The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: December 2010

My Five

MY FIVE

Quick!

Name one thing that’s readily available, yet oh so hard to find. It’s something that never runs out, yet always seems to be in short supply. When you do have it, it seems to be gone in the blink of an eye. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free?

Do you have it yet? Have I given you enough time to figure it out?

The answer, of course, is time!

If you’re laughing, let me ask you a question, and I want you to be completely honest with yourself in answering it.

Do you really have enough time to do all the things that you want to do in life?

REALLY? If your answer is yes, considered yourself blessed, and know that you are among those who are “the exception to the rule.” I consider time management to be one of my assets, yet there are days, and even weeks, when I just don’t have enough time to do all the things that are on my “things to do” list. Come to think of it, my intention was to get this post out four days ago, well before New Year’s Day, and all of the resolutions that come with it. Yet here I sit, on New Year’s Eve (days after my self-imposed deadline) trying to wrap my thoughts up in one neat little bundle to pass along to you.

What happened? It just seems that, as usual, and for a variety of reasons, life got in my way! Well, life, and the reality that the list of things that I want to do is just too long.

Walt

I was having lunch with my friend Walt the other day, and during our conversation he was lamenting that he never seemed to have enough time to do all the things that he wanted to do. “No matter how hard I try to arrange things, I just always run out of time. It’s really frustrating, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Sound familiar?

I had a suggestion for Walt before he even finished his statement, and it’s one that I’m going to make to you right now. And as I’m writing this, I realize that it’s one that I’m making to myself as well.

The list.

What I what to share with you is something that I stumbled upon when I first had my spiritual awakening some four plus years ago. I was re-evaluating my walk in life and my walk with the Lord, and I was desperately seeking ways to bring some semblance of order to the upheaval that was going on in my mind. I actually mentioned this exercise in one of the very first Seed of Hope posts in 2008, titled You Want to Know What?, and something tells me that it’s worth mentioning again.

Here goes…

You need to be alone when you try this, in a quiet environment where there are no distractions. If absolute silence is a distraction for you, as it is for some, you can put on your favorite music to fill in the background. (Preferably, soft music played at a low level.) Grab a pen and paper, then go have a seat in your favorite chair (if you have one) in your favorite room (again, if you have one). Just get comfortable.

Next, do whatever it is that best clears your mind of its “junk”. Pray. Meditate. Listen to the music. Ask the Lord for help. Ask Him to take you to “that quiet place” in your mind where you can sort things out, where you can get some clarity. Be patient. It’ll come. Take as long as you need.

Five

When you’re there, I want you to reflect on every aspect of your life; all of it. Think about the way it is. Think about the way it could be. Think about what you have. Think about what you want. Think about what’s in your mind. Think about what’s on your heart. Think about who, or what, is important to you. Think about what you want to do.

Now, with pen in hand, I want you to write on that piece of paper the top five things  from the list of all that you’ve thought about. This is about the top five priorities in your life; the five things that are most important to you. There are no rights or wrongs on this list. There are no mandatory inclusions. It’s just about what’s on your heart.

There’s just one thing that you have to remember…

There can only be five. Well, it can certainly be less than five, but definitely no more than that. Why not?

Well, I believe that many of us aspire to do so many things, and in doing so we wind up spreading ourselves too thin. So thin, that quite often that which we hold dearest and are of the most importance in our lives often get neglected, if not forgotten completely. Sadly, the end result is frustration, disillusionment, shattered dreams, failed relationships, and broken hearts.

So go ahead, pick your top five. For you, some of them may be mandatory, such as careers, finances, and family. Consequently, you’re probably only gonna have room for a couple of truly optional ones, so choose wisely when compiling your list.

Even as I write this, I’m a bit saddened by the realization that some of the things that I want to do are gonna have to take a back seat to my top five for a while. Be that as it may, this is something that I not only have to do, but want to do. Look, I’m not going to forget the other things. My commitment, first and foremost, is to my top five. If there’s time for the others, they’ll get what’s left.

I’m reminded of what Church of The Highlands Pastor Chris Hodges shared in a Sunday message just a few weeks ago. “We don’t try to do a lot of different things, but what we do, we do real well.”

Following  Pastor Chris’ lead, for the next several months I’m going to limit the number of things that I really want to do this year, but I’m gonna go all-out to do those things real well.

One thing.

If you make the decision to try this, I’ll remind you once again that there’s no right or wrong choices. Your list consists of whatever is on your mind and in your heart. There is, however, one suggestion that I’d like to make for you; one thing that you should include on your list.

Please, please include at least one thing that brings you joy, that fills your heart with gladness, that puts a smile on your heart, and that, if nothing else, makes you happy.   We get so overwhelmed by our challenges in life that quite often we forget that we can enjoy the journey.

I believe that if you’re willing to give this a shot you’ll find that you’re a lot happier with your life and with yourself. And you’ll find that you have more time than you thought.

My Five.

1.    To love and serve the Lord with all that is in me every day.

2.    My wife Jackie and our family.

3.                                                                                                  

Come on, you didn’t really think that I was gonna give you all of my list, did you? That wouldn’t be any fun. Besides, the rest is between me and God.

In closing, I want to take a moment to thank you allowing me to share my journey with you. It has truly been an incredible year for me, filled with ups and downs, but most important of all, it has been filled with God’s presence.

May your New Year be filled with God’s Blessings and His Abundance!

   

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 12/31/2010 at 6:30 AM | Categories: Life -

"So, what are you?"

I am a Christian.

One definition of Christian that Merriam-Webster offers is:

                a: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ 

I’m okay with that definition, but I in my humble opinion, it skirts the real meaning of a Christian.

You see, from where I’m standing, it seems that being a Christian is more than just believing in the teachings of Jesus Christ. It’s believing that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He has been here, and that it was through His death on the cross that we received God’s grace and that our salvation was made possible only through His death.

I feel like I’m falling woefully short in offering my definition of being a Christian. I’m reminded of what my good friend Daniel told me during our very first conversation a few months ago. Daniel said, “Sam, you just make God so simple. Either you believe in Him or you don’t.” Seems kind of shallow, but Daniel’s assessment is spot on. You believe in God, or you don’t.

Well, incorporating Daniel’s simplistic terms, defining a Christian is just as simple. Either you believe in and accept Jesus, or you don’t.

So why do we have to make it so complicated?

“So, what are you?”  

When it comes to being Christians, why can’t we get past all of the “religious differences” that separate us, and embrace the one thing that we have in common? Why is it that many times my reply of “I am a Christian” isn’t the right answer to the question? You see, in my mind, it’s the right answer, or at least it’s the only one that really matters. But it seems that in the minds of many, where I practice my faith is more important than my faith itself.

A couple of months ago I received a letter from a gentleman here in Birmingham who had read an article that I’d written titled A God of Fear? This man, who I’ll call Bob, was concerned that I’d left a religious denomination of which I’d been a member for over fifty years. He had also been gracious enough to include a book that had been written to give insight and understanding to others who may have been struggling with that particular denomination. I guess I should mention that Bob is still a practicing member in the church that I left. In closing his letter, Bob invited me to contact him if I’d like to talk, or if I felt that he could help me in any way.

Which is exactly what I did!

One week and several e-mails later I had an appointment to meet Bob at a local Starbucks for coffee and conversation. As I was driving to my destination, I realized that I had no idea why I was going to meet Bob in the first place! I think that, more than anything else, I wanted to hear his thoughts on “helping me.” And I think too, that I just wanted him to hear what was on my heart, about God, about Jesus, and about religion.

After an awkward moment of introductions and small talk, the conversation turned to the topic of the day, which was how I went from being this to that. And I have to tell you, we had a really good talk. I didn’t feel that either of was trying to win a debate, or shoving our convictions down the others throat. It was just a healthy exchange between two Christian men, discussing “God-matters-of-the-heart.”

There was one point in the conversation that disturbed me, or perhaps I should say “startled” me, and it was that particular moment during my time with Bob that birthed the idea for today’s post…

Lost?

Bob was sharing a thought with me, when I just flat-out interrupted him and matter-of-factly asked, “Bob, are you implying that I’ve lost my salvation because I go to a different church?”

Bob was apparently a bit stunned by the boldness of my question. I could sense that he was searching for what would be an answer that contained the truth, but would mask what he was really thinking. Several seconds passed, and I patiently waited for a response.

“No, I don’t think that you’ve lost your salvation. It’s just that I’m concerned and I want what’s best for you.” Bob replied.

Time Out.

Yep, I’m calling a time out. No, I’m not going anywhere. But I’ll be right up front in telling you that this is really a sensitive subject for me. That being said, if I seem to be standing on a soap box, it’s because I am. And I’m telling you now, with as much humility as I can muster up, that I’m not apologizing for it, either.

“What’s best for me?”  

Incredulous is the best term that I can come up with in describing my reaction to Bob’s statement. This time, it was my turn to be stunned. “BEST for me?” was wanted I wanted to shout at Bob! Of course I didn’t, because I knew that it would serve no purpose. At that precise moment I knew that in the end, when our conversation was over and we had emptied our respective hearts, that Bob and I would be united in our belief in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, yet miles apart in how to best carry out our beliefs. And I have to tell you that as I sat there looking at Bob, I felt sorry for him. You see, I felt that somewhere along the way, it was religion, and not God, that had become the path to Bob’s salvation.

Heads up…I’m gonna go on a rant here…

What’s best for me is God. Period. What’s best is that He doesn’t dwell in any building, but in our hearts and minds. What’s best is that He doesn’t care if I’m a Baptist, or Methodist, or Catholic, or Protestant, or any other Christian denomination that I may have omitted. He wants to be my Father, and He wants me to be His son. Any and all rules for living the life that He wants me to live are found in the Ten Commandments that He gave us, and not in any other rules written by men, for men. What’s best for me isn’t found in a religion book, or in a religious tradition, or the traditional trappings of what you typically find in a “church.” What’s best for me is a real relationship, with a real God; a God that I can pray to, and cry with, and laugh with, and share my life with. What’s best for me is the unconditional and unwavering Father’s love that I know God has for me because of that relationship with Him.

What’s best for me are the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives me every day; gifts that include wisdom, and understanding, and faith. These gifts are available to me each day only for the asking, and I’m always asking.

What’s best for me is that I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God. I believe that He is my Lord and Savior. I believe that He died for me so that I may one day be in heaven; He gave His life so that I may have eternal life. I believe that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life, and I believe that the only way to God is through Him.

Yes, Daniel, you’re absolutely right. You believe in Jesus or you don’t. It’s just that simple.

Sorry. The rant is over. Thanks for indulging me.

If you’re reading this, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that you’re a Christian. If I’m correct in my assumptions, then you’re aware that in two more days we’ll be celebrating the day of Jesus’ birth. We’ll be celebrating Christmas, as Christians, as those who not only, according to Merriam-Webster, “believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ”, but more importantly, believe in Him.

Believing in Jesus and being a Christian.  It’s what sets us apart from Muslims, and Jews, and Buddhists, and Atheists.

“So, what are you?”

I am a Christian. That’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

Happy Birthday Jesus!

 

 

 

  

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 12/23/2010 at 3:38 PM | Categories: Faith -

Alone

This month’s issue of b-metro magazine (a Birmingham-based publication) features an article written by yours truly titled My Seed of Hope, and it’s all about the prayer room that we opened in our salon a few months ago.

A couple of thoughts before I share what’s on my heart today…

I’m grateful to the decision makers at b-metro not only for inviting me to write the article for them, but for actually including it in their publication. Many publishers shy away from matters of faith, especially ones that aren’t so subtle in content or openness. These people put into print exactly what I had written, with no exceptions, and I found that to be quite remarkable. Yeah, I know that we’re in the Bible belt, and because of that, many think that it’s easier to “get away” with a topic as controversial as God and prayer. That may indeed be true, but I have a feeling that this one year old magazine may lose a few readers because of the nature of the article.

Secondly, it is my prayer and my hope that My Seed of Hope will serve as a reminder for others that prayers are helpful, that they’re needed, and that they’re answered. What’s more, I’m hoping that the article will serve notice to other business owners that there is indeed room for faith (yes, even bold faith) and success in the marketplace.

Back to the prayer room…

With the exception of one week, a post has been made on this site every week since The Seed of Hope was launched on October 31, 2008. That “one” was the week of October 12, 2010; just a couple of months ago.

Yes, I had a good topic. As a matter of fact, I knew what I was gonna write about before I had finished the previous week’s post, which was quite remarkable. You see, sometimes God doesn’t lay an idea on my heart until the very last minute (which at times has proven to be very frustrating). The topic was The Seed of Hope room, the prayer room that I’m sitting in at this moment.

Yes, I had plenty of opportunities to write. Some weeks, for a variety of reasons, finding the time to write has been a challenge. During that particular week, it was as if the Red Sea had parted! Our schedule was such that there were several instances when I could have opened this laptop and began writing.

Yes, I had the desire to write. If you’re a regular “visitor” you know that I love sharing my life as a Christian with you. Not because it’s about me, but because we’re told to share the good news about God and His goodness with others; to be a light that shines for all to see.

Yet I never wrote the post. Why not?

Well, along with the topic, and the opportunity, and the desire, I had a lot of pain. Funny that it wasn’t my pain, but the pain of others, which had me hurting…

There have been a lot of visitors in this prayer room since we opened it in our salon this past May. And to tell you the truth, I wasn’t ready for them.

I’m reminded of the scene from Field of Dreams when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hears that voice saying, “If you build it, they will come.”

We built it. They came.

Don’t get me wrong; people aren’t lined up out the door and around the building trying to get in this room. But for me to have two or three opportunities each day to listen to what’s on people’s hearts and to pray for them is a blessing that has been at times a bit overwhelming for me, and especially so when we first opened the room.

Since it was built, and even before it was finished, I referred to this as being a prayer room. Well, it is indeed for prayer, and there have been many prayers offered in this room during the past seven months.

I think, for lack of a better word, we could have called this our share room.

There’s something that’s almost magical about this prayer room. People from all walks of life, including people that I’ve known for years and people that I’ve never met sit in this room and for whatever reason (I believe that it’s God’s presence), share whatever it is that’s troubling them; with me.

You see, I’m not a psychologist, or psychiatrist, or licensed counselor. I wasn’t trained to listen to the problems of others without taking them on myself. I didn’t know how to listen to the hurt on people’s hearts without hurting, or watching them cry without crying, or feeling despair and anguish and frustration without feeling it myself. I found myself asking, “How do trained professionals do this? How do they sit and listen all day long without sinking? Do they disconnect themselves from feeling anything? Do they just get used to it?”

And therein was the problem. I don’t want to disconnect; it’s not who I am. I believe that my purpose in this prayer is to listen to the hearts of others and to allow them to dump their “baggage”; even if it gets dumped on me. And I get to watch God work in the hearts and minds of those willing to let go. It’s quite amazing, and very, very, humbling.

When we’re through talking, I’ll offer to say a prayer for them, and if they’re receptive to the idea, that’s exactly what I do.

Afterwards, when I’m alone, I take a few moments in prayer asking the Lord to take their pain off of my heart. My friend Brooke suggested that I do this every time I’m in the prayer room with someone, and it has really helped.

All of this brings me to the original thought behind today’s message, which is about being…

Alone.

Why is it that we think that we have to carry our crosses, and bear our burdens, and solve our problems, by ourselves? Is it pride that stands in our way? Do we think that we have problems that no one else has had? Do we consider confiding in a friend or family member as a sign of weakness? Why do we let ourselves reach a point of desperation or of being despondent before we’re willing to reach out for help?

Since this is a faith-based site, do you think that I’m just talking about and to people who don’t know God?

I’m not!

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is our Provider, and our Protector, and our Comforter. He is everything. He is the way, and the truth, and the life. He is, really, all that we need, isn’t He?

I believe that part of God’s provision for us is putting people in our lives to help us in our walk. Oh sure, He can get us through anything and everything by Himself, but there’s something to said about sharing our problems with others. Perhaps sharing adds a dose of humility to our lives. Perhaps there’s a certain strength in knowing that we’re not the only ones with problems, and that our problems aren’t unique. Perhaps the person that we share a problem with has a solution or remedy that will help heal the wounds.

Perhaps God wants us to turn to others because when we do, we come to see that His presence is in all of us.  

Turn to God with all of your needs. Turn to others in time of need.

You never have to be alone.

  

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 12/15/2010 at 7:30 AM | Categories: Life -

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