Taking The First Step
Earlier this week I was having a conversation with my good friend Ann Mincey about the economy in general, the salon industry, and more specifically my salon, Salon M². The economic downturns plaguing our nation have resulted in many salons struggling to keep their doors open. In fact many salons are closing across the nation at an alarming rate. Yet in the midst of these turbulent times, our salon continues to prosper. 2009 may prove to be our biggest year ever.
A senior executive with Redken (the hair care people), Ann was questioning me as to why our salon, against the odds, was continuing to grow. My initial response, which should come as no surprise to anyone, was to give the credit to God. His hand is in everything that I do.
Knowing that this wasn’t really the answer that Ann was looking for, I quickly gave the credit to people that I had been fortunate enough to meet in the business arena during the past three years. These people (the list is far too long; you know who you are) led me to great programs and business plans that we integrated into our daily operations. Those factors, coupled with the dedication that my wife Jackie and I have for our business, have been the primary reasons for our success.
Together, Ann and I were wondering why many salon owners aren’t taking advantage of those same programs and plans, many of which are available at no cost. Reflecting on my first 16 years in the salon industry, I immediately knew the answer: FEAR of CHANGE. I won’t go into details about this; if you want to know our story, go to the page titled A Seed Was Planted. I told Ann that before salon owners would embrace wide sweeping change, they would have to be willing to take the first step in a new direction. Just one, small, first step.
Small steps become huge strides
I’ll set the stage for today’s message by telling you that I’ve been a practicing Catholic for the majority of my 56 years…
I had been invited to attend a one-day leadership conference featuring John Maxwell, a noted speaker and author. This conference was held at The Church of The Highlands, a non-denominational church here in Birmingham.
Several members of our staff in the salon attend this church, and they had been telling me for the last year or so that I should “check it out.” Many of our clients attend Highlands, and coincidentally, the pastor of the church, Chris Hodges, and his wife Tammy are guests in our salon. Suffice it to say that though I’d never attended a service at Church of The Highlands, I had certainly heard a lot of good things about it. A couple of times I had even considered “checking it out”, but after all, I was a Catholic, had been all my life, and wasn’t really looking to change churches. In other words, I was comfortable in my “church box.”
There’s something that I think bears mentioning at this point….
A few months ago, not long after The Seed of Hope had been launched, Pastor Hodges was in the salon, and I asked if I could have a couple of minutes of his time before he left. Granting my request, we took a seat in a quiet corner of the salon, and I gave him the condensed version of my life prior to 2005, and the chain of events that have occurred since.
I told him that my faith in God was deeper, that my love for God was stronger, that God was always with me, that I had been blessed by Him in countless ways, and that talking about God was my favorite topic, with whoever would listen. I asked him if he would take a few minutes to visit The Seed of Hope, not to impress him with what I’d written, but to see if he had any suggestions for making the site better.
I shared one more thought with Chris that day. I told him that I was puzzled, because in spite of my love for God, and all the good, and all the blessings, and all the gratitude, and all the sharing, and having found my “purpose” in life, something was missing. There was still a void, a dead zone, a part of my heart that was still seeking…something.
So I attended this leadership seminar with my friend Steve to hear this John Maxwell, this leadership guru, this one time pastor of his own church, this really strong Christian…and I loved what I heard! So much so that I was gonna bring Jackie back to the church on Sunday to hear a portion of his message that he himself was going to share with the congregation. And…
It would give me an opportunity (an excuse) to “check out” the service at The Church of The Highlands!
Jackie and I were going to attend the 8:00 A.M. service, because we usually attend church early on Sundays, and because I figured that with fewer people there the less likely the chance that I would be spotted by anyone that knew me! Laugh if you will, but I could hear my Catholic-Italian-Seventy-six year old Mom saying “Somebody told me that they saw you at that church. What were you doing there? Were you attending a funeral? Was this Jackie’s idea?” Go ahead, laugh, but I bet there are some things that you still hide from your Mom or Dad, aren’t there? Now who’s laughing?
It’s Sunday morning…
and Jackie are walking into the church. Well, we enter the main building and then head for the Sanctuary, which actually, above the doors, says “Auditorium”. This is already different. But I’m gonna attend this service with an open mind. I’ve been “talking the talk” for the past couple of years, and now it’s time for me to “walk the walk.” I’m actually going to take that first small step into a different church.
Keep an open mind Sam.
We enter the doors and instinctively I reach for the Holy Water font (found in Catholic churches) to bless myself. Whoops…forgot. The auditorium is HUGE, and we decide to sit near the front so as not to miss anything. We’re walking towards the stage, and as we’re doing so, my eyes are scanning the place, even though I’d been there just a couple of days before. Nothing has changed; no crosses, no statues, no altar…just this really large stage upon which is a wide array of musical instruments awaiting the arrival of the musicians that play them.
Keep an open mind Sam.
This stage is flanked by giant video screens mounted on the walls, I don’t know, maybe twenty feet above the floor. Huge speakers are suspended from the ceiling. Spot lights of various colors cast a soft glow on the stage. I feel as though I’m attending a rock concert.
KEEP AN OPEN MIND SAM!
The musicians walk out onto the stage, take their places with their instruments, and being to play. It’s loud. It’s contemporary. The congregation is singing. Though I’ve never attended a service in this church, and I’ve never heard any of the music, and yes, I know that I’m a Catholic but I also know that God put me in this church on this Sunday because something has been missing in my life and He wants me to find it because…all of this feels familiar…it feels comfortable…it feels right…tears are streaming down my face…God is here…my heart is full of Joy…I am home.
Since that Sunday
That “first” Sunday was on March 8, 2009, just short of three months ago. Jackie and I officially joined The Church of The Highlands two weeks later, and have taken an active role in the church, something that neither of us has ever done. I have learned so much more about myself, about the Bible, about God, and about my relationship with Him. In my opinion, that relationship is what religion and faith and church are about…or at least that’s what I feel they should be about.
So what do you think that I’m trying to tell you here today? That you shouldn’t be a Catholic? Or a Baptist? Or a Methodist? That you should immediately go out and “shop around” for a new church?
No, of course I’m not. I’m just trying to tell you that there’s always room for more…
Let me throw some questions at you, in no particular order of importance…
Do you attend church regularly? When you do attend church, is it because you feel obligated, or because you really want to be there? Are you excited to see Sunday roll around again because it’s time for church? Is faith merely a word in the dictionary, or is it something that you walk with every day? Do you feel as though your understanding of God has reached a plateau, or that your relationship with Christ has become “stale?” Is your heart filled with joy because of His love for you and your love for Him? Are you a Sunday Christian or an everyday Christian? And one last question…
When you walk into your church, do you feel like you’re at home?
If you’re not getting what you need in your church, or if you feel that something is missing, perhaps it’s time for you to take that first small step in a different direction. Go ahead; God is waiting for you.
See you next Monday.