Do You Know This Man?

With everything going on in our country and world today, I have been thinking a lot about one man in particular. After hearing and reading intriguing words about him and feeling compelled to write it all down, here are my thoughts.

Who? What? Why?

Who was this man, and what had he done? Why did people go after him with such vitriol and hatred? Are we that perfect ourselves that we can so easily pass judgment on someone else?  What did he do to deserve such scorn, such bitterness, such torment? Especially from those who are in authority and power. They threw insults at him and demonized him, and acted as if their lives were perfect. As if they did no wrong. They used their social status and connections to try and trip him up continuously. They wanted to get him kicked out, and they wanted to humiliate him every chance they got. They told lies about him, made up stories about him, and got others to do the same. They plotted terrible things behind his back. They paid people to betray him.

Who are these people? These are leaders of the community. The people in charge. The ones who were put into their positions to watch out for other’s best interests. These are supposed to be the people who set the example for everyone else. They are supposed to lead, and to care for, and to love their fellow man. Why were they so afraid of this one man? What had he done to be able to put such fear into them? What were they afraid of losing? What were they afraid he would reveal if he stuck around? How could this one man have attained so much power over them? As he went about his everyday life, they were going in circles trying to get him OUT!

When you stop and think about it, it is unfathomable to try and understand how people could have such hatred for just one person—a man who did not have them in his audience.

Then his time came to an abrupt end, and they were finally able to get rid of him, but even in his last days, they couldn’t help themselves. They had to continue to ridicule him, and make up lies about him. They wanted TO CRUCIFY HIM. And they wouldn’t stop until they destroyed him and those who were following him!

I love this man! I love everything about him. I don’t understand everything he talked about while he was around. Nevertheless, I will follow him, and I am ready to act and do what he calls me to do.

I have learned one thing from all of this: the Pharisees and the Sadducees hated Jesus. They couldn’t have someone around with that much power; this someone took the spotlight away from them, and he spoke the truth to the people.  These leaders needed all of the glory, all of the status, and all of the power. Driven by a greed for power, they were relentless. Now this one man was showing others a different way, a better way. He was exposing the lies, deceit, and corruption, and they wouldn’t stand for it.

How we decide to treat our fellow man is a direct reflection of us as individuals and society as a whole. If we are going to follow in Christ’s footsteps, and of course we are called to do so, we must see every other human being as a child of God and treat them accordingly, as Jesus would. Sadly, we don’t always do this. Why we don’t do this is a question that we have been asking ourselves since the beginning of mankind. Is it pride, or greed, or selfishness? Is it our ego, or bitterness, or self-loathing? Whatever it is, we need to take a hard look inwardly. Into our hearts and souls,  and then ask ourselves how we would like to be treated, and start treating others the same. 

I will leave you with this, one of the most-read pieces of scripture on how to treat our fellow human beings.

 Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders and said this in Mark 12:30-31:

“’ Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:’ Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

God bless,

John

Truth Be Told

Have you ever wanted to say something to someone but were hesitant or afraid? Maybe to a relative, or a friend, or a co-worker? How about to your spouse, or a sibling, or even your boss? Why be hesitant or afraid? Why not say what is on your mind and be done with it? If it were only that simple. The fact is, when you say something to someone else, it usually elicits a response. If not a verbal response, then a non-verbal response. Perhaps a particular look, or a gesture, or even complete silence. Which, by the way, is a response.

Often before we say something to someone else, we try to imagine what the answer might be. Sometimes, we can overthink it so much that we end up not saying anything at all. Why is that? How did we get to that place? I do this all the time. I try to replay in my head what the outcome might be if I were to have a particular discussion or conversation with someone. My dear wife, Janet, catches me at this all the time.  She will notice when I am overthinking my thoughts. Which is usually about a conversation or meeting I am about to have with someone else. Janet is right about this, as she is always good for me. She usually tells me to pray, relax, breathe, and, most importantly, speak from the depth of my soul. In other words:  “Lighten up, Francis, be honest, be thoughtful, and use your words!”

I have realized for so long now that I have been doing the same thing when I write. I have crumpled up and thrown away a lot of paper over the years (I write the old fashioned way, on a yellow legal pad). I write something down, an actual thought that I had, and then analyze the heck out of it. What if these words offend this person or that person? What if it offends this group or that group? What if I offend my third cousin’s wife’s friend’s mother-in-law? WOW! Way too much, overthinking!

Well, I have been so convicted by God that I have decided I will allow Him to work this out in me this year. I will spend much more time searching for my soul’s words and a lot less time searching my brain for the possible outcomes. Do you remember the movie Jerry Maguire? It’s about a very successful sports agent who works for one of the country’s top Sports Management firms. Jerry has everything going for him. And then, for a brief moment, he decides to listen to his heart. He writes down what he calls a “mission statement.” He writes about truth and honesty and all of the ways that one should care about other people. He writes about putting other’s concerns and needs before your own or the companies. He writes down what others in his firm are thinking and know to be accurate but are afraid to say. He distributes this mission statement to everyone in the company, and then what happens? He gets fired. Speaking from the heart is not always easy. We do not always get the response for which we hope. Being honest and truthful can have consequences.

In 1 John 2:20, John speaks to the believers, and he says to all of them: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.”

 After going through 2020 and looking back over what a crazy year it was, I realized one fundamental truth. God never left my side. He was with me all the way. Through the frustrations, the disappointments, the anger. Through the joy and laughter, and the good times as well. He was always there. And so I know that whatever situation comes up, whatever conversation I need to have, whatever thoughts and ideas that I will be writing down, that I need to remember to pray and search my soul, which is where my Lord resides. He will always give me the right words to speak. After all, His truth is the only truth, and His will be done.

God bless!

John

…and His Will be Done

It’s nice to be able to get away once in a while. When I go away, I like to have time to think; time to contemplate; time to clear my head. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that over the holidays, and how refreshing it has been. Janet and I decided to close The Shoe Repair Shop down for Christmas and New Years’ and take a road trip to Texas to visit our son and daughter-in-law. We were able to celebrate Christmas with our daughter and son-in-law and our two grandkids in Michigan the weekend before, and then we hit the road and headed south.

During this year of turmoil, grief, uncertainty, and despair, I find my family to be a true comfort. I know that not everyone has the chance or the opportunity to do this, but for me, being able to hug my children and grandchildren is a gift from God. Christmas brings a lot of that together for me. I see Christmas as a time for hope; as a time for family; and, as a time to celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I am pushing 62 years of age and only have so many opportunities to celebrate this time of year with those I love, and I want to make the most of every one of these special days.

This part of the year also allows a lot of time for reflection. And I like to reflect. I can reflect, or daydream, on just about anything. I can reflect on my childhood or on events that are taking place in the world today. I also like to start my day off with a walk. At home, I do this on the treadmill, but here in Texas, where it was 72 degrees at 10 o’clock this morning, I like to take a long walk around the neighborhood. I have a routine for my walk. As I start my walk, I start my talk with God. The first thing I do is thank Him for giving me one more day. Then I start my conversation with Him. Why is this happening? Why is that happening? What is it that I should be doing? When I get stuck or need to re-focus myself, which happens a lot, I recite a phrase that I have been using for most of this year. It starts with the first verse of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” I love Psalm 23. It was one of the first pieces of scripture that I committed to memory after I became a Christian. I usually recite all of Psalm 23 as I start to re-focus, and then just the first verse over and over again with one added phrase, “…and His will be done.”

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want, and His will be done.”

 That is a huge reminder for me. It is not my will that needs to be done, but His will. No matter what is going on in the world today. Whether it be politics, racial division, China, Russia, or Covid 19, I have to remind myself that it is His will that will be done, not mine. In the book of Matthew, chapter 6, Jesus is teaching the disciples how to pray. It starts like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, YOUR WILL BE DONE, on earth as it is in heaven.” No matter what I think about the goings-on in this world, it is never my will but His will that will be done. As long as I continue to remind myself of that, then everything that happens in this world is put into its proper perspective.

It doesn’t matter if I am a Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal, or my race. God is in charge and it is His will for all of us. We may not understand the reasons for much of what is going on in this world. We may not even agree with much of what is going on in this world. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we understand that God is in total control of everything. Our time here is a gift from Him. A gift that we should be thankful for every minute of every day. The more often that I remind myself of that, the more often that I realize that I need to be doing something with that gift.

Hopefully today, you will be reminded to thank God for this day and to give thanks that it is His will that will be done, and not ours.

Happy New Year to you all!

God bless,

John

My Walk on the Water

As I mentioned last week, during a storm, God can do wondrous things. 2020 has been the year of the storms.  It has been a year that many of us will not soon forget. Certain dates in history always seem to stick with us: December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor; September 11, 2001 – The Twin Towers. And now there’s 2020 – Covid-19; shutdowns; racial unrest; an election, etc. When will this storm end? How will it end? Will it ever end? Will any of us ever forget 2020?

I referenced in my blog last week the book of Matthew and the passage where Jesus calls Peter to step out of the boat and to walk on water. During a storm, Peter does what Jesus asks. Peter steps out, walks a little way, begins to sink, and is saved by the hand of Jesus. There was a time this past summer when I asked Jesus to call me out of the boat. Jesus did that in a way that was beyond me and anything that I could have imagined.

Around June of this year, I was struggling. The business that Janet and I had worked so hard to build up over the last 10 years had just been shut down for close to three months. We were beginning to open up again but running at about 30% of the previous year. There was civil unrest throughout the country. Homes and businesses were being burned down and there was a racial divide that was separating cities, neighborhoods, and families. There was no end in sight and I was frustrated. I was angry, bitter, and judgmental. I had all of these thoughts and opinions but no answers.

I have been part of a men’s group for about five years now and for the first three weeks of June, this was all that we could talk about. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? What needs to be done? How can we solve these problems (what egos, huh)? I just kept looking for answers but God kept laying something else on my heart. For those of you who don’t know me that well I will share with you that I am a creature of habit. I like things to stay the same. I don’t like to change. I get into a comfortable routine and don’t like to veer off track. That is not, however, what God had in store for me. He grabbed me by the heart and drew me out of the boat.

I was sitting at home one evening around this time just thinking about all of this when God laid a person on my heart. A man that I had met at a church function about five years earlier. He spoke briefly at this event but it was his energy, conviction, and deep love for God’s people that stuck with me. I decided to reach out to him. Maybe he could help me with some of these questions that I had. I sent him a quick email and within minutes he responded to me. We set up a meeting for a few days later. I asked for 15-20 minutes of his time. We ended up talking for over an hour. We didn’t solve any of the world’s problems at that hour, but it was the beginning of an incredible journey.

I have never considered myself to be racist in any way. I love people. I love all people. Yet, if that is true, why all the anger and judgment? As a 61-year-old man, I realized that I also had never had a real conversation in my life with a black man. Yes, I have had the usual surface conversations but not the type of conversations I have with my group of brothers I meet with each week. It made me ask the question, “Lord, am I part of the storm, or part of the calm?”

As you may have guessed by now, Pastor Lorenzo is a Black man. I could have just gone home that day, back to my cozy house in the suburbs, and checked off the box for “racial outreach”. But if I was going to follow what Jesus was calling me to do, getting out of the boat was my only option.

Janet and I decided to attend service that upcoming Sunday at Pastor Lorenzo’s church. The church is in Detroit. Next to a methadone clinic. Near a red light district. WAY OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE. Jesus is not about my comfort but my character. I must reflect on Him. After that first service, Janet and I were awestruck. We had never been to a service with such passion in every aspect of the church. We had never seen or felt that much emotional energy in a church setting. We both said to each other on the way home that day, “the Holy Spirit was truly present in the entire congregation today.” We have attended every Sunday since and it is now our new church home.

I have since gotten to know many people at church. And as I get to know them, who they are, what they do, what are their likes and dislikes, I realize something quite simple. We are in the same boat with the same questions. We are wondering what to do in this storm. We don’t want to be judged by the color of our skin. We are ordinary people with families and jobs, successes, and failures. We have our ups and downs and we are trying to do our best to make it through this world the best we can. And like me, some are asking Jesus to call them out on the water. We are part of a family where color doesn’t matter.

We have been able to participate in community outreach and to share meals. God continues to stretch and bless me every week. I get to meet new people and we share our lives. We have different stories and different journeys, but with the same end goal; To be part of God’s family and to love one another as He loves us.

I did learn that God truly has a great sense of humor. The new church He brought us to is called 180 Church Detroit! Here I was looking for answers, and God had a complete change of direction for my life. I told you it was something I never would have chosen for myself. I am so grateful that my thoughts are not His thoughts nor are my ways His ways. His plan is always the best!

Stepping out of the boat is not an easy undertaking. It can be very uncomfortable for me. There are plenty of times when I have begun to sink. Sometimes, down to my knees, my waist, or my elbows. But I always try to remember that Jesus is standing right there next to me. His outstretched hand ready to pull me back up. I just need to admit, Lord, I cannot do this on my own.

God bless!

John

Stepping Out of the Boat

Matthew 14:25-33

During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it is You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.”

“Come,” He said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and, came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”

This was the passage from the Gospel of Matthew that was taught this past Sunday at the church to which Janet and I belong. An awesome passage that I have read, or heard spoken, many times. But this time it seemed to resonate more deeply into my soul.

What does it mean to step out of the boat? Why, if life is going along smoothly, would anyone ever think of stepping out of the boat? What if life is not going along smoothly? Wouldn’t it then make even more sense to stay in the boat? To stay securely seated, dry, and comfortable. Why would anyone, then, ever think of stepping out of the boat. As I pondered all of this, the answer came to me: my life is not about me.

I have been given the gift of life from God. And the purpose of my life is to bring Him glory. Playing it safe, sitting at home in my comfort zone, and blaming other people, does not bring God glory.

So like Peter, I asked Jesus to call me. In the midst of a storm, in the midst of a dark valley, in the midst of 2020 and in the midst of Covid-19, Jesus did call me. And I chose to step out of the boat. What God called me into, I would have never imagined for myself…

Talk to you next week.

John

Reunion

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I attended two different reunions this past weekend. We had our 40 year high school class reunion on Saturday, and our 81st family reunion (on my mothers side) on Sunday. They both took place in my hometown of Saginaw, Michigan.

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I like reunions. I like them because they make me think. They make me remember. They make me relive and understand better where it is I have come from. That’s not always a great picture, but it is a real picture. I truly believe that the person that I am today, right now, at this very moment, is the culmination of every event, interaction, and person that God has placed in my life, from the moment of inception until now.

Nothing happens by chance. God knew from the very beginning of time what family I was going to be born into. He knew who my friends and classmates were going to be. He knew Janet before I did, and brought us both together at just the right time. He knows every breath that I am ever going to take, and He certainly knows the last breath that I will ever draw.

reunion-inviteReunions are a way of remembering how our lives are sewn together. A patchwork of different people all thrown into the mix. It’s about cousins and Aunts and Uncles getting reacquainted with each other, and remembering those who are no longer with us. It’s about re-telling old stories and looking at all of the tattered photographs from years gone by. It’s about how it all began on some old farm that existed long ago.

Reunions are about walking into a room and seeing a bunch of your old classmates and immediately going back in time. The giggling, the laughing, and sometimes the blushing, at memories from way back when. It’s about how each person has touched your life in some way, shape, or form. From your best friend, to the classmate you barely knew, each interaction adding to the outcome of your life.

We all have the tendency to slide off of the path from time to time and to get full of ourselves. To think that we are where we are because of who we are. Because of what we have done. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are who we are, and have done what we have done, because God has allowed it to happen. He has molded, shaped, and designed us to be exactly who we are.

There are 7 billion people on this planet for a reason. We are not meant to be alone. Reunions remind me of that. They remind me that God has infused people into my life, just as He has extracted people out of my life. Each having varying degrees of impact as to who I am. This also reminds me, and in no subtle way, that every interaction that I have with someone else, however large or small, has an impact on their life as well.

family_hug.jpgMy hope is that as I reunited with some of my cousins and Aunts and Uncles and old high school classmates this past weekend, that I was able to interact with them in a way that was God honoring. That I was able to get out of the way of myself and to show them the love, and the respect, and the kindness that they all deserve.

Reunions are one of Gods ways of reminding us of where we have come from. They are also His way of letting us know where we should be headed.

 

What a great weekend it was! God bless all of you!

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John

 

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WHEW! That was quite an experience! Nothing like having a few hundred volts of electricity sent coursing through your heart to bring your purpose, or actually God’s purpose for you, clearly back into focus.

I am a stubborn man by nature, as my wife, Janet, has all too often had to point out to me, and of which I cannot deny. This became very clear back in the early part of March. I will not bore you with all of the details, but let’s just say that I woke up one morning with a little heart fluctuation issue. Now most people, after an hour or so of this, would probably call a doctor or go to the hospital. Me being the manly man that I am (stubborn), thought I would tough it out for a bit and it would eventually just go away.

THREE DAYS LATER (very stubborn, and not that bright), Janet and our daughter insisted on taking me to the emergency room. I was so exhausted that I could no longer conceal what was going on. I walked into the emergency room and told the very nice lady at the check in desk that I was having a heart fluctuation issue. She right away directed me into a room where there was a nurse waiting to check my vitals. She sat me down and calmly began to take my pulse. The next thing I know, she is on the phone calling what sounded like the medical equivalent of the swat team.

She walked me directly across the hall and opened a door to a room with no less than ten medical professionals just waiting for me. They of course laid me down on a table, started putting in I.V.’s, and began strapping electrodes all over my chest. The doctor asked how long my heart had been racing like this. It was now Wednesday afternoon, and I told him that it had been beating like this since Monday morning. Everyone in the room just kind of stopped and looked at each other. Then they all turned and looked directly at me.

Me, trying to lighten the tension in the room, said, “what seems to be the problem, doctor?” He, the doctor, was apparently not a lighthearted kind of guy. He quite directly and matter of factly told me that my heart rate was at 206, and had been in that range for the past three days. They had to get me out of that rhythm as quickly as possible. They started by injecting me a couple of times with a drug that was supposed to bring my heart rate back down to normal. That did not work. That is when they decided they needed to shock me back into normalcy. That did the trick.

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I ended up spending the night in the hospital for observation. They conducted some more tests and concluded that there was no damage to my heart. One of the attending medical professionals mentioned that I should have been wearing one of those fit bit’s. He said that it probably would have measured that I had run the equivalent of over ten marathons (I guess I can now check running a marathon off of my “bucket list”). All of the medical professionals that I did see during my stay did say the same thing: “Don’t be so stubborn and wait so long if this ever happens again”.

This was not one of my better moments and I realize now the risk that I was taking by doing nothing. Being stubborn is not one of my finer qualities and never has much of an upside to it. It also made me realize, once again, how fragile life is and that tomorrow is not promised to us.

This experience started to bring things back into focus for me. What is God’s purpose for me? Even if I don’t know exactly what that purpose is, I do know that doing nothing is not an option anymore. No more waiting. No more procrastinating. No more doing nothing. In James 2:17 it says: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

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I’m not going to continue to spend my days having faith and not doing anything about it. God has blessed me with a passion for writing. A passion for sharing my thoughts, my ideas, and my journey, with others. It gives me the chance to be an open book and to share my faith in a way that I might not be able to do otherwise. I stopped writing because I got “busy” with other things. Other things that I now know were not that important, but were just my way of putting off what God had been whispering in my ear for such a long time to do. I may just shine shoes for a living, but that does not define who I am. God has intended and created all of us to be more than what our day jobs are. He has created us and given us the opportunity to have faith and to take action that reflects that faith.

I am sharing all of this with you now for a couple of reasons. One is so that you will continue to know a little more about me and who I am. The other reason is so that you will help me to be held accountable. Accountable to take an action. We were not meant to take this journey by ourselves. I certainly know that I cannot do it alone. I need others to come alongside and help me on this rocky road we call life. Holding each other accountable is part of that journey.

God touched my heart in a very special way back in early March. Even if it did take a few hundred volts of electricity for me to really feel it.

God bless all of you and the actions you take today!

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Transparency

A follow up to the last blog that I wrote, dated January 20th, 2016, and titled, “Things will never be the same.” In that post I mentioned a talk that I was invited to give in Dallas, Texas on February 24th. It was at Park Cities Baptist Church during a luncheon for about 100 people made up of mostly baby boomers and seniors.

I was a bit nervous to say the least. Not only because this was the first big talk that I was giving since my book was published back in October of last year, but also because I was one of the younger people in the room. I was surrounded by people who were mostly older than me and much wiser than I felt at that moment. One of the participants who I met was 94 years old. I was thinking to myself, “what am I going to be able to say to these people that they haven’t already heard before.”

To my surprise, shock, amazement, and any other adjective that describes being completely blown away, this turned out to be one of the most awe inspiring and fulfilling moments of my life. For 40 minutes or so I was able to open up and share my life, and the story of my transformation, with a group of complete strangers.

As I was speaking and looking around the room, I could not help but see so many people wiping away their tears. I could see them nodding their heads as if to say, “I hear you. I’ve been there. I understand that.” I felt a bond and a connection that I had never felt before. As I told my wife, Janet, on our flight home that night, I felt moved by the Holy Spirit. It was as though I had opened up a big window into my soul and allowed them to take a look inside. I WAS BEING TRANSPARENT.

imageI had the opportunity to meet a lot of the people who attended the luncheon after my talk. Many of them shared similar stories of some of the pains, the hurts, the sorrows, and the dysfunctions that occurred at one time or another in their own lives. They all had different stories to tell, but each and every one of them said the same thing to me, “thank you for your transparency.”

Being transparent is not an easy thing to do, and by no means is it always completely necessary. Our lives do not need to be open books. Some things are meant not to be shared. But for the important things, the things that we keep inside of us that are real, that are serious, and that are authentic, more often than not these things need to be shared.

Sometimes it means being able to share with a good friend, or a close relative, or probably most importantly (for me anyway), with a spouse. Other times it can mean talking to a counselor or someone who is trained to listen to what it is that we have to say. And then sometimes it can mean, as thankfully it did for me, that we open up to a room full of complete strangers.

I have found that being transparent builds trust. It lets people know that you can be vulnerable. It lets them know that they are not the only ones with issues, or concerns, or problems. That we might all have a lot more in common than we would like to actually think.

My tendency for the better part of my life was not to be transparent. I had built up so many walls and barriers around me that it became almost impossible for anything or anyone to get through. I kept so much stuff inside and bottled up that when it did finally come out of me it was usually not a pretty or pleasant experience.

It’s like having a festering wound that never gets treated and continues to spread. The longer you let it go the worse it becomes. There are only a few ways to treat a wound that has gone on for so long and has become extremely infected. You can cut the part of the body off that is sick, or you can administer heavy doses of antibiotics and hope that they will kill the infection.

The problem is, with wounds that are not physical in nature but are emotional, there is nothing to cut off or to treat with antibiotics. One of the only ways to excise these emotional wounds is to acknowledge them and to talk about them. To start to become a little more transparent. I say this not as a psychologist or any type of expert in this field, but only from my own experience over the last eight years or so.

After accepting Christ into my life back on January 12, 2008, my walls did start to come down. The festering that had been going on inside of me for so long did start to break apart. I did not have to cut anything off or take massive doses of antibiotics, but I did need to become more transparent. Transparency was something that God allowed to happen in my life. It was Him who started opening up the doors and creating the opportunities for me to share my story.

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None of what has happened to me over the last few years has been by accident or was some kind of coincidence. I didn’t receive a phone call over a year ago from a book publisher by shear luck. I wasn’t asked by Dr. Nat Burns with Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas to come and talk to his group by mere chance. It wasn’t a coincidence that on the same day this past weekend, at different times but within a 60 minute span, that a Doctor of Psychology, a Pastor, and a college senior, all approached me and wanted to talk about my story for different reasons.

None of this stuff just happens. It does happen, however, because God took an individual who for the better part of his life (time wise, not quality of life wise) learned to keep everything bottled up inside of him and out of sight of everyone else. God took this individual and said, “John, it’s time to be a little more transparent.” It was time to share my story and God was the only one who could, and who can, open up the avenues and pathways in order to make that happen. He has changed my life in ways that I never would have thought were possible. He has not only allowed me, but He has constantly shown me, the importance of opening up my life to others. To share my story so that others may feel freer to share theirs. To be transparent.

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God bless,

John Early
John

The ShoeShine Guy

Things Will Never Be The Same

Happy New year to everyone! I hope that you are all looking forward to 2016 as much as I am. It has been a while since I have written anything. Actually, a little over three months now. This is not because I really didn’t have anything to say, but more so because of my very real tendency to procrastinate. Not the best of traits to have, and something that I am really going to try and work on for this year, starting tomorrow (just kidding).

A lot has happened since October. The most significant event being the birth of our imagenew granddaughter, Savannah, who was born on December 12th. She is happy and healthy and looks just like the baby pictures of her mother, and our daughter, Jennifer. Which means that she will grow up to be absolutely beautiful, just like her mother and her grandmother (brownie points in case you weren’t keeping track).

I have also, over the last few months, been writing down thoughts and ideas that have been popping into my head. I have notes and scribbles on scraps of paper all over the house. I write them down as I think of them so as not to forget what it is that I would like to talk about (my memory bank is not that big). My goal for 2016 is to spend a lot less time staring into that big black box that I have hanging on our family room wall, and a lot more time pursuing what it really is that God has called me to do. That calling is to share my story. My story of transformation, of total surrender. The story of doing life down the middle and to quit beating around the bush. To quit worrying about being so politically correct and to say what is truly on my heart.

I have come to realize that I need to be “all in” with my faith. I cannot be a 1/2 Christian or a 3/4 Christian. Being all in, all of the time, is not an easy thing to do. It was not easy for Abraham or for Moses. It was not easy for King David and certainly not easy for the apostle Peter, who actually had a front row seat to Jesus and all that He was and did. Being all in takes time, it takes discipline, it takes an extreme conscientious effort. But more than anything, it takes being totally surrendered to God.

imageBeing totally surrendered to anything is never easy. We are not conditioned that way. Especially as a man. We are built to be warriors. To win the battle. To defeat the enemy. To overcome any obstacle. We are brought up to be in control and to take charge and to lead. Who wants to ever surrender. But that is exactly what God calls us to do. And not just a little bit, some of the time, but completely surrendered, all of the time.

This does not make us weak. On the contrary, it can only strengthen us. It is not easy to be a complete follower of Christ. We were never told that it would be. In fact, in John 15:18 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you.” And in Matthew 10:22 He says this, “And you will be hated by all for my names sake.”

For a guy like me who has always wanted everyone to like him, this is not easy at all. I have had to come to terms with the fact that people will unsubscribe to my blog. That there are those who will not appreciate what I have to say. That people will actually not want to be around me because of what I believe. I have to be okay with all of that. I cannot own what others think or feel. I can only own who and what I am.

I have several speaking engagements coming up in February and March. A few in Texas and a couple in the Detroit area. These are talks in relation to “10 Bits Of Wisdom From The Shoe Shine Guy – A Transformed Life”. They are about my particular journey and how God has transformed my life. But also, they are about my struggle to be totally surrendered to God.

My natural tendency would be to put together a talk that is colorful and entertaining. Something that is much more at the surface, which is what I did when I started the process of writing “10 Bits Of Wisdom” over a year ago. Fortunately for me, and for the people who have had the opportunity to read the book, I have a wonderful wife who has never been about the surface and won’t allow me to keep going there. She has always challenged me to go deeper and to share what is deep down in my heart, and not what is only in my head. I am looking forward to sharing my story with people that I have never met before. To be able to possibly touch people’s lives and to be able to connect with them in a way that only God can make happen.

There is a song that is sung by David Crowder called, “Oh The Glory Of It All”. One of the verses that is repeated over and over is “Things will never be the same”. This refers to one’s life after accepting Jesus into it. This has resonated with me for over eight years now. My life has not been the same and will never be the same. God has called me to do things that I would never have imagined. He has stretched me beyond anything that I would have thought possible.

If you get the chance I would ask you to take just a moment, get to a quiet place, and close the door. Listen to this song and see if it doesn’t move you as much as it does me. See if it doesn’t stir up the feelings of peace, and of love, and of hope. Just see where it takes you.

I know that my life will never be the same. My hope is that you can get to that place too.

Have a blessed day!

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John
The Shoe Shine Guy

October 2, 1982

“And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all that I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Something extraordinary happened to me back on October 2, 1982. I didn’t know it at the time, I had no clue whatsoever, but I was about to embark on a journey that would change the course of my life forever. On that beautiful fall day 33 years ago, I had the good fortune of getting married to someone who has been my rock, my confidant, and my best friend ever since, my wife, Janet.image

I am not just saying this as a way of scoring some brownie points with my wife. I am not telling you this to try and make you believe that we have had a fairytale marriage for all of these years. I am not even telling you this to say that marriage is for everybody and that it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. No, I am telling you this for a very specific reason. I have come to believe over the last couple of years, as a man who has learned to open up his heart and share bits and pieces of his life with others, that this was a very important piece of my life that needed to be shared.

In both my blog and in my book I have opened up about many different events in my life. I have spoken of certain incidences or periods of time that had a profound effect on me and on those around me. I have done this because it has not only allowed me to come to terms with a lot of stuff that I was bottling up inside of me for so many years, but also with the hope that by sharing some of my life with others, that it would allow for them to do the same thing. To begin the process of letting go.

My marriage to Janet was the beginning of that process for me. But like any new process, there are usually many kinks that need to be worked out of the system. This was no exception. We had many bumps and bruises, plenty of nicks and scratches, and more than our share of broken bones along the way. There were times that we just plain thought that this was just not going to work. That we should just give up and call it quits.

But we never did. Love kept getting in the way. Love has a way of doing that to a relationship. As much as we let our own selfishness, and stubbornness, and hurtful natures take hold of our lives, we could never let go of our love for each other.

There is a reason that God tells us that love is the greatest gift of all. We can all have many different talents and be good, or even great, at so many different things. But if we don’t have love, we have nothing at all. It took me a very long time to truly understand this. It took God sending some young kid from Saginaw, MI all the way down to Corpus Christi, TX to meet the person who would show him what love really means. It took a 1300 mile journey and a chance meeting to open my eyes. Only God could do something like that.

imageAs Janet and I celebrate our 33 years together, we are of course much older, and certainly more aware of what it is that we have together. Much more so than those two young kids of long ago. We understand that even though life is a winding, twisting, up and down roller coaster ride, and that you often times have to hang on for dear life, that as long as we hold on to the deep love that we have for each other, nothing will be able to throw us off of this ride.

This was not, and is not, an easy concept to grasp. As a man, this was very difficult for me to understand for a very long time. I was a man! I was a warrior! I was not going to let an emotion like love weaken me. I would of course say the words “I love you” often and buy the obligatory flowers on all the right occasions. I was doing all of the “right” things that you are supposed to do when you love someone. But this was all of the surface stuff that I was so often guilty of falling into.

I had to see for myself and experience what real love was supposed to look like. I had to learn what love was all about and feel deep down what that particular emotion was. Love is not something that we are born with. It is an emotion, and like most of our emotions, it is learned through time and experience. I had hidden most of my true emotions for most of my early life. I didn’t want to be hurt, ridiculed, or be made fun of. As a natural introvert, this became easy for me to do. Until, by the grace of God, Janet came into my life.

Janet, as anyone who knows her will tell you, is the extrovert in our relationship. She holds nothing back and lets her emotions run freely. Janet has taught me many things over our 33 years together. One of her greatest gifts to me was showing me what the true meaning of love was. A deep, sincere, compassionate form of love. By her unselfish example of the love that she pours out to not only me, but to everyone she knows, I was able to start to grasp the gift that God gave to us all. The gift of love.

I also finally came to the realization that deep, true, meaningful love does not weaken a man. It only makes him stronger. Jesus, the greatest warrior who ever lived, had the weight of the world on his shoulders and yet loved like no other.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians about the awesome power of love. He states that love is the greatest of all human qualities. My hope is that I can continue to grow in my understanding of love. Also, that by sharing my thoughts and feelings with others that they too will be able to better understand what real love is all about.image

In the meantime, I want to say Happy Anniversary to my wife of 33 years, Janet. I want to say thank you for your unending love for me. For the example that you are of an unselfish, ever thoughtful, always caring child of God.

I love you always and this blog is for you.

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John Early
The Shoe Shine Guy