A Natural Fit
Last month, and at the last minute, I decided to attend an ARC (Association of Related Churches) Conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For weeks leading up to the conference I had been asking God for some clarity on a decision that my wife Jackie and I needed to make, and for some reason I believed that He was gonna give me that clarity in Baton Rouge…
A few months ago Jackie and I were offered an opportunity to partner with a Birmingham businesswoman and fellow church member in opening a TSPA (The Salon Professional Academy), a school of cosmetology, just a couple of miles from our hair salon.
Conservative by nature, especially when it comes to making business decisions, I carefully weighed the pros and cons of moving forward with the potentially life-altering investment.
There were many reasons on the positive side of the ledger.
· First and foremost in my mind was the potential for creating a healthy source of revenue for Jackie and me that would extend well into our retirement years.
· We’d have an established business to pass along to our sons when, well, when it was time.
· Jackie, who has been a stylist working “behind the chair” for decades, would be able to scale back her work load and share her many years of experience with our students, which is something that she’s always wanted to do.
· I would bring my twenty-two years of business in the salon industry to the table. I’d also have the opportunity to share my core beliefs about business, life, and of course my faith, with the students.
· We would have the opportunity and blessing of helping grow careers.
· Oh, and did I mention the money? I think that, above all else, I saw the TSPA and the income that it would generate as a safety net for me to go out and serve the Lord, whenever and wherever I was called to do so.
We were, according to many in our industry, a “natural fit” to be TSPA owners.
The list of reasons on the negative side of the ledger was a short one. In fact, the list consisted of two items.
· The initial investment was huge, and at fifty-eight, neither Jackie nor I felt really comfortable about it. I won’t say that we were stricken with fear. After all, we’d taken another huge risk when we relocated our business in 2005. Still, I felt that while the business acumen between Jackie, me, and our business partner wouldn’t guarantee success, it would certainly increase the odds of it happening. Again, we’d be a natural fit.
· It would be, simply put, another business to run. (For those of you who have never owned a business, this is where I tell you that they don’t come with “easy” buttons or “auto-pilot” switches.)
On Monday, the day before I left for Baton Rouge, I received an e-mail confirming that a reservation in my name had been made in a New York City hotel a week after my return from the conference. (Jackie had a previous commitment to attend a retreat in California that she didn’t want to miss.) I was scheduled to be in New York to finalize plans for the TSPA, to sign a letter of commitment, and to put a security deposit on the deal. The time to make a decision was at hand, and we weren’t ready.
Riding to Baton Rouge the next morning with my friend Rusty, I remember thinking, “God, if You’re gonna give me some clarity on this TSPA thing, it needs to be soon. This is cuttin’ it kinda close.”
We’d been at the conference for two days, and in that time I’d had a lot of revelations about a lot of things. Of course, I gotten nothing (nada, zero, zilch, goose eggs) regarding the decision that I would have to make upon my return to Birmingham on Thursday night.
It was the last session of a very long, inspiring, impactful day. I’m quite sure that it was God’s plan for me that my Pastor (Chris Hodges), of my church (Church of The Highlands) was on the stage giving the last message of the day. Pastor Chris’ focus was on putting down “mental baggage” that many of us manage to accumulate during the years. At some point he extended an invitation (an altar call) to all who were burdened to approach the stage for prayer.
Feeling no burdens on my heart, I opted to remain where I was, and to pray for the hearts and minds of those crowded at the front of the auditorium. Eyes closed, while listening to Pastor Chris, and praying, and singing (yes, God allowed me to do all of those at the same time), my thoughts turned to the TSPA.
I’ll relate what happened next to the best of my ability…
My prayer: Dear God, I seek only to do Your will, and to follow the path of the perfect plan that I know you have for me. I want to love You, and to serve You. I offer my life to You today, as I do every day. Please help me with this decision. Please give me clarity. Please allow me to see, without question, the choice that I should make.”
I believe that there have been three times in my life when I have clearly heard God’s voice, and this was one of them.
“Now is not the time to open the school. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Be patient. Wait for me.”
That was all the answer that I needed. I returned to Birmingham the next day and told Jackie about what had happened. Our decision was made. I sent an e-mail to all of the parties involved informing them of our decision to back out. I informed them that it just wasn’t in our hearts to open a school, and hoped that they would understand.
End of story?
When I sat down to write the e-mail, I quickly scanned my incoming e-mails and noticed that I had received one from the church. Curious, I opened it to read that I had been invited to be an Anointer (I get to pray for people) at a retreat this coming weekend. What an honor. What a blessing. Of course, I accepted the invitation.
Two days later I received an invitation to portray a missionary in Ethiopia during a missions training program for a large group of young people being held at our church. I would get to share my heart and God’s real calling in my life as I wove it into the fabric of this missionary’s story.
The next day I was extended an invitation by a close friend to participate in a live “Call to Prayer” on a Christian radio station here in Birmingham. I, along with a Pastor and Worship Leader from two other churches in the area would accept prayer requests from callers, and would get to pray for them on air.
One week later our state would be slammed by the worst outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded in a single day. The devastation was incomprehensible, and tragically, the death count in Alabama alone stands at two hundred and thirty-six, with hundreds of people still unaccounted for.
In the aftermath of the storms, our church set up distribution centers in Birmingham and nearby Tuscaloosa for tornado victims who had lost much, if not all, of their possessions. Heart aching for these people, and wanting to help, I volunteered to work at two of the distribution centers, handing out supplies to those in need.
I also made a commitment to offer to pray for each and every victim of the storms that I came into contact with. I’d offer nourishment for their bodies, but more importantly I would get to offer nourishment for their spirits. During a four day period, I did indeed offer to pray for more people than I can remember, and none, not one (Nada. Zero. Zilch. Goose eggs) refused my offer for prayer. I got to pray for all of ‘em.
Why am I sharing all of this with you?
I’m reminded of a message that was given by Joshua Canizaro, yet another pastor at Church of Highlands. The gist of his message was this:
There are things in life that we’ve got to do. We’ve got to have a job. We’ve got to pay the bills. We’ve got to pay taxes, and buy groceries, and pay tuition. You get the message, right? These are things that we’ve got to do.
Then there are those things that we get to do. They’re things that we volunteer to do, because they’re in our hearts, and because doing them brings us joy.
Yes, I closed the door of opportunity to open a TSPA because God told me to do so. And what did I receive in return?
…I get to pray for people. ….I would get to share my heart….and would get to pray for them on air…I would get to offer nourishment for their spirits.
Do you get it?
There’s no doubt that I’d be a natural fit for owning a school.
From where I’m standing, it’s more important for me to be a natural fit for serving God. It’s what is in my heart. It’s what I get to do.