of Business & of Life
I started this little terrarium shop in the Fall of 2014 with three simple goals in mind:
First, I wanted it to be a place where my son James, only 14 at the time, but now age 19, could learn some basic business skills during his high school years and develop a good work ethic. By working together we could have the kinds of conversations that a young man needs to have before he needs to have them. Goal #1? Check! That part has worked out very well. James plants most of our terrariums now and teaches most of our classes, not because I make him, but because he wants to. He enjoys the work and he needs the money. I just keep him supplied with extraordinary plants and new pieces of terrarium glassware.
Second, I wanted this little shop to be a “laboratory experiment” in putting into practice all the ideas I have advocated over the years in my speaking and writing about lifestyle design. We have so much freedom in the USA to do so many good and wise things. But most of us never break out of the herd to do anything unusual. Like sled dogs in the harness, our view never changes unless we get to be the lead dog. I am a champion for opting out of the harness altogether. Self-employment may not be for everyone, but it is probably a good idea for a lot more people than we see taking a shot at it. I think we have fallen in to the mindset that every business has to become a big business or it will fail. That is not true. A small business, even a tiny business like mine can be a successful business. That is what I wanted to prove.
By owning and operating my own tiny, semi-retirement business (think of it as an urban version of opening a bait shop at the lake) I get to enjoy a modest income doing something I really enjoy doing. Millions of people in my generation are not able to retire, and I am one of them. Ever since the Great Recession we can't afford to quit working. But even if we were able to quit working for the income, it would not be much of a life, after a month or so, to quit working altogether.
So, my theory has always been that a tiny business (i.e a small enterprise made up of just a few people who get to do all the work and therefore get to reap all the profits) is a better approach to semi-retirement life for most people than the usual ways of making a living can afford. Provided you are doing something you enjoy doing, responding to a niche market of customers who are your fellow enthusiasts — thosewho love what you do— this is a better, more profitable way to finish out your last decade or so of life. It certainly beats trying to find a good-paying job at my age. What’s more, because my shop is accommodated in a “live/work space,” I get to live upstairs at no additional cost. I commute to work down my very cool spiral staircase.
This approach is called “shop keeping.” It’s a very old idea. Just think of all those storefronts you see on the main streets of every old town. The retail shop is on the street-level and the living quarters are in the back or upstairs. It is a holistic urban model that integrates work and family life in much the same way that small family farms are able to do in the countryside. It is a more humane business that allows an old fart like me to putz around my small space, dusting and sprucing things up around the shop, planting a few new terrariums each day, and making new friends everyday, all while making a comfortable living for myself and my son.
Shop Keeping also allows me to do all this while still leaving enough time and energy for what matters most in my life; my family and friends. I could make a lot more money if I would just keep my shop open for longer hours 7 days a week. As it is, I’m only open Noon to 5pm, Tuesday through Friday, and on Saturdays from 11am to 6pm. We are closed on Sundays and Mondays for church and family activities. This is all part of what I mean by designing the lifestyle that you want to live rather than having your way of life handed to your by an insanely out of balance society. The way most people live today makes no sense at all if you stop and think about it. There is a reason my most poor people are poor and most rich people are unhappy. In both cases it is often due to making a long series of really bad and foolish decisions. The good life is the quiet life of working with your hands to do well for yourself by doing good for others. I am living the good life.
So, Goal #2? Check! It’s all working out very well.
My third goal in starting this tiny terrarium shop was to create a public place where I can live out my Christian faith in an open and authentic way. I am a follower of Jesus.
More than that, I am an ambassador for Christ. This role is by no means unique with me. Every follower of Jesus is supposed to be, to some degree, an ambassador for Christ. It is every Christian’s privilege to represent Jesus to others.
Therefore, because I am an ambassador for Christ, it only follows that my home, and this live/work terrarium shop of mine, should be, in some sense, an embassy of the Kingdom of God over which Jesus rules as my King.
So, where is His kingdom? It’s right here. It’s all around you and me right now, but it is spiritual. If you cannot see it that is because you are still spiritually dead in your disregard for God. You just need to be born again. Then you will be able to see it and enter it.
It’s not political, though it will eventually influence your politics in a good way. It’s not really even a religion, though you will find yourself wanting to gather with fellow believers in Jesus. At its heart it is a renewed relationship with the God Who created all of us. It is made visible by faith in Who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us.
That brings us to the gospel— the good news concerning Jesus Christ. What is the good news? It is this. God, the Father of all Creation, created everything and everyone as part of the display of His own goodness and wisdom. Everything and everyone He created was originally good and wise because God Himself is good and wise. That display is called His “glory.” We were all created for the glory of God and we are supposed to live our lives as part of the glorious display of God’s goodness and wisdom.
The bad news is that there has been a rebellion against to goodness and wisdom of God and now we are all part of that rebellion until we repent and make our peace with God. When you try to runaway from goodness and wisdom all you have left to run to is evil and foolishness. That is the corrupted world system in which we now live. It’s a broken world.
God could have just thrown us all away and started over. But having been created to be like Him we are eternal souls. That means we must live somewhere forever. What do you do with a morally corrupt eternal soul? You have only two options. 1. You can condemn it to an eternity without God (that is hell). Or, 2. you can redeem it, by paying its debt to eternal justice, and then forgive it and rescue it from its foolishness and evil by restoring it to your original purpose for creating it. God in love and mercy chose to do the later for those who will accept it.
But in order to accomplish the latter God had to find some sinless person who has no sin of his own to pay for, and then have that person die in the place of all those who deserve to perish. That person whom God the Father has choosen to make such a sacrifice is none other than His own eternal Son, who was sent into the world as the man, Jesus of Nazareth, to live the perfectly sinless life we were all intended to live, but have not, and then to die the horrible death that we all deserve to die for our rebellion.
Then, as proof that Jesus death was accepted by God the Father as full payment for the sins of the whole world, God raised Jesus from the dead, not to simply die again later, but to live forever as King over His own new eternal kingdom of love and goodness and wisdom. Jesus is alive right now, and you can know Him and love Him if you want to.
When anyone believes this good news, and by that I mean believing it so deeply that he or she is willing to actually obey Jesus command to love and forgive one another, that believer has been born again into the family of God. He or she has been transferred out of the kingdoms of this world and into the Kingdom of God’s Son, Jesus.
Such a believer in Jesus is saved by his or her faith alone, not by any religious works or by human effort to please God, but simply by faith in who Jesus is and what Jesus has done by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. That faith, which causes new spiritual life to come into being, will then move each new believer to begin participating again in the display of God’s goodness and wisdom and love. It is a total way of life. That is what it means to be a Christian. We are saved by faith alone, through God’s grace and mercy alone and all for the glory of God alone.
Those who believe this good news concerning Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God are what the Bible calls “saved.” And the love we have for one another is actually God’s love flowing to us and through us to others whom God also loves. It is an obedience that springs supernaturally from putting our faith in Jesus. That is why authentic believers in Jesus are known by their love.
So, the Christian life that I endeavor to live, and which I hope you will now join me in, is available only by trusting in Jesus. We can’t live this life of love apart from our relationship with Him. Our entire responsibility as a believer in Jesus and as an ambassador of His kingdom is to show our love for God by the way we love and care for the people He has placed in our lives— our family and our neighbors. People like you and me.
So, I strive with all my might to live for God’s glory. Availing myself of the power that He provides to me by faith, I take it one day at a time, one smile at a time, one gift of a few dollars at a time, one conversation at a time. It’s a quiet life that will go on forever and ever even after I die and go to be with God in heaven. I know Jesus Christ personally and you can know Him too. I live everyday of my life with deep peace and joy and love, and you can enjoy the same life if you want to. I know I am going to go to heaven when I die and you can know you are going to heaven as well if you will only turn back to God, repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus. It is all available to you right now.
So that’s it. That is my Philosophy of Business and of Life. I'm not here just to make money. Nor am I here to just teach my son some basic business skills. I am here to live a life that brings glory to my Creator by leading my neighbors to Christ.
My little shop is my attempt to put God’s wisdom and goodness and love into action, to buck the systems of this world and create something that better reflects the culture of God’s kingdom. Hopefully, my efforts will benefit others like you, whether you ever buy anything from me or not.
Because I am free to do whatever I choose with my own time and with my own business, I can do this. If making less money is what it takes to win souls to Christ, so be it. We all have the same freedom of religion and freedom of speech in this country. But our precious freedoms are of no consequence if no one ever actually lives out their faith in public or speaks their mind to others concerning God. I intend to do both.
So, please, drop by the shop and give me an opportunity to be the ambassador for Christ that I long to be. This is the third reason why I have opened this terrarium shop. Goal #3? Check! Though this one is still a work in progress, it also is working out well.