’re right!” Jeanette replied. “And so many people take that for granted.”

Wondering where this was going, I asked, “So where are you from, Jeanette?”

I was a little disappointed when she answered “Iran.” I just knew that this was gonna be one of those“God-appointed moments,” but I apparently I was wrong. Several seconds passed when Jeanette added, “But I’m a Christian.”

BAM! The real conversation began. The next five minutes were filled with Jeanette and me cramming in as much about God, and spirituality, and life as we could in the short time that we had together. It was amazing. What were the odds of a salon owner from Alabama with God in his heart getting into a taxi driven by a Christian from Iran, in Las Vegas?

Knowing that our time was coming to an end, and reaching for my card holder, I asked Jeanette if she got on the Internet. She told me that she had a computer, but that she didn’t really have the time. Undaunted, I handed her a Seed of Hope card, told her what it was about, and suggested that she take the time to check it out.

“Oh my God. Oh my God. This…this is wonderful, what you’re doing. Oh my God.” Jeanette said while fighting back tears. To this day, I still don’t know what it was that touched Jeanette so deeply. Perhaps it was a confirmation from God for a prayer that she’d been saying. Perhaps there was a sorrow in her heart that was that was awakened in our conversation. I just didn’t know, and I never had the opportunity ask. All too quickly, we had arrived at our destination.

When we got out of the taxi, Jeanette walked around and hugged each one of us, beginning with Jackie and ending with me. As I held her in my arms I whispered softly in her ear “You know that God put us together for a reason. I don’t know the reason for your tears, but God will take care of anything, if you’ll let Him.” I gave her a kiss on the cheek as we stepped away from one another. Waving goodbye and bidding us well, Jeanette got into her taxi and drove off into the night.

I still don’t know why God put me in Jeanette’s path, but I’m sure that she does. I do know why He put her in my path. He was reminding me that sharing His love with others fills my heart with more joy and satisfaction than all the money in the world.

He won the tug of war. I’m back in the salon, sitting in our prayer room, sharing what’s on my heart with you. He’s at the center of my life. He gets priority over the salon; today, tomorrow, and all the days that are to come. Next are Jackie and our family, followed by my ministry, and a group of young adults in our church that mean the world to me. The salon gets what’s left. We’ll be as successful as He wants us to be.

No more tug of war.

Thanks, Jeanette.

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 01/28/2011 at 3:38 PM | Categories: Life -

Surrender

I was amazed at the amount of feedback that I received from last week’s post, Struggling. It seems that so many of us are struggling with various issues, and the many responses only served to validate my belief that life is filled with challenges, or struggles, for the majority of us.

To be honest with you, I almost felt ashamed that I was only referring to my struggles in coming up with a thought to share with you. Apparently, the very mention of the word struggling was enough to hit home with many of you.

Why do we struggle?

Why is it that we struggle with so many things, especially those things that involve our minds? We struggle with decisions in doing the right thing, in saying the right thing, in well, in making decisions.

It is this man’s humble opinion that our mental struggles are born from fear. Yes, fear.

We struggle with our decisions because we’re afraid of making the wrong ones. Many of us are so plagued by the “what ifs” in our lives that we create a neat little stack of them,  only to realize that in no time that little stack has become a mountain.

Some of us only have one fear, yet that one is enough to wreck our lives. That one fear is bigger than we realize, and it quite often comes disguised as something else….

I was having lunch with a good friend last week, and while the food was good, the conversation and fellowship was even better. (I think it’s worth mentioning here that if you don’t have a friend with which you can share what’s on your heart, especially the tough stuff, then you need to go find one!)

My friend had picked me up for lunch, and our conversation continued as he was driving me back to my business. At some point, he said, “You know, Sam, I’ve always been a good provider for my wife and for my family, and I take a lot of pride in that. But it’s also the one thing that I worry about; a LOT. So much so, that I don’t sleep that well.”

I suggested that He surrender to God.

He replied, “I do! I give it to Him every morning. I ask Him to take it off of me, because I don’t want it any more. I do it all the time.”

I looked at my friend and said, “You don’t get what I’m saying. I understand that you’re giving Him this problem. I believe that you’re really asking Him to take it, that you’re really asking for help. And that’s a good thing. What I’m suggesting is that you not only give this problem to Him, but that you give your life to Him. Surrender your life to God. All of it.”

Surrender

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word surrender? Giving up? Quitting? Losing everything? Being defeated? Freedom lost? How about humiliation?

What if I challenged you, right here and right now, to surrender your life to God? I’m gonna guess that fear of losing control would be your next thought. And then you’d think about what you’d have to give up, what you’d have to surrender to give your life to God. So would you do it? Would you give control of your life to Him? Would you surrender?

Here’s the thing. How can I best say this?

Surrendering your life to God is, in and of itself, a paradox. It just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense that when you surrender your life to God, whatever you’re afraid of losing will pale in comparison to what you’re gonna gain. You see, when it comes to God, the moment that you truly surrender is the moment that find freedom.

I’ll say it again. In fact, I’ll shout it out loud.

When you surrender your life to God, you find freedom.

Freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from the opinions of others. Freedom from sin. Freedom.

Oh, it doesn’t come all at once. Be patient and persistent. Offer your life to God every day. Every day. Don’t lose hope. It does come. And when it does, you’re gonna find yourself walking with something else; the strength of the Holy Spirit. When that strength joins forces with your new found freedom, look out!

I was talking to a lady just the other day about this surrender issue. This poor woman had so much resentment and anger in her heart for her ex-husband. They had been divorced for years, yet her bitterness towards him was so strong that it was palpable.

I shared with her a few tidbits about my first marriage, not in casting blame, but in describing the relationship itself, which quite simply, wasn’t a very healthy one. When I finished she asked me how I felt about my ex-wife, and I simply replied that I had no hard feeling towards her, and that I in fact pray for her quite often. When she asked me how I got to that point, I simply said, “I surrendered.”

Not bothering to wait for the question that I knew was going to come next, I continued, “I don’t have any resentment on my heart for her because I won’t allow resentment to dwell in my heart. The same can be said for anger, or prejudice, or hatred, or lust, or anything that will stand between me and my relationship with God. I just won’t allow it. I refuse to harbor anything in my heart that is not of the Lord.”

“How do you get to that point?” she asked.

Prayer.

Prayers are so powerful. If, while in prayer, you ask the Lord to give you the strength and the willingness to surrender, He will answer you. Don’t you think that He wants you to be closer to Him, that He wants you to walk the way of His Son? He’ll, answer, but not before you, and your heart, are ready. Just keep asking.

Be prayerful. Be persistent. Be patient. He’ll answer.

I want to share a prayer with you. Actually, it’s more of an affirmation, and it’s taken from the Bible in Romans 6:12-14. I’ve actually “tweaked” the passage by making myself a part of the reading.

I will not let sin control the way I live; I will not give in to its lustful desires. I will not let any part of my body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, I give myself completely to God since I have been given a new life. I will use my whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin in no longer my master, for I am no longer subject to the law, which enslaves me to sin. Instead, I am freed by God’s grace. Amen.

It’s not so much the prayer that’s important here, as is the fact that I can say it with conviction, with the knowing that I believe every word of it. It represents a facet of who I am, and the way I choose to try live my life.

It is freedom, and it’s the direct result of surrender.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 01/21/2011 at 7:31 AM | Categories: Faith -

Struggling

Today I find myself struggling. You see, today is a day that I’ve feared coming for a long time. Today, I’ve run out of things to say. I’ve been waiting all week long for God to give me something, for Him to drop a nugget of inspiration in my mind that I can share with you. Obviously, I’m still waiting.

So why am I writing at all? I don’t know. I guess I’m hoping and praying that if I make the effort to write, that God will answer my prayer as I go.

What’s the big deal? After all, it’s not that I have to write a post this week. I’m not under contract to do so. Any writing deadlines that I have are self-imposed. I’m not gonna lose any money, because this site doesn’t generate money. I can’t get fired because, well because writing isn’t what I do for a living. So, if I miss a week, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that The Seed of Hope is one of my passions. It’s on my top five list of things that I am absolutely, wholeheartedly, and unquestioningly devoted to doing in life.

Passion

Three of the definitions of passion offered by Merriam-Webster are:

          a: ardent affection: LOVE

          b: a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept

          c: EMOTION: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction 

I’ve written many times, and I hope that it’s obvious to those who know me, that I have a passion for God. I can never get enough of Him in my life. My appetite for Him is insatiable. The more I feel His presence, the more I desire His presence. The more I know of Him, the more I want to know of Him. The more that He lifts me up, the higher I want to be lifted.

I, quite simply, have an obsession for God. Nothing that He has helped me to walk away from, not alcohol, or cigarettes, or pot, or cocaine, or the feelings that I got from all of them combined can come close to the unbelievable high that I get from being with the Lord. Nothing.

Passion

Funny thing about passion. It’s not something that you ask for, but something that you wake up with one morning, something that was probably there for who-knows-how-long, perhaps all your life, laying dormant in the recesses of your mind, waiting for just the right moment to boldly, audaciously, and unceremoniously announced its presence in your life.

Passion will not leave you alone. It will not let you rest. It will not let you deny its existence. It won’t even let you forget that it exists. It doesn’t even have to make sense. All it has to do is say “Hey. I’m here.”

As I’ve been sitting here praying, and asking, and waiting for God to lay something on my heart to write about, I’ve come to realize that I have a passion for The Seed of Hope. Oh, the passion doesn’t run as deep as it does for God, but it runs deep; real deep. Deeper than I even knew.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because The Seed of Hope is all about God. Perhaps it’s because I know that my writing is a gift from God. Perhaps it’s because in my humble attempts to plant a seed of hope in you, I find that I’m nurturing the one that God planted in me. Perhaps it’s because God has answered a burning desire that I’ve always had since I was a kid to make a difference in the world; not a huge difference, or a big difference, but just a difference.

Perhaps it was part of God’s plan for me to gripe about sitting in front of this laptop for hours on end. I’d search my heart and my mind for things to say, and then spend even more time trying to convey not just my experiences, but the emotion that went with them. There were things that I really didn’t want to reveal about myself because they were embarrassing, or painful to write about. Perhaps it was part of the plan for me to just take for granted that He’d always give me something to write about, and then to realize that, just like everything else in life, what we receive from Him is a gift.  

The Seed of Hope is one of my passions, and I’ve come to realize that it also falls into the category of what I call…

Joyful Burdens

Would you agree that life is full of burdens? It seems to me that our burdens begin the moment that we step into our classrooms in the first grade. We have to answer to an authority, and it’s not our parents. We have to get up every morning for school. We have homework. Quite often, we’re held more accountable for our actions in school than we are at home. Life begins. Real life. Life with obligations. Life with burdens.

Wouldn’t you agree that the older we get, the bigger those burdens become? With each passing year, the list of burdens that’s heaped upon us grows longer and longer. Well, there are educations, jobs, marriage, children, mortgages, and insurance. Oh, did I forget to mention food? And then there’s the financial responsibility that comes… I think you get the point, right? Burdens.

I like to break my burdens out into three categories.

The first of the three is necessary burdens, like careers, housing, and bills. I mean, we have to live, right? There are no options when it comes to necessary burdens. I’ll even include education on this list, because quite often our level of income is relative to the education that we’ve received.

Next, are joyless burdens. For many of us, joyless burdens would include things that we don’t have to do, but choose to do. Things like making up a bed each morning, or keeping a house clean, or working on an ever-growing waistline! These are things that we do, not out of necessity, but because we hold ourselves accountable for who we are, what we are, what we do, and how we do it. It’s worth mentioning here that more often than not the end result of performing the joy-less burdens is satisfaction.

Last, but not least, is my favorite burden, which I like to call joyful burdens. Joyful burdens are those that we willingly take on in our lives, even though they are at times quite heavy. Joyful burdens include, but aren’t limited to, marriages, children, and pets. (Sorry pet lovers, but I had to include that one! In my defense, we have two dogs, so take no offense.)

The point that I’m trying to make here is that if you have experienced any of the joyful burdens that I’ve listed, you can relate, right? For example, raising our two sons Brian and Christian gave me more headaches than I’d care to remember, but there are few things in this world that have put more joy in my heart than my sons; I couldn’t imagine my life without either of them.

Being a Christian is certainly a joyful burden, but that’s a topic best saved for another day.

Just like serving the Lord, The Seed of Hope is one of my joyful burdens. Finding time to write each week may present a challenge, and I may indeed gripe about it once in awhile, but the thought of it coming to an end was really sobering for me. It’s not something that I want to put down, and I hope that God is reading this, because I treasure it and don’t want Him to take this gift away.

Why not?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Seed of Hope is not about Sam Maniscalco; it’s about God. It’s about the Holy Spirit. It’s about Jesus. It’s not about what I write; it’s about what He puts on my mind and in my heart. It’s that prayerfully, and hopefully, God is using me to make a difference in your life.

And sometimes I struggle.

God willing, I’ll “see” you next week.      

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 01/14/2011 at 2:59 PM | Categories: Life -

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