Thinking Out Loud

May 1, 2018

My Life in 300 Lines

Filed under: Christianity, ministry — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:42 am

Actually, I don’t know the number of lines, though they’re all numbered, I certainly did not fill in all of them. But having come through another income tax season, and being self-employed, it is especially tortuous to try to sum up an entire year’s work in a series of numbers, added together and subtracted apart in seemingly random ways to come up with things like “Total Income” and “Net Income” and “Taxable Income.”

I held a U.S. Form 1040 in my hand once, and it seemed far less complicated than Canada’s T1, but then I wasn’t looking at the time through the lens of self-employed business owner.

We lost money last year. That’s all that matters. I tried to rework the figures several times, because my brain contested the conclusion my arithmetic was stating, but I finally figured out that the numbers weren’t lying. I hadn’t forgotten anything. We lost money last year.

This attractive store exterior ain’t us. Maybe in our dreams. Small town ministry is not as glamorous, though it’s certainly rewarding in intangible ways.

We’re a ministry to the community; perhaps some day we’ll have the distinction of being the last Christian bookstore standing. I doubt that however. There are, as of today, 2 years left on the present lease. I’m prepared to run that lease out, but not renew it. I have 24 months to come up with homes for thousands of books. I’ve tried selling to other stores, but every bookstore in the country wants to buy their own stock, make their own mistakes, wallow in their own buying failures.

Either that, or they want a distress sale. One store in particular was rather disappointed to hear I was not going out of business that day, that week or that month. You’d think this news would be encouraging to them in their ministry, but instead, they were taking a vulture-like approach. I’m prepared at some point to let the books go cheap, but this is a curated collection and you don’t get an assortment like this at fire sale prices.

So we’ll soldier on but now, with 730 days left, we’ll try to do it with an eye on the calendar. This is the saddest part of all because my forté if you will, is purchasing. Careful buying in the last decade is what has kept us going. (The previous ten years however, left us with a storage unit full of past buying errors.) I know I could keep doing this beyond May, 2020, but I really don’t think I will.

There is no succession plan. Neither are there buyers lining up at the door wanting to step in and take over. But God can do amazing, impossible things. I’ve seen stores sell in my part of the world just when the existing owners had given up.

I should also note that while the balance sheet for the year places us in negative territory, the business did contribute to the life of others through staff salaries and support of our industry through generous wholesale book buying. The government still gets money from payroll taxes and sales taxes, and generally, I think our contribution is both to the spiritual life of the community as well as economic.

The operating and financial burden falls to one family; one couple; us. Churches don’t work that way. Christian charities don’t operate in that fashion. In one sense, it’s a bit unfair. But we have eight months remaining in 2018 to see if we can turn that red ink to black.


Footnote: This is not a cry for help. We have other resources that make living possible. Thankfully. Don’t start a tag day — or the modern equivalent, a crowdfunding page — for us. We’re good.

 

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