If you knew that you were going to meet someone whom would speak into your life in a profound and transformative way, would you have an idea of what they would look like? Would you expect them to appear scholarly—puffing a pipe with briefcase intow— as they approached you? Perhaps your mental image of this person is more like a mother or father figure? Maybe it’s an older gentleman donning a priestly robe?
What if this “someone” doesn’t even initiate the impending esoteric dialogue? Would you even have the wherewithal to garner the attention of this apparently important person? Or would you unknowingly just walk on by?
I’m not going to tell you to “stop and smell the roses,” we all speed past the cliché. However, if I were to pose the question “Are you truly listening?” how would you respond?
Contrasting the deafening silence of turning off the television or shutting down the car—does thinking about an answer suddenly bring into focus the noise and clutter of this world that has seeped into your life? Do the stresses of material gain, success vs. failure, a personal or family loss, marriage and relationships—every day life—begin to take precedence?
If so, maybe it’s time that you traveled to a place called Inspiration.
In his fourth book The Street Sweeper, Tim Enochs reveals seven Bible-based principles that he calls the “Seven Revelations of Irrefutable Success.” The Street Sweeper has recently been adapted into a major motion picture titled Welcome to Inspiration (featuring Jason Crabb and Larry Gatlin) that hit Walmart shelves nationwide on January 20.
Tim’s passion is helping people discover their heart, translate that into a clear vision, and execute with excellence so they can experience the fruition of their life goals. Since 2002, Tim has been coaching individuals, taking an honest look at where they are and where they want to be, and helping them close the gap and achieve success.
Everything seemed to be crashing in. Although we were getting by, my wife and I were feeling the crunch of a slow economy. The only thing really moving forward was time. I did have a couple of projects on the horizon. However, the only thing in concrete was the fact that I was stuck.
Writer’s block is a condition whereby a writer temporarily loses the ability to be creative in streaming words together to make a coherent point. It is frustrating, to say the least, and can kill any effort to meet a deadline if it lingers—and I had it. I was just about to start writing a new book. All was good until writer’s block set in. Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months until I had a huge problem on my hands. I was seven weeks away from a hard deadline for the manuscript and hadn’t written a word. In the publishing world, that’s a nice way of saying that I was in deep trouble. I couldn’t sleep at night and couldn’t write during the day until one night, after I finally fell asleep at about four in the morning, I had a dream …
In my dream, a friend, who knew about my deadline and writer’s block, offered the opportunity for me and my wife to get away and stay a week at his favorite vacation spot. He told me it was a beautiful little resort town at the foot of the Smoky Mountains named Inspiration. I was intrigued by the name of the town because I was in desperate need of some inspiration to write. My wife was agreeable and we packed our bags. With a quick stop at my friend’s house to say thanks and pick up his confirmation letter, I realized it was odd that I had never heard of this place called Inspiration. Being the inquisitive kind of guy that I am, I asked, “So why is this place called Inspiration?”
With a sheepish grin on his face he said: “You’ll see. Now take this confirmation letter that has been transferred to your name and get out of here.” And we were off to the races.
The only thing I remember about the drive was the beautiful colors of the autumn leaves as they gleamed in the sun against the side of the mountains. There wasn’t much on the radio and neither of us said a word. We just drove. It was an eerie kind of intriguing quietness. As we drove into the town, we both seemed to perk up. We talked about the beauty of the mountains, the cleanliness of the town, and both of us wondered why we had never heard of a place called ‘’Inspiration.”
My friend’s directions were perfect; we easily found our bed-and-breakfast. The lady who checked us in was one of the sweetest ladies either of us had ever met. She seemed happy just to be there. Our room was beautiful. There was a door that led to a spacious balcony overlooking a mountain brook that lined the south side of the property. We looked at each other and at the same time said, “Welcome to Inspiration.”
Although we were both looking forward to sharing quality time with each other, we also had our own agendas. She wanted to catch up on some reading and I needed to get some writing done. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel pressured to try to write that night. I just wanted to get some sleep.
The bed was comfortable and we both fell sound asleep within minutes. The next thing I knew, the morning sun was shining through the window on the east side of the room, and I could hear birds singing in the distance. I felt refreshed and was ready to get up and start the day right with a hot cup of coffee.
Inspiration is a quaint little mountain town nestled in a beautiful valley between two mountains. This picturesque little village seemed to thrive on vacation-deprived tourists like me just trying to find some semblance of peace and quiet in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Inspiration also seemed to be a town that time forgot. Old shops, cobblestone roads, and family-owned bed-and-breakfast lodges offer all the nightlife an otherwise overexposed tourist could want in a hideaway vacation. During the day there are enough people browsing in the shops to let you know that you aren’t the only one trying to get away from it all. It had all the makings of a perfect place to either chill out reading a great book or to focus on writing a great book.
That first morning, with coffee order in hand, I left our room to get my morning fix at Laura Ann’s, a highly recommended coffee shop a couple of blocks down from where we were staying. It was a beautiful October morning with a gentle breeze of fresh mountain air blowing in my face. People were shopping and peacefully walking up and down the sidewalks lining the shops. No one seemed to be in a hurry. It all blended into a perfect scene that you might expect to see in a Thomas Kinkade painting.
However, just as I was about to enter the coffee shop to grab a cup of coffee, something caught my eye that I had never seen before. It was something, or somebody, who appeared out of place but somehow belonged. It was a street sweeper, but not like the four-wheel versions I had seen many times in large mall parking lots back home. This was a real person with a real broom, really sweeping by the edge of the street. Suddenly, more aware of my surroundings, I saw another … and another … and a fourth one on down the street. I had passed by three street sweepers without taking notice. How did I miss those guys? Had I suddenly walked through a time warp and reappeared fifty years back in time, or were these people for real?
I just had to ask one of these street sweepers to satisfy my own curiosity. At the same time, I felt compelled to do something for this guy sweeping the street in front of me. There was something different about him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. He had a beam on his face as if he actually enjoyed what he was doing. Still, I felt compelled to do something for him. I reached into my wallet and pulled out a $20 bill. I couldn’t wait to see the expression on his face when I gave it to him. Little did I know, I was about to take the first step on a journey that would take me to places I had never imagined (like Inspiration).
When I approached him, he greeted me first with a bright smile and an enthusiastic “Good morning!”
I almost forgot what I was going to give him. How could this guy, sweeping the street, be so cheerful? I caught myself wanting some of whatever it was that he had. It was infectious. He asked. “Are you OK?” It was then that I realized I was just staring at him. If I hadn’t been holding the twenty in my hand, I would have completely forgotten what I was going to do.
I broke my stare, reached out to hand him the money, and said, “I’m not sure why, but I just wanted to give this to you.”
He smiled and said, “That’s very generous of you; let’s put it to good use. Do you like coffee?”
I almost fell off the curb but quickly regained my balance. “Absolutely.” Then he said, “Let’s go over here to Laura Ann’s. She has the best coffee that money can buy.”
We crossed the street, walked into the coffee shop, and placed our order. I pulled out my wallet, but he stopped me by holding up the $20 bill and saying, ‘’Remember, we’re going to put this to good use.” He paid and we found a place to sit.
As he asked me where I was from, I couldn’t help but wonder how he could just stop sweeping the street and take time to sit in a coffee shop with me—so I asked. His reply startled me. “Sweeping the street is a very important job, but investing time with you here today is even more important. We street sweepers watch out for each other. My friends saw me come in here with you and they will take up the slack while I am here. No worries.”
Who is this guy? Why am I sitting in a coffee shop in a town I hadn’t heard of two weeks ago talking to a street sweeper I’ve never met before? Is this a dream? (Funny I would think that.)
I caught myself staring again and barely caught his next question. “So what brought you to Inspiration?”
I shared with him my bout with writer’s block, how I had a deadline in seven weeks, and that I was pretty much behind the eight ball. Without a pause he said, ‘’A lot can happen in seven weeks. I’m sure it will all work out for you.”
How could he know that? Does he understand the pressure I am under? Does he understand the consequences of missing a deadline with a publisher? I’m a writer with absolutely no idea where to start to get this thing done. Haw can he say he is sure it will all work out for me?
Still, there was something about him that was infectious. Was it his smile, his mannerisms, or was it just the simplicity of everything about him? Whatever it was, I couldn’t break away. I wanted to know more about him—and I still wanted some of whatever it was he had that seemed to make him happy about being a street sweeper. Being a writer, I ask a lot of questions. I’m just waiting for the day when someone asks why I am asking so many questions and if I’m writing a book. I’ll just smile and say, “Well, yes, as a matter of fact I am.” So I had some questions for this mysterious street sweeper sitting in front of me.
“How long have you lived in Inspiration? Have you always been a street sweeper? Have you ever thought about doing anything else? What are you going to do when you retire from sweeping streets?”
As I paused to take a breath, he said, “Son, you certainly are full of questions. Are you writing a book?”
We both laughed and I said, “Well, yes, as a matter of fact I am.”
With another infectious smile on his face he asked how much time I had to invest in hearing about him. Just then, as if on cue, my cell phone rang; it was my wife calling to say that she decided to do some shopping and wanted to pass on coffee if I hadn’t already placed her order. With a sigh of relief, realizing that I had completely forgotten about her coffee order, I told her all was good and suggested that we catch up with each other for lunch. As I hung up the phone, the street sweeper asked if this were a good time for us to talk. Trying to emulate his smile, I said, “This is a perfect time to talk.”
I thought I was on some special assignment and had just stepped into a divine appointment at a coffee shop in Inspiration. I had no idea that I was sitting across the table from a master teacher who was about to impact my life in a way I could never imagine. He began by telling me that he had been a street sweeper in Inspiration for the past five years. He said that Inspiration had not always been as I saw it that day. Although it had always been in a beautiful location he said eight years ago it was pretty much in disarray. The shops were dilapidated, and nobody wanted to stay in the rat-infested bed-and-breakfast establishments. In his words, it was pretty much a ghost town named Mountain Brook. At that point, I was so entranced by his story that I forgot about my writer’s block and impending deadline.
He went on to tell me that a wealthy man with a vision for this town showed up one day, purchased every building in this small mountain town and hired some people to come in and clean it up. The sweepers, as he called them, came in and did some deep cleaning in every building, repainted, and did needed repairs. He then found people who were in need, but had a dream and the desire to do the work needed to be successful. He gave them an opportunity to be business owners in this town he had renamed Inspiration.
I was completely blown away. I was sure he could see how I was struggling to believe this unbelievable story. He just sat back in his chair, sipped some coffee, and waited for me to ask the question that he knew I wanted to ask: “Are you telling me that this rich guy just blows into town one day, buys every building, cleans it up, renames the town Inspiration, and starts giving it all away again?”
He flashed that smile of his again and said, “Not exactly. I never said that he just gave every building and business away. I said he gave them an opportunity to be business owners in this town he had renamed Inspiration.”
Perplexed, I asked, “So what exactly did he do?”
“Well,” he began, “he found people who needed an opportunity—people who had a dream and the heart to do the work, but just needed someone to give them a chance. When he found the right people, like Laura Ann [he looked over to the young lady behind the counter], he offered them the opportunity to come to Inspiration, operate a business at no expense, and split the profits with him. After three years, if they were profitable and had proved themselves as prudent business owners, he gave them the business, building and all, with the stipulation that they would do two things: (1) Study and follow the seven revelations of irrefutable success that he would give them, and (2) give him 5 percent of their profits every year for the next twenty years.”
I knew there was some catch. I was about to say something about the fact that I couldn’t believe someone would just give something like that away without getting something in return.
He interrupted my thought by asking, “Do you want to know what he does with the 5 percent and what he did with the profits he split with them the first year?”
“Of course,” I said. ‘Well, he gave it all away.”
My response didn’t surprise this street-savvy sweeper. “He gave it all away?”
“Well, sort of,” he said with that smile of his. “He formed a foundation to support missionaries in their work as well as to educate young people who wanted to become missionaries. So he didn’t just give it away, he gave it to people on a mission so to speak.”
Again, my mind was all over the map with questions. “Did he ask anything in return for giving them the money?”
After another sip of coffee, he said, “Of course, he did. He asked them to study and follow the same seven revelations of irrefutable success that he had shared with the new business owners of Inspiration.”
“OK.. you got me. So what are the seven revelations of irrefutable success? And what is irrefutable success anyway?” I knew what was coming next—that smile.
“I can tell you what irrefutable success is and give you one of the seven revelations now, but the rest will have to wait.”
With a strange mixture of excitement and frustration I asked, ‘Why do I have to wait for the others?”
In a calm, fatherly-type voice, he responded, “You have to wait because you need to think about these separately first, then put them all together in a format that fits best in your life.’’
“You’re the boss, Mr. Street Sweeper; let’s do this your way. So what is irrefutable success?”
He began by asking me a question that I didn’t want to answer: “Do you think I am successful?”
How could I tell a street sweeper that I did, or didn’t, think he was successful? I was completely stumped. Yet I felt I needed to say something to avoid hurting his feelings.
As if he knew what I was thinking, he began to speak, “What would happen if there were no street sweepers in Inspiration? What would the streets look like? If nobody cleaned the streets, they would eventually look like they did when this town was named Mountain Brook. They would be trashed up with garbage everywhere. What impact would that have on people? Positive or negative? What would tourists think? No one would want to come here anymore, and the shops and other businesses would shut down and people who work here would move away. Eventually, this place would be a ghost town and look like it did before. So, I would say, yes, I am successful. Just look out the window. You see shoppers, happy tourists, and happy business owners all having a wonderful day, partly because I keep the streets clean. Now, what is refutable about that success? By doing an excellent job sweeping streets, I experience irrefutable success—at least in that area of my life.”
Being a writer, I could usually take an abstract idea and fill in the words to describe it (at least when I didn’t have writer’s block). So I responded by saying, “So irrefutable success is doing the absolute best I can do with what I have in order to have a positive influence on other people’s lives and that pays huge dividends in my life?”
His one-word answer said it all: “Absolutely.”
After another sip of Laura Ann’s coffee, he had more to say. “You see, we all have an influence on each other whether we know it or not. Some is positive and some negative. Left to our own devices, most people have both positive and negative influences on other people every day. It’s only when we are intentional about having a positive influence that the pendulum starts to shift. The outcome is nothing short of miraculous.”
I responded by asking, What do you mean by ‘miraculous’?”
He said, “The more you give, the more you get; the more you do for others, the more is done for you. Your positive influence is like a boomerang that keeps coming back to you. You always win when you apply the seven revelations for irrefutable success.”
At this point I had already lost track of time, my coffee was cold, I had completely forgotten about writer’s block, and had no anxiety about the impending deadline. I just wanted to soak up everything I could from this unassuming, yet astonishing person sitting across the table from me. ‘’Lay it on me. I want to learn everything I can about these seven revelations for irrefutable success.”
“Not so fast,” he said. “There are a few things you need to know about these revelations before running off like a madman on a quest to conquer the world. When you first hear each of the revelations, you may think it’s not a revelation at all, but rather something that has been around forever—something that everyone already knows. For the most part, you will be right. However, what most people miss is the true meaning of the revelation and what they can expect from applying it. Many times, what you get from applying the revelation is different than what you think you will get. However, everything you do get as a result of applying the revelation is at least as good, and many times better, than what you expected. So a little knowledge on the front end will go a long way in helping you get the maximum benefit and begin experiencing life-changing irrefutable success.
I realized I was staring again. I was caught between wanting to jump up, run out, and apply these seven revelations, and the fact was that I didn’t even know what they were yet. As if she were acting on cue, Laura Ann walked up to our table and asked if she could warm up our coffee. Wow, I’d never seen premium coffee come with free refills! She refilled our cups, we thanked her, and the street sweeper began to speak again.
“As I was saying, before applying the seven revelations, you need to understand that, although many people have heard of them, many have a very shallow understanding of what they mean. Therefore, they have only surface-level expectations for the outcome of their application. Their approach becomes ‘hit and miss,’ and many never really enjoy the fruition of their consistent application.”
After another sip of coffee, the street sweeper shared with me the origin of the seven revelations and how the rich man turned a ghost town named Mountain Brook into a beautiful, almost unbelievable place named Inspiration.
“You see, the man who gave Inspiration its name wasn’t always such a giving and inspired person himself. Sure, he was moderately successful in business and enjoyed life at times, but he knew something was missing. He didn’t believe in God; in fact, he wasn’t sure what he believed, or if he believed anything at all. One day he met a dear old friend whom he admired. The man’s name was Charlie. His friend Charlie was wildly successful but didn’t flaunt it like he could. However, Charlie did always seem to be at peace, full of joy, and loved life with a passion. Something about him was contagious. As they were sitting in Charlie’s personal library, he looked around at all the books and wondered which of the hundreds, maybe thousands, had made the most impact on Charlie. So he asked. Charlie told him that it wasn’t one book, but a collection of sixty-six different books that had made a profound impact on him.”
Before I could ask about the collection of sixty-six books, my cell phone started to vibrate on the table. This time it was a text message from my wife. I asked the street sweeper to excuse me as I read the text: “Hey, honey! Still shopping. Found some great bargains at Bethany’s Boutique. How about a late lunch?”
I responded, “Sounds great to me, just meet me at Laura Ann’s Coffee Shoppe when you’re ready.”
I apologized to the street sweeper for the interruption and he said, “No worries. She is the most important person in your life. You’d better take care of her first.” Then he proceeded to share the rest of the story. “Where were we?”
“In the library, talking about sixty-six books.”
“Oh yes,” he said. “Charlie pointed to a passage in one of the books and said, ‘In this book called Deuteronomy, in chapter 29, we find, The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions’ (v. 29). The man asked Charlie what had been revealed, and Charlie suggested that he read all sixty-six books and discover that for himself. The man devoured the sixty-six books and took a lot of notes. He reported back to Charlie that he had found more revelations than he could ever imagine that would be helpful to him in his life. He went on to say that there were seven that he had chosen to start working on right away. The seven I will share with you are those seven.”
I asked the street sweeper to give me a moment to get my journal out of my bag so I could keep a written record of what he was about to share with me. Little did I know that morning that within just an hour or so, I would be basically sitting at the feet of a street sweeper taking notes. This was turning into one of the most profound days of my life. “OK, I’m ready. What’s the first one?”
As if he were playing a cat and mouse game with me, he said, “Not so fast.”
I thought, What now? But I would never say it where he could hear it.
Again, as though he could read my mind, he said, “We’re almost there. I just need to share four questions with you that you need to ask yourself about each of the revelations as you work through them on your own. The first question is, Do I believe this revelation can be beneficial to me or someone I know? If the answer is yes, you can move on to the next question. If the answer is no, then you need to consider why not. The second question is, If I believe this revelation can be beneficial to me or someone I know, what will I do about it? This is very important because there is a big difference in knowing (or believing) and doing something about it. The third question is, When will I do what I intend to do about this revelation? This is important because if you don’t schedule a time to take action, chances are that you won’t. Finally, the fourth question is, How can I share this revelation with someone else? If it’s good for you, it will be good for others, and you will certainly want to share it with them.”
I wanted to be sure I got it all, so I asked the street sweeper to let me read the questions back to him. He replied with a hearty, I would love for you to read them back to me!”
“OK, here’s what I have:
1. Do I believe this revelation can be beneficial to me?
2. If I believe this revelation can be beneficial to me, what will I do about it?
3. When will I do something about it?
4. How can I share this revelation with someone else?” He said, “You have it! Let’s allow Laura Ann to pour us another cup of that delicious coffee of hers and I will share the first revelation with you.”
I looked up and couldn’t believe my eyes. There she was standing next to our table with a pot of hot coffee. Her timing must be impeccable. Everything was so perfect, I thought I must be dreaming. I quickly dismissed that thought and got ready to capture in my journal the first revelation for irrefutable success.