The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: March 2009

Faith and Hope

I was watching the national evening news on one of the major networks a couple of weeks ago, and there was a segment devoted to a poll that had been taken in a small town in Ohio. I can’t remember the name of the town, and I mean no offense, but in regards to this post it really doesn’t matter; it could have been Anywhere, USA. And while I may be a little fuzzy on the particulars (Jackie and I were preparing supper at the time), I am able to recall the essence of the story.

 

The multiple-choice question posed to the people of this town was short and to the point:

 

Compared to this time last year, do you believe that the state of the economy is:

 

A.     Better

B.      Worse

C.      About the same

 

Eight percent of the respondents believed the economy to be better than it was a year ago. Incredulous that anyone, in any town, believed the economy to be better than it was last year, this network decided to do a feature story, not on the town, but on one of the eight percent!

 

The opening shot was that of a modest home in a quiet neighbor, and the camera lens honed in on a small white sign that was posted in one of the windows. The sign quite simply read 8%.

 

The next scene was in the kitchen of this home, and its owner, a gentleman, I don’t know, maybe in his fifties, was seated at the table being interviewed by the network’s field reporter. At some point in the interview, the following question was asked:

 

“How can you possibly believe that the state of the economy is better today than it was a year ago?”

 

I stopped what I was doing because I had to hear this guy’s answer. I mean, I walk with God, and my faith is strong, and I’m the eternal optimist, but come on…..this guy had to be nuts!

 

This average looking Joe, in an average little home, in an average little neighborhood, calmly looks into the camera and says:

 

Hope means that you want something to happen. Faith means that you know it’s going to happen.”

 

I stood dumbfounded for a moment, as I processed his affirmation. It was so simple, yet so profound. For the rest of the evening I reflected on what this stranger had said and its impact on me. I went to sleep thinking about the notions of hope and faith, and their influence on people’s lives. Which led me to my own questions?

 

Is it possible to have faith with no hope?

Is it possible to have hope with no faith?

 

Before this question, let me offer you some thoughts that are bouncing around in this noggin’….

 

During the first 53 years of my life I knew who God was, had faith in Him, and turned to Him in times of need. I attended church regularly and prayed regularly (though not nearly enough). I believed God to be the creator of all things. If you’ve ever heard, read, or recited the Apostle’s Creed (or Nicene Creed in some churches), I held all of its affirmations to be true. I accepted the existence of The Holy Trinity, though I must admit that as a teenager, there were a few times when I tried to figure out how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit could be One. I believed in heaven, feared the devil, and tried to do what I thought God wanted me to do. All signs of faith. All consistent with conventional definitions of faith, right?

 

Yet I had no hope. No hope that things would be better. No hope that things could be better. How could this be? How could faith not be accompanied by hope? How could faith on a Sunday not be accompanied by hope for Monday?

 

The answer lies in the simple fact that my faith was based on what I’d been taught about God in religion class, what I had read about God in books, and what I had been told about God by my parents.

 

I knew who God was, but I didn’t know God. You may be wondering “What’s the difference?” Let me offer you an analogy…..I remember the first time that I stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon, overcome with emotion at the spectacle of God’s handiwork. I was so overwhelmed, that for several minutes I could do nothing more than take in the beauty of what my eyes saw as tears streamed down my face, while my mind feebly attempted to process what I was seeing as my heart attempted to handle the explosion of emotion in what I felt. I had wanted to see the Grand Canyon all of my life; I’d read about it, seen movies about it, and studied pictures of it. Yet none of those things prepared me for the experience.

 

I can “mentally” paint a picture of what I saw and convey the emotions of what I felt that day to you, but until you actually stand at the rim of that canyon and experience it for yourself, you will never feel what I did.

 

What I’m trying to tell you is this:

 

On November 5, 2006 I asked Christ to take my hand and lead me to wherever I was supposed to go, to help me to do what I was supposed to do, and to be whatever I was supposed to be. I invited Him in. And on that day, for the first time in my life, I truly felt the presence of God. And you know what? Neither the religion classes, or the books, or my parents had truly prepared me for the moment. I don’t know that any one or any thing could have.

 

God has been with me, been a part of my consciousness, every day since. Along the way there have been a many of those “Grand Canyon” moments, feeling God in my life in different ways, and feeling Him work through me each day. I’ve learned oh so much about Him, and I know that there is so much more to learn, so much more than I will probably ever learn. Much like the Holy Trinity, I don’t try to figure out the mysteries of God, or why He does what he does. I just know… I have faith, that He will provide me with what I need, and I’ll gratefully and humbly accept what He provides.

 

Which brings me full circle, back to the topic of faith. As my “knowing” of Christ has grown, so has my faith. It is stronger than ever….unwavering, unbending, never ceasing.

 

My faith has allowed me to hope, to dream about things. Curiously enough, I don’t really hope for anything for me personally. God will give me what I need.

 

My hope is that all who don’t ‘know’ God, or walk with faith, or dare to even hope for more will seek Him out and receive His goodness. My dream is that The Seed of Hope will help those that are seeking Him to find their way.

 

Once more, I pose these questions to you:

 

Is it possible to have faith with no hope?

Is it possible to have hope with no faith?

 

God is good.

 

 

Contact me: sam@theseedofhope.com

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 03/29/2009 at 9:33 PM | Categories: Faith -

An Attitude of Gratitude

The thought occurred to me the other day that some of you may think that my life is just a bowl of cherries. I mean, each Monday I try to give you something inspirational, something from which you may draw hope for tomorrow. Awesome catches up with me every day (see About being Awesome 12/01/08). I have an amazing wife, great family, and a successful business. I’m healthy. I’m building an incredible network of friends with whom I share the same spirit.  I’m walking with God each day, with “an attitude of gratitude”, as my friend Brent Hardgrave, likes to say. I’ve got it made, right?

 

Well, yes….sort of….

 

My Monday offerings to you come by the grace of God. He gives me the words, and I do the typing. Most of the topics on these pages are born of mistakes I’ve made along the way, of shortcomings in my life that I’ve settled for, and of baggage that I’ve carried from childhood into adulthood. The remainders are insights that I’ve received from God, friends, books, mentors, and constant inner-reflection. I’m awesome every day because I refuse to be anything else. I have an amazing wife, a great family, and a successful business because God was gracious enough to bless me with all of this (I’ve been blessed a hundred times over what I probably deserve). And I walk with that attitude of gratitude because I know that there are many, many people less fortunate than myself.

 

I want to reflect on that “attitude of gratitude” that I walk with every day, and in doing so I guess that I should begin with the first moment I come to consciousness after a night’s sleep.

 

The very first thing I do when I awaken is thank God for giving me another day. My Dad always used to tell me that “we’re never promised tomorrow”, but I never gave his statement a lot of thought, until…..

 

Dad died unexpectedly on April 14, 2002. At the time he was a very young 74. I hit the BIG 5-0 five months later, and it was around that time I realized that my generation was next in line to be the “oldest”, that I was old enough to be a grandfather (that would happen to years later), and that Dad was right; every day is a gift and a privilege, not an entitlement.

 

Sorry….back to the topic at hand…..

 

Like I said, the first thing I do is offer gratitude for being given another day. Then I place my hand on my wife Jackie to make sure that she too has received another day (some chuckle when I tell them that, but I’m grateful for Jackie’s presence in my life….I’m grateful for her life).

 

Next I will go down a mental checklist of things that I’m grateful for. I say that it’s a checklist, but in reality it’s the first eight or ten things that pop into my mind, in no particular order of importance.

 

Among this morning’s “gratitude list” was our family, our salon, our car, our health, the opportunities I had on Saturday to speak to some of our guests in the salon about my Faith (yes, I talk about God in our business), and the big pillow that I was scrunching and burying my head in when I woke up! Obviously, I don’t think that there is anything that’s too trivial to be grateful for.

 

You may be wondering why I do this every morning, but then again, you may not be curious about it at all. Well, since this is my site, and I choose what to write about, I’m gonna give you an explanation. If you’re not interested, well, I guess I’ll see you next week!

 

Glad you decided to stick around.

 

For years, the only time that I offered prayers to God, or even thought about Him, was on Sundays or when I was in need of Him. In last week’s post I mentioned that I often took my faith for granted; it was just something that was there. But it was more than that…..

 

I took God for granted.

 

I assumed that God would be there for me whenever I needed Him. He has always been there for me, just as He has been there for you, just as He has been for all of us who choose to have Him in our lives. I don’t know about you, but the times I looked for Him and to Him the most was in my time of need. And of course, He was always there to give me comfort and strength.

 

But I took His presence in my life for granted. Well, it was more than that….I didn’t know how much better, how utterly complete my life would be with His presence in it until I asked Him to walk with me every day. Those of you who walk with Christ know what I’m trying to say.

 

For those of you who have never truly experienced that walk…..you know, God gives me so many words to convey my feelings to you on these pages, but there are no words to describe feeling God’s presence in and around you when you welcome Him into your life. Think about the pleasure you get from doing whatever it is that you like to do best; I don’t care what it is….locked in on it yet? Remembering how good it feels? Now multiply that feeling by one hundred. That’s having God with you every day.

 

In thanking God for another day I am establishing His presence in my life before I do anything else! He occupies my first thought of the day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why should this be so important to me?

 

I don’t ever want to take God’s presence for granted again.

 

All things considered, my life is really, really good right now. That’s not to say that I have no crosses to bear, but that the ones I am carrying don’t seem to be too heavy. What I am giving in life pales in comparison to what I am receiving.

 

This is exactly when the “old” Sam would have totally forgotten that Christ wants to be with us every day and not just on Sundays.  He wants a relationship with us, and wants us to have conversations with Him, even if those conversations consist of nothing more than “Thank you Lord for the gift of another day.” And He wants that relationship when times are good, so that like any other Father, He may enjoy those good times with us.

 

I love my relationship with Christ, love having Him with me every day, and love feeling His presence in me. Perhaps that is why my crosses seem few and my burdens seem light. Hmmm….

 

In offering gratitude each morning,

 

I’m focusing on all the good that is in my life, being mindful of what I do have, instead of worrying about what I don’t. I’m thanking God for all of my blessings (even the fluffy pillow), because He didn’t have to give any of them to me. And I’m offering gratitude for what I have because in the blink of an eye, I could have so much less; I could have nothing.

 

Thank you God, for me.

 

 

Contact me: sam@theseedofhope.com

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 03/22/2009 at 9:54 PM | Categories: Life -

"Let go and let God."

I imagine that this particular bit of advice has been around for years, but my first recollection of it was a couple of years ago when it was offered to me by Ann Mincey. At the time I had just begun my “spiritual walk”, and was exhausting myself trying to make things happen as quickly as possible. Ann’s advice triggered a memory of my Dad always saying “Just put it in God’s hands….”

 

Funny thing is, I already knew that’s what I should do; I guess I just needed someone to remind me to do it! Seems I’ve always been that way….

 

As found in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, two of the definitions of faith are: 1. belief and trust in and loyalty to God 2. complete trust

 

You know, I’ve always had faith in God. Before this moment, I’d never really thought about the source of my faith; it has just always been there. I guess my faith was instilled in me by the depths of my parent’s faith in Him. I’ve always believed in Him, trusted in Him, and been loyal to Him. I may have even taken my faith for granted….like I said, it has always been there.

 

Of course, the level of my faith, the intensity of my faith, has never been what it is today. Before, faith was just a part of me. Now, my faith in God consumes me. I walk it, talk it, and live it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

That being said, you may think that “letting go and letting God” would be as easy for me as, I don’t know, as easy as 1-2-3. Thanks for the vote of confidence, but it just doesn’t work that way!

 

That’s mine, and You can’t have it.

 

There always seems to be something, some “worry” that I have to keep for myself. I’ll give you an example:

 

During the past couple of years, I have given my life to God. That is to say, my mission in life has become revealing to others the absolute joy of walking with Christ. With each passing day, my faith in Him has grown stronger and stronger. And I have learned to put my life, and all of my worries, in His hands; almost.

 

I no longer worry about my health, or finances, or the opinions of others, or the future, or anything else that has cost me sleep at night,

 

EXCEPT…..

 

our business, Salon M². Quite honestly, I don’t worry about the business as much as I do the people that work for us; some are not as fortunate, financially, as Jackie and me, and I’m always worried about their well-being. Not that there is anything wrong with my worrying, except that it is so foolish! In fact, it’s almost comical. Here’s why: Imagine me having this conversation with God….

 

“Okay God. I’m putting my complete faith and trust in You. I’m giving my health, happiness, wealth, future, and career to You, and all the worries that go with each one of them. I pray that you will look over me and provide me with all that I need, just as You have always done. I release all of my worries to you, EXCEPT, that is, for the salon. I want to keep that worry for myself. Yes, yes, I understand that I’ve given You everything else, but I think I need to keep this one for myself. Yes, yes, I realize that there is nothing greater than You, but I think I this one may be a little too big for You; I can probably handle it myself.”

 

Okay, you’d probably be laughing right now if it weren’t for the sad and sobering realization that at some point in time you’ve done this too. It may have been about your career, or finances, or any of the things I’ve mentioned. If I didn’t include your particular “worry”, it is only because a complete list of the things that we do worry about would take up all the storage space in this laptop!

 

If, like me, you’ve had one or more of these conversations with God, don’t add this to your worry list. It’s not a sign of your faith being weak, or something that you should beat yourself up over. And if you’re like me, you’ll give Him a particular worry one day, only to realize that you’ve taken it back the next! That’s okay too. I think that this process of giving (and taking) is a step along the way of you’re walking your walk, practicing your faith, and strengthening your faith.

 

Be persistent.

 

Just keep giving your worries to Him. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Ask Him to take your problems and worries and to give you whatever it is you need to live your life to its fullest. As you ask, Believe that He will give you what you need in life, and take what you don’t.

 

It may not happen that day, or that week, or even that month, but don’t get discouraged. And don’t give up. The more we are willing to give our problems to God, to “let go and let God”, the sooner we will experience the comfort and peace of mind that He gives us in return.

 

 

Contact me: sam@theseedofhope.com

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 03/16/2009 at 7:31 AM | Categories:

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