The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: September 2011

...being fifty-nine.

Today is my fifty-ninth birthday. Fifty-nine.

Notice that I didn’t finish the sentence with an exclamation point. That doesn’t mean that I’m not excited about celebrating another birthday.

Notice that I didn’t use a question mark. That’s because I question neither the date of my birth, nor my age.

Notice that I didn’t add a “frowny face” to the end of the statement. That’s because from where I’m standing, being fifty-nine doesn’t look nearly as old as it did when I was twenty-nine, or thirty-nine, or even forty-nine.

My announcement that today is my birthday ended, quite simply, with a period.

Exclamation points (!) are used to convey excitement or a strong feeling about a particular subject. Quite often they’re used to indicate something of significance.

Question marks (?) are used at the end of a sentence to ask a direct question, or in referencing something that’s unknown, uncertain, or unknowable.

Strings of characters (X#@*!?) are often used in comic strips to convey frustration or anger.

Frowny faces (L), as I like to call them, are used to depict sadness or disappointment.

What’s the symbol?

Yesterday I received an early birthday greeting from a dear friend that I’ve known since school days…

Hey Sam,

Hope you enjoy your Birthday! You know that birthdays are a gift from God, so what I possibly give you top that?!? Love you, Mary Jane

 

Mary Jane couldn’t have been more spot-on with her message to me, and I agree with her 100%! (Did you notice that Mary Jane used question marks and an exclamation point to convey her emotions?)  

In my heart, the gift reaches well beyond my birthday. You see, it’s not just birthdays that are gifts from God, but every day that He gives me here on this earth. No, I don’t think that way because I’m fifty-nine. I don’t believe that my days are numbered, or that “the end” is near.

The truth is that I appreciate every day, not only because of where I am, but because of where I’ve been….

Before I began writing this post, I scanned the keyboard on this laptop looking for the symbol for gratitude. The closest thing that I could think of for expressing gratitude is a happy face (J), but it denotes happiness. I was looking for something that, in essence, captures the gratitude that fills my heart each day. No such luck. What I’m left with are, quite fittingly, my thoughts expressed through my words.

Reflections

Aside from going to church and attending a meeting on Sunday, and doing some bookwork yesterday, I spent the last two days listening to worship music and reflecting on the fifty-nine years that preceded today. That’s a lot of territory to cover!

In doing so, I divided my life into the six decades that I’ve been around, and revisited a lot of “Kodak moments” in each of those decades. I won’t bother you with details, but I will tell you that each decade had its share of pride and shame, good and bad decisions, highs and lows, successes and failures, dreams and disappointments, and of course, affairs of the heart that brought love, joy, happiness, hurt, and pain.

Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t trade or change the events of my life in any of those decades. I am the direct result of all that I’ve been through, both good and bad. I’m of the firm belief that God has orchestrated those events, and that He has me right where He wants me!

That being said, I can honestly tell you that none of the previous five decades can hold a candle to the one that I’m in right now. This one is the best. This one is the one where it all came together, where the pieces of the puzzle finally fit. You see, this one is the decade that marked the beginning of my real relationship with a real God.

Without Him, there was never enough happiness, or love, or peace of mind, or money, or possessions, or satisfaction, or any of the things that I never could seem to get enough of. Today, I lack for none of those.

Here’s the thing: I don’t have more money or possessions, but I have enough. I have been blessed with happiness, love, peace of mind, and satisfaction because God’s presence, in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, has changed my perspective in life and filled in all of the gaps.

Gratitude

I’ll close today by summing up my thoughts on this, my 20,454th day of life on this earth…

I’m grateful for my life. I’m grateful for my wife, my family, and my friends. I’m grateful for our business. I’m grateful for my pastor, my church, and my church family. I’m grateful for the things that I get to do to serve God’s Kingdom. I’m grateful that His plans included me. I’m grateful for Jesus and for the sacrifice that He made for you and me. Above all else, I’m grateful for God and His presence in my life. I’m just grateful.

This has indeed been a great, grateful-filled, fifty-ninth birthday.

 

   

  

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/27/2011 at 5:01 PM | Categories: Life - Faith -

Termites

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Have you ever seen a film clip of a pride of lions looking for their next meal? The lions hide in the high grass or behind some other form of cover, stealthily making their way towards their next victim. When the time is just right, the lions burst out of their cover to move in for the kill. Almost always, their attack occurs just about the same time that the prey becomes aware that it’s being stalked by the lions. The chase is on!

More often than not, the final scene shows the helpless victim being taken down and devoured by the hungry lions. After all, other than perhaps an elephant, what animal would stand a chance against a lion?

I can certainly understand likening an attack from the devil to being attacked by a lion. A lion is indeed a powerful and stealthy predator, and it devours its prey, leaving nothing but the bones. The lion, much like Satan, is indeed a deadly and worthy adversary.

Be that as it may, there’s another of God’s creations that I would compare to Satan’s attacks.

Termites

Yes, termites.

Look, if a lion were to sneak up on you and bite you, you’d know it immediately, right? Of course you would!

It’s not that way with termites. Do you know how termites operate? They find the tiniest of openings in the foundation, floors, or exterior walls of a structure. This opening may be the result of a structural weakness, poor construction, or a lack of preventative measures. Unlike the attack by lions, there’s no tall grass or prowling around by the termites. They just search for that one opening, that weak spot, and once it’s found, the assault on the wood begins. Unlike a lion attack, a termite invasion involving not one, but hundreds, if not thousands of termites, often goes unnoticed. By the time that it is discovered, the structure has been weakened, if not totally destroyed.

him.

I have to tell you that I don’t like writing about Satan. You see, I don’t even want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that he has bothered me enough to warrant mentioning him on this site.

Still, there are those times when I’ve just come out of a round of spiritual warfare, and the impact of it on my life has been so intense that I can’t not write about him (if that makes any sense to you). I’ve just come through one of those battles, which lasted just over a week, and as I told my friend Amy Leigh the other day, it’s not so much being in the battle that’s so draining as much as it is the effort to get out of it.

It all began with a personnel problem in our salon a couple of Wednesdays ago. A situation that had been going on for quite some time came to a head, and I was left with no choice but to take action. Look, I’m not a confrontational person, and I when I have to make a tough decision, even if it’s a “no-brainer”, it takes a lot out of me. (A weakness in the foundation. A tiny opening for termites to get in.) In this case, I felt so rotten that I didn’t even want to go to church that night, which we didn’t do. (More termites.) The next day I had mentoring sessions with members of our team that lasted all day long and left me exhausted. (More termites) On Friday I had a very long and emotionally draining conversation with the person that started all the mess. (Termites are pouring in by now)  By day’s end, I was questioning why we were even still in the salon business! Throughout the turn of events, my wife Jackie and I had begun snipping at each other over nothing, which only made matters worse. I don’t know about you, but when I can’t find peace at work, and I can’t find it at home, things just go into a downward spiral. This trend continued throughout the weekend, and actually worsened when we were unable to go to church on Sunday. The “last straw” occurred on Tuesday morning, when I was at a roundtable discussion with a gathering of Christian CEOs and business owners here in Birmingham. I received a text from the salon that our phones weren’t working. Twenty minutes later I was informed that in addition to the phones, the computers had stopped working! In essence, our business was effectively cut off from the rest of the world! Really? After the meeting I went to the salon and got everything working again, but I have to tell you that I was not a happy camper, and I wasn’t bashful when it came to talking to God about it. (The termites were winning the battle.) I made it through the rest of the day, and it was a real struggle for me to keep my composure. In fact, evening came with Jackie and me in yet another disagreement and me wondering not if, but when, the storm was gonna pass.

They always do, you know. Battles end, storms pass, and life returns to some degree of normalcy; but not without a fight. When I’m in one of these “things” I have to pray harder (even thought my prayers feel empty) and look more diligently for opportunities to share my love for God with someone (doing so makes me feel stronger). I have to dig in and stand firm. There’s no other options, cause I’m not going backwards. Besides; I know that God won’t let me get hit with more than I can handle. I just have to be patient.

Or do I?

I was sitting in the kitchen when Brooke, our live-in ministry student, came home at the end of her day. Taking one look at me, and having known what I’d been going through, Brooke asked if we could pray, to which I readily and eagerly agreed. We called Jackie into the kitchen and the three of us sat down for prayer and joined hands.

Brooke went first, and even as I was listening to her prayer, a war was raging in my mind. I was trying to receive the blessings of her prayers, but this little voice in the back of my mind kept screaming at me about what we’d been through during the past week. Brooke’s prayers were being drowned out by the incessant voices in my head, which only served to raise my level of frustration. Termites…

I became aware of the fact that Brooke was no longer praying, and that silence had filled the room. It was my turn to offer prayers. I frantically searched for the place in my heart that would allow me to feel God’s presence and peace. It didn’t work. War was still raging within.

Increasing my grip on Jackie and Brooke’s hands, I called on everything in me to summon up a prayer. What came out wasn’t a petition to God, but a statement of defiance against Satan.

“It ends here. It ends now. This has gone on long enough. I proclaim the victory that Jesus won on the cross, and in his name, I command you to get out of my home and out of my business. You have no power over me. You are beaten. In Jesus’ name, I pray protection over me, Jackie, Brooke, our family, and I kick you to the curb. Now get out!”

As I was railing against Satan, tears began streaming down my face, and I could once again feel the comforting presence of God. It was over. I began to pray. The termites were gone.

Lions and Termites

Satan, much like the termite, finds a weak spot or the tiniest of entrances into a home. Quite often, the homeowner doesn’t become aware of the termite infestation until the damage has been done. Getting rid of them and restoring the structure to it original condition doesn’t always come so easily.

Satan, much like the lion, is always on the prowl looking for its next victim. He’s a formidable foe, a killing machine, and king of the dark world. Because of that, he’s not easily intimidated. He will not respond to timidity.

It’s one thing to know what’s in the Bible. You can know every word chapter and verse from Genesis to Revelation, and you can accept every word in it as the absolute truth.

Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment, the spirit left her. Acts 16:18 NIV

Yes, it’s one thing to believe what the Bible says. It’s another thing to own it; to make it a part of your DNA. If you do, the Bible becomes more than just a written word and more than simply a book. It comes alive, and becomes a part of you, and with it comes the awesome power of God’s Word.

Finally Sam became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to get out of here!” At the moment, the spirit left.

Nothing can ignore the power of God’s word. Not termites, not lions, and certainly not Satan. The next time that you’re being pounded on, why don’t you try it?

 

 

 

  

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/20/2011 at 12:01 PM | Categories: Life - Faith -

I am NOT gonna do that!

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had been spending a bit of time reflecting on the past. Actually, it has been more on the past five years since I was born again, than on my distant past. And I’ve gotta tell you that during my walk down memory lane I’ve been chuckling an awful lot; at God.

Of course, I’m quite sure that God has been chuckling at me too, more often, and harder, than I’ve chuckled at Him!

NEVER: not ever : at no time : not in any degree : not under any condition

Never is a pretty strong word, isn’t it? It carries with it such a sense of finality. It leaves no “wiggle room.”

I’m fairly sure that as child, and certainly as a teenager, I threw the word around with a lot of conviction. I mean, there was just a lot of stuff that I was never gonna do! Never.

By the time that I’d dropped out of college, gotten married at twenty-one, and become a father for the second time at twenty-six, I had, with one exception, taken never out of my vocabulary.

I used to tell God and whoever else was listening that if I ever got out of my marriage, (it was definitely not one of those made in heaven) I’d never get married again! NEVER! I had learned my lesson, and I’d never tie the marital knot again. I’d just be promiscuous!

God had other plans. Within a year of my divorce from my first wife, I married Jackie, my wife and best friend of twenty-two years and counting. And believe or not, after all those years of saying never, I said “I do” with a smile on my face and no fear in my heart. I knew, even then, that God had put Jackie in my life for a reason.

NOT: used as a function word to make negative a group of words or a word

While not doesn’t quite carry the conviction and length of duration that never does, would you agree that it’s still a fairly powerful word? I’ll admit that “not” is still in my vocabulary, and that I use it quite frequently! I’ll also admit that my use of the word “not” (as in “I’m not gonna do that!”) during the past five years has been the primary contributor to God’s chuckling.

· “Okay God, I’ll keep talking to this young lady about You, cause she’s going through a divorce and really hurting, but I’m not gonna do this with anyone else.”

· “Alright, I’ll keep talking about You and my faith during these business presentations, but if I’m told to stop it or else, then I’m gonna have to leave You out. I’m not gonna let this opportunity slip through my fingers.”

· “Look, it’s gettin’ to the point where talking about You is more important to me than our salon, which is a business that I’ve always dreamed of owning. This obsession with spreading Your message has got to stop. I’m am not gonna give up on my dreams for our business to follow whatever plans You may have for me.”

· “Yes, I know that I’ve always been afraid of the Bible, for some reason or another. I’m gonna go out and buy my first Bible, but I’m not reading it every day!”

· “Yes, I’ve heard about that “die to self daily” thing, but I’m not gonna give up being me so that I can walk with You.”

· “Look, Jackie has been #1 in my life for the last twenty-one years. I not sure that I’m ready for You to take over the top spot.”

· “I am not gonna say Jesus’ name out loud in public, at least not loud enough to be heard!”

· “Okay, You’re obviously the center of my universe, but I’m not gonna tell Jackie.”

· “I know that I’ve dedicated my life to You, but I’m not giving control of it to You.”

· “Okay, I’ve launched The Seed of Hope. I’ll write when I can, if I can, and if I have something to write about, but I’m not gonna toss and turn at night if I miss a week.”

· “Alright, alright. I’m reading the Bible every day, but I ain’t memorizing it, ain’t writing about it, and I am not gonna share it with others!”

· “Okay, I’m gonna pray for this lady cause she asked me to, but I’m not gonna offer to pray for every person that walks into this room.”

I could add several more examples of things that I told God that I was not gonna do, but I don’t know that it’s necessary. You get the point, right? If you know me well enough, or if you’ve visited these pages often enough, you know that I’ve reneged on every one of the things I told God that I wouldn’t do.

Here’s the thing: God didn’t twist my arm to go back on my word on any of my declarations; not one. It wasn’t an attempt to bargain with God, promising to do the things that I do in exchange for His blessings. In fact, I expect nothing in return for serving Him, because He has already showered me with an abundance of love, happiness, prosperity, good health, joy, hope, peace, strength, and all the other good things that come from Him.

I began to lose all the “nots” when I truly opened my heart to God. As the old “junk” that had been on my heart for years slipped away, so did the list of things that I was not gonna do. Like a chain reaction, they just fell one by one.

In his heart a man plots his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Now, with a smile on my face, I begin each day with a list of things that I will do.

Lord I thank you for this day and I offer it to You. I will make this day count. I will, not just walk, but run through every door that You open for me. I will take advantage of every opportunity that You give me to reach others. I will offer praise and glory to You, not only for the good days, but for the strength that You give me to get through the bad ones. I will…

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/05/2011 at 8:09 AM | Categories: Life -

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