Grace-Flow

Things Are Not Always Rose Colored
As I type this, my hands are in a losing battle to keep my hair off my face. The wind is having her way, as she always has. But this heavy breeze doesn’t come close to the storm raging in my head, brought about by the far from auspicious beginning to my work year. Driving home from a beautiful wedding a few Sundays ago, I got a message telling me that my general manager for Issho Genki (the Squalene company), Beth, was stabbed on the wrist in a robbery. The man severed her tendons and veins for a handbag. Now is a terrible time to lose her, given all the challenges that come with the growth of this company, as well as the other businesses and non-profit involvements I have. Beth was incredibly helpful the last few months when I, along with the other board members, had to take an increased role in Habitat for Humanity (the housing foundation) after the death of our CEO, Burt Jugo during Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy).

From one crisis to another.

Like many others, sometimes I feel God has forgotten me, that He doesn’t hear my prayers, or if HE does, He doesn’t really care. I don’t doubt His existence. I’ve been past that idea a long time ago. But sometimes this existent God feels far. And like a lost child, I find myself running in circles desperately looking for the familiar parent.

Usually I feel this way when I’m faced with problems and difficulties that seem too heavy for me. That is what a problem is right? A person, a situation, a mistake, a challenge, or something, that has grown larger than us and is threatening our security. If it were something we could solve easily than it really wouldn’t be a problem. It’s the difference between a fly and a lion. One is a pest, a nuisance, the other can bite your head off.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt this way. Challenges are not special to certain people. They are a reality for everyone. Some people have big problems and some have small problems. I’m finding that the difference is not so much the in size of the problem itself but is relative to the perspective and capabilities of the one facing the concern. For some a one million Peso debt is huge, for those who are restructuring much larger amounts like I am, it’s small. I hate it when people say things like, “That’s a small problem. Look at them they have bigger problems.” These people completely miss the point. The fact that a person has a problem, big or small, means that he or she currently lacks the solution, no matter how big or small as well. They don’t need to know whether their product is big or small, they need help.
So the best way to get involved is simply to help.

Grace-Flow
But it’s through these challenges that I’ve learned a concept that now helps me whenever I’m facing a situation I’m unsure I can handle.

I like to call it the Grace-flow.

One of the most important business concepts (though many times misunderstood or underappreciated) is the idea of cash-flow. Having found myself, unintentionally I assure you, in several restructuring situations, I have learned to respect the importance of managing and maximizing cash. In my short experience, the companies with healthy cash balances and positive cash-flow are much easier to get back into shape, mostly because the resources needed to make things happen continue to come in. Fighting out of negative cash-flow can be extremely difficult and is many times a good sign a business is about to go bust. (Unless some infusion or investment is made.)

At its most basic, business can be very simple. Someone provides a product or service that is purchased with money. The money goes to paying for the cost of the product or service, the expenses incurred to make that product or service available, and a portion for profit. So the cash-flow involves the in-flow of money through payments to the business and the outflow such as payments towards the expenses. It’s this process of in-flows and out-flows that make up what is called a cash-flow statement. This can get more complex with different payment terms or time cycles but we won’t get into that. This isn’t a finance course.

Healthy companies have healthy cash-flow. Meaning, they maximize the amounts and timing of the in-flows and out-flows in a way that always leaves them with enough money to cover all payables and spend for expansion and future needs.

Similarly our bodies have blood circulation to keep the supply of oxygen, nutrients, and other essential substances to the different cells. A deficiency in the supply or quality of our blood will affect our health adversely. I’m not a doctor but I’ve read enough health books to know the basic importance of healthy blood circulation. Another lesson learned from the restructuring of Issho Genki (the Squalene company we recently re-acquired). And our blood does more than supply; it also takes care of removing waste from our organs to be eliminated from our body.

Just like cash for a business, a healthy circulation of blood is important for our bodies. Cash is to business what blood is to our bodies.

Which brings me to the spirit.

Business has cash-flow, the body has blood-flow (circulation), and the spirit has Grace-flow – the flow of God’s grace that empowers us through His presence in our lives to be who He wants us to be and to do what He wants us to do. I don’t mean some fuzzy feel-good Grace that people can take to an extreme and treat like a get-out-of-jail free card. I mean empowerment, that when you lack you can go to God and know that His grace abounds, that He gives generously to all, and that you will have all that you need. I don’t know if it’s like energy that’s expended. I’m not a theologian. I do know that I need more and more of it. Or maybe I’ve always needed the same amount but just now realizing how much.
Go to God

Earlier this evening, I had dinner with a business partner from the Middle East. The last time we met I had flow to Dubai for two days to meet him, and now he’s returning the favor. After the meeting, as In walked towards the lobby of the Shangri-la (Edsa), I remembered a party my parents threw for me at this very hotel. It was my 13th birthday, and I remember my dad telling me, in front of a rather large crowd of meaningful people, “David, you’re a man now.” (As opposed to being a boy. Not a girl. Just so I’m sure you know.) Basically he was telling me I had to be responsible.
I thought about that memory and told myself, “God, this responsibility is getting heavy.” Sure it comes with authority, but that’s matched by accountability. You’re the boss, so that means you get the blame. That’s the way things are.

And things have been particularly heavy this year.

But going through my files when I got home, I came across a short letter I wrote Nathan Punzalan on his own 13th birthday. Nathan, along with a big bunch of other kids used to come to my house every Saturday morning for football, food, and faith. I won’t give the whole letter but the last paragraph was a good reminder for me, and may help you as well.
Here it is:

Nathan, there will be times when you will find yourself in over your head. But trust in the Lord. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Always believe that God can do great things in your life. When you’re succeeding, go to God. When you’re excited, go to God. When you’ve made a mistake, go to God. When you’re ashamed, go to God. When you’re afraid, go to God. When you’re tired, go to God. When you’re broke, go to God. When you’re in love, go to God. Whatever it is, whatever you’re going through, go to God, and be sure of this – He will answer you.

DAVID

So we finally come to the end of another Tolstoyish post. But really we can summarize the whole thing in three words: Go to God.