How I Discovered My Higher Power
Originally this post was published on Charlie Paparelli’s blog as part of an ongoing series called “Reimagine Your Life.” To read the rest of the series, go to paparelli.com and subscribe.
“Who is your higher power?” I asked myself as the AA meeting concluded.
The next day as I was in the kitchen by my wife’s desk, I got a call. It was Robert DiCristina. He was a former competitor, a friend, and a former co-worker. He was also a devout Christian who loved Jesus.
We caught up briefly, and then he asked, “Would you come with me to a men’s leadership dinner?”
“What is it about?” I asked.
I don’t know that it mattered.
I wasn’t doing anything for work. I was in a lousy startup partnership, and the business results were as bad as the relationship. Nothing was working for me. My work was an important part of my life fulfillment, and I was not fulfilled.
“The dinner is sponsored by Leadership Ministries. Their keynote speaker is an EVP from MCI. It will give us a chance to spend some time together. You’ll also meet some new people in business. Who knows where this might lead,” Robert said.
Good pitch, I thought.
“When is the dinner?” I asked.
“Tonight at 7 pm. Will you join me?” he asked again.
“Sure. Thanks for the invite,” I responded.
I told Kathy I was going to dinner with Robert. She was relieved. With my search for work not going so well and attending AA meetings every night, I wasn’t very good company for her and the kids.
We got to the hotel and were escorted to a private meeting room. When I walked in, the room was filled with men sitting at round tables. We found a seat, and the dinner was served. I was relieved to see no alcohol on the table. I was safe, at least from this temptation.
I don’t recall talking to anyone except Robert. Then the speaker was introduced.
The speaker was Jonathan Crane. He talked about his business. As his story progressed, I felt like it was me talking about my business experience.
But then his story took an unexpected turn.
He began speaking about Jesus. I had never heard a businessman talk about Jesus. Priests and pastors did that, not businessmen. But there was something about this man which was very different from my experience.
I realized he was talking about Jesus as his higher power. And not just a big God somewhere out there in the universe. He spoke about a personal relationship with Jesus.
I left the dinner in a daze. What did all this mean?
The next week, Robert Campbell called me. Robert and I had worked very closely in building my first startup. We remained friends after the sale of the company, although at a distance.
Robert said, “I would like you to attend a prayer breakfast with me.”
“What’s a prayer breakfast?” I asked.
“It is a breakfast being hosted by my church. We have breakfast and then listen to a speaker,” he said.
Previously, Robert and I had hundreds of conversations about God and Jesus. We’d worked very closely together, and he was always witnessing. I remember telling him to “Shut up already.” Here he was years later inviting me to some church event.
The breakfast was at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza at Ravinia. It was 7 am when I walked into the ballroom. Men were everywhere with not a female in sight. Who stepped up to the podium but Larry Dean, the founder of Stockholder Systems Inc. He had, at that time, the most successful software company in Atlanta. He was a big thinker and achieved incredible results.
I didn’t know he was a Christian.
Larry welcomed all of us and then introduced Adolf Coors IV. Adolf had a tremendous executive presence. He was tall with grey hair, dressed in a suit and tie, with a deep voice and eyes of steel. I thought, I’m going to AA, and now I’m listening to the guy who owns all the beer in the world. Crazy.
Adolf gave a very compelling talk. It was a chronological walk-through of his life. He was a high achiever, smart, a marine, a black belt, and a successful businessman. And, of course, he was rich. He was an heir to the Coors family fortune.
He talked about his father being his god. He adored his father and wanted to be him. One day, his dad left for work and never came home.
He had stopped to help someone stuck on the side of the road. It turned out the guy was an escaped criminal. He shot and killed his father, put him in the trunk of a stolen car, and drove off in his car. Just like that, his dad, his idol, was gone.
He asked, “Who is your ladder in life leaning against?”
After the breakfast, Robert was clearly encouraged. He gave me a cassette tape of that morning’s presentation and invited me to the High Tech Prayer Breakfast. “These are all the guys you should know in the community. You have to come.”
This time it was at the DoubleTree Hotel in Ravinia. Again at 7 am. There were hundreds of tech people there. When I finally found the table, I was pleased to see Robert and a couple of other people I knew.
I don’t remember the keynote speaker. I do remember Bill Leonard who closed the breakfast. Bill said, “I am separated from God because of my sin. The good news is he sent his son Jesus to come and die for me so my sins will be forgiven. If I accept God’s sacrifice and confess my sins, I will be reconciled to God. I will have begun a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Just after the breakfast, I went to meet with an investment banker who was seated at Robert’s table. He said to me, “Can you believe that Bill Leonard guy? It seemed a little over the top for my taste.”
Without hesitation, I shot back...
“I don’t know if what he said made any sense, but I do know this. He believes it. His conviction was overwhelming to me. Do you believe in anything like Bill Leonard believes in Jesus?”
I left that man’s office with my question to him on my mind. Was this the higher power who was saving me from alcohol?
Charlie Paparelli is president of High Tech Ministries, angel investor and blogger. Twice each week email subscribers to his blog receive his thoughts on being a successful entrepreneur and Christian leader.