The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: July 2011

...one Sunday in September.

A few weeks ago my wife Jackie and I flew to Molalla, Oregon (30 minutes south of Portland) to attend a wedding. Yes, Molalla is indeed a good distance from our home in Birmingham, Alabama! Yes, the cost of getting there far surpassed what we may have spent on a gift. No, neither the bride nor groom is a member of our family. No, neither of them were childhood friends, roommates from college, or lifelong friends. We’ve known the bride for about five years, and during that period of time, we’ve seen her, I don’t know, may a couple of dozen times at best.

So why would we invest our time and resources to travel to Molalla, Oregon to attend the wedding of someone that we’ve known for a handful of years?

Well, because the bride made an impact on my life the day that I met her in 2006. The consequences of that first meeting were instrumental in changing not only my life, but the lives of Jackie, our family, and the people that worked for us.

I love telling this story. I’m quite sure that I’ve told some version of it on this very site at some point, but I feel that it bears repeating for reasons that I’ll explain in just a bit. Besides, I never tire of sharing it...

…about Ann.

Jackie and I were attending a salon industry event in Atlanta, Georgia. That Sunday morning Jackie was participating in a cutting class, and I had been invited to a luncheon that was being given for salon owners. I’ll be honest with you in saying that while I really wasn’t excited about going to the luncheon, I figured that it would be better than sitting in our hotel room watching a football game between two teams that I didn’t like.

The keynote speaker at this luncheon was a lady named Ann Mincey, whom I’d never heard of and didn’t know the first thing about. (Again, the only reason that I was going at all was for a lack of anything better to do!)

I showed up at the appointed time and was immediately greeted by Lynn, our salon sales consultant, who grabbed me by the hand and led/steered/dragged me to this stunning looking woman who introduced herself as, you guessed it; Ann Mincey.

The next few minutes were a bit of a blur. I introduced myself to Ann, and then, per her request, I began sharing the condensed version our salon story with her. (If you’ve never heard it, and if you’re interested, click on A Seed was Planted at the top of this page.) When I’d finished, Ann thanked me for sharing our story with her, commended us for our courage in what we’d done, and then, curiously enough, asked if she could give me a hug, to which I readily agreed.

The luncheon began, and after a few opening remarks, the host proudly introduced the keynote speaker, REDKEN’s Vice President of Global Communications, Ann Mincey. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather! V.P.s of huge corporations weren’t supposed to be that nice.

Ann took her place in front of the audience and began sharing her own personal story of change, including her career with Redken (the hair care people). While it was indeed an interesting story, what impacted me the most was Ann’s testimony about God and   her faith. And while it wasn’t as bold as what some would refer to as “witnessing,” it was, nonetheless, my first experience of faith in the marketplace, and I was immediately impacted by it; a lot.

I returned to Birmingham, more determined than ever to grow our salon to a level of success beyond anything that I had envisioned for it. Of more importance was my commitment to change not only who I was, but the way that I lived my life. And, in a move that would change the course of my life, I made a decision to include God in everything that I did. Everything.

Change came and came fast. (I’d given God the green light.) I was so overwhelmed that quite often my mind was left reeling. Everything was changing…our business was growing, my outlook on life and on people took on a new perspective each day, and I was constantly seeking more and more of God. And I was changing! Every morning I’d stand in front the mirror and gaze into my own eyes, wondering what self-discovery I was gonna have that day.

It kind of freaked me out, and I wasn’t the only one that felt way. Jackie was left wondering where her husband went and who she was gonna be married to when the “metamorphosis” was complete. Our sons were wondering if I’d lost my mind. Apparently, some guy who talked about God and changing the world all the time had taken up residence in their dad’s body!

And you know? I couldn’t blame any of them for the way that they felt. Like I said, I was indeed changing at an unsettling rate, and I definitely was talking about God all the time, to anyone who’d listen. You see, I believed in my heart that the two were intertwined; I was changing because I was turning to God, and I was turning to God because I was changing. To complicate things even more, I had this inexplicable burning desire to share what was going on inside of me with everyone.

I was so lost. I was so afraid. I wasn’t sure of what was going on inside of me, of who I was becoming, of what I was becoming, and of what the driving force was to get this “message” out about God.

For some reason (I’m sure it was part of God’s plan) I turned to Ann. I got her e-mail address from Lynn, and proceeded to pour my heart out to this woman that I’d spoken to for a total of fifteen minutes. Even as I was writing, I remember thinking that it just didn’t make sense as to why I was reaching out to a person that I didn’t even know, and I expressed that very thought to Ann. I believe that I even included an apology for dumping my life into her lap. As I hit the “send” button to deliver some of my innermost feelings to this virtual stranger, I wondered if I truly had lost my mind.

About a week later Ann responded with a phone call. We talked for a few minutes, and a friendship was born.

More e-mails followed. I shared even more of what was on my heart, because for some strange reason, I felt that I was supposed to, that I could trust this person that God put in my path, and that He put her there for a reason.

That “reason” was revealed in a response that Ann made to comment that I’d made, questioning my worthiness of being a messenger for God. She directed me to the Bible, which was one book that I’d never read.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying “Before you were in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”…The the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” Jeremiah 1:5-9

For the first time in my life, Scripture, which I had always feared, suddenly gave me great comfort. God knew me before I was even born, and the things that I had been sharing with others about Him were what He had placed on my heart. Hmmm…

This pattern repeated itself several times over the next couple of months; I’d reach out to Ann with a something that was on my heart, and she’d suggest one or two passages from the Bible that would not only provide me with an answer, but the perfect answer.

I became a student of the Bible. It’s an owner’s manual for the way we should live, and even for raising our kids. Today I own two different versions of the Bible, and other versions are readily available online if I’m unable to discern what a certain passage means. I’m hungry for God’s Word.

Catalyst

One definition of catalyst is “an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.”

Ann Mincey was certainly a catalyst for change in my life. Not because of her position with Redken, or because she was the keynote speaker at a luncheon that I attended, or because she is a woman (she could’ve been a guy named Larry). She’s a person, just like you and me.

You see, on that Sunday in September, Ann was willing to be a vessel of God. She was willing to share her faith in a business forum, which goes against the grain of conventional wisdom. She was willing to share God’s Word with me at those times when I was lost and confused. She was willing to take time out of her busy schedule to help a little guy from Birmingham, Alabama. Ann’s willingness to share, her love for God, and her love for people, had a profound impact on my life, and Jackie’s too. In many ways, she is like a member of our family, and we love her and think the world of her.

Molalla, Oregon? Heck, I suspect that we would’ve flown to the other side of the world to attend her wedding, if that’s where it was being held.

If He hasn’t already, I pray that God will put an Ann Mincey, or someone like her, in your path. I pray that this person will be a catalyst for change in your life. And I pray that, in turn, you will be a catalyst in the life of someone else.

 

 

 

 

  

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 07/21/2011 at 3:38 PM | Categories: Life -

...a terrible thing to waste.

In the early 1970’s there was an ad campaign sponsored by the United Negro College Fund and the Ad Council that featured the slogan “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste.” The campaign was initiated to draw attention to the UNCF, whose primary purpose was keeping tuition rates low and ensuring that a college education was available to every young black American who dreamed of attending college.

I wonder if UNCF envisioned, when it kicked off its campaign in 1972, that its slogan would withstand the test of time and become a part of the American vernacular. I can’t tell you how many times through the years I’ve heard the slogan used, not only in the realm of college educations, but also in referring to drug usage, and quite often, in a joking manner when referring to an individual’s mental state.

During my college years, alcohol was my favorite choice of substance abuse.  Throughout my twenties, I turned to marijuana. Then there was that period in my thirties when cocaine became the center of my world…

Sadly enough, during each of those periods in my life, I would laughingly tell anyone within earshot that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” as I got drunk, or high, or ramped-up on coke. The possible long-term consequences of what I was doing paled in comparison to the immediate escape from reality that I was getting at the moment. And from where I was looking, anywhere other than where I was at the moment was a better place for me to be.

That was then…

It’s amazing as to what a change in lifestyle can do to your perspective in life.

About five weeks ago I woke one morning to find three small bumps just above my beltline on the right side of my torso. Suspecting that they were spider or some type of insect bites, I began treating them with an ointment for exactly that.

A few days later, the three bumps had now multiplied to seven or eight. Deciding that I’d been exposed to poison ivy, oak, or sumac while pruning some shrubs at our lake house the previous week, I found an ointment that I’d used last summer after being exposed to the latter of the three, and generously applied it to the infected area.

Several days later, whatever it was that I had wasn’t getting any better. In fact, it was getting worse. It had spread to the right side of my hip, and it was starting to itch; a lot. It was Saturday night, and I’d already made the decision to call my primary care physician on Monday morning. My wife Jackie and I were leaving for a much anticipated and long overdue vacation the following Friday, and I wanted this “I-don’t-know-what-it-is-but-it’s-driving-me-crazy” under control before we left.

I was able to get an appointment with my doctor on Tuesday afternoon, June 22nd. He hooked me up with a steroid shot to curb the itching and halt the progress of this still undefined rash that was getting the best of me. He also gave me an ointment that he was sure “would do the trick.” After I’d informed him that we were leaving for the Northwestern U.S. and Canada on Friday, he also provided me with a steroid dose-pack for just in case.

Today…

Today is Wednesday, July 13, 2011. It’s been three weeks and a day since I was in my doctor’s office before leaving for vacation.

The rash that I had made the trip with us, and was with me every day that we were in Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In fact, it made the trip back home with us. As soon as we got back, I went for yet another visit to the doctor’s office, where I received yet another steroid shot, another dose pack, and another ointment to try. He also referred me to a local dermatologist to try to pinpoint exactly what it is that I have. Yet another type of ointment and an antihistamine was prescribed to ease the itching, and to cure the rash.

Another week later, and this stuff is still hanging around with me. It has now spread across my body, from hipbone to hipbone. It’s on both of my forearms, and has nestled into the small of my back. To say that I’ve been miserable would be a bit of an understatement.

Connected?

So at this point are you wondering what an ad slogan could have in common with a rash, or vice versa? What does a wasted mind have to do with an itch?

Well, it turns out that the antihistamine that I was given to relieve the itch is also often prescribed as a sedative, as an anti-anxiety medication, and as a treatment for motion sickness.

The bottom line is that the medicine has knocked me for a loop! The feeling of escape that I’ve spent hundreds, even thousands of dollars on in previous years, has been my constant companion for the last eight days. I’ve been disconnected, lethargic, and unable to comprehend even the simplest of written words. To coin a phrase that’s well known in many circles, I’m wasted.

I’ll say again that it’s amazing how a change in lifestyle shifts your perspective on things.

I can’t stand being “wasted.” I don’t want to be knocked for a loop, and I don’t want to escape from anything, especially reality. At this very moment, I’m fighting the urge to itch because I wanted to have enough clarity to write this post. In fact, as soon as I’m done, it’s back on the drugs.

The things that are most important to me in life have taken a hit, not because of this interminable rash, but the treatment for it. I roll out of bed in the mornings in such a drunken stupor that I can’t get focused during my personal time of worship and prayer. When Jackie joins me for coffee and reading the day’s passages in the One Year Bible, I have trouble reading them, much less attempting to discern what they mean. Several e-mails generated and received through The Seed of Hope have gone unanswered because I don’t have the clarity to compose a response. A huge opportunity to be a part of a team at Highlands College that’s writing a Daily Devotional is on the verge of falling by the wayside because of my inability to concentrate on a given passage from Scripture. Even my time with Jackie has suffered. Aside from going to church and eating, I spent this past weekend sleeping on the couch, and I confided to Jackie that I felt as if I’d lost two days. Come to think of, I feel as though I’ve lost the last week.

Why am I sharing this with you?

Good question. And I’m not really sure that I know the answer.  

Perhaps it’s because my attention has been drawn to something that I’ve taken for granted: my mind.

I’ve taken for granted the ability to read, write, and comprehend. I’ve taken for granted the ability to think, and to reason. I’ve taken for granted the ability to pray and meditate. I’ve taken for granted the times that I get to spend with Jackie. I’ve taken for granted the ability to be in control of my faculties.

Look, this rash, or whatever it is, will pass. And with it will the need for me to be on this medicine. I believe that it was part of God’s plan for me to go through this, not only to change my perspective towards my abilities, but to be more considerate of those with special needs who will never have the capabilities of doing what I get to do every day.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. I’m very grateful for the one that God has given me, and I’ll never again take it, or the gifts that come with it, for granted.

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 07/13/2011 at 1:55 PM | Categories: Life -

...between possible and probable.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

The first order of the day is to offer you an apology. In last week’s post (Calling you out!) I feel like I came out swinging. The tone that I used was a bit harsh, and hopefully you’ve frequented this site enough to know that harshness isn’t quite my style.

What I had to say was, quite honestly, born out of frustration…  

Notice that Jesus didn’t say a “few things”, or “several things”, or “many things”. Jesus didn’t put any limitations on his Father or His abilities. Imagine him looking   at you in the eyes and without the slightest notion of doubt, saying “Look, our Father can do anything! Anything! Don’t you get it? There’s nothing that he can’t do. Nothing.”

Why do we have such a hard time wrapping our minds around what Jesus told us? Why can we so easily accept his teachings on life, love, giving, forgiveness, and salvation, yet not accept the fact that his Father, who is our Father, can do all things?

Before I continue, and as I’ve done so many times before, I’m going to remind you that any “verbal darts” you feel that are being thrown at you are those that I’ve plucked from my own flesh at some point along the path of life. What I share isn’t meant to call you out or down in any way, but simply to tell you what changing my perspective on God did for me.

Possible

Here’s the thing in a nutshell. In the last couple of years I’ve had conversations with so many God-loving, Spirit-filled, walking-with-Jesus-everyday people whose faith knows no bounds in every aspect other than the fact that all things are possible with God.

Quite often, it’s that very barrier to God’s greatness that prevents us from having the relationship with Him that we can, and perhaps of more importance, that keeps us from being bold enough to ask for the seemingly impossible.

Look, I’m asking you to believe in a BIG GOD, who is capable of big things. What I’m asking requires a leap of faith, because our very complex yet very simple minds have a hard time fathoming the reality that nothing is too big for Him.

That being said, how can we possibly approach God with our petitions with the mindset that He can’t answer them anyway? It’s as if we’re saying, “Okay God. I’m giving this to You because I have no other place to turn. I’ve done everything that I can. Please take this illness (or relationship, or financial situation, or whatever it is that you’re facing) and see what You can do with it.”

Really?

Okay, the first thing that you should do in every situation is give it to God before you do anything else! Ask God for His healing before you go to the doctor, or for His words before you try to mend that relationship, or for His provision before you face financial ruin. If not, you’ll quite often find that some of Satan’s favorite weapons, such as doubt, fear, frustration, and anger are standing in line in front of you, and the simple act of staying focused on Him will be a challenge.

Secondly, as you give these things to God, recall Jesus’ promise to us in the Book of Matthew:

“Because you are not yet taking God seriously”, said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” Matthew 17:20-21 The Message

Probable

I’ll go ahead and ask you to bear with me on this for a moment. I’m threshing this one out as I write, not only because of the challenge that I face in explaining it, but because of an excerpt from a comment that I received concerning last week’s post from my long time friend Peggy.

I have been having some problems lately and have given them to God. One of them is for the healing of my body from cancer. I thoroughly believe God has healed me but my oncology reports do not support this. However, with the problems I have had lately I cannot believe there is any way I could feel as good as I do unless healing is going on.

Peggy’s unwavering faith in God during her courageous battle against cancer is a perfect example of what I’m trying to get across to you today. Quite obviously, Peggy has turned to physicians to help rid her body of this deadly disease. It’s also apparent that she believes that God is the ultimate healer, and knows that her complete and possible recovery is not in the hands of her doctors, but in the hands of God.

Refusing to believe what she’s read in the oncology reports, and against all odds, Peggy is looking to God for the seemingly impossible.

This is where it gets tough.

Does Peggy’s firm belief that with God all things are possible mean that it’s also probable? Does it mean that God is, without a doubt, going to heal Peggy because she believes that He can?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

What Peggy’s faith does do is relieve her mental burden to some degree, to give her hope for tomorrow, and above all else, give God the opportunity to heal His child. But it doesn’t guarantee that He’ll do it.

If it were as easy as that, our faith in God would be something akin to a bubble gum machine. You drop a prayer in the slot, and receive the solution. It wouldn’t say much for the need for faith, would it? And it would say even less for the need for God.

I don’t know why.

I don’t know why sickness, and death, and financial troubles, and broken hearts are in God’s plans for us. I don’t know why desperation has to be a part of it, why we have to reach the bottom before we begin our climb to the top.

I don’t know why God had me wandering through my own personal wilderness for so many years. Perhaps it was His way of showing me that it’s never too late, that there’s always hope, that something as seemingly impossible as changing the very essence of a fifty-four year old man set in his ways posed no challenge for Him at all. Perhaps He knew that I would share the news of it with you.

My wish for you, my hope for you, and my prayer for you is that you’ll come to realize that nothing is too big for God. Nothing. Not even that.

 

“…with God, all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

 

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 07/06/2011 at 5:24 PM | Categories: Faith -

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