Viewing by month: September 2009
A couple of years ago my wife Jackie and I were driving down to Biloxi, Mississippi to catch a Cirque de Soleil show at one of the local casinos. Biloxi is located on the Gulf Coast, and before the arrival of the big hotels and legalized gambling, one of its biggest claims to fame was being slammed by Hurricane Camille in August of 1969. Depending on who’s behind the wheel, the drive can take from four to five hours from Birmingham.
Okay, before I can continue I have to tell you about one of my pet peeves. A pet peeve is a minor annoyance that an individual sees as a major annoyance. Some examples of pet peeves are poor table manners, gum smacking, solicitors, and inconsiderate drivers. Have I struck a nerve yet? Are going down your mental checklist of pet peeves right now, reliving moments and situations, your blood pressure rising as you do?
Well, stop it; this is about my pet peeve, not yours. I just wanted to get you in the mindset of the aggravation that is associated with a pet peeve.
This peeve, this irritant, this annoyance, this aggravating, drives-me-up-a-wall thing that I want to tell you about is:
BUGS ON MY WINDSHIELD!
Go ahead, laugh if you’d like (it’s not that I could stop you anyway!). Look, I don’t even like a dirty windshield, much less one splattered with bug guts. I figure that God gave man the idea to come up with the little built-in windshield “water guns” and windshield wipers so that we can see where we’re going as we drive from destination to destination. You still think that I’m kidding, don’t you? I’m so bad that if I get into someone else’s car, and their windshield is covered with whatever, I’ll simply ask, “Somethin’ wrong with your car? Why don’t you use your window washer?”
Back to the story…
So we’re heading down I-65 South towards Mobile, Alabama, we’re making really good time, and I’m thinking “This has been an easy drive. We’re gonna get there early, so we’ll have some time to unwind and relax.”
There’s a bug on my windshield! I quickly reach for the button to activate the “wash-wipe” feature on the car. The water sprays, and the wipers begin to do their job. Whew!
Splat. There’s another one! My wipers haven’t even cleared the remnants of the first one…now there’s two of ‘em!
Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat. Splat.
No, I’m not exaggerating…it was that bad and worse! There was hundreds of ‘em. I kept hittin’ that wash button repeatedly, and, quite simply, my wipers couldn’t keep up with the bugs. Worse still was the fact that I could barely see what was ahead of me.
I started freakin’ out! And I’ll go ahead and admit it…I started cursing like a sailor! This only served to startle Jackie, who had been napping in the passenger seat. She was up like a shot, her spine board-straight, and her hands trying to find purchase on anything that may protect her from the impending doom! “What’s wrong?” she shrieked, terror in her voice.
“It’s bugs!” I shouted, my eyes never leaving the windshield, my fingers frantically hitting that button.
“WHAT?” Jackie questioned.
“Look at the windshield! Look at all the bugs! What the hell is going on?”
When I thought that things couldn’t get any worse, they did…the reservoir that holds the fluid to clean the windows ran dry! Now, the wipers are wiping, but there’s nothing to wipe, except for the bugs. I’m really starting to panic; I couldn’t see! Oh crap!
Thank goodness, it was about that same time that we made it through the “swarm.” I pulled off onto the shoulder of the freeway, parked the car, and got out to clean the windshield and assess the situation. There were cars parked everywhere, their drivers stepping out to do exactly what I was doing! Not wanting to sit there all day, I retrieved a bottle of water and a handful of napkins from the car, cleaned the windshield as best I could, and continued on to Biloxi.
(Upon our return to Birmingham I learned that we had run into a swarm of “love bugs”, which are members of the family of marchflies. The lovebug is common to Central America and the southeastern United States, especially the Gulf Coast.)
I believe that we all get bugs on our windshield from time to time; distractions that cloud our vision, cause us to veer from our destination, and stand in the way of us becoming what we are supposed to be. Perhaps, most importantly, they take our vision off of God. These bugs may vary in type and nuisance “level”, as is how much they aggravate us. Independently, they may not pose much of a problem…collectively, they can change the course of our lives.
I’m talking the “big bugs” that face many of us today, such as unemployment, health care costs, and dwindling retirement accounts.
I’m talking about the “little bugs”; things in life that we just have to overlook, like rush hour traffic, inconsiderate drivers, and those aggravating solicitors that call our homes after we’ve put in a hard day at work.
And I’m talking about the bugs that fall in the middle…bugs that have a way of sneaking up on us…that have a way of impacting our lives more than we may realize. Like the conversation that you’ve been putting off having with your friend that hurt your feelings…or that “situation” at work…or that escalating credit card bill…or those hideous numbers on your scale when you check your weight…or the life-lesson that you really need to share with your child…or that talk that you need to have with your boss…or the fact that you haven’t been to church in a while.
If you have a “laundry list” of things that you need to do and situations that need to be addressed, you’re probably having a hard time living for today, much less planning for tomorrow; and you’re probably not very happy with your life. And as you’ve probably figured out by now, life doesn’t come with a washer button and wipers! These bugs won’t magically disappear.
I made a list.
A few years ago I sat down to make my first “bug list.” My list contained everything that I’d like to get done that day, everything that I needed to get done that day, and all those things that I’d been putting off that should have been done the day before!
Here’s where it gets interesting…I put the one thing that I dreaded doing the most at the top of my list! I figured that if I could find the guts to do the hardest one, the rest would be a snap. I was gonna attack my list that next day, and I wasn’t gonna do anything else until I’d taken care of that first bug (a confrontation with someone that I’d been putting off for a long, long, time).
Life came to a screeching halt!
Two days came and went, and my list remained unchanged…and I have to tell you that with each passing hour that bug became bigger and bigger. Whereas before I could “forget” about the bug for brief periods of time, I found myself totally consumed by the thoughts of my inability to overcome my fear; which only served to make matters worse. One bug, one mental obstacle, became a barrier that I couldn’t go over, under, or around.
I awoke on the morning of the third day, tormented by my own conscience! Miserable in my own self-made “prison”, I turned once again to my list...staring at the paper in my now-trembling hands…looking at that thing (it had taken on an identity) that I couldn’t wish away. Closing my eyes, desperately needing some relief, needing a solution…
Dear God, I need some help with this. Would you give me the courage to overcome my fear and stand up for myself? This thing is eating me from the inside out…I know it’s something that I need to do…it’s something that I have to do…I just cannot bring myself to do it. Please, please help me.
I picked up the phone, dialed the number, and held my breath waiting for an answer on the other end, all the while hoping that there wouldn’t be one. There was. I exhaled and began talking…
four years later, and I’m still talking! Oh, I still have a list of things that I avoid doing from time to time…you know, more of those bugs on my windshield. And I still have to ask God to give me that shot of courage to get them done. Funny…He always does.
Look, life is full of bugs that cover our windshields. Why don’t you stand back and take a long look at yours…are you having a hard time finding your way because there’s just too much stuff in the way? Can’t really see where you’re going?
Make your own bug list. If you ask God to help you with it, I have a feeling that He’ll do exactly that. It’s amazing how much easier life is when you can see where you’re going…especially if He is your destination!
See you next week!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/28/2009 at 6:00 AM | Categories:
A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from my good friend Cindy that read:
“My life revolves around God, but at times I put Him on a shelf and call on Him when I need Him.”
I thanked Cindy for her message, and then spent a few moments reflecting on what she’d said. I never really considered the notion of putting God on the shelf, but I think that it’s a pretty good analogy. I guess that many of us have, at some point in our lives, put God on the shelf…especially when life is good.
How do you define a true friend?
Someone to laugh with? Cry with? Someone with whom you can share your darkest secrets, your fears, your hopes, your dreams? Someone that you know will be there for you, regardless of the situation, regardless of your need? Someone in which you may place all of your trust? Someone who will celebrate your victories, and offer consolation in your defeats? Someone that “has your back”, that’s gonna cover you, that’s gonna put you first? Always?
Do you have a friend like that?
I believe that true friends help us to grow…they push us to be better through encouragement, sharing, and nurturing.
True friends are very rare indeed. If you’ve had at least one true friend, consider yourself fortunate. If you’ve had more than one, consider yourself to be blessed.
Good time friends.
I think it’s safe to say that most friendships spring from good times. I mean, how many times have you attended a funeral or a foreclosure to strike up a new acquaintance? I know that’s a bit extreme, but I think you get what I’m trying to say…new friends are more often found at venues such as church, social functions, and sporting events. We meet someone with a common interest, passion, or personality trait, and a friendship grows from that meeting.
It is from those good times friendships that true friends are found…friends that help us get through the bad times.
How about God?
Do you consider God to be your friend? If not, well maybe you should.
He’s always there for you, especially when you need Him. He knows your darkest secrets, your fears, your hopes, and your dreams. You can trust Him with all that you have, and cry out to Him in times of need or despair.
And as far as making you a better person? Take a look at what He has to offer you…
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him-the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord-and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. ISAIAH 11:2-3 (NIV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. GALATIANS 5:22-23 (NIV)
To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 1 CORINTHIANS 12:8-10 (NIV)
All of these “gifts” are available to us through a relationship…a friendship, with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
And that part about putting you first?
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. JOHN 3:16 (NIV)
Do you get what I’m trying to say here?
If you let Him, God will be the best friend that you ever had. Think about that for a moment.
My wife Jackie is an amazing lady…she nurtures me, pushes me to be better, does all the things that a friend should do, and is all the things that a friend should be. Be that as it may, there are things that Jackie cannot do for me, things that she cannot give to me, things…blessings, that I can only receive from God.
And remember: true, meaningful friendships are developed first through the good times. It’s the same way with God. Get to know Him when life is good. Run after Him when things are just right, when your life seems “perfect.” Enjoy His company, and love Him, and laugh with Him, and talk to Him when all is well. Thank Him for the good in your life…tell Him that you love Him…bask in His glory! Don’t just wait until you need Him.
You see, having a relationship with God when things are really good makes the bad stuff seem really, really, small.
Never put God on the shelf. Let Him be your constant companion. Your life will never be the same.
See you next week!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/21/2009 at 6:00 AM | Categories:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. JAMES 1:2-4 (NIV)
During one of his Sunday messages a couple of months ago, Church of The Highlands Pastor Chris Hodges shared with the congregation that each morning he asks God to give him whatever He has for him that day.
His message stuck with me, and I made a decision to do the same each day. At some point during my morning, in the midst of all my other “rituals” (prayer, meditation, thanking God for another day, etc.), I would ask God to give me whatever He had planned for me on that day. And for the next several weeks I did exactly that!
A couple of weeks in I realized that I had only been asking God for the “good stuff”, which I guess is human nature for the majority of us. I mean, who wants to ask for “bad stuff”? But then I started thinking about it…
In the past few weeks I’ve reflected on and shared some of the more questionable times in my life…situations that I’ve been in…things that I’ve done…crap that I’ve been through. While I’m not proud of many of these things because they weren’t in keeping with being a good Christian, I’m grateful for the fact that I survived them. And while I’m no saint, I’m proud of the man that God has allowed me to become.
A work in progress…
I’m of the belief that God is constantly molding and shaping us into what He wants us to be, and pointing us in the direction of what He wants us to do. I’m talking about finding our purpose and fulfilling our destiny. It is said that we’re products of our environment; that is to say that who and what we are as adults is a result of what we were exposed to as children. It makes perfectly good sense to follow this line of reasoning, but I’d like to take it one step farther.
I believe that we are products of every day that we’ve lived before this one. You see, what I am right now is the product of all that I’ve been through in life up to and including this very moment! And while I may not have enjoyed the entire journey, the life that I am living today and the relationship that I have with God has made it all worthwhile.
One morning I posed the question, “What if I asked God to give me everything, good and bad, that He has planned for me today?”
And that’s exactly what I did…
Dear God, I want You to give me everything that you have for me today. Everything. The good and the bad. Please, please, spare nothing that You have for me, and I thank You, Father, for whatever it is.”
Perhaps you’re sitting there thinking, “Only a fool would ask for the bad stuff. Are you nuts?”
But here’s the way I see it. With every obstacle that I overcome…with every challenge that I face…with every lesson that I learn…I become a better Christian. And I draw ever closer to a full relationship with Christ.
What is a full relationship with Christ?
I don’t know, but that’s what I’m seeking. I do know that the more I walk with Christ, the more that I want to walk with Him. The more I know about Him, the more that I want to know about Him. The more I feel His presence in me, the more that I want to feel Him. Do you get what I’m trying to say here? My appetite for Christ…for God…for the Holy Spirit, is insatiable.
You see, my life has never been more complete. I’ve never been happier…never enjoyed the gift of life…never lived for this moment, this day, this life, my life…until I found the unparalleled joy that I found in Jesus! And I know that it’s only the beginning! It’s only been three years since I was born again, six months since I was Baptized in the Holy Spirit, and six weeks since I was Baptized a second time! (You’ll read about that one soon.)
This post wasn’t gonna be about runnin’ after Jesus, but at this very moment I’m lead to urge you to do exactly that. Run after Jesus, with all that is in you! Go after Him as if your life depended on it…in many ways, your life does depend on it. This is the way I see it: having Christ in your life every day will make your life on earth more full, more rich, more complete, than you can imagine…once you experience what I’m talking about, and you will experience it, nothing, and I mean nothing will stand in your way.
That’s where I am right now…
Nothing is going to stand between me and God. Nothing.
Some tests come from God. Some tests come from the devil. Some of them are easily overcome, while others bring us to our knees in despair. Some of them just flat-out knock us on our rear ends! It’s not how many times we get knocked down that matter, but how many times we get back up. (And I’m gonna let you in on a little secret here…God will help you get back up every time…just take His hand and ask Him for help.)
I’ve told you this before, and I’ll tell you once more…The Seed of Hope is not a platform for me to stand on and tell you how peachy my life is. I get knocked down a lot. In fact, I spent most of this past week on my knees, trying to get back up again. I finally made it, but it wasn’t because of my intestinal fortitude, or anything that I can lay claim to. You see, God has seen fit to put some amazing people in my life! Their words snatched me up off of the carpet and put my focus right where it should have been all along: off of myself and directly on God. It’s like I was saying…God always provides me with what I need to get through whatever it is. And with the passing of each test, the overcoming of each obstacle, I get closer and closer to Him.
Dear God, I want You to give me everything that you have for me today. Everything. The good and the bad. Please, please, spare nothing that You have for me, and I thank You, Father, for whatever it is. I will praise You and glorify Your Name before all men for the good You have blessed me with, and I will tell the world of the Your wisdom and grace that I have drawn from the bad.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. JAMES 1:12 (NIV)
See you next week!
Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 09/14/2009 at 5:30 AM | Categories:
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