Article From the Magazine:

An Inward Inventory

By David Jeremiah

A century ago, rural America shopped at crossroads grocery stores or small-town general stores. The shelves of those stores were not always full; you couldn’t depend on what you needed being in stock. Inventory was managed with paper and pencil. Orders to suppliers might be called in by telephone or given in person to a traveling sales representative who stopped by periodically.

And then a man named Sam Walton came along. He had some retail store experience working for J.C. Penney, but opened his own retail store in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 1950. Walton’s Five and Dime is the store that gave birth to Wal-Mart (now Walmart) in 1962.

Sam Walton revolutionized retailing with one primary innovation: inventory and supply-chain management. He implemented the world’s first retail satellite communication system which connected all his expanding stores by voice and video. His stores were the first to make company-wide use of Universal Product Codes on products. He established inventory warehouses in strategic locations and created his own trucking line to move inventory rapidly. UPC barcodes provided immediate feedback on inventory levels in stores. Updates were relayed to warehouses, products were loaded on trucks, and the store was restocked quickly. Sam Walton showed the retail industry how to manage inventory.

Another example: If you use an iPhone, you are using a miracle of inventory management. Apple is headquartered in America but the companies who make the scores of iPhone components are scattered around the world—primarily in Asia. So from Apple’s headquarters in California a mammoth task is undertaken: the right parts, to the right specification, in the right number, on the right schedule have to be managed. All those parts must arrive at a Chinese manufacturing facility right on schedule so that thousands of iPhones per day can be made. When we send or receive a text or a phone call, we rarely consider it’s due to the miracle of modern inventory management.

Today, inventory management is at the heart of every major company—especially online retailers who don’t have brick and mortar stores. Like Amazon—their whole business is based on inventorying tens of thousands of products in massive warehouses and using robots and conveyors (and humans) to pick, pack, and post those products. Actually, it is amazing.

Inventory is one of those double-sided English words—it is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, inventory is what we have in stock—a list of “things.” To inventory, the verb, means to make that list by counting or assessing what we have on hand. Usually, the whole notion of inventory applies primarily to business.

But we can apply the idea of inventory—taking stock, looking over, assessing quantity and quality, identifying gaps that need filling or excess that needs trimming—to our own lives. And especially to our spiritual lives.

This issue of Turning Points is not about inventory on shelves; it’s about the inventory of ourselves. We’re not concerned about a physical inventory of our possessions and finances (although that has a place). Instead, we’re talking about the spiritual, emotional, and behavioral side of life compared to what Scripture says our life should be.

For sure, there are lots of moving parts in companies as large as Walmart, Apple, Amazon, and others. But think of the moving parts of your life! How many thoughts, words, and actions are part of your life in a single day? It’s safe to say, thousands! If we could play a video of our waking hours over a single day, how happy would we be with our personal inventory management? Are we speaking and acting consciously, or impulsively and reactively? What are we doing to align our thoughts, words, and deeds with the commands of Scripture and the character of Christ? Most importantly, how conscious are we of our role as stewards—managing our gifts and abilities in relationship to the fleeting days we have on earth?

Taking inventory can be a shock in a poorly-managed business! But hopefully that won’t be the case as you read this month’s Turning Points. Hopefully, you’ll find your spiritual inventory at just the right levels in the key parts of your life. Join me as we take an inward inventory and discover how to stay in perfect spiritual balance.

This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
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